Monday, 4 July 2011

Thirumandham Kunnu - a hillock of legends

Thirumandham Kunnu - a hillock of legends

by Mantra & shlokas on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 3:17pm

Angadipuram Thirumandhamkunnu Bhagavathy temple, situated on a high hillock, has an imposing appearance, extremely scenic, where the supreme mother reigns with full splendor. The rituals here are done systematically and meticulously at fixed timings daily and the temple's fame attracts a large number of devotees from far and near.
The idol of this temple is almost identical with that at Kodungallur, except that the Angadipuram idol is taller. Due to this, the Angadipuram Thirumandhamkunnu Bhagavathy is considered as the elder sister of Kodungallur Bhagavathy. The other difference is that no animal sacrifices are being offered at the Angadipuram Temple.

There is a possibility that both these temples were originally built by the same king - perhaps Cheraman Perumal. It is said that Pallava kings and Chera kings were friends and when the Pallava king was defeated and sent out of Tamil Nadu he took refuge in Cheraman Perumal's kingdom. The deities of these temples are closely related to Kannaki/Madurai Meenakshi.

King Mandhata, who was a scion of 'Surya Vamsham', after a successful reign, renounced the throne of Ayodhya and started roaming as a sage. His travels took him South of the Vindhya mountains to Kerala, the land of the temples and traditions. He reached a deep forest full of wild animals and thick vegetation. Legend has it that in those forests, all the animals lived in perfect peace and immaculate harmony. Mandhata was attracted by the resplendent beauty of the place. The symphony of the sweet chirping of birds, the musical rustling of leaves in light breeze, the tintinnabulation of a miniature water-fall, where a stream with clear water tumbled over uneven rocks, all made him love the place. He climbed a small hillock in the middle of the verdant scene and settled there to do a rigorous penance intended to burn away the sins, thus enhancing the divinity of the place.

After several years Lord Shiva appeared in front of Mandhata and asked Maharshi what his wish was. Mandhata said that he don't have a particular wish. However, he said that if Shiva has a desire to give him anything, then, what he wants is the best Shivalinga of the world to worship daily. Shiva stood thoughtful for a moment as the most flawless Linga is the one Parvathi uses to worship Shiva and Devi won't allow to give away that. So Shiva tried to sway the sage and asked him to wish for something else. But Mandhata insisted that he wanted nothing else.
One of Shiva’s traits is that he is incapable of refusing a devotee his wish. So, without the knowledge of Parvathi, he gave the Linga to Mandhata. With extreme devotion Maharshi installed the lingam on the hill.

The next morning, Shri Parvathi found the Lingam missing. Shiva said he had handed it over to a devotee and couldn’t take it back. However, he permitted Parvathi to repossess it if she could. Parvathi immediately ordered Bhadrakali to go and retrieve the Lingam. Bhadrakali, led her Bhoothaganas to Angadipuram and tried to persuade the Maharshi to return the Lingam. When she failed, she decided to use force. The soldiers rained arrows on the Maharshi. When the Maharshi's disciples retaliated by throwing some wild fruit(Aattanga) at the Bhoothaganas, each fruit transformed to a Shivalinga and thus they ran away. Bhadrakali then tried to physically snatch the Lingam. The Maharshi held on to it tightly, and in the tug-of-war, the Lingam split into two.

At this point, the divine Trinity(Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva) appeared in front of Mandhata and blessed him. The broken Shivalinga can still be seen at the Angadipuram Temple. The legend of the battle between Bhadrakali and Mandhata continues with a ritual re-enactment of the battle in mid-October on the first day of Thulam(November). Two groups take their stances, one at the top and the other at the bottom of the hillock to throw fruits (Attanga) at each other.
After Mandhata's period, the place remained neglected for a long time, the area returning to a thick jungle.

Long after these events, some forest dwellers were passing through the same area. One of them began sharpening his knife on a stone there and a few drops of blood oozed out of it. The group immediately ran to the ruler of Valluvanad and informed him about this mystic incident. The King, with his assistants, immediately rushed to the spot and on investigation by those skilled in such matters, he found that Devi's presence existed in the place. The King arranged for daily puja at the spot, entrusting this work to two Brahmin families--Panthalakode and Kattilamittam. When the temple (Thirumandham kunnu – The hill of the Holy Mandhata) was erected later, these two families were made the Thanthris of the Temple – which meant they had the powers to decide about the pujas and the ways of worship.

The main idol in the temple is of Thirumandham Kunnilamma (Goddess Bhadrakali in the form of the Mother - Mandhachaleswari) installed in the main temple called the Mathrusala. This idol is made of wood (wood from the jackfruit tree-Daru). Even though idols made of Daru can be found in a number of Devi temples in Kerala, the one at Thirumandhamkunnu excels them all in size and workmanship. The idol is about 6 feet high, in a sitting posture, with left leg bent, foot resting on her lap and the right touching the ground. She holds the head of the demon Darika in one hand and weapons in her other seven hands.She has, as a whole, a fierce appearance. However, a devotee can feel her motherly affection when standing in front of the deity. In most of the temples the deity is placed in such a way that the devotees can have a clear view. However, at Thirumandhamkunnu, the deity sits slightly to the left and is not clearly visible through the entrance. The minor idols of the Saptha Mathrukkal (seven goddesses) are also made of 'daru', but are smaller in size compared to the principal deity.
There is also an idol of a child, made of 'daru', near the 'Saptha Mathrukkal'. As the legend goes, this child, now called the temple child, was brought by Shiva and Parvathi to assuage the anger of Kali as she returned after killing Darika.

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