Mangaladevi Kottam: Kannaki, Patini, Mangalamadan Tai and the Historical Linkages between Keralam and Tamilakam

// April 28th, 2013 // Culture and Ecology

Mangaladevi Kottam in Kumaly on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013

Mangaladevi Kottam in Kumaly on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.  The Pandya style stone temple could be built in 9th century after the Saivite conquest of Sambandhar and his rabid legion who persecuted the Chamana nuns.

Mangaladevi temple or Mangala Madan Tai Kottam is an ancient shrine eructed in the memory of a brave and legendary Tamil woman by the ancient Chera emperor of Keralam in the second century AD. Mangaladevi or Mangalamadan Tai is an early Tamil and Buddhist south Indian cult signifying an auspicious female guardian deity from the beginning of the common era.  The cult of Mangalamadan Tai flourished with Buddhist popular culture and gave birth to plenty of place names all over the peninsular India as in Koramangala, Mangalapuram, Neryamangalam, Kotamangalam etc.

The grassland shola peak on which Mangalamadantai Kottam is situated at the Kerala-Tamilaka border.  The forest watch tower and shola are visible from miles afar.  A view from Kerala side of the mountain.

The grassland shola peak (1337m) on which Mangalamadantai Kottam is situated at the Kerala-Tamilaka border. The forest watch tower and shola are visible from miles afar. A view from Kerala side of the mountain. The winding road is also seen.

The current Mangaladevi temple or Madantai Kottam in true ancient Tamil Amana (Jain and Buddhist) parlance, near Kumaly in Idukki district of Kerala close to the border of Tamil Nadu on a high grassland shola peak at around 1337 m above sea level overlooking the Kambam valley and Meghamalai dales has more than 2000 years of history to tell. It is 15km from Kumaly town which is on the Kollam – Kottayam – Theni National Highway.

People struggling to get into the Kannaki shrine at Mangaladevi Kottam on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2008.

People from all over south India struggling to get into the Kannaki shrine at Mangaladevi Kottam on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2008.  The Tamil women use yellow and green clothes for this exquisite pilgrimage to the top of the Western Ghats at 1337 m.  They have also formed a volunteer group to handle the rush at the Kannaki shrine. Yellow marigolds and green Neem and mango leaves decorate.

This unique grassland shola is within the PTR or Periyar Tiger Reserve that is ecologically sensitive and extremely crucial for the sustenance of life and drinking water down in central and south Kerala apart from being the last asylum of the Asiatic Tiger in South India. The grassland sholas and fern groves are also home to rare and endangered flora and fauna, most of them medicinal.

The Pandya style of architecture is visible in the granite stone temple complex at Mangaladevi Kottam.

The Pandya style of architecture is visible in the granite stone temple complex at Mangaladevi Kottam. Can be dated to 9th century and the Saivite take over under Sambandhar and his militia who specialized in persecuting the Buddhist nuns.

According to researchers and authors like S N Sadasivan this organic Tai Shola or mother of all sholas as in the Nilgriris was a Buddhist nunnery in the beginning of the common era on a great trade route and mountain pass that connected the Pandya kingdom with the Chera lands across the western ghats.

Kannaki idol in Mangaladevi Kottam, Kumaly.  Tamil women are leading the rituals even today.  25 apl 2013.

Kannaki idol in Mangaladevi Kottam, Kumaly. Tamil women are leading the rituals even today though the priest is a boy. 25 apl 2013. A passing shot in the rush with one hand.

Kannaki the legendary heroine of sage Ilango Adikal’s Tamil epic Silapatikaram, after cursing and metaphorically burning the city of Madurai in her ire against the king who unethically punished her husband Kovalan (accusing him of stealing the anklets of the queen ) by ripping of her breast, went north west along the banks of river Vaigai in the Kambam valley and disappeared into the Sahyadri’s according to legend and the epic.

Devotees mostly women and dalitbahujans from Tamilakam and Keralam thronging in to get a glimpse of their ancient heroine Kannaki as Patini as installed by Cheran Chenguttuvan in 2nd C. AD. Chitra Paurnami day 25 apl 2013.

Devotees mostly women and dalitbahujans from Tamilakam and Keralam thronging in to get a glimpse of their ancient heroine Kannaki as Patini as installed by Cheran Chenguttuvan in 2nd C. AD.     A historic shot on Chitra Paurnami day 25 apl 2013.

The grassland shola peaks near Kumaly then was known as Vindhamalai among the Tamil people.  The southern mountain is still called Meghamalai.  The existence of the Chamana monastery or lamasery was known to the people of the Pandian  planes as far as Madurai during the early common era.  This peak is still visible from Theni district.

The decorated southern gateway to the Kottam.  Two big banana plants in fruition are used in typical south Indian style along with mango and Neem leaves and yellow marigolds.

The decorated southern gateway to the Kottam. Two big banana plants in fruition are used in typical south Indian style along with mango and Neem leaves and yellow marigolds.

It must also be remembered that Ilango Adigal was the younger brother of the Chera chief Changuttuvan who consecrated the temple in the memory of Kannaki as Patini or the chaste wife. Kodungallur was the capital of Cheran were Adikal composed his epic in the monastery at Matilakam or Tiru Kunavayil Kottam.  Both these enlightened sons of Kerala were the biological sons of the Chera emperor Nedum Cheral Atan.  The surname Atan is a regional form of the Arhat the Buddhist sage.

The eastern slopes of the Western Ghats that go down to the Kambam Theni valley in Tamilakam: A view to the north east of Mangaladevi Kottam near Kumaly

The eastern slopes of the Western Ghats that go down to the Kambam Theni valley in Tamilakam: A view to the north east of Mangaladevi Kottam near Kumaly

Patini cult was popular among the Buddhist laity in the early common era.  There were Patini installations in Kumaly, Kodungallur and Atukal by Cheran Chenguttuvan.  The Patini or Kannaki cult was also popular in Tamraparni or Sri Lanka then and the Muventar or the south Indian ruling trio consisting of Chera, Chola and Pandya kings were also close to the Sri Lankan kings in culture and kinship.  That is why Gajabahu I (c. 114 – 136 CE) the king of Ceylon was also present during this installation at Kumaly and Kodungallur (Sadasivan 2008).

The remaining outer wall of Mangaladevi Kottam that was finely built.  A woman from Tamil Nadu sits a while after the 2 hour long queue to get in. 25 apl 2013.

The remaining outer wall of Mangaladevi Kottam that was finely built. A woman from Tamil Nadu sits a while after the 2 hour long queue to get in. 25 apl 2013.

Brahmanism captured these Buddhist nunneries and monasteries known as Kottam, Kuti, Vattam, Vihara, Kavu, Thopu, Thottam etc. through the strategic use of subaltern energy that was cunningly utilized in the Bhakti movement as in Saivism and Vaishnaism in Tamilakam and Keralam.   These movements were initiated as democratic liberalizations but they actually contributed to the expansion of the Brahmanical Hindu world among the lower strata by violently converting Amana sects and heterodox sites in south India.

Periyar lake as seen from Mangaladevi Kottam. A view to the south east from the southern gateway of the Kottam.  Most parts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) are also seen here.

Periyar lake as seen from Mangaladevi Kottam in the left corner in haze. A view to the south east from the southern gateway of the Mangala Madantai Kottam. Most parts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) are also seen here.

In the 9th century AD during the heyday of Saivism, Sambandha Moorty’s (Jnana Sambandhar) rabid legion of assassins conquered this shrine at Kumaly and converted it violently to a Siva temple installing the huge rock Linga, the Amman or Parvati and Ganapati. Some pre existing Buddhist idols were reconsecrated as these new deities.  They did this conquest by violently executing the Buddhist monks with tridents and raping and torturing the nuns in unimaginable barbaric ways.  But fortunately the Patini or Kannaki shrine was spared for some reason and is still surviving as a sub shrine within the big but ruined temple complex atop the grassland.  It is also possible that the people from Tamilakam recovered the Kannaki idol and cult and reinstalled the practice again after the hey day of Saivism.

Taradevi bronze in an antique shop in Kumaly

Taradevi bronze in Rajalilasana in an antique shop in Kumaly.  She is the only female Boddhisatva of compassion.  Such Mahayana deities got “Modified” into Hindu Devis and goddesses after the 8-12 century Saiva/Vaishnava Bhakti frenzies unleashed by the hidden agenda of Brahmanism to take over Buddhist shrines and Viharas.

The Patini installation by Chenguttuvan was in AD second century according to the history and chronology of Chera rulers.  The Tamil people as well as the Bahujans or Avarnas from Kerala used to climb up the western ghats every year on the festival day of the Chitra Paurnami.  As it is a disputed location on the border; Kerala and Tamil Nadu are conducting the festival collectively now with official co-operation.

Tamil and Kerala pilgrims atop the Mangalamadantai Kottam near Kumaly on the day of Chitra Paurnami, 25 apl 2013.

Tamil and Kerala pilgrims atop the Mangalamadantai Kottam near Kumaly on the day of Chitra Paurnami, 25 apl 2013. See the yellow-green floral-leaf decoration and clothes of the devotees mixed with white Jasmin flowers.

But there is every possibility that this ancient Tamil Buddhist shrine could be gradually Hinduized and Brahmanized and Sanksritized in a covetous fashion.  Brahman priests are at the helm and the Parivar outfits are gaining momentum in this Sangham age monument that represents the true secular tradition of south India.  Only the Kannaki shrine is with the Avarna and  Tamil people now. Women and Bahujans are leading the rituals there while half naked Brahmans are playing the priestly  role in other shrines of Siva, Parvati and Ganapati.  At least 30,000 people mostly women and dalitbahujans or the Avarna visited the mountain shrine this year on 25 April 2013 from Tamilakam and Keralam.

Jeeps plying from Kumaly to Mangaladevi shrine through mountain roads over the grasslands on the Kerala-Tamil border.

Jeeps plying from Kumaly to Mangaladevi shrine through mountain roads over the grasslands on the Kerala-Tamil border.

There is also a conspiracy to make this temple something like the current Sabarimala that was originally the abode of Avalokiteswara Boddhisatva (Ayyappa) of Mahayana Buddhism prior to 8th century.  The Saivites and Vaishnavites who conquered the shrine at Sabarimala under the strategic meta narrative of Brahmanism got into a pact and made it a half Saivite and half Vaishnavaite shrine, a queer combination of Appa and Ayya according to their weird etymological interpretation.  This will be catastrophic because the region is in Periyar Tiger Reserve and is part of the most crucial eco screen preventing the dry weather from Tamil planes into Kerala.  The Pullumedu disaster and other losses to the grasslands in Sabarimala season must also be remembered and well pondered.

Before the big northern shrine now enshrining a Linga at Mangalamadantai Kottam with Anirudh Raman on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.

Before the big northern shrine now enshrining a Linga at Mangalamadantai Kottam with Anirudh Raman on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.

More over the ancient Sangam shrine without any caste and gender hierarchy and untouchability and purity practice is now being gradually converted into a Brahmanic Hindu temple of high purity and pollution riddles and Savarna elitism.  They are starting with a Savarna aversion for footwear in this archeological and historical site as in many Savarna villages in Tamil Nadu and Savarna temples in Kerala now and will end up in Dhoti and the bare breast very soon.  They are going back to the pre-renaissance days where struggles were required to cover breasts in public.

A herd of wild elephants at Tekady, on the banks of the Periyar lake reservoir inside the PTR, 26 apl 2013.

A herd of wild elephants at Tekady, on the banks of the Periyar lake reservoir inside the PTR, 26 apl 2013.

The Brahmanic Tantris, Melsantis and Kizhsantis will soon drop in out of the blue and will make it another Sabarimala where millions are given as donation to get a lower division priestly post every year.  It is a Brahmanical conspiracy to squeeze the money from the Bahujans who offer everything they can to the shrine in the name of faith and religion.

A self take with left hand with Mr Das as researcher and young scholar who reached the summit on the day of Chitra Paurnami.

A self take with left hand with Mr Das a researcher and young scholar who reached the summit on the day of Chitra Paurnami.

In Malabar they are now forcing the temple goers to remove the pants and shirts and soon they will come down to the inner clothes.  If current Brahmanical Hinduization goes unchecked by the people and their organizations  Mangalamadantai Kottam will become another Sabarimala and a new environmental and cultural disaster in the present and near future that cannot be corrected ever after.  It is high time for the policy makers and people’s elected bodies to think, discuss and act.

Saffron flags coming up on the Mangaladevi top, 25 apl 2013.

Saffron flags coming up on the Mangaladevi top, 25 apl 2013.

2 Responses to “Mangaladevi Kottam: Kannaki, Patini, Mangalamadan Tai and the Historical Linkages between Keralam and Tamilakam”

  1. Arasu says:

    Ajay, Not only was the Avalokiteswara figure revered in these parts it may also have originated here.

    Here is a quote from an article. Source provided at the end.

    Start of quote:
    Here it should be a matter of interest to refer to the modern Japanese scholar Shu Hikosaka’s work. On the basis of his study of Buddhist scriptures, ancient and medieval Tamil language literary sources, as well as field survey, he proposes the hypothesis that, the ancient mount Potalaka, the residence of bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara described in the Gaṇḍavyūha and Xuanzang’s Records, is the real mountain Potikai or Potiyil situated at Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli district, Tamilnadu, lat. 8º 36´, long. 77º 17´. With 2072.6 m, it is the highest mountain in the Tinnevelly range of Ghats.[30] In his work, Shu also develops an interesting theory concerning the etymology of the name Potalaka. According to him, the original Tamil name Potiyil is a derivation from bodhi-il, where bodhi is a loan from Āryan languages meaning ‘Buddhism and Buddhists’, and the Tamil word il means ‘place, residence’. Thus the whole name indicates ‘the residence of Buddhists or Bauddha ascetics’. The word kai in Potikai is colloquial Tamil and has the same meaning as il”.[31] In Sanskrit and Prākrit Mahāyāna texts another change took place─the il was translated back as loka, ‘the world or place’. Thus Potalaka is a corrupted form of Buddha-loka, ‘the place of Buddhists’.[32] Shu also says that mount Potiyil/Potalaka has been a sacred place for the people of South India from time immemorial. With the spread of Buddhism in the region beginning at the time of the great king Aśoka in the third century B.C.E., it became a holy place also for Buddhists who gradually became dominant as a number of their hermits settled there. The local people, though, mainly remained followers of the Hindu religion. The mixed Hindu-Buddhist cult culminated in the formation of the figure of Avalokiteśvara. The worship of Śiva Pāṃṣupata, however, remained popular too and blended with that of Avalokiteśvara.[33]

    If Shu is right, the possible historical logic of the development of the concept and image of Avalokiteśvara may have been as follows. (1) In pre-Buddhist times, Mount Potiyil/Potalaka was revered as a sacred place, the abode of deities and protective ghosts, by the local people. We do not know its original ancient name. (2) With the spread of Buddhism in South India, the place became popular among Buddhists as many of their hermits settled there. (3) Gradually the association with Buddhism became dominant and the new name Potiyil/Potalaka or “Place of Buddhists” was popularly used. (4) As Buddhists preached compassion, the new teaching merged with the old worship of a protective deity into a new cult. The conscious efforts of the Buddhist settlers, who possibly were responsible for the creation and introduction of the title Avalokiteśvara too, may have been the decisive factor that launched this process.[34] (5) Gradually, the concept and figure of Avalokiteśvara became universally known and worshipped by all Buddhists and found its way into texts and iconography while mount Potalaka was mythologized in the course of time. (6) The triumph of Hinduism in the second half of the first millennium C.E. led to the merger of the cult of Avalokiteśvara with that of Hindu gods, e.g. Śiva.[35]

    End of quote.

    Refer to:
    http://www.chibs.edu.tw/ch_html/chbs/10/chbs1011.htm
    and
    http://buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=317

  2. […] Mangaladevi Kottam: Kannaki, Patini, Mangalamadan Tai and the Historical Linkages between Keralam an… […]

Leave a Reply

Enable Google Transliteration.(To type in English, press Ctrl+g)