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Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Amman in South
|by Kalakad Ganapathy|
Nestled amidst the hills, forests and verdant landscape in a village called ‘Kalakad’, Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Amman is a powerful shrine that can rejuvenate your life in unexpected ways. The temple has been formally named as Ujjaini Mahakali Amman a few years ago.
Kalakad is a village that is located close to Tirunelveli district near Kanyakumari. It is located at a distance of 1 hour road travel from Tirunelveli district. The distance between Kalakad and Tirunelveli may be roughly 50 kms.
Let us read certain simple facts about Pudhamman and try to make the best use of the time available at our disposal to pay our respects to her as loyal devotees.
How to reach Kalakad
One has to travel to Kalakad via Tirunelveli. The neighboring villages are all hamlets. Notable among them is ‘pathamadai’. One can travel from Madurai, Bangalore, Chennai or Coimbatore or Salem to Tirunelveli and then travel by road to Kalakad.
Kalakad is God’s own cute little hamlet. None can deny that breathtaking beauty of Kalakad. The distance between Kalakad and Thiruvananthapuram (in Kerala) is around 2 hours by road travel. The dense forests on the outskirts of the village boast of tigers and elephants.
Kalakad doesn’t have a railway station and one has to be at the mercy of call taxi operators. But all the shortcomings of Kalakad are made good by its enchanting beauty and nature’s bounty. There are two bus stands – old and new, but if you are on a short trip, buses will not be comfortable. Buses generally wait for passengers and if you are the only one in the bus, do not expect the bus to start immediately. Bus travel is fine if you just want to relax. But if you are running against time, it is better to hire a cab. There are no good hotels also. If you have a relative in Kalakad, consider yourself blessed.
Kalakad has the unique distinction of being a hamlet that promotes the values of communal harmony. Muslims, Hindus and Christians form the main population of Kalakad. The hamlet hasn’t changed much in the last 24 years. Vegetables are procured from outside. Excepting for the refurbishing of the temple, no other major development works have been undertaken. The roads are okay, but the river has dried up and the sand has become a victim of insatiable plunder by the avaricious builder lobby in Tamil Nadu.
Location: Pudhamman Temple
It is located in the vicinity of the famous Satyavageeswara-Gomathi Ambal temple. The shrine of Pudhamman is somewhat off-limits, true to locations where temples of goddesses are normally located. The positive vibrations in the temple have to be experienced to be believed. A narrow stream flows on the rear side of the Pudhamman temple though water has got mixed with sewage line.
Satyavageeswara is another name of Lord Shiva. It is strongly believed that Kalakad is the place where Lord Ram came in search of Sita and during that time, he accidentally discovered a shivaling. The shivaling was so potent that it gave indications to Lord Ram about the direction of Lanka where Sita was held hostage. As Lord Shiva gave true advice to a beleaguered Lord Ram, he is called satyavageeswara (satya – true, vaak(g)u – guidance/ advice).
The temple is located amidst sylvan surroundings where there are farms and farms. There is a pump near the gate. We can wash our hands and feet. There are no toilet facilities. It can be blasphemy to defecate in and around the temple, so please do not dare. There are no fixed timings for the temple as the temple is opened as per the convenience of the priest. No point blaming him. Priests have realized that they can’t afford to be callow in money matters any longer. Such wisdom certainly needs appreciation, isn’t it?
Myths surrounding the temple
As we walk along the pastoral surroundings, my uncle Sanka (nick name for Sankara Subramaniam) tells me that this temple was constructed after the Shiva temple was established. As the Goddess was puthu (meaning ‘new’ in Tamil), the Goddess was fondly called as “pudamman” (the new “mother”). However, the temple priest, who is in Kalakad since the last 8 to 9 years, informs that this temple could have been built prior to building the Satyavageeswara- Gomathi Ambal temple. The King ‘Veera marthanda maharaj’ is believed to have constructed this temple – but again this is a matter of conjecture.
Mother Goddess Pudamman is believed to be seated in the center of a Lotus pond in “Sree nagar” and she is guarded by 64 bhairavas and his wives and 64 yoga-kannikas who are at her service. This is the meaning of “Sree Chakra”. For gaining access to Mother, you need to first gain access to the bhairavas and yoga-kannikas. Priest shares this information with us when we gently prod him about the history of the temple and the meaning of “Sree Chakra”.
Offerings (Naivedyam) to Goddess Pudamman
Tamarind Rice, sweet Pongal, freshly made panchamrut
A hundred years ago...
It is also widely believed that Pudhamman was fierce (ugra) several years ago and she had to be calmed by propitiating her by a celebrated festival in Tamil Nadu villages called “Kodai”. It is said that Pudhamman calmed down after several years of appeal by the people of Kalakad. Sadly after a few years people forgot Pudhamman. The graduates from Kalakad began to leave the hamlet one by one seeking livelihood in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata. They returned to the village once in a year as part of a ritual to provide their offerings to family deity. Some completely forgot about her existence.
Interestingly, during those days, womenfolk did not venture anywhere close to the temple in the late evening hours as it was widely believed that mother had the habit of taking a stroll during those hours. There was nothing to fear. Women chose to stay away out of respect. Even the men folk did not venture out. But it may also be possible that as the temple is located in a place that is off the village limits, womenfolk could have been advised against visiting at odd hours mainly for security reasons.
Even now, womenfolk prefer to visit the temple only in the morning hours.
Current state of affairs ...
The present state of affairs is a sad commentary on how inconsistent management of a temple asset can prove to be detrimental in the long run. One’s heart really cries for Mother and pleads for her forgiveness. We are confident that Mother being Mother will forgive our sins and lead us to the correct path. She will rush to our rescue when we need her. All that we need to do is to seek her grace. The temple priest laments the fact that there are not many footfalls in the temple and so he is forced to work at other places or visit other temples. Young, committed, dynamic, erudite and reasonably smart and well attired, the priest’s personality is a clear sign of changing times.
The priest (in his mid-thirties)comes to the temple in his bike – a far cry from the days of yore during which priests trudged on muddy roads using a bi cycle or simply chose to walk. Sounding pragmatic and forthright in his approach, the temple priest says, “I come here to do seva for Mother, as I am attached to her emotionally. There is no livelihood/ fixed income for me from this temple. I have two school going children and in the absence of regular income, it can be tough”. Point well taken Sir.
During navratri, mother is decked in saris of different colors. The abhisekams are performed by the priest using tender coconut water, milk, curd, honey, rose water, water. One can offer a sari to mother anytime but please note the following colors that are to be offered depending on the day:
Offerings to Mother Pudamman
Flowers, Incense Sticks, ghee lamps, green bangles, banana, turmeric and vermilion, betel leaf and areca nut, mehandi powder, yellow colored mangal sutra (called manja kayiru in Tamil).
The Final Word
After the abhisekams, as Pudhamman is bathed and attired in a sari, one keeps praying with eyes closed. She is bedecked with flowers, turmeric and vermilion and as sandalwood paste is applied on her face, you can actually see that mother is smiling at you benignly. The disarming smile can bring tears in your eyes as your heart weeps for the fact that you haven’t visited her in the last so many years.
As another priest in Kalakad says, “There is no need to spend lavishly for God. Even Rs.11 is more than enough. You can accumulate a fixed amount say Rs.11 every month and once this fund becomes sizeable, you can donate it for temple festivals. What matters is immense faith and devotion. There is no need to bribe mother. Further, rather than putting the money in a hundi, why not give it to the man who is serving the Goddess. At the end of the day, the priest is acting as a catalyst, as a via-media for us to offer our services to Goddess. So, rewarding the priest is a sure fire way of winning the Lord’s grace”. One has to agree with the frank opinion expressed by this priest. One is never sure how cash offerings to God are deployed by trusts of little known temples.
These problems don’t take away the fact that, within Tamil Nadu, in a place called Kalakad, one can have a darshan of Goddess Sri Ujjaini Mahakali (Pudhamman). Those with insolvable problems have visited this holy shrine to redeem themselves. Their problems have vanished like ice melting in the Sun. Their wishes have been fulfilled and they return to the temple year after year to offer their thanks. Why don’t you follow their path, join the tribe and benefit from the grace of Pudhamman?
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