Chottanikkara Temple

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Timings : 4:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Time Required : 1 - 2 hrs

Entry Fee : No Entry Fee

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Chottanikkara Temple, Kottayam Overview

Located around 50 kms from the town of Kottayam near Ernakulam, Chottanikkara is the most revered of the 393 Hindu shrines spread across 3 districts in the state of Kerala. Popular for its spectacular architecture, the shrine stands out to be the ultimate testimonial for the primordial vishwakarma sthapathis (wooden sculpture) in carving out this temple. Sree Mahamaya Bhagawati (Aadiparashakthi), believed to be the supreme mother Goddess in Hindu religion, also known as the Goddess of Power presides the temple. Popularly known as Chottanikkara Devi, the Goddess is worshipped in three forms at three different times of the day. In the morning, she is worshipped as Maha Saraswati (Mother of Knowledge), decked in white; in the afternoon, she is worshipped as Maha Lakshmi (Mother of Wealth), clad in crimson; and in the evening, she is worshipped as Sree Durga (Mother of Power), draped in blue.

Besides the Chottanikkara Devi, Supreme God Shiva, Ganesha and Lord Dharmasastha (Ayyappa) are also worshipped at the temple. The shrine is a popular pilgrimage spot of the Hindus and is highly revered by the devotees. It is believed that Chottanikkara Devi possesses supernatural powers and can cure any disease; for this reason, a lot of patients suffering from mental illnesses visit the holy temple. ‘Guruthi Pooja’ is an important ritual performed at the temple every evening to invoke Goddess Mahakali. The pooja is done at 'Keezhkkaavu' temple within the complex itself. 'Keezhkkaavu Devi’ is believed to be a fiercer form of Mother Kali; she was born out of the third eye of Lord Shiva to kill the demon king ‘Daruka’.

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Legend of Chottanikkara Temple

Chottanikkara Temple has a lot of myths and legends attached to its existence and history. The most prominent one is about a tribesman called Kannappan who was a devout worshipper and believer of Goddess Kali in addition to being a doting father. Every day he used to sacrifice a cow ritually to please the Goddess. One day, he abducted a calf from the thick of the jungles in order to sacrifice it. However, his daughter insisted to let her keep the calf as a pet to which he agreed. A few days later his daughter passed away. Kannappan looked for her corpse for cremation but it had vanished. After a long search, he went to a priest who analysed that his daughter was taken as a punishment for he separated young calves from their mothers. Although he didn’t give up looking for his daughter’s corpse; in the process he found two divine stones and the priest told him they represent Vishnu and Lakshmi. In order to wash off his sins, he started praying to the stones which became a tradition ever since.

Other popular myth states that the spiritual leader Shankaracharya realised that there wasn’t a single temple in Kerala dedicated to Goddess Saraswati. He set off to Chamunda Hills to meditate to the Goddess to appear before him. His devotion and dedication bore fruit and the Goddess appeared before him dressed in white. He begged her to follow her to Kerala in order to get a temple built for her, to which the Goddess agreed. However, she has a condition. She said that she will follow him but he wasn’t supposed to doubt and look back at her. They started their journey; after some time, Shankaracharya couldn’t hear the tinkering of her anklets so he turned to check. This angered the Goddess profusely but Shankaracharya was not the one to give up. He begged and apologized and so they reached a compromise. The Goddess would appear at the temple in Kerala in the early of the morning every day but she wouldn’t stay and would leave by noon. The practice is being followed ever since till the current day.

Makam Thozhal at Chottanikkara Temple

Makam Thozhal is the most important festival at Chottanikkara Temple. It is celebrated annually for 7 days in the month of Kumbham (between February and March). The Devi is bathed in the ceremonious pond located in the far northern side of the temple. Post her bath, she is carried out along with Lord Sastha on the back of seven beautifully decked and caparisoned elephants. The procession is brought to "Pooraparambhu"- the vantage point of the temple where they remain till 11:00 AM.

At midday the door of the inner sanctum of the temple is closed for ucha pooja. It reopens at 2:00 PM to display the Goddess in all her splendour and glory. The spectacle at that moment is a sight to behold. The Devi is bedecked in sacred gold and silver ornaments, ornate garlands and precious jewellery. It is believed that the Goddess appeared in this form in front of Villwamangalam Swamiyar after the "Prathishta" (installation) of Kizhukkavu Bhagavathy. He is said to have a vision of the Chottanikkara Devi clad in brilliant clothes and dazzling jewellery bearing varam, Abhayam, Shank and Chakram in her four arms. This moment is called Mithuna Lagna and the devotees believe that getting one glimpse (Darshanam) of the Chottanikkara Devi at this time can mean fulfilment of any wish and prayer.

Rituals at Chottanikkara Temple

The most popular ritual at the temple is the practice performed by the priests to heal patients suffering from mental illnesses, which are mostly believed to be disorders possessed by interaction or residence of evil spirits in human bodies. The process involves nailing of a few strands of the patient’s hair to the main tree, in the premises. Post which, a few mantras are recited and it is believed that the evil spirit is captured in the tree and the patient is cured of his illness. Neem leaves, chillies and lemons are given as Prasad to take home from the temple. It is believed that the above mentioned ingredients ward off evil spirits.

Dress Code at Chottanikkara Temple

The temple follows are strict dress code. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly preferably in traditional Indian clothes. Men are made to take off their upper garments including their shirts and vests. Women should ideally be wearing traditional sarees or North Indian suits. In any case, their shoulders, arms and legs should be covered.

Best Time To Visit Chottanikkara Temple

The best time to visit the temple is at the time of Makam Thozhal- the temple’s most important annual festival. Celebrated for a duration of 7 days, the premises light up with diyas, elaborate poojas are conducted and grand elephant processions are carried out. A number of weddings are also held at the temple during this time. To visit the temple at this time of the year is an experience of a lifetime.

How To Reach Chottanikkara Temple

The temple can be reached in private taxis, cabs or auto-rickshaws. The state also has a provision of state-run buses which can be availed. Alternatively, you can drive down to the spot.

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