Koda festival begins at Tamil Nadu’s Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple — the women’s Sabarimala

The festival kickstarted with the traditional flag-hoisting ceremony in the presence of thousands of devotees, mostly from Kerala and TN.

BySouth First Desk

Published Mar 06, 2023 | 2:04 PM Updated Mar 06, 2023 | 2:45 PM

Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple

The 10-day “Koda” festival at the famed Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple — also known as women’s Sabarimala — in the coastal town of Mandaikad in the Kanniyakumari district of Tamil Nadu began on Monday, 6 March.

The festival kickstarted with the traditional flag-hoisting ceremony in the presence of thousands of devotees, mostly from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The temple Tantri, Edakkode Sankaranarayanan, initiated the festival rituals in the morning, amid chants of “Amme Saranam, Devi Saranam”.

The legendary Koda will take place on 14 March and is expected to be attended by lakhs of devotees from the various regions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Based on Malayalam calendar

The festival takes place in the month of Kumbham of the Malayalam calendar, which ends on the last Tuesday of the month.

“Valiyapadukka”, a major midnight ritual of the festival, will be performed on 10 March and the procession of “Valiya Theevatti” on 13 March, before the festival concludes with the “Odukku Pooja” at midnight on 14 March.

Although devotees offer “pongala” at the temple daily, on festival days their numbers swell to thousands. During the festival season, thousands of devotees reach Mondaikad from south Kerala.

In view of this, the Tamil Nadu government has made elaborate arrangements to regulate the flow of pilgrims.

Special inter-state bus services are operated between Thiruvananthapuram and Mondaikad by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation.

Also read: A temple where dogs are brought for their naming ceremony

Festival follows rituals from Kerala

The Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple is situated on the Arabian sea coast near Colachel of the erstwhile Travancore princely state. Despite being in Tamil Nadu’s Kanniyakumari district, the temple and its festivals are run as per the rituals and traditions followed in Kerala.

It was in 1803 that the former ruler of Travancore took over the administration of the temple. The temple is now administered by Kanniyakumari Devaswom Board.

Devotees often visit the temple with the belief that incurable maladies can be cured by the Bhagavati Amman if they perform rituals in the temple during the festival.

The devotees offer to the goddess rice, pepper, jaggery, turmeric, dolls, silver and wood pieces — as replicas of parts of the body — during the rituals.

On the last day, the Odakku Pooja concludes with the priest offering the goddess a liquid made of lime, turmeric and other ingredients.

‘Women’s Sabarimala’

The Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple is called the women’s Sabarimala because female devotees, especially those from Kerala, undergo fasting for 41 days and carry an Irumudikettu while going to the Koda festival. A similar ritual is followed by devotees who visit the Sabarimala temple in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, where only men and women of specific age groups are allowed.

Moreover, the structure of the Mandaikad Bhagavathy Amman temple is also similar to the Sabarimala temple.

According to the local legend, a disciple of Sankaracharya conducted a Srichakra puja there and performed prayers every day. He used to cure ailments of people and entertained the children in the village.

An anthill is said to have grown in the area where he kept the Chakra, and since he was immersed in the puja, the anthill grew around him, where he attained Jeevasamadhi (merging with god).

The report reached the founding monarch of the Travancore kingdom, Marthanda Varma, who built the temple there.

Locals believe that, centuries ago, a stranded trader from Kerala was fed by a woman, which he later realised was the goddess herself.

After he shared this miraculous story of the ‘Amman’ in his hometown in Kollam of Kerala, people, especially women started visiting the temple every year with an Irumudikettu every year. The Irumudikettu contains items that are required to make Pongal for the goddess.

(With PTI inputs)