MY TRIP TO KANNAGI KOTTAM

In 1998 , I got the support from one of my close family friend who resides in Vathalagundu. It is a small town near Thene. I went there and had a very nice stay before 24 hrs. We just prepared our self mentally  and physically. Our trip was well planned. On May month, Chitra poornima day by 4 A.M myself and Mr. Prathaban took a bus to Thene. On the way Mr. Palaniswamy also joined with us.

We got down in Thene and took a light break fast. Then we went to Kambham town. Tamil nadu and Kerala  governments has arranged for special bus to Kumuli to reach Kannagi kottam.

When we got down in Kumuli, we were so much excited. The devotees were rushing to vans and jeeps . Many people used to climb the mountains from Tamil nadu border all along Kannagi's foot prints. It will take 4 to 5 hrs to climb the hills.

We took a jeep and reached the place 1 Km away from Kannagi kottam. The trip was very very adventurous and dangerous through thick dense jungle. But we did not see any of the wild animals. Women were walking with metal pots, fire wood and pooja items.

We started walking towards the spot. My mind got  back  to Kannagi's ages. I was searching for her foot prints. Slowly we reached the Kottam. It is totally ruined because of the carelessness of both the state governments.

Inside the Kottam:

The entire Kottam is surrounded by strong granite compound wall. The main entrance is facing the east, through which Kannagi has entered. There are clusters of vengai trees dancing in strong wind. There  is a small shrine with a damaged idol of Ganesha. It  must be the later addition, because south Indians knew Ganesha only after 7 A.D.

I saw the idol carved by the Chera king:

There are 2 more shrines. One shrine is facing the east. Inside that we can see the marble stone idol of Kannagi without head. But the priest has decorated with metal mask and garments. The idol looked very beautiful. There was a long line of devotees waiting to see Kannagi and offer the poojas. Women prepared the traditional sweet called '' pongal'' and offered to Kannagi.

Mangaladevi:

Kannagi in Kannagi kottam is known as '' Mangaldevi''. The word '' mangala'' means '' wealth and prosperity''. She is the goddess who bless us with all wealth and prosperity. The word mangal also gives the meaning '' very holy ''. In Kerala she is named as '' Bahavathy'' meaning '' the goddess who bless us with wealth, beauty, braveness, health, victory, wisdom and power''.

The secret chamber:

But near that shrine , there is an other big shrine. But there is nothing inside  this shrine. But my interest got focused in side this . The shrine is a quiet big hall . The sanctum spot is empty. But there is a big hole on the floor. If the main idol is placed in another shrine , why we need to have this place?

This must be an other secret chamber . The shrine must have been dedicated to preserve the remains of Kannagi. Later they must have been taken to Kodungalloor. History has recorded that this temple was under normal regular worship till 12 A.D. Many kings have dedicated to Kannagi and offered many gifts and monitory help.

Because of the safety, wild animals and other reasons like foreign invasions people must have forgot or ignored this place. But Kannagi is still living in every body's mind and life. The Paleyar community has installed another small shrine for Kannagi near Kambham town. Only on this occasion they visit the real Kottam.

The Cheras were staunch devotees of Kannagi and the Chengutuva king must have reinstalled Kannagi's remains from this place. But if we refer to Silappathikaaram, we have very interesting  facts about Kannagi. But we need to get into Kodungalloor shrine and see few things inside the temple complex.

The sacred women inside Kodungalloor temple:

If we keenly observe Kodungalloor temple complex, we can see few women who are involved in various temple activities like making garlands, preparing turmeric paste, sweeping the floor and washing the vessels and lamps. Who are they?

In our country , always public will involve in such activities in temples. But in Kondungalloor shrine the women alone are allowed to participate in such activities. They have a very long history from Kannagi's time.

A true friend:

When Chera king constructed the Kottam in Kumuli , many people who were related to Kannagi and Kovalan were invited to attend the Kumbhabeshekam [ initiative  rituals to begin worship in a new temple]. There came Devanthy --  Kannagi's very close friend along with Aaiyai [ Madhari's girl who gave abode to Kannagi in Madurai ].

When poojas were initiated Devanthy became very upset and emotional. Let us see how she is talking to her close friend 's idol.

'' Dear Kannagi! how can you become an idol? Do you know that your father and Kovalan's father gave up all their wealth to poor people and became Jain monks?

Dear friend! Your mother and mother - in- law have committed suicide. They were unable to accept the tragedy happened to you in Madurai. Please see this poor girl Aaiyai. Her mother could not accept the tragedy happened to you. She was in very guilty conscious about it. So she too has jumped into fire and killed herself.''

Chera king came to know about her close friendship with Kannagi. He appointed her as the special priestess in Kannagi Kottam. Later she must have settled in Kodungalloor shrine because of safety . Along with her , Kannagi's remains must have brought to Kodungalloor. Kannagi's father must have sent her jewels and other things through Devanthy to the Kottam.

Today Devanthy's generations or disciples are continuing  their holy service to Kodungalloor Bahavathy . We must respect them, help them . Their total dedication to Bahavathy is really a sacred service. Today we can see Kannagi's thaale chains adorning Kodungalloor amma's chest.

The sacred thaale of Kannagi:

Kannagi was born in Chettiyar community. Even today the Chettiyar women wear long chains with many thaales. Thaale is the unique symbol of wedding. There must be other such ornaments inside the secret chamber. The arthamerus are decorated with kaasumalai chains . They too must have belong to Kannagi. I am very  dare to say this, because  they all belong to very very old style.

The secret rituals inside the secret chamber:

On Aadi month new moon day , secret rituals will be performed inside the secret chamber. Aadi month new moon days was the day Kannagi burnt Madurai. So on this day the idol is also smeared with a special oil extract prepared from the vengai trees from Kumuli hills. We need to connect the links between the incidents in Kannagi's life. This sacred ritual is named as '' Chaandhu  aatam''.

So there are lot of historical links between Kodungalloor and Kannagi kottam. So I had a very nice experience in Kannagi kottam. I spent lot of time inside each shrine and imagined the various incidents narrated by Elango adikal.

The sacred magical spring:

If we go down from the east entrance , there is  a small spring . The water is yellow color. This spring has been mentioned in Silappathykaaram. It is believed that the spring  water   will make us to remember our previous births. During the Kannagi kottam festival Devanthy has sprinkled this holy water on few devotees and made them to recollect their previous births. I got into the spring and prayed for every body.

The eastern gate is considered to be most important through which Kannagi has stepped into the mountain plain. The clusters of vengai trees are seem to be meditating Kannagi's sacred feet.

Hearty blessings:

I saw the very high mountains covered with clouds and jungles. I asked them to show Kannagi's sacred feet and form. If they have a mouth and language they will talk stories about Kannagi's climax. I also saw the natural boundary [ mountain chains]  which is separating Kerala and Tamil nadu. This is the place where a great noble woman is resting.  If we see this place , we wonder how she has climbed the great mountains. It is a great task to get granites in that area. But how the workers have collected and brought plenty of stones to erect the Kottam? It is Kannagi's blessing to the Chera king and his country people. Today Kerala is very very green and fertile because of the heavy monsoon showers. It is believed that Devi Bahavathy is blessing the whole state with rain and wealth.

Aai rai malai kaali:

 This place  is also called as  '' aai rai malai''. It is actually '' aaye malai''. AAye means Kaale devi. There was  very ancient shrine for Kaale devi in this mountain. She has been praised as '' Aaye giri nandhine'' by saint Aadhi shankarar in his Mahishasura mardhini slokam. I believe that this Kannagi kottam is called Aairai malai Kaale Kottam in ancient times.

The very ancient Tamil literature '' Padhetrue pathu'' [ 10 long songs which narrates the history of 10 Chera kings] say that Senguttuva erected the shrine in Aaerai malai.

Like Poompuhar, Madurai and Kodungalloor ; Kannagi kottam has to be respected and visited by us. The state governments of Tamil nadu and Kerala must care this place of historical importance.

Homage to the great professor:

By afternoon 2 P.M we were asked by the police to leave the place. I was in deep emotional attachment with Kannagi and her Kottam. I was just missing Pradheep. But I took photos and showed him. I was just looking the  deep jungles, clouds and mountains till the bus crossed the Kambham valley. In this context I am thanking the professor Dr. Govindharasanar who took the maximum risk to discover this place. This article is dedicated to his feet which has traveled from  Poompuhar till Kodungalloor and climbed the  Kumuli hills. After this trip for many days my mind was just thinking about the trip and history. One day I made a trip to a famous Devi shrine in Kerala. It is near Ernakulam city. Let us go there .......

Dr.Madeswaran