Devotees seek the blessings of Malimel Devi for a smooth delivery and the health of the newborn. Though the goddess at the Malimel temple is the fiery Bhadrakali, she is in the form of a gentle calf and showers blessings and prosperity on devotees who offer prayers at the shrine.
Along with paying obeisance to the goddess at the temple, pilgrims also visit the Ammoommakkavu shrine nearby.
Malimel temple is located at Kurathikkad in Mavelikkara, which is part of Alappuzha district. Unique customs and traditions are followed at this nearly nine-centuries-old temple. There is a legend connected with the temple and the idol, which is Bhadrakali in the form of a calf as mentioned earlier.
The 'Karanavar' (eldest male member) of Pullelilnadalayil family of Kurathikkad was a staunch of devotee of Lord Ayyappa and conducted regular pilgrimages to the Sabarimala temple. On the way to Sabarimala, the Karanavar used to stop at Ayiroor Puthiyakavu Temple in Kozhenchery and spend a few days praying to the goddess.
During one such pilgrimage to Sabarimala, the goddess was pleased by the Karanavar's devotion and she changed her form to that of a calf and accompanied him while he was returning to Kurathikkad. On reaching Pullelilnadalayail, the house of Karanavar, the goddess promised to ensure prosperity and well-being to the household as well as Karanavar.
Karanavar, elated that the goddess had decided to come to his place and protect him, decided to build a temple for the divinity at Kurathikkad. All the customary rites were soon conducted and the goddess was installed at the new shrine.
Other deities at Malimel temple are Ganapathy, Mahadeva, the Nagas and Yakshiyamma. Along with them, Karanavar, who was instrumental in building the temple, also installed a minor deity under the 'yogeeswara' concept. Another unique tradition followed at the temple is that the Darikavadham kathakali is not performed on the premises.
The festival at the temple is held on the 'Revathi' day in the Malayalam month of Meenam.
According to belief, another sub-deity of Malimel temple resides at a sacred grove named Ammoommakkavu close by. Tens of thousands of pregnant women arrive here praying for a smooth childbirth and protection of their newborn. The main custom here is picking a small stone from the sacred grove.
Women who are less than seven months pregnant pray at the Malimel temple and reach the Ammoommakkavu to take a stone home which is believed to ensure safe delivery.
After the child is born, the women again visit the temple when the ceremony marking the newborn's first rice meal (choroonu) is conducted and pray. They are then supposed to make an offering of a gold or silver ring at Ammoommakkavu and return the stone they had taken from there.
Earlier, this ritual was observed only by the local people and young members of the Pullelilnadalayail family. However, these days, the shrine sees a big rush of devotees from other districts also.
Other major rituals at Malimel temple include the procession of the goddess on 'Bharani' day, prayers to propitiate the serpent gods on 'Ayilyam' day, 'uthrada puja' for the elders during the Malayalam month of Chingam and special rites at Ammoommakkavu on 'Thiruvonam' day.
To visit Malimel temple, head to Mavelikkara. From there, take the road leading to Kattanam. Kurathikkad is located along this route. Malimel temple is barely a kilometre away from Kurathikkad high school.