Tag Archives: Periyar Tiger Reserve

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

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.

Trekking the Tiger Trail in Thekady

 

Forests, grasslands and mountains around Periyar lake, Thekady near Kumaly

Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in the Kerala region of the Western Ghats is approachable from Thekady near Kumaly in Iduki district.  The artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar dam makes it an ethereal paradise with surrounding evergreen forests and grasslands.  Rivers Mullayar and Periyar join hands to form this high altitude lake situated well above 800m.

A Mannan tribal hut built by the guides near landing in Thekady

Wild boars near the lake

Boating in the lake offers a spectacular view of the flora and fauna.  Trekking inside the surrounding forests are also an intimate way to explore this unique wildlife sanctuary at the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu.  Plenty of trails and guides are available now with the Eco Development Committees.

Sky and lake blues in Thekady

Jungle Babbler in Thekady

Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas invited me for a brief expedition inside the PTR forests and we reached Kumaly on 21 April 2011 by night.  We stayed at the Ambady Hotel run by his nephew and the next morning forest guide Rajkumar took us to the forest.  Adv. Suraj was also with us.

Across the lake on bamboo raft: Adv. Sureshbabu Thomas leading the expedition

All arrangements were done by our host Tintu and he also provided us with those precious pairs of leech socks that are essential for trekking inside the reserve as summer showers are a daily phenomenon now in high range.

Stream Glory sailing on the bamboo raft in Periyar lake

From the boat landing we went left to cross the lake on a bamboo raft and then entered the trek path along the edge of the water.

Ambady designed by Laury Baker in Kumaly

A wild boar came against us with its threatening teeth.  It avoided confrontation and fortunately kept a distance from us as it crossed us.

Wild Boar encounter in Thekady

Red-wattled Lapwings and Great and Little Cormorants are plenty along the lake.  Pied and White-throated Kingfishers are also plenty in the lake.  On hearing a heavy wing beat like a chopper our guide Rajkumar quickly led us to a huge tree by the lake and we saw two Great Hornbills flying away from the gigantic tree.  I remembered seeing the Great Hornbills crossing the lake while on a boat journey in the lake a few years back.

Grasslands and evergreen forests around Periyar lake

Woolly-necked Stork and Median Egrets in Periyar lake

We heard the calls of Scimitar Babblers all around the forests in the morning.  We could see several Median Egrets and a Woolly-necked Stork near a shallow stretch of the lake.  Paddy field Pipits are also seen here.  Chestnut-headed Beeeaters are abundant.

A moth in PTR, Thekady

Little Spider Hunters and Purple Sunbirds are also common.  We could see a Honey Buzzard passing and a Crested Serpent Eagle resting on a tall bare branch.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch in PTR

Chestnut-headed Beeeater in PTR, 22 Apl 2011

A few miles away from the landing towards east we saw fresh pug marks of the tiger.  It was just a few hours old as it was evident from the rain drenched soil according to Rajkumar who hails from the indigenous Mannan tribe.  He is also aware of all the birds, mammals, butterflies and plants.  He also showed us some wild orchids with flowers.

Borwn-capped Pygmy Woodpecker in PTR, Thekady

We could also find the droppings of Porcupine, Sloth Bear, Jungle cats and wild dogs.We also saw the presence of an elephant herd through their fresh dung in the grass near water and heard the sound of reeds being broken by the pachyderms inside the thick jungle.  While waiting for the giants we could see a Stripe-necked Mongoose with its striking chestnut color against the green of the grass.

Tiger pug marks in PTR, Thekady

Rajkumar showed us some Malabar Parkeets, Plum-headed Parakeets and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches.  He also showed us a few Brwon-capped Pygmy Woodpeckers so close.

Common Flameback Woodpecker in PTR

Then we entered the thick evergreen forest and thanks to the leech socks given by Tintu we were saved from the attacking vampires from all sides craving for our blood.

Pipit in Elaphant dung in PTR

We could see plenty of Malabar Grey Hornbills and Malabar Trogons inside the forest.  Out learned guide made me notice the call of Trogons.  Plenty of Red Helen butterflies are seen inside the semi evergreen patches.  Tamil Yeomans,

Four Ring butterfly in PTR, Thekady

Common Castors, Grass Yellows, Southern Rustic etc. are also common.  Though he searched for Frogmouths we could not find them.  They are also plenty in the evergreen shelters in PTR but locating them is tricky because of their perfect camouflage.

Rajkumar helping Suraj to get rid of leeches

Stripe-necked Mongoose in PTR, Thekady

Towards the end of the trail we saw plenty of Neelgiri Langurs and Bonnet Macaques.  A single Common Map butterfly and Forest and Stream Glory damselflies also appeared  before us.  It took a few hours to get back to the landing.

People from all over the world in PTR, Thekady. Note the leech socks on

Wild orchid blossom in PTR, Thekady

We rested in the room for a few hours after lunch and returned to Kottayam by evening.  The summer showers this year have been a blessing so far in Kottayam and Iduki districts but it is harming farmers in Kuttanad.

The return: Adv. Suraj pulling the raft-rope

Tamil Yeoman in PTR