THENI: The Mangaladevi Kannagi temple at Kannagi kottam in Theni has once again united the people of Tamil Nadu and Kerala for a day, with its annual festival on Chitra Pournami attracting 40,000 devotees from the states this year. This has also ended a two-year wait for the devotees as the temple -- which allows people only on the day of the festival every year -- did not conduct it for the last two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The darshan at the temple began at 6 am and ended at 2 pm. With the temple being located atop a peak between Kumuli in Theni district and Thekkady in Kerala's Idukki district, both the district administrations had done elaborate arrangements for the festival and provided basic facilities, ambulances, and jeeps for picking up and dropping devotees from Kumuli to Kannagi kottam.
The journey from Kumuli to Kannagi kottam on the hill path with hymns from the temple in the background was itself a treat for many devotees on the day. Some of them also took another route via Paziyankudi, which was a hard trek of 6.6 km. The temple sits at an altitude of about 1,337 m (4,386 ft) above the mean sea level. Surrounded by lush greenery, the Mullai Periyar dam reservoir was visible from the temple.
'United by devotees'
The temple is believed to have been built by Cheran Chenguttuvan, a Chera dynasty ruler, 2,000 years ago. It is constructed on stones, with most of the parts worn off. Even the idol of Kannagi has been destroyed. There is also a Perumal idol nearby, maintained by the Theni district administration. The Idukki administration, meanwhile, maintains another stone temple shrine in the area, and priests from Kerala offer poojas there. The devotees from both the districts, however, worship all three stone temples.
On the day, women from Kerala, and those attached to the 'Mangaladevi Kannagi temple trust' prepared pongal, offered it to their respective deities, and distributed to the devotees as 'prasadam'. Office bearers of the trust distributed 'annathanam' to all the devotees, which was prepared at Cumbum and brought on tractors.
A joint effort amid the rains
Theni District Collector KV Muralidharan said that for the past few weeks, both the districts continuously received rainfall. "Luckily, there was no rain during the festival. Compared to previous years, more devotees came this year. Officials from the district administration did facilitate all precautionary measures like fire extinguishers, medical teams etc.," he said.
Speaking to TNIE, Idukki District Collector Sheeba George said both the district administrations have jointly done all the arrangements for the festival. The Idukki administration arranged 100 jeeps for the devotees' commute, she said.
'Not just for worship'
P Kavibharathi, a PG student doing Marine Archaeology at Thanjavur Tamil University, was at the temple as part of her research work. She said that she had heard about a few of the sculptures at the temple before. "I am going to take photographs of the sculptures and compare them with archaeological evidence," she said.
Meanwhile, it was a third time at the temple for Sanish Sadan, a resident from Kerala's Kottayam district. Talking about the festival, he said, "People believe that Kannagi comes from heaven on the day to bless the devotees. We believe that if we worship the deity on the day, she will bestow us with all the wealth, peace, and happiness in life," he said.
M Annamal (75), a resident of Periyakulam, who struggled to climb the hills and had to be supported by her daughter-in-law, was vocal about Kannagi and her powers. She believes that Kannagi is a symbol of women empowerment.
‘Need a road’
Mullai Periyar Vaigai Farmers Federation President MKM Muthuramalingam urged the Tamil Nadu government to lay a road from Paziyankudi to Kannagi kottam. He said this would help the devotees visit the temple whenever they wish, and offer poojas. He said that on a single day, the Idukki district administration has earned more revenue by operating the jeeps. “If the Tamil Nadu government can do the necessary arrangements, it will get a continuous income from the temple," he said.