Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pidaari Kalli Amman Temple, Pozhichalur

The Kalli Amman Temple at Pozhichalur
Sometimes, life is very strange. You keep searching for something and then out of the blue, what you were looking for, appears so easily and effortlessly before you, that all you can do is shed tears of happiness and gratitude.

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 usually try to get some information on the temple, and its deities, history and special features before I visit, so that they can be best appreciated during the visit. So I logged into the website of the Agastheeswarar temple and lo and behold,  it showed up the Kalli Amman temple as one of its sub temples. I almost shrieked in delight! A search of 16 years had finally ended in a positive result.

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 :)
We were quickly able to find the temple. It was as if suddenly the location changed to a village scene just like changing the backdrop in a play. Three trees, and that too each one of them significant in their taste - Tamarind, Neem and Nuxvomica (Ettimaram) spread their branches to provide shade in front of the temple. Goats played around and some took rest on the steps of the temple.

The serene settings of the temple
The temple is just one shrine big, with a small room for the Annanmaar statues to its left. But the size of the temple is no yardstick to measure the magnificence of the Goddess inside. For a moment I froze. Any amount of reading about the temple does not prepare you for the sight that waits to delight you.

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
More than 1000 years ago, the place where the temple currently stands used to be somewhat uninhabited and  dwellings were found only in Kunrathur and Mangadu. A small pond/brook separated these two landmarks and shepherds from the other side of the brook drove their goats to this side for grazing. They took refuge under the huge trees against the hot sun, offered their food to the Pidari Amman (frontier goddess - the word Pidari is derived from the sanskrit word Pida Hari which means destroyer of all evil)and ate and drove back their goats to the owners in the evening.

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.
2. Skull
3. Bell
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
4. Abhayahastham
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.

Contact Details:

Mr. Kumaran - Poojari - 72005 45235

You can also contact the Agatheeswarar temple trustee for information regarding this temple. Website : www.pozhichalursaneeswarartemple.org

Timings:

7 - 10 am 4-7 pm on all days except fridays and sundays
7 am to 7 pm on fridays and sundays

Special Festival:

Adi month 5th sunday is the "Koozh Vaarthal" Festival in this temple

22 comments:

  1. Dear Priya, The series of 7 figures aren't female. One has 3 faces like Brahma, but none have more than 2 arms each, shown identically w swords. Don't think they're 'kanni'; any other thoughts ?

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  2. Dear Katherine,

    You were right. Further enquiries with the temple helped me identify that the idols were statues of "Annanmaar" warrior gods (Ponnar, Sankar) worshipped alongside village deities. Thanks for helping me correct this error. The post is now edited to hold the correct information

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  3. After reading your post adiyen also visited both temple and had the darshan of Mother. There is one small shrine for Nagathamman also on the right side. And the aadi festival will be held for amman in the fifth week. You can add thede two information to your post.

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  4. Thank you. The aadi festival information is already available on the post. Thank you for mentioning information about Nagathamman.
    Regards
    Priya

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  5. Very Nice .Realy useful Blog.. great. keep Going. i am designer. any design Help u can ping me a mail., thx

    sivxcreation@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Superb Blog. Please continue to do this service to highlight unknown old temples.

    A.Hari
    http://www.inspireminds.in/

    ReplyDelete
  7. I would be visiting Chennai this week and would like to visit the two temples you have indicated in Pozhichalur – the sivan temple and the pidari kali amman temple. However, I am not sure how far this temple is from where will be staying. Our hotel is located near T Nagar. Could you tell me how far are the Pozhichalur temples from T Nagar?

    Many thanks.

    Regards,
    Vanan

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  8. Dear Mr Saravanan,

    Pozhichalur would be about 15 kms from T.Nagar. You could take a bus upto Pallavaram and an auto from there to the two temples. or there is one bus Route 52 which you can board near Vanavil/SIET and directly reach Pozhichalur. The temples are walking distance from the bus stop. Or go to the Mambalam Railway station and take a train upto Pallavaram and a share auto from the station. Else if you are travelling by vehicle, please follow instructions mentioned in the post. Good luck Priya

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  9. Mr. Hari, Thank you for your feedback. Do visit the blog when you find time. Regards Priya

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  10. What a wonderful tale Priya - it is inspiring and uplifting to read of your search for this temple. What a warming story. Thank you :)

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  11. Thanks so much Philippa...hope you are having a great time in Cambodia visiting all the lovely temples there...I demand pictures!!! Take care, Love, Priya

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  12. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!
    Hotel Room Booking Koyambedu

    ReplyDelete
  13. I live in Pammal. My home is very near to this temple. But I never visited. I have been to Agatheeswarar temple few times. I would surely visit Kalli amman next time. Thanks for your post

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  14. Mr Thanigai, your comment has really made me happy. This is a wonderful temple and the Goddess is waiting for the devotees, do tell your friends too about the temple. Regards
    Priya

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  15. hi madam....i am srini. my house is nearest in kalliamman temple...kumaran is my friend... u said more information about this temple its more usefull for all other people...i have more old photos of kalliamman temple.....

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  16. Hello Srini, Good to know you live close to this wonderful temple. Do share old pictures if you have them. You can send them to tspadmapriya@gmail.com. It will really add value to the post and be useful to many many more people who must visit this temple. Thanks so much

    Regards, Priya

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  17. hi ,
    awesome ..she s my kula dheivam :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. What's up, I would like to subscribe for this weblog to take newest updates, so where can i do it please help out.
    Stop by my web blog click here

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can subscribe by email by entering your mail address in the box provided or by becoming a follower by clicking the follow button.

      Cheers
      Priya

      Delete
  19. Hi,
    You had posted the sthala varalaru, It is the duty of the priest to say the sthala puranam whenever a devotee comes to the temple. But unfortunately same is not the case of people who govern the temples. What fate is that of india. In on of the temple's dharmagatha, scolded the priest as to why the sthala varalaru was revealed to you(AAlayam kanden) and also posted the pictures.

    Now the d.gtha, has pasted his photos in all over the temple(you cannot find the god and goddess photos in the temple) not only that you can find a case listed against him in temple land grabling. The same appeared in the newspaper. A pity I can't understand what evil has befallen this great country. One end foreign religious people loot our temples and spread evil through conversion, and on the other hand the hindus who are given the duty to protect the temples have only one motto, to prophesize themselves instead of preaching the vedhas.

    My heart stands out to that young priest who received the scolding and despite that he does a great service to the devotees who flock to the temple.

    thanks especially, because seeing your blog, only i thought about doing a small service to the temple

    regards
    baradhan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mr Baradhan,

      We have checked with the temple and found that there had been a general enquiry on the visit and the post which is natural and acceptable from an administrative perspective. Otherwise all is well. Thanks anyways for the feedback.

      Regards
      Priya

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