Bhagavatī

The theistic systems of Hindu philo-sophy and the cults based on them use the general term ‘Bhagavān’ to denote God since He possesses ‘bhaga’ or the six blessed qualities of jñāna (knowledge), aiśvarya (lordship) and so on, in abundance. His power, conceived as His consort, is called ‘Bhagavatī; same as Śakti or Devī.

Though this word can apply to any goddess or female deity, it is almost invariably used to denote Pārvatī and her several aspects.

In the heart of the town Chengannur (in the Alleppy district of Kerala State) is situated a well-known temple of a goddess known as Bhagavatī. According to the local legend, Śiva and Pārvatī presented themselves before the sage Agastya, at the time of their marriage and settled down there. While residing there, the Devī had her menses, thus forcing the couple to stay back till the periods were over and the purificatory bath gone through. Even today, the devotees believe that the goddess Bhagavatī—whose image is cast in pañcaloha or an alloy of five metals—has her periods. The cella is kept closed for three days during such periods. On the fourth day there is a bathing ritual, conducted in the nearby river Pampā.

Stories abound about the sceptics who had derided this phenomenon, having incurred the wrath of the deity and come to grief.

The temple, sprawling over a six-acre plot, is a massive structure. The image of the deity faces west. After the original icon was damaged by fire, it was replaced by a pañcaloha idol. It is a beautiful image, about 60 cms. in height and has two hands in the varada (boon-giving) and abhaya (granting protection) poses.

There is also a shrine for Śiva and the liṅga is of the svayambhū (self-manifested) type. Subsidiary shrines dedicated to Gaṇeśa and Caṇḍeśa located inside the complex, and temples of Śāstā and Kṛṣṇa, a little away, are the other attractions. A giant peepul tree on the western side is said to be endowed with the miraculous power of curing those possessed by evil spirits.

The original temple might have been built by the Cerman dynasty (9th to 12th cent.). It was renovated later, though this renovation has not been completed.