Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mangala Devi (Kannagi) Hill Temple, in Cumbam Valley, celebrates Chitra Pournami Festival

The Mangala Devi Temple is dedicated to Kannagi, a legendary Tamil woman and the central character of the Tamil epic Silapathikaram (100-300 A.D.). The temple is located at Vannathi Parai, in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala State  border and  sits in between Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Periyar Tiger Reserve at an altitude of 1337m above sea level.



The Tamil epic Silappathikaram details the story of Kovalan, a merchant from Chola Portal city Poompuhar, and his wife Kannagi. Kovalan fell in love with Madhavi, a danseuse and incurred heavy loss in his trade. The couple moved to Madurai, with a hope to revive the trade and regain the lost fortune. At Madurai when the merchant offered to sell his wife’s anklet, the local goldsmith brought the anklet before the Pandya king and made the king to believe that it was his queen’s lost anklet. The king immediately passed the orders of beheading Kovalan even without examining the accused.

Angered at the injustice, Kannagi walked into the king’s court and broke her anklet to establish the innocence of her husband. Her anklet included emerald, while the queen’s anklet was filled with pearls. The king, was shocked and realized his misjudgment. Immediately he lost his life on the throne itself and his queen also died on the spot.

Kannagi, unable to quench her anger due to her personal tragedy, uttered  a curse that the entire city be burnt and set Madurai city on fire. After this she walked for 14 days and entered the Chera kingdom and reached this point and reunited with her husband.

Kannagi Kottam

The temple for Kannagi was erected by the ancient Chera king Cheran Chenguttuvan. Tamil literary sources recognize this shrine as 'Kannagi Kottam' (kottam means temple). There is a Shiva temple near to this shrine. As per the epic Silapathikaram Cheran Chenguttuvan,  listening to the story of Kannagi built a temple at this valley to commemorate her chaste power. It is learnt that Saint. Ilango Adigal, the younger brother of Chenguttavan wrote the Tamil epic Silapathikaram. There from entire Chera country adopted the cult of Kannagi worship. Since the Chera could not frequent to Kannagi  Kottam in Kambam valley , he raised the temple for Kannagi at Kodungalloor in Kerala  and named the deity as Baghavathy. The idol of Kannagi from Mangala Devi temple might have been taken to his capital and placed. The temple at  Kambam valley is in a dilapidated condition and in a state of neglect.


The state epigraphy department discovered two inscriptions at this temple and these two are related to 1. King Raja Raja Cholan I (985 and 1014 A.D.) and 2. King Kulasekara Pandian (1268–1308 A.D.). As viewed by the epigraphist, the first inscription  is “fragmentary” and points only to King Raja Raja Cholan I. The second  inscription relates to the ‘Amman’ in this temple as ‘Pooranagiri Aludaya Nachiar.’ Another reference related to  Mangala Devi temple is also discovered in a Perumal temple at Goodalur, Theni district. This is in relation to the reference of Kannagi as ‘Mangala Madanthai’ in the Tamil epic, Silappathikaram. The deity in the Mangaladevi temple is worshiped as Kannagi, the epic’s heroine.

Chitra Pournami Festival

Every year pilgrims in thousands from Tamil Nadu climb the hill through the trek way, laid in 1934 from Pazhiyankudi and assemble at the Mangala Devi temple to celebrate Chitra Pournami festival. The Chitra Pournami festival is observed at this temple on the full moon day in the Tamil month Chithirai (April - May). Both Theni (Tamil Nadu) and Idukki (Kerala) administrations will make arrangements for the festival and the temple trust also transports provisions for distribution of free food and water. The state police from both states used to organize joint patrolling and erect barricades to regulate the crowd.

Since idol is not available, people configure the idol using sandal paste and cover the face shield made from silver. The Tamil Nadu priests perform pooja rituals. They also distribute holy ash and kumkum.

How to Reach

From Kerala the temple can be accessed through a ghat road  from  Kumuli (Kerala)  by four wheeler jeep, which is about 14 km. From Tamil Nadu the temple can also be reached from Cumbam Valley by trekking  steeper but walkable stretch  from Pazhiyankudi, a village in Theni district (distance about  5.6 km). 

As per the survey conducted by the East India Company in 1817 and the notification posted in St. George Gazette of November 15, 1883, the temple belongs to Tamil Nadu. The present road to the temple was laid in 1934 by the Kerala government.  Though the temple is located well within Tamil Nadu state and it can be reached only through Kerala road and hence Kerala government  laid restrictions for the people to access the temple only on Chitra Pournami day. There are restrictions to use musical instruments like drum (‘melam’) and to cook pongal at the premise. Now the restrictions are relaxed for the specific day.  

There are representations from various religious organizations to the government for laying new road to the hill temple from Goodalur. Hence Theni district administration plans to make proposal to the government to lay a new road to the temple from Goodalur for the convenience of pilgrims.

  1. Kannagi Wikipedia
  2. Kannagi Temple festival draws thousands of pilgrims The Hindu Apr 29, 2010
  3. Mangala Devi KannagiTemple Wikipedia
  4. Temple for Kannagi, a picture of neglect The Hindu April 25, 2013
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mangaladevi chithrapournami festival by
anish kumar

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