Sri Mahadevar temple, in Chengannur, is a sprawling temple complex, and one of the oldest and most celebrated temples in Allapuzha district.
The sanctum is circular: the base is stone, while the upper half is teak. The conical dome is copper-plated. Lord Shiva and His divine consort, Sri Parvati, are in different shrines, back to back. While the Lord faces east, the Devi faces west. The Lingam is swayambhu, gold plated, and bears the image of Sri Ardhanareeswara the Shiva-Sakthi aspect. Sri Parvati, unlike the normal moolavar images, is made of the panchaloham. Also here is a shrine for Sri Krishna.
This ancient temple was extensively renovated in the 18th century, after it was damaged by fire. The mandapams, including the mukhamandapam, boast of the finest woodwork. A massive, three storeyed edifice, in the West Coast pattern, is the gopuram/entrance. The temple is assocated withthe Daksha Yagna. The different parts of body fell at different places in the sub-continent, each of which is now a Shakti Peetam. According to the sthala purana, Sati's loins (arakettu in Malayalam) feel on this spot, in Chengannur. What sets this temple apart is the festival of Triputharattu. a su,bol of fertility. The goddess has menstrual periods, like any other women, though not in monthly cycles. It is said that the Hindu Trinity requested sage Agastya to go south to correct the earth's imbalance as all the divine entitles had congregated in the north, in the Himalayas, for the wedding of Sri Shiva and Parvati. The sage did as he was instructed, though he was sad that he had missed the rare opportunity to witness the celestial event. Shiva and Parvati, however, made amends by appearing before the sage after their wedding. It is said during their trip south, Parvati menstruated here, and remained in this area till ate period was over. The place where She menstruated came to ne known as Chen Kunnu (Red Hill), which then became Chen Kunnu Ooru (Ooru is town/village) and finally Chengannur.
There is also a historic account to explain the rationale behind the panchaloha image of Sri Parvati in the sanctum. A girl, in the vicinity, once spotted blood oozing from a stoneon which she was sharpening a knife. The matter was then reported to Vanghipuzha Thampuran, who was then in control of the area surrounding the present temple. Tharmpuran applied ghee on the stone and stopped the flow of blood. On the advice of his adviser, Thazhaman Potty, he decided to construct the temple here, under the guidance of Perunthachan, a famous thachan (carpenter). Later, while digging, they found an idol of Parvati Devi, which was duly installed in the temple. Perunthachan, it is said, predicated that a fire would destroy the temple and the idol. He also gave Potty a panchaloha idol of the Devi to meet such a contingency.
Exactly as predicted by Perunthachan, after a few years, the temple and the stone image of Devi were consumed by a devastating fire. Thampuram rebuilt the temple. The panchaloha idol was salvaged from a river in Karunagapalli, and installed here on Shivarathri day, to Thampuran's great joy.
The Thiruputharattu festival is held here during the ceremony associated with the menstrual periods of the Devi. The main priest (Melsanti), who changes the deity's clothing every morning, examines them for signs of menstruation. When the indications are positive, he hands over the vesture to the Devasthanam (Devasom, here) officials, who then send it abbesses at the Thazhaman and Vanghipuzha Mutts for confirmation. After confirmation, the Devi's shrine is closed and worship is offered to a replica in another wing of the temple. On the fourth day of the festival, the Devi's idol is taken to the nearby river where the Arrattu(purificatory) ceremony is performed. She is then taken back to the temple on an elephant.
Thiruchenkunroor, as Chengannur is also known, is a focal point for Vaishnava pilgrimage as well. Trichitat Sri Krishna temple, neat Sri Mahadevar temple, is associated with the Pandavas. Yudishtir, it is said, built the shrine to seek redemption from the ill-effects of the misleading statement he made which led to the death of Acharya Dhrona.
How to get there
Chengannur is 12km from Tiruvalla, on the Thiruvananthapram-Kottayam route. Buses both private and government-owned, connect the town extensively with other parts of the state. It is on the rail route as well, along the Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam section. Sri Mahadevar temple is about a km from the railway station.
Accommodation: Good, clean, inexpensive rooms are available both near the bus and railway stations.
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