The Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple, is one of the oldest temples in the state of Kerala. The shrine is dedicated to the Mother Goddess who is worshipped here in her three major incarnations of Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Durga. Goddess Saraswathi is offered prayers in the morning, Lakshmi in the noon and Durga in the evening.
The temple is one of the finest examples of Kerala’s temple architecture which is believed to be constructed by Vishwakarma, the Architect God. The idol of the goddess is a self-manifested one which is formed out of laterite known as Rudraksha Shila. As the goddess is worshipped in her three forms, the decorations also change, in the morning hours one would get to see her dressed in white, at noon in crimson and in the evening she is dressed in blue.
The temple has two shrines which are known as Keezhkavu and Melukavu. Melukavu is the main shrine which houses the Mother Goddesses and Keezhkavu is dedicated to Bhadrakali which is located next to the temple’s pond.
Legends Associated with Chottanikkara Temple
It is said that the place where the temple now stands was a dense forest and was the abode of several evil spirits and tribesmen. One such tribal was Kannappan who was devotee of Kali and to please the goddess he would sacrifice a cow every Friday.
One day he came across a beautiful calf near the forest and decided to sacrifice the calf to Kali. Just before he sacrificed the calf, his daughter pleaded him to stop the sacrifice. Kannappan loved his daughter and thus, let her keep the calf. Sadly his daughter passed away a few days later, which shattered the Kannappan.
With tears in his eyes he decided to cremate her body and to his surprise, his daughter’s body vanished. A priest informed him that this was a punishment for him as he forcibly took away the calf from its mother for the sacrifice. Realising his mistake, he began to look for the calf and he found two stones in its place instead, the priest informs him that the stones are divine in nature and are representation of Maha Vishnu and Lakshmi.
He was asked to offer prayers to these stones without fail everyday and he would be forgiven for his sins. After his death, the stones were forgotten and one day a grass cutter stepped into the forest to cut some grass and realised that her knife was blunt.
She decided to sharpen the knife on a stone, and as she drew her knife and brushed it against the stone it began to bleed. Shocked at what she saw, she brought the matter to the attention of others, who brought a priest who found the stones to be divine and so began the worship of the deity. The same stone is still worshipped as the main deity in the temple till today.
Kollur Mookambika In Chottanikkara
Adi Shankaracharya realised that there were no temples dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi in Kerala. On learning this, he headed straight to Chamundi Hills in Karnataka and began to meditate for the goddess to appear before him, pleased by his devotion, the goddess appears before him and enquirers about what he needs. Shankara says he would like to the take her to his home town in Kerala, so that the people there need not go to far-off places for to worship her as it would be difficult for the aged people to travel.
After a lot of convincing, the goddess agrees to follow him wherever he went by foot. But on one condition, that he was not to look back and see if she was following him or not. In case he happens to do so, she would stop there and would not move any further. Shankara agrees and they begin walking, as they were walking down Kodachadri hills, the goddess decided to test Shankara and stopped the tinkling of her anklets.
The tinkling of the anklets was the only indication given to Shankara that she was following him. Shankara waits for a sometime and still does not hear the sound of her anklets which makes him take a quick look backwards to check on her. Disappointed the goddess stopped right there which is the present Kollur Mookambika Temple.
Realising his mistake, he apologises to the goddess and repeatedly pleads with her to go with him. After a long time the goddess comes to a compromise, she says that she would come to the Chottanikkara Temple in the early morning hours and bless her devotees and would return back to Kollur in the afternoon. Since then, the sanctum doors of Chottanikkara Temple open earlier than the Kollur Mookambika Temple and the goddess is worshipped as Saraswathi clad in white.
Curing Mental Aliments
Chottanikkara Temple is well known for curing devotees with mental disorders and troubles caused to them by evil spirits. The infected are brought to the priest here, who interacts with them and asks them to surrender themselves to the goddess. For which, the priest nails a part of their hair to the temple tree as an indication that the evil spirit has been captured and the person is free from their illness.