One of the most popular religious destinations in and around the city of Cochin is the Chottanikkara Temple. This temple is on most itineraries of people on a pilgrimage to Kerala. The deity here is the Goddess Bhagavati. The temple is also architecturally significant. This temple is believed to cure people who have mental issues, psychiatric issues as well as problems with possession . The surroundings of the temple in a green hilly area are beautiful and soothing.
The Deities At Chottanikkara
There are two temples in the temple complex. The first one is a Rajarajeshwari temple. The deity in the Rajarajeshwari temple is unique in the fact that she is worshipped differently according to the time of day. In the morning the deity is draped in white and worshipped as Maha Saraswati, the goddess of learning. At noon she is Maha Lakshmi and draped in crimson. In the evening she is the Goddess Bhadrakali draped in blue. The deity is not fixed but rests on a bed of sand. The deity of Lord Vishnu is near her.
The second temple is at a lower elevation and is called the Keezhekavu. This is a Bhadra Kali temple and depicts the fierce or Ugra form of the Devi. The Keezhekavu temple is on the East of the temple pond. The deity here faces westward and was installed by Villwamangalam Swamiyaar. The worship at this temple is only after the evening pooja at the main temple. This Pooja is called the Valiya Kuruthy or the great sacrifice. This is a Pooja that is said to cure those suffering from mental illness or possession. It is however not for the faint-hearted.
The Kuruthy is made in twelve huge cauldrons. There is an ancient Pala tree on the campus. Here, women who are possessed hammer nails into the tree with their foreheads. It is said that being in the temple during this Pooja on a Friday is a cure for mental issues. The Kuruthy Pooja that was performed on Fridays is now performed every day. There are also temples of Ganapathy, Shiva and Nagas in the temple complex.
Some Interesting Facts About The Temple
- The Goddess Mookambika of the Kollur temple is said to attend the first Pooja here and then go to her own temple.
- Chottanikkara is a different way of saying Jyothiannakara.
- The temple is a prime example of the Vishwakarma Sthapathis or wooden temple architecture style.
The Legend Of The Temple
There are many stories of the Chottanikkara Temple. The Sthala Purana says that the temple was in a dense forest. A tribal Kannapan and his daughter lived there. Kannapan was a widower. Hs was a great devotee of Goddess Parvathy and used to sacrifice an animal to her every day. His daughter has a pet cow that she was very fond of. She knew that her father was in the habit of sacrificing animals and always kept her beloved pet near her. But, one day Kanappan could find no animal to sacrifice and requested his daughter for her pet cow to sacrifice to Devi. The daughter offered herself instead of the cow and Kannapan was very touched. He realised his fault in making animal sacrifices and then spent the night there with his daughter’s pet.
The next morning the cow had turned to stone. The place where this happened is the ‘Pavizha Malli Thara’ which also translates as the ‘place of the coral jasmine flower’. The cow is thought to have been the Goddess Mahalakshmi. Then Lord Vishnu appeared to Kanappan and forgave him. This is why this temple also references Lakshmi Narayana. The Keezhekavu is the place where Kanappan was in the habit of making his sacrifices.
Another legend links the deity to the Adi Shankara. When he was meditating in the Himalayas he had darshan of the Goddess Mahalakshmi who promised to come back with him to Kerala if he did not turn back. However, he turned back to check on her in Kolur near Mangalore and she became the deity there. He was heartbroken so she took pity on him and said that she would come to Chottanikkara in the mornings and meet him there.
There is also the legend of Gupthan Namboodiri who ran to the temple for protection from a Yaksha that was following him. The Goddess came out and cut the Yaksha to pieces and then threw her in a tank that is now called the Yakshikkulam or Rakthakulam.
Places To Stay
There is accommodation available in the vicinity of the temple for varied budgets. Though the temple can easily be visited on a day trip from Cochin, if one wants to attend all the three Poojas of the day and also the Kuruthy Pooja, an overnight stay is essential.
How To Get There
The Chottanikkara Temple is 19 kilometres from Cochin and is also easily accessible by car and bus. Cochin itself is well connected by air, train as well as by road.
Most visitors to this temple also visit the Guruvayur Temple which is around 100 kilometres away.