Hidden histories History & Culture

Abode of a warrior god

Kumaracoil, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, c.1900. Photograph from Padmanabhapuram Palace Museum collection.   | Photo Credit: Sharat Sunder Rajeev

Located in the foothills of the majestic Veli Hills in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, is Kumaracoil, the abode of Lord Kumaraswamy (Subramanya) and Valli, his spouse. A grand flight of steps leads to the temple complex perched on top of a hill facing the eastern horizon.

The early history of the temple is stepped deep in the legends that it is difficult to find tangible evidence of its origin. Popular legend associated with the temple links it to Kumaraswamy’s marriage to Goddess Valli.

Valli, as her name suggests, was found entangled amongst the vines in the Veli Hills by a chief of the Nanji Kurava clan. It is believed that the Lord appeared in disguise of an old man before young Valli, who treated him with respect. However, the old man took Valli by shock when he expressed his wish to make her his wife. When Valli refused his proposal, Subramanya sought help from his brother, Lord Ganesha, who in turn charged at Valli in the form of a wild elephant. Valli had no one other than the old man to run to for help. Taking advantage of the situation, the old man agreed to help on the condition that she should accept him as her husband. Caught between the raging beast and the cunning old man, Valli fainted. The story that seemed to head for a tragic end took a turn for the good when the Lord appeared before Valli in his true form and expressed his wish to marry her. For Valli, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Subramanya, her joy knew no bounds. Their marriage was conducted with great pomp.

The silver horse on which Kumaraswamy of Kumarakovil is transported to Thiruvananthapuram for the Navarathri celebrations

The silver horse on which Kumaraswamy of Kumarakovil is transported to Thiruvananthapuram for the Navarathri celebrations   | Photo Credit: S.GOPAKUMAR

This ancient temple finds its name etched in the annals of Travancore history, for its association with the Navaratri festival observed in Thiruvananthapuram. As per tradition, Goddess Saraswathi, when she leaves for Thiruvananthapuram from Padmanabhapuram, is accompanied by Munnuttimanga from Suchindram temple and Kumaraswamy from Kumaracoil, mounted on his silver vehicle, shaped in the form of a horse. The role of Kumaraswamy, the daring warrior chief of the celestial beings, is to protect Goddess Saraswathi on her journey to Thiruvananthapuram.

V. Narasimhan Thampi explains that in the olden days the royal family of erstwhile Travancore had to offer 3000 panam and three lemons fashioned in gold to the Lord, before he was brought out from his abode for the Navaratri procession. On their journey to Thiruvananthapuram, the Gods and their retinue have to cross the rivers Kuzhithura, Neyyar, and Karamana and the three gold lemons signify the crossing of these three. On his arrival, Kumaraswamy is housed in a temple at Aryasala. Later, the idol is taken to Poojapura, where the Maharaja pays respect to the Lord.

Among the ardent devotees of Kumaraswamy, the name of Kanakku Thampi Chempakaraman Velayudhan, a.k.a. Velu Thampi, the Dalawa, stands high. It is said that Velu Thampi, was born after his parents offered special pujas at Kumaracoil and in gratitude, Thampi’s mother had him named ‘Velayudhan’ — one of the many names of Lord Subramanya. Velu Thampi was an ardent devotee and made many valuable offerings at Kumaracoil. In fact, when he was based in Thiruvananthapuram, he found it hard to make regular visits to Kumaracoil and constructed, in 1808 A.D., a Subramanya temple in Thampanoor.

The writer is a conservation architect and history buff

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2021 1:50:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/kumaracoils-association-with-the-navaratri-festival-in-thiruvananthapuram/article19324808.ece

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