BHAGAVATHY AMMAN TEMPLE
Bhagavathy Amman Temple is situated at the Land’s end, the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, Indian ocean and the Arabian sea.Sree Devi Kanniyakumari, who is the virgin Goddess, is an aspect of Devi Parvathy. She is also known as by several other names including Kanyadevi, Devikumari and also Kumariamman. The name Kanniyakumari standa for Kanya (virgin) and Kumari (girl). Kanniyakumari, a prehistoric place of Hindu pilgrimage and tourist spot over the years has its fame dates back to puranic era. The Goddess Kanniyakumari is mentioned even in the Narayana Upanishad, Ramayana, the Sangam works Manimekalaiand Purananooru. In Mahabharatha mention is made of King Balaramas tour to the sacred shrine of Kanyakumari. It is also mentioned in the epic that Arjuna once visited this place and worshiped Bhagavathy Amman.
History of Kanniyakumari
Kanniyakumari was ruled by Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayak Kings. Later Kanniyakumari became part of the Venad kingdom with its capital at Padmanabhapuram. The king of venad Anizham Thirunal Marthanda varma established Travancore by extending its domain further north up to Azhva. By this the present Kanyakumari District came to be known as southern Travancore. In 1741 king Marthandavarma defeated the Dutch East India Company at the famous battle of Colochal.
Kanniyakumari was under the rule of Paravar kings till the downfall of Pandyas and later by Kings of Travancore under the overall ruling of the British until 1947. When India became independent, Travancore joined the Indian union in 1947. In 1949 Kanyakumari became part of the reconstituted Travancore Cochin state. Kanyakumari was integrated with the Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras state) as per language- based reorganization of states.
The rich history and cultural heritage of Kanyakumari is one of mixed culture and profound heritage. Kanyakumari with its southern coast to the vast and powerful Indian Ocean impressed British so much, that they decided to rename it to Cape Comorin to accentuate its beauty.
Temple mythological story
The demon king Banasura – grandson of Mahabali did penance to get a boon from Lord Shiva. He obtained a boon that he could be only vanquished by a virgin. Later he became the emperor of the three worlds. His evil ways caused much agony to Devas, sages and saints. Unable to bear the harassment of the demon Kings and Devas approached Lord Vishnu and requested him to kill Banasura. Lord Vishnu advised them to worship Devi Parvathy, the Goddess of the Universe to vanquish the demon. So Devi Parvathy appeared as a Kumari- a young virgin girl and promised to annihilate the evil forces championed by Banasura. Asking the Devas to be patient for the right time for the killing of Banasura, Devi travelled to the southernmost tip of the India, where she began to meditate upon Lord Shiva. As time went on she grew into a teenager and commenced penance with a desire of marrying Lord Shiva at Suchindram.
Lord Shiva was enchanted with the beauty of Goddess Kanyakumari that he decided to marry her. The divine sage Narathamuni felt this would endanger the chances of destroying Banasura, for it was preordained that Banasura could meet his death only at the hands of a virgin. Therefore Naradha had to find some way to scuttle the marriage. First Naradha had to confuse Devi Kanyakumari, telling her that Lord Shiva is not powerful than Banasura. Naradha told the Goddess that she could ask Lord Shiva to bring three items that could not be obtained anywhere in the world in order to prove his identity. These were a coconut without eyes, a stalk of sugarcane without stump-joints and a betel leaf without veins. But Lord Shiva easily fulfilled this difficult challenge and the marriage continued to be scheduled.
Naradha fixed Brahma Muhurtham – early morning hour as the auspicious time for the Divine wedding. When Lord Shiva’s marriage procession reached a site by name Vazhukkamparai, Sage Naradha falsely heralded the break of dawn by assuming the form of a cock. On hearing the crowing of the cock, Lord Shiva presumed the auspicious Muhurtham time had passed, turned back and returned to Suchindram. Meanwhile in Kanniyakumari all waited for Lord Shivas arrival and eventually, when he did not turn-up, the wedding ceremony was cancelled. The rice and other grains meant for the wedding feast remain uncooked. It is said that the Goddesses (bride) anger over Lord Shiva (bridegroom) not arriving in time, she scattered all the food items made ready for the wedding. Today tourist can see and buy tiny stones which look like rice, in remembrance of the marriage that was never solemnized.
The disappointed Devi Kanniyakumari decided to do penance and continue with her quest to fight the evil forces of Banasura. The Devi resumed her penance on the rock now known as Sree Padhaparai Mandapam a few hundred meters off shore. Meanwhile Banasura heard about the beauty of the Devi Kanniyakumari in the form a virgin girl, requested her hand in marriage. When Devi rejected the idea,the demon king decided to win her by force. This led to a fierce battle which ended with Devi Kanniyakumari slaying Banasura with her chakra (divine discus) in Mahadhanapurama nearby village.
It is said that the moment of his death, Banasura repented for his Adharmic acts and prayed to Devi AadhiParashakthi to have compassion on him and to absolve anyone else who bathed in the sacred waters of Kanniyakumari, to get rid of their sins. Devi granted Banasura the boon, and that is why people come from all over the world to bathe in this holy confluence of seas. Lord Parasurama and Sage Naradha requested the Devi to stay in this place till the end of Kaliyuga. The Goddess agreed and remains here ever dedicated to Lord Shiva and to continue to perform austerities to this day with the hopes that Lord Shiva will one day unite with her.
Bhagavathy Amman Temple is constructed at the seashore with four huge rectangular walls surrounding it. The Pandya Kings built this temple in eighth century. Later the Chola, Vijayanagara and Nayak rulers renovated it. Built in Dravidian style this temple is known for its intricate carvings that adorn both the stone temple walls and the black stone pillars. The temple has a gopura (temple tower) that is surrounded by couple of smaller one. The main entrance of the temple faces east. But this door is opened only five times a year during the Hindu calendar year. The main entry point of the temple is the northern gate. There are other shrines dedicated to Vijayasundari and Balasundary, the playmates of the goddess and also to Lord Ganesa, Surya and Sastha. There are 11 Theerthams inside this temple and 25 Theerthams on the sea shore.
The sanctum sanctorum is distinguished by the three separate corridors and the main Navarathri Mandapam. There is also a tall flag mast. The black stone image of Bhagavathy Amman adorn with an enchanting garland is the highlight of this Bhagavathy Amman Temple. Devi Bhagavaty amman is doing eternal penance and bestows on the devotees immense wealth of spiritual energy and peace of mind. At the entrance of the second corridor, after worshipping Kalabairava and crossing the Pathala Moola Ganga Theertha, the devotees reach the flag mast. From here one can have a clear view of the Devi before going in front of sanctum sanctorum.
Temple Worship and Pooja schedule
The worship of Devi Kanniyakumari dates back to vedic times. She is also worshipped as Shree Badrakali. The Worship services are carried out here, throughout the day in a manner similar to that in Kerala temples. For the purpose of the rites and rituals in this temple, the Devi is imagined as Balambika, the kid Goddess and considered as Devi Kathyayini, one among Navadhurga.
The Bhagavathy Amman Temple is open every day from 5.00 to 11.00 AM and 5.00 to 8.00 PM.
Cameras and videos are not allowed inside the temple. Shirts are not allowed for men and must remove while entering into the temple.
Chitrapoornima Festival is conducted on the full moon day in the Tamil month Chithirai.
The Vaisakh festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Vaikasi where an image of the Goddess is taken around the town in procession on various mounts. The car festival, the Aarattu (when the eastern door is opened) and the float festival here are of significance.
The Kalabham Festival conducted in the last Friday of the Tamil month Aadi is also of importance here. Vast crowds throng the temple as the image is covered with huge quantities of flowers.
An image of the Deity is held in worship at the Navarathrimandapam throughout the duration of Navarathri, and the procession on the deity with the festive celebrations is conducted on each of the nine nights.
The destruction of Banasura is enacted on Vijaya Dasami, the concluding day of the Navarathri Festival where an image of the deity is taken in procession on a horse mount to a nearby village Mahadhanapuram.
Sree Padha Parai Mandapam
According to one tradition the original temple dedicated to Devi Kanyakumari was on the rock which was known as Sree Padha Parai nearly 600 feet from the shore. Consequent to the encroachment of the sea the rock became an island and the old temple had to be shifted to the present site. This rock has been regarded as sacred place from very early days. There is a small projection, resembling a human foot, believed as the foot of Devi Kanyakumari. This has traditionally been revered as a symbol of Sree Padham. Legend says that Goddess Kanyakumari meditated on this rock. It is now enclosed in a square shrine of Sree Pada Parai Mandapam. The shrine consists of the sanctum sanctorum an inner compartment as well as outer compartment. There is an outer platform all around.
The advent of great Hindu Saint Swamy Vivekananda at Kanyakumari in the year 1892 had great historical importance. He swam across the sea to this rock and sat there the whole night in deep meditation, received enlightenment and blessings from the Devi. This transferred him into one of the charismatic spiritual leaders of the world. The Rock memorial erected in memory of Swamy Vivekananda is standing adjacent to this Sree Pada Parai Mandapam.
There is also a recently built mammoth memorial to the Poet Thiruvalluar, the composer of the great philosophical work- Thirukkural, a treatise on the Indian way of life.
Significant features of Kanyakumari
There is a close connection to Sree Devi Bhagavathy Amman with the great saint AdiSankara who spread spiritual message by traversing through the famous shrines of India, singing in praise of Almighty. It is believed that SOUNDRYA LAHIRI, the great Sanskrit literary work was composed at Kanniyakumari in praise of Sree Devi Bhagavathy Amman during his pilgrimage starting from Kashmir. The beauty of Shri Devi Bahavathi Amman is explained in detail in this work.
There is a relief image of AdiSangara, carved on a pillar opposite to the Balasoundary shrine inside the Devi Temple. In addition there is a separate shrine built for Adi Sankara near Kanniyakumari beach similar to the shrine erected at Kashmir for the same Saint.
One specialty of Goddess Bhagavathy Amman idol is her nose ring. The sparkling diamond ring is visible even from the sea. As per the legend, the nose ring was obtained from a King cobra and the light reflects off it so brightly. Once an ancient mariner mistook it as light -house sailing his ship towards the beacon, he wrecked upon the Kanyakumari rocks. In order to prevent such tragedy, the eastern door of the temple is only opened on five special occasions throughout the year.
With a belief that a bath in the holy water of this sangamam will wash the sins of the devotees, thousands of peoples perform Pithru Tharpan Poojas and a holy dip for the well being of their ancestors on the black moon day of Tamil month – Aadi.
On full moon days, the sunset and moon rise can be seen at the same time at Kanniyakumari. It is the only place in India where one can see the above scenes.
Even though this temple is situated very close to the sea shore, pure water is available in a well located inside the second Prakara of the temple, known as Pathala Moola Ganga Theertham and this water is being used for Amman Abishekam and temple Pooja purposes.
While Varnasi is the dwelling place of Lord Shiva, Kanniyakumari is the abode of Shakthidevi. This is the signification of the Hindu scriptures that all the Hindus should visit Varnasi and Kanniyakumari to complete their pilgrimage. Thus north and the south India have been spiritually connected from immemorial.
Read more: Padmanabhapuram Palace
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