|The Kalli Amman Temple at Pozhichalur|
The story of me and the Kalli Amman Temple in Pozhichalur is something that would fit neatly into the description above. In 1995 when I was in Coimbatore for my second confinement, I read about this temple in a tamil magazine. I was amazed at the description of the goddess and how she had come to assume this unique position. Since the location was Chennai, I made a mental note to visit the temple on my return to the city. So I tore the page from the magazine and put it in the pouch of my suitcase for safekeeping.
After I came back, life was extremely busy with two little ones - my daughter just two years old and my son a newborn. The piece of paper stayed where it was and after a few days or months, disappeared. But my memory was etched with the name of the goddess, her unusual position and the location.
Years rolled by and I made enquiries from time to time. No one knew about this temple. Those were the early days of internet and information was not so easy to find. Time moved on but my desire to visit this temple remained. In 2007, I started working in Tambaram Sanatorium and the first thing I did when I got familiar about my work place was to make enquiries about this temple. When I described the goddess, everyone was surprised, but did not know where the temple was.
In early 2010, I started sharing information about unique temples I had visited, through Facebook with my friends and family. This was appreciated and they prompted me to start writing formally through a blog. I started reading popular blogs on temples to know about the temples featured and the style of presentation. Wherever I saw posts on Pozhichalur I posed a question - did they know of Kalli Amman Temple? I kept drawing a blank.( In fact if you visit Sri.Saravanan's Dhivya Dharsanam blog on Pozhichalur Agastheeswarar temple, you can still find my question dated April 2010 :))
Several months and several posts in Aalayam Kanden later, the opportunity presented itself as a pleasant surprise. Last week, my husband suggested we visit the temple of Shani Bhagavan (Saturn) on saturday. There is a seperate Shani Bhagavan shrine near my house, and he had actually planned we visit there. For some reason, I suggested Agastheeswarar temple in Pozhichalur as it is a Navagraha Shrine devoted to Shani Bhagavan in Chennai and he readily agreed.
|Agastheeswarar Temple at Pozhichalur|
I was up by 3 am on saturday and ready ahead of schedule. I was really excited that finally I was going to visit the temple that I had so longed to see. After offering prayers to the magnificient swayambu Lord worshipped by Sage Agasthya and Shani Bhagavan, and the beautiful and ancient Goddess Anandavalli and performing Archanai to Shani Bhagavan we left the Agastheeswarar temple. I enquired with the ladies sellling flowers outside the temple how far away the Kalli Amman Temple was. They said, it was just around the corner.
|My local guides :)|
|The serene settings of the temple|
Kumaran, the poojari at the temple showed the harathi with utmost devotion. I introduced myself and told him that I had been searching for this temple for the last 16 years and wanted to write all about it on my blog. He smiled serenely, as if he had heard several stories in the past about her magnificence. Although I knew somewhat about the history of the temple, I asked him to narrate it again, which I am sharing below for your reading pleasure.
|Kumaran, the dedicated Poojari at the Kalli Amman Shrine|
|Goats can still be seen aplenty in the temple|
One day, one of the shepherds found that a white goat was missing from his herd, and, petrified that the owner would penalise or punish him, prayed to the Pidari Amman to help him find his lost goat. He offered to give her one "Kuduvai" (small earthern pot used to store milk in olden days) of milk everyday if she helped him find his goat. Very soon, he was able to locate the goat that had gone astray. Happy that the goddess had helped him, he started giving one pot of milk to the Goddess every day thereafter.
|Playful goats in the temple|
Some days passed. The shepherd was grazing his sheep near the temple, which had a lot of cactus (Kalli) plants growing near by. As he pinched one of the cacti, he found a milk like secretion dripping from it. A devious plan developed in his mind. He quickly thought he could collect the cactus milk in the pot and offer it to the Goddess and in turn sell the milk that was usually offered to her.
So without further delay, he executed his plan. He placed the pot of cactus milk before the Goddess and to his utmost shock, the Goddess picked up the pot in her right hand, dipped the little finger of her left hand into the pot, and tasted the liquid. Her lips got blistered from tasting the cactus milk.
The Goddess, angered by the shepherd's betrayal, rose in her gigantic form, complete with ten hands, and killed the shepherd and placed him beneath her feet. She sits till date in the same posture, reminding people that evil deeds are not tolerated in her court.
A temple was built over where she sits around the 12th Century by the Chola King (the place is called Pozhichalur which is an abridged version of Pugazh Chola Nallur) ruling over here (Possibly Kulothunga III?)
|The Bali Peetam and Trident in front of the temple|
I asked Kumaran if I could take pictures of the Goddess. He politely refused saying that since she was an "Ugraha Deivam" it would not be appropriate to photograph her. He also mentioned that even the temple authorities had never taken pictures of her. I hope some artist some day is able to draw a portrait of this wonderful deity so that the world can see how she looks like.
Kumaran had mentioned that the Goddess sat on a Padma Peetam (Lotus Platform) with the body of the shepherd beneath her feet. I could not see anything as her saree fell to the floor. He explained that it would be possible to only see her fully during "Abhishekham" which happened around 9 am every day. I was disappointed, but took leave of Kumaran after making note of the temple timings, contact number etc. notifying him that I would call back if I had additional questions.
|The Annanmaar Shrine at the temple|
On coming home, I tried to visualize the Goddess and what she actually held in her ten arms. Other than the Kuduvai in the right and the inverted left hand with the little finger placed near the lips I could not clearly remember. The lips were covered with "Kavacham" (silver covering) as they have been bruised. But beyond that it was difficult to recall without pictures. I did not know how much I could gather over telephone. So I decided I must visit again, this time before the abhishekam is over, so that I can get a Nirmalya Dharshan of the Goddess.
So we set out again this morning, leaving home as early as 7.30 am to be in time for the abhishekam. But traffic at Kathipara was not friendly and it was around 8.30 when we reached the temple. There were a number of people gathered to witness the abhishekam. I rushed in, only to find that the abhishekam had been completed and the Goddess was adorned with new clothes and garlands!!!
I was really disappointed. Nonetheless, one does not get what he/she desires but only what he/she deserves!! So I strained my eyes to see the hands of the Goddess through the dim light of the sanctum sanctorum conversing with her all the time. Was I late or had she had her abhishekam early? I had come so eagerly to look at all her glory.
I tried to jot down what I saw. My husband prompted me to ask Kumaran, who was busy attending to the devotees who had offered the abhishekam. I waited for him to become free, so that somehow I could get the accurate information, all the time praying to her to show me what I wanted.
Kumaran came, and when I told him I could not see clearly among the garlands and clothes in the dim light, he smiled again, the quiet, serene smile. He showed me the "Kavachams" (the coverings that are used to adorn the goddess on special occasions) and explained the significance of each one of them.
Order from top on left side:
1. Jammankodai - An umbrella used by shepherds to guard themselves against the sun.
4. Lasso/Rope (Paasakayaru)
5. Inverted hand with the little finger close to the mouth
Order from top on the right:
1. Huge Sword
2. Damru with the face of the shepherd over it
3. Bow with dagger
5. Kuduvai or the earthern pot
She has her hair tied up with plaits (Jada Mudi) and a Skull Crown over it. He also showed me a glimpse of the lotus platform with the shepherd's body over it.
I was so happy that I was almost in tears. The people who had arranged for the abhishekham were kind enough to offer us hot Chakara Pongal and Sweet Panchamirtham which was an added blessing. With a heart brimming over with gratitude, I took leave from the Goddess and Kumaran.
How to reach here:
If you are coming from Chennai city, take a left turn at the Areva Signal after crossing the airport.
You will go through the Pallavaram Shandy road.
Take a right turn at the barricade at the end of the road, and left at the next junction.
You will be on Pammal Main road,
Continue on that road towards Kunrathur for a couple of kilometers till you reach a church on your right, and a board which says take a right turn for Pozhichalur.
The right turn leads you to Pozhichalur Main Road.
Go down the road till you reach the Agastheeswarar Temple on your right.
After crossing the temple, take a right turn.
You will see the Pozhichalur Bus terminus at a few feet.
Cross the terminus, there is a Board which reads "Kalli Amman Nagar". (dont take the left here)
Go straight down the cement road which curves naturally to the left and you are at the temple.
Alternatively you can continue down GST Road till you reach the MaraiMalai Adigal Pallavaram Government Primary School.
Turn right into Indira Gandhi Road and go right down the road till you reach the church mentioned above.
The rest of the directions are the same.
There are several buses plying from different part of the city to Pozhichalur - the 52 series, PP66 etc.
You could also reach Pallavaram by Electric train and take a share auto to the temple.
Mr. Kumaran - Poojari - 72005 45235
You can also contact the Agatheeswarar temple trustee for information regarding this temple. Website : www.pozhichalursaneeswarartemple.org
7 - 10 am 4-7 pm on all days except fridays and sundays
7 am to 7 pm on fridays and sundays
Adi month 5th sunday is the "Koozh Vaarthal" Festival in this temple