The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple,one of the ancient temples of South India, is popularly described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees. The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother, creator of all living beings and the mighty preserver as well as destroyer of them all. The pilgrims from all over the country, who visit Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and worship the Lord, do not consider their visits complete without the visit to the shrine of the supreme Mother Attukalamma. Vishnumaya took the incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the present Era namely Kaliyuga. According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of Kannaki, the famous heroine of Chilapathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the Tamil Poet. The story goes that after the destruction of ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. Kannaki is supposed to be the incarnation of Parvathy, the consort of Paramasiva. The all powerful and benign Attukal Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal and nurses devotees as a mother does her children. Thousands of devotees from far and near flock to the Temple to bend before the Goddess with awe and reverence to prostrate and redress their affliction and agony. The Pongala Mahotsavam is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Pongala is a special temple practice prevalent in the southern part of Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu.
The Goddess Kannaki (Parvathi) is the main deity in this temple. The mythology behind the temple, relates to the story of Kannagi who was married to Kovalan, son of a wealthy merchant. After marriage, Kovalan met a dancer and spent all his riches on her forgetting his wife. But when he was penniless, he went back to Kannagi. The only precious thing left to be sold was Kannagi's pair of anklets. They went with it to the king of Madurai to sell it. But an anklet was stolen from the Queen which looked similar to Kannagi's. When he tried to sell it, he was mistaken for the thief and beheaded by the king's soldiers.
Kannagi got infuriated when she heard the news and rushed to the King with the second pair of anklet. She broke one of the anklets and it contained rubies while the Queen's contained pearls. She cursed the city of Madurai, and it is said that due to her chastity, the curse came true. Kannagi is said to have attained salvation after the Goddess of the city appeared before her.
It is said that on her way to Kodungalloor, Kannagi passed Attukal. She took the form of a little girl. An old man was sitting on the banks of a stream, when the girl went to him and asked him whether he could help her cross it. Surprised to find the young girl alone, he took her home. But she disappeared. She came back in his sleep and asked him to build a temple where he found 3 golden lines in his grove. He went ahead and did the same, and it is said that this is at the location of the present Attukal temple.
Attukal Pongala is the main festival of this temple. Millions of women gather every year in the month of Kumbham around this temple and prepare Pongala (rice cooked with jaggery, ghee, coconut as well as other ingredients) in the open in small pots to please the Goddess Kannaki. During the festival nearly five kilometres around the temple become covered with smoler General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks]] in the beginning of the year 2009. However Kerala High Courtregistered a suo motu case against trademarking the deity picture and the title 'Sabarimala of Women' based on a fax from R S Praveen Raj, a Scientist from Thiruvananthapuram. The High court issued notice to the Controller General and the Temple trust taking serious note of the fact that a trademark on deity picture prejudiced the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.
Incarnation of Goddess
India has ever been the holy land of gods and goddesses. Since ages past, men and women kings and emperors, saints and sages here were worshipping the Lord not only as the omnipotent and absolute 'one' but also as the 'one' whose manifestations are varied and manifold and who possesses different names, forms and divine attributes. Thus Almighty the Eternal God was worshipped in different forms such as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and their consorts; representing specific divine attributes of the Lord. Ancient puranas have described that Siva and Sakthi were simultaneously worshipped from the period of Aryans and Dravidians. Vishnumaya took the incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate evil and protect the good in this world. She grants every wish of Her devotees and resides in their hearts in multifarious forms.
Story of Kannaki
According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of "Kannaki", the famous heroine of Chilappatikaram, the sangham work of Tamil Literature written by ilamkovadikal. After the destruction of the ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left that city and reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on her way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. The hymns of the "Thottampattu ) sung during the annual temple festival, are based on the story of Kannaki. Moreover, architectural depictions of Goddess Kannaki seen on the Gopuram temple substantiate this mythology. Small wonder then. that, Sri. Vidyadhiraja Chattambi Swamy, the well known saint of Kerala, found this temple premises ideal for his meditations. And there are so many stories which prove the greatness of the Goddess and which attract thousands of devotees to the temple.
The temple is governed by a registered body viz. Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust. Ever since the trust commenced its administration, there has been considerable improvement and development in the temple. The renovation of the temple, improvement of the roads leading to the temple, expansion of areas for Ponkala, provision of facilities for the devotees to worship in the temple etc. have all been undertaken by the Trust. The newly constructed Gopuram ornamental gate in front of the temple and the southern Gopuram are richly decorated with visuals depicting the might acts of the Gods and Goddesses. A portion of the gold received as offering from the devotees has been utilised for making 'anki' to adorn the Deity. The Trust has also constructed a temple to perpetuate the memory of Chattambi Swamikal a great saint of modern Kerala and daily offerings poojas, prayers, bhajana etc. are held to his glory.