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Submerged in hoary lore

K. BALAKRISHNAN writes about the Kuzhippillykavu Jaladurga temple at Perambavoor, which is submerged under water for a good part of the year.

The Kuzhippallykavu temple in dry days.

HOW MANY temples in Kerala remain submerged under water for a good part of the year? There may be temples that are surrounded by water on all sides. But being totally submerged may be a rarity. One such exception is Sree Kuzhippillykavu Jaladurga Temple at Perumbavoor.

Situated beside T. B. Road and north of Perumbavoor Municipal Library, the temple is very much in the centre of Perumbavoor town.

Lore has it that while a pond was being dug at the present temple premises the digging tools struck against a `rudrakshashila' which started bleeding copiously. The awestruck populace consulted an oracle, which after divination, concluded that the `shila' had divine presence in the form of Goddess Devi as Sakthi. Further digging was stopped and the area was consecrated as a temple to the Devi. Even now the marks of erstwhile digging can be seen, say local people. The lore is also augmented by the name of the temple, Kuzhippilli, which literally means `temple in a pit'.

Facing West, the temple's principal deity is of `rudrakshashila' which is `swayambhoo' or self-consecrated. The `rudrakshashila' idol is similar to the one at neighbouring Chottanikkara though no other temple in the vicinity has another similar idol. The principal idol is believed to be a single manifestation of the Durga, Saraswathy and Bhadrakali forms of the Goddess, though the idol is revered principally in the form of Bhadrakali who has settled down to protect the world after annihilation of the demon-king, Dharika.

Dharika was granted a boon of invincibility from humans and Gods by the Lord of Creation Brahma, who was pleased by his penance. Full of overconfidence at his invincibility, Dharika started creating havoc on the world. The Gods took refuge at the feet of Lord Shiva ,who at their request, created Bhadrakali, by opening his divine third eye, to annihilate Dharika. Bhadrakali, being a Goddess, was exempt from the boon granted by Brahma to Dharika that, neither man nor God could kill him. After completion of her divine mission the Goddess is believed to have taken abode at Kuzhippillykavu. It is to cool her anger against demonic forces and the `Roudra Bhava', which the Goddess had assumed to overcome the demon, that the Goddess has the temple inundated by water periodically.

The submerged temple during the monsoon season.

To the left of the main idol is a second idol, which is revered as Balabhadra. A story that is associated with this idol creates a link between Kuzhippillykavu Jaladurga Temple and Perumbavoor Sree Sastha Temple. It is said that an elephant that belonged to the Sastha Temple once ran amok and in its frenzy, gored the principal idol at Kuzhippillykavu. A small portion of the idol got detached from the main body and the elephant collapsed immediately after goring the idol. It is this portion of the principal idol that is revered and consecrated as Balabhadra. Lending credence to this version is the fact that once the main festival at Kuzhippillykavu commences, `Naivedya' or divine offerings for the deities are brought from the Sastha Temple till the festival draws to a close. It is believed that this offering is being made in penance of the misdemeanour of the temple elephant.

In front of the sanctum sanctorum, which is situated at a depth of 10 - 12 feet from ground level, are two idols consecrated to Lord Ganesh and Sree Ayyappan. To the south- east of the temple there is a sacred grove, which is rich in bio-diversity and the deities there are idols of Santhi Durga, Nagaraja in Vaishnavite tradition and Brahmarakshas in the Vaishnavite Bana Linga tradition. Earlier poojas were not regularly conducted. But now after extensive renovation work, including the construction of a compound wall, with active participation and contributions from devotees there are poojas every day.

The temple opens at five every morning. Evening poojas are conducted both at the temple and also at Panattillam, Perumbavoor, because the members of this family are the traditional owners of the land at which Kuzhippillykavu temple is situated.

Submerging of the temple usually corresponds to the monsoon period. The level of water that submerges the temple is normally at the same level as that of the pond, which is situated at the back of the temple. During the immersion the devotees believe that the Gods are indulging in `Jalaneerattu'. When the temple premises are flooded a trident, which represents the Devi, is installed at the Balalayam building within the temple compound. This becomes the object of poojas and adoration. A lot of devotees flock to the temple during this period to observe the rare phenomenon of the temple being under water.

The festival falls on the Aswathy and Bharani star dates of the Malayalam month of Meena, in April-May. The main objective of the festival is to celebrate the annihilation of evil in the form of the demon Dharika by the Goddess in her Bhadrakali incarnation.

Active participation in the festival by the people of Perumbavoor irrespective of religious consideration is a special feature of the temple festival. The people who sell offering of lime and oil to propitiate the Goddess and invoke her blessings best personify the transcendence of religious barriers at this temple. The sellers of these offerings are not bound by religious restrictions and represent people from almost all communities.

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