Bannari Amman Temple Or Bannari Amman Kovil
Bannari is 7km from Sathyamangalam, on the highway to Mysore. The place gets its name from Sri Bannari Mari Amman temple, Truckers stop in front of the temple to pay their obeisance to the Goddess. The rear of the shrine faces the highway. This was at one time a jungle, where tigers had a free run. Perhaps, it was the construction of the highway that spelt the jungle's doom.
The Rajagopuram over the sanctum is in the South India style. The entire structure is in the South Indian style. The entire structure is modern, a sign of the development that this ancient shrine and the region around it have been witnessing over the past fifty odd years. Stucco figures of the Mari Amman are placed over the entire length of the front entrance.
A concrete corridor runs round the rectangular temple, providing cover to devotees who wish to circumambulate. Inside is a spacious hall, beyond which is the sanctum. The Goddess is in a sitting posture. According to the sthala purana, this area was a place habited by both cattle ranchers and wild animals. It was said that villagers had seen tigers and cattle drink side by side from the river nearby. The cattle would be driven home at dusk for milking. However, one of the cows, it was found, would neither yield milk nor let its calf milk it. The cowherd then followed the animal o the place where it grazed and found to his amazement that milk flowed freely from its udders as it sood under a particular tree. Next day, he invited other villagers to see the strange sight. One of them went into a trance, and a Divine voice spoke through him. It transpired that the voice was that of Sri Banari Mari Amman, the Patron-Goddess of the region, who provided protection to traders who passed through the area with their merchandise. The temple then came up, as per Her express wish.
There are several sub-shrines inside and outside the temple. Sri Bommbarayan shine is inside the hall, while Ganesha sits outside. Other shrines are dedicated to Sri Saragu Maariamman and Sri Matheshwaran. To the west of the temple pond, in a pit, is Sri Vandi Munippar, on a slab.
Fire-walking festival is now a popular ritual in most Amman shrines. Nowhere is the Kundam festival, as it is called, more famous than in this temple. It is said that during the British times, a forest warden, an Englishman, would not allow trees to be cut for the festival. He fell ill and was restored to health only after he was administered holy ash and water from the temple. Another British officer did not like the noise made by the beating of drums, etc., during the festival and ordered it to be stopped. He then, reportedly, had a nightmarish vision of two maidens with snakes dangling from their necks. He relented and allowed music to be played as usual.
The place, where the Kundam festival, is held, is enclosed with railings. Devotees can go inside through front and back exits, and deposit, as their wont, salt and pepper. Further afield is a bell hung on steel rods. Numerous figures of gods are placed underneath it, where visitors offer vermilion and turmeric. The shine is also a popular venue for weddings.
How to reach Bannari
Buses ply between Bannari and Sathyamangalam at regular intervals. They sto right in front of the shrine. Bannari is about 80km from Coimbatore and 60km from Tirupur. Coimbatore and Tiruppur are the nearest railway stations. Chamrajnagar, in nearby Karnataka, is 58km from here.
Accommodation: The Devasthanam lodge has 34 rooms, but the reception is open only till 7pm. Sathyamangalam has a big, modern hotel, next to the bus terminus.