Temples of Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Attukal Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

The Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is one of the ancient temples of South India and is popularly known as the Sabarimala of the Women. The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother. The temple has a fantastic architecture which depicts a harmonious conglomeration of both Kerala and Tamil styles of architecture.

There are beautifully carved figures of Mahishasuramarddini, Goddess Kali, Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvathy with Lord Paramasiva and various other depictions of the Goddess in and around the temple.

There are also the depictions of various other Gods and the epic stories of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The icons based on the story of Goddess Kannaki lie on either side of the elegant front gopura. The puranic story of Dakshayaga can be seen on the southern Gopura.

The entrance of the temple has an elegantly decorated gate which is an excellent example of architectural beauty. There are two idols of the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The original idol has all its pristine beauty covered in ornamental gold embedded with installed stones. The second idol of the Goddess is installed besides the original one. The temple corridors have the installed carvings and sculptures of Lord Ganesan, and Lord Shiva. In the centre of the Sanctum within the Sreekovil, at a consecrated spot, the idol of the Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy emanating light and lustre has been installed. At the temple counter, divine gold lockets with the prathishta image of the Devi on one side and the imprint of Sudarsana Chakra on the other are sold to the devotees.

The legend has that the Goddess Bhagavathy revealed herself to a fervent devotee of a Mulluveettil family. One evening a young girl appears before the head of the family when he was performing his oblations in the Killi River and requests him to help her cross the river. The old man not only helps her cross the river but also takes her to his house nearby, but suddenly the girl vanishes. That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appears before the old man in his dream and demands that he should establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground of shrubs and herbs (kavu), at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The next morning the old man identifies the spot and starts constructing the temple. Many years later, the building was renovated by the local devotees.

Another legend has that Attukal Bhagavathy is a divinised form of Kannaki who was the famous heroine of Chilapathikaram. When the ancient city of Madurai was destroyed, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal.

The Pongala Mahotsavam is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple with the celebrations extending up to ten days. On the ninth day of the festival the world famous Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and they offer pongal every year. The other festivals associated with the temple are the Mandala Vratham, the Vinayaka Chathurthi, the Pooja Vaypu, the Sivarathri, the Karthika Deepam, the Ayilya Pooja, the Aiswarya Pooia, the Nirayum Puthariyum and the Akhandanama Japam.


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