Idukki's Mangaladevi Temple's Chitrapournami festival on April 23: Here's what you should know

Authorities assessing the preparations for the Mangaladevi Temple festival. Photo: Special Arrangement

The Kannagi aka Mangaladevi Temple inside Idukki's Periyar Tiber Reserve in Kerala is known for its ambience where folklore, history and greenery intertwine to form a spiritual experience. The temple's once-in-a-year festival named Chitrapournami, held on a full moon day with special ceremonies will be held on April 23 this year. A joint meeting will be held at Thekkady Bamboo Grove on April 13 under the leadership of the Idukki and Theni district administrations to conduct the festival smoothly and safely. Ahead of the festival, a team led by Idukki Sub-Collector Dr Arun S Nair visited the Mangaladevi temple recently to assess the preparations. The Sub Collector said that the festival preparations will start next week. The environment-friendly festival will be jointly organized by the governments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The Mangaladevi temple is located 13 kms from Kumily in Idukki district. Photo: Manorama

Rituals, a cultural blend
There are some distinctive features to the rituals of the Mangaladevi temple. This might be the only temple that follows the religious customs of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is interesting to note that a Kerala priest conducts the poojas of the Shiva shrine, and Tamilians perform poojas at the adjacent Mangaladevi temple. Pilgrims from Kerala and Tamil Nadu visit the temple on festival day. The devotees also offer ritualistic offerings of porridge (pongala), usually followed in south India, to Mangaladevi. 

The history of the Mangaladevi temple, assumed to be around 2,000 to 2,500 years old, is still obscure, and there is no solid evidence of who built the shrine. Legend say that the temple complexes were built by Senguttuvan Chera after hearing the Kannagi story as told by Illango Adigal in his epic poem 'Silapathikaram.' Everyone visiting the temple has a question on how the world came to know about this shrine which lies in obscurity deep inside the dense forest. Devotional worship takes a different contour at this shrine. The usual paraphernalia of a temple festival are missing here. There is no elephant or procession. People congregate in large numbers as the temple is open only once a year. Here nature sings paeans for the goddess and the devotees return with a content inner self.

Who was Kannagi
Kannagi is the wife of Kovalan, a businessman from Poompuhar. Kovalan incurs heavy losses in his business ventures after his association with dancer Madhavi and later moves to Madurai along with his wife Kannagi hoping for a turnaround. Kovalan tries to sell his wife's anklet, but the goldsmith takes it to the king and makes him believe that the anklet belonged to the queen which was stolen recently. The king immediately orders the beheading of Kovalan. Following this, Kannagi proves her husband’s innocence by stating that her anklet had emeralds in it, and the queen anklet was made with pearls. Hearing this, the king and queen die on the throne. Later, Kannagi sets Madurai on fire as she is unable to come to grips with the personal tragedy and the injustice meted out to her.

How to reach
The Mangaladevi temple is located 13 kms from Kumily in the Idukki district. Many jeep services are available from Kumily to take pilgrims to the temple on the festival day. Those who wish to offer pongala at the temple should carry the requisite materials while visiting the shrine. Keep in mind that plastics are not allowed.

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