Mangala Devi Temple
Idukki, Kerala 685509, India
An ancient temple in the middle of the forest.
Location of Mangala Devi Temple
More about Mangala Devi Temple
Managala Devi Kannagi Temple is an ancient temple located in the state border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in the edge of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It sits at an altitude of about 1,337 meters, surrounded by lush greenery and scenic views of the Western Ghat Mountains and villages of Tamil Nadu District.
Legends surrounding the temple
The temple is associated with the tale of Kannagi from the Tamil epic Silappatikaram by Ilango Adigal. Silappatikaram is one of the five epics of ancient Tamil Literature.
According to Silappatikaram- Kovalan, a rich merchant from Chola Nadu came to Madurai City to sell his wife’s anklets to a goldsmith after he lost all his wealth. The goldsmith approached the Pandya King showing him the anklets as they looked similar to the ones the queen lost. The king in-turn took Kovalan for a thief and sentenced him to death.
Kannagi was the wife of Kovalan. Knowing her husband was given death sentence by the king, she went to the kings court and proved her husband's innocence. The anklet Kovalan brought to sell had emeralds inside them while the queens anklets had pearls. Ashamed of the misjudgement, the king and the queen were died of heart attack on the throne but Kannagi, enraged by the death of her husband set fire to the entire Madurai City with her anger.
Kannagi then wandered around the wilderness for about 14 days and reached the current location of the temple where she ascended to heaven in Pushpaka Vimana (mythological flying chariot). She then reunited with Kovalan in afterlife. Kannagi, who was able to take on royalty because her cause is just, remains even today a symbol of the moral power that resides in an ordinary woman.
It is also believed that there is an underground passage below the temple that leads to the town of Madurai. Some believe that the secret passage leads to the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple while others say that it leads to palace of the Pandya King.
The construction of the temple
The exact year of the construction of the temple is not known. The temple may be built at least a thousand years ago by Senguttuvan, king of then Chera Kingdom in southern India. Senguttuvan, upon his visit to the hilly area, heard about the story of Kannagi from the tribes living in the area and he built a temple there dedicated to Kannagi.
Exploring Managala Devi Kannagi Temple
The temple can only be reached by jeep/ hike through a 12 km stretch of dense forests and grasslands. There is a wide variety of plants and animals including the highly endangered Nilgiri Tahr (an ibex that is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills) found on the hiking trail. The temple situates on a hillock in the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border.
The temple is made of huge granite pieces. It is dedicated to the deity of Mangala Devi, who is also known as Kannagi. It is mostly in ruins but the outside walls and the steps in huge stones stands testimony to its early days of glory. Considering the location of the temple, the effort that was involved in bringing the huge granite pieces up the mountain is admirable.
Four stone structures constitute the temple complex which houses other idols in addition to that of Mangala Devi. There is an idol of Karuppu Sami - one of the regional Tamil male deities popular among the rural social groups of Tamil Nadu, an idol of Lord Shiva, and a sanctum for Ganapati, the elephant god.
Chitra Pournami Festival - the day which temple is open to public
The temple is only open on Chitra Pournami day for general public. Chitra Pournami falls on the day of full moon in the Tamil month of Chithirai (occurs in April/ May). More than 15,000 devotees flock to the temple on that day, their only chance to offer prayers at the temple in a year.
As the temple of Mangala Devi is in ruins, the idol worshipped on Chitra Pournami Festival is brought from Kambam, a town in Theni District of Tamil Nadu. On this day, priests from Kerala and Tamil Nadu conduct rituals at the temple. The main deity goddess Mangala Devi is decorated with flowers and silks, and rituals are conducted throughout the day.
Thali (the necklace worn by married Hindu women) and bangles of women devotees are blessed during the rituals. The women also cook and offer pongal (sweet dish made of rice) to the goddess on the auspicious day.
Getting to Managala Devi Kannagi Temple
The temple is in Idukki District of Kerala State in Southern India. The temple is located deep inside the forest and can be accessible only by Jeeps from Kumily Town (11 km) or by hiking. Kumily is connected by buses from most of the other towns and cities in Kerala such as Ernakulam, Kottayam, and Kozhikode. The nearest major railway station is in Kottayam.
The temple is closed throughout the year for public, except on the day of Chitra Pournami Festival. The festival is observed on the day of full moon in the Tamil month of Chithirai (occurs in April/ May). To visit in other months of the year, visitors need special permission from the Wildlife Warden at Idukki (+91 4869 322027).