Chakkulathukavu Pongala 2016
Chakkulathukavu Sree Bhagavathi Temple is the abode of the benevolent Goddess Chakkulathamma. Millions pray for her blessings at her shrine at Chakkulathukavu. The benevolent look of the Goddess makes her devotees fearless. By chanting her names and meditating upon her splendor, one can destroy ignorance and pride.
History of Chakkulathukavu Temple
Chakkulathamma (the Goddess of Chakkulathukavu) is an incarnation of Goddess Durga. We don’t much about the history of the temple. However, the Goddess of this temple is believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Durga who killed the demons Shumba and Nishumba. According to a story narrated in the holy book Devi Mahatmyam, Sumbha and Nisumbha were ambitious demons who aspired to conquer the earth and the heavens. They observed penance for a long time to win the blessings of Lord Brahma. Pleased with their austerities, Brahma appeared before them and asked them what boon they wanted. Sumbha and Nisumbha sought immortality. However, Lord Brahma insisted that all living beings had to die and hence he urged them to ask for another boon. The demons then sought the boon that could only be killed by a woman. They were confident that a woman capable of killing them didn’t exist in the whole universe. Armed with this boon that almost made them invincible they set out to conquer the three worlds. Soon they defeated Indra, the King of Heavens, and ascended his throne. The hapless devas had to flee from the heavens and seek refuge in remote jungles. They weren’t safe there either. Sage Narada took pity at their plight. He approached Lord Brahma, his father, and asked them why devas had to suffer so many hardships. Lord Brahma told him that the devas were now ‘enjoying’ the fruits of their labor. While the demons were observing severe penance, the devas were wasting their life in total indulgence. Obviously they had to lose the heaven and all the pleasures that came with it. Narada was not satisfied with this answer and asked his father how devas could regain their lost kingdom. Brahma told him that the devas had to seek the help of the Mother Goddess. Only she could help him out. Narada approached the devas and advised them to pray for the blessings of the Goddess. Consequently, devas went to the Himalayas and started observing penance. They started chanting powerful mantras to please the Goddess. Goddess Parvati, the consort of Shiva, was moved by their prayers. She decided to help him. From within her emerged another Goddess who was none other than Goddess Durga. A terrible battle ensued between the Goddess and the demons. In the end she annihilated them and restored peace.
Goddess Parvati and Goddess Durga are different manifestations of Adi Parashakti (the supreme power that has been in existence since the beginning of time). The only difference between them is that Parvati is the benign manifestation of the Goddess. She is the consort of Shiva and lives in Kailash with him and their children Ganesh and Karthikeya. Durga, by contrast, is the fierce aspect of the Goddess. She rides a lion and has many arms. This is the form that the Goddess assumes to destroy the wicked and restore peace and balance in the universe. There are countless Durga temples in India. In fact, of all the manifestations of the Mother Goddess, Durga is the most revered. She is also the most ferocious. She instills fear in the minds of the wicked but remains a benign mother to the virtuous.
Read about the nine forms of Goddess Durga here.
Chakkulathamma is an incarnation of Goddess Durga; however, the deity installed at this temple is in her benevolent form.
In 2016, Chakkulathukavu Pongala will be offered on December 12. Chakkulathukavu Pongala is the most famous festival of Chakkulathukavu. It is held in the month of Vrischikam (November/December) and sees the participation of lakhs of female devotees. Only women can offer Pongala (rice cooked with jaggery and coconut) to the Goddess. Devotees will position themselves on either side of the streets falling within 50 to 60 km radius of the temple and offer pongala. The temple and its premises become overcrowded during these days.
Devotees offering pongala will bring rice, jaggery and coconut with them. They use round earthen pots for cooking pongala. The chief priest will light the main hearth using fire from inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. This fire is then transferred from one oven to another. Every year at the time of lighting the main hearth, an eagle circles above the temple. The sight of the bird drives devotees into a state of ecstasy. They chant the many names of the Goddess and the atmosphere suddenly becomes very pious and blissful.
The practice of offering pongala dates back to the origin of the temple itself. According to legends, there once lived a hunter and his family. They were ardent devotees of the Goddess. Each day before having their food, they would set aside a part of it as offering to the Goddess. Actually, they made this offering even on days when they didn’t have enough to eat. One day they were late after collecting wood from the jungle and could not offer the food to the Goddess. Stricken with sorrow, they fell themselves at the feet of the Goddess and asked pardon for the delay. They then rushed to cook the food but when they opened the earthen pots used for cooking, they found that they were filled with cooked food. They then heard the Goddess’s voice in the air, ‘My children, I have cooked this food for you. My devotees are extremely dear to me and I will take care of them at all times. Have your meals and rest.’ The hunter and his family’s joy knew no bounds when they realized that the Goddess herself had cooked food for them.
The pongala offering is symbolic of this mythical event. The devotees prepare the food as a humble offering to the Goddess. They believe that the Goddess herself is present near each hearth as pongala is being cooked. There are numerous stories of devotees who claim that their grief and sorrows were gone after offering pongala to the Goddess.
The most famous Pongala festival in Kerala is held at the Attukal Bhagavathi Temple. Read more about Attukal Pongala here.