KOCHI: The grand plan unveiled by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to start monthly poojas at Mangala Devi temple, located at Vannathippara deep inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), about 12 km from Kumili, has hit a roadblock as the Departments of Forest and Archaeology have objected to the project.
However, TDB president A Padmakumar and Tamil Nadu Kannaki Trust chairman M Rajendran are optimistic about starting the renovation of the temple immediately after the Sabarimala season.
Though a meeting convened by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in June had decided to renovate the temple and start monthly poojas, the Departments of Archaeology and Forest had raised objections as it will disturb the wildlife in the Tiger Reserve. Though the Archaeology Department started the renovation, the work was stopped on the second day after a team of officers of the Tamil Nadu Forest Department raised an objection. The TN Government objected to the renovation work by Kerala claiming the temple was located inside their territory.
The TDB had drawn an ambitious plan to conduct poojas at the temple for 24 days a year. As per the plan, the temple will open for poojas on the pournami (full moon) day of every Malayalam month, Sivaratri and nine days of Navaratri.
Currently, the temple opens only on Chitra pournami day, which falls in the month of April, when thousands of devotees from Tamil Nadu throng the temple.
To claim the ownership of the temple, the TDB had produced a document which stated the temple was under the administration of Poonjar Kovilakom. The board argued poojas were conducted for 24 days during ancient times and it needed to be restored. However, the Forest Department said increased human activity in the PTR will disturb wildlife and degrade the environment. The Archaeology Department said no construction work can be allowed at the site.
“We have offered wholehearted support for the renovation of the temple. Though the temple is located in a disputed and unsurveyed area on the TN - Kerala border, we support the decision to restart poojas as it will fulfil the long-pending demand of the devotees. The Kerala Archaeology Department had taken over the temple in 1981 itself. As per our information, they have cleared the overgrowth around the temple and started constructing a compound wall. Opening the temple for 24 days will not affect wildlife. There is a motorable road, which leads to the temple and a Forest watch tower at the location,” Tamil Nadu Kannaki Trust chairman M Rajendran told Express. “As per my knowledge, there has been no decision to start monthly poojas at Mangala Devi Temple. It can’t be allowed as the temple is located deep inside the PTR.
The Archaeology Department took over the renovation work based on a directive from the High Court. We have issued a letter to the Devaswom Secretary to remove the reference, if any, in the minutes of the meeting convened by the Chief Minister regarding starting monthly poojas,” said Kerala Cultural Department Principal Secretary V Venu. However, TDB president A Padmakumar said the renovation work will be taken up after the Sabarimala season. “The decision is to renovate the structures of Kannaki, Siva and Parvathi at Mangala Devi Temple. The Departments of Forest and Archaeology have been entrusted with the renovation work and the TDB will conduct the rituals for installation of deities. The Archaeology Department is delaying the work and we will take it up after the Sabarimala season,” he said.
Meanwhile, many Hindu organisations are not convinced about the intention of the TDB and allege the board is driven by greed for income from the offerings. “To increase the number of days for opening the temple, they have to conduct ‘devaprasnam’ and understand the will of the deity. They have to discuss the issue with tantris and religious leaders before taking a decision. The reason for increasing the pooja days should be revealed to the devotees. They have not been able to provide amenities for the pilgrims who visit the temple for one day. If it is an attempt to make it a tourist destination, it is regrettable,” said Hindu Aikya Vedi state secretary R V Babu.
Mangala Devi Temple
The temple is located inside Periyar Tiger Reserve, around 12 km from Kumili
The two inscriptions found at the temple relate to Rajaraja Chola of 11th century and Kulasekara Pandian of 13th century
The temple is dedicated to Kannaki, who, according to Silappathikaram, burnt Madurai for the injustice meted out to her by King Pandian Nedunchezhian