The planet Mars, or Chovva, is astrologically famed for its ability to negatively influence a person’s life, especially marriage prospects. This planet can delay a marriage uncertainly and generally bring about a lot of difficulties. Chovva forms part of the nine planetary deities or Navagrahas, which holds their own distinct position in a lot of temples in Kerala. They are worshipped diligently and appeased through poojas and mantras, to ward off negative influences leading to troublesome situations.
It was by chance, during a conversation with a friend that I got to know about the Veluthaattu Vadakkan Chovva Bhagavathy Temple. Situated in a small town called Kedamangalam at North Paravur in Ernakulam District of Kerala, this ancient temple dedicated to the Goddess or Bhagavathi, has been in existence since more than eight centuries! The powerful Chovva Bhagavathi takes in manifold forms here and is worshipped as Goddess Saraswathy, Parvathy, Durga, Lakshmi, as well as the fierce Bhadrakali.
There is a very interesting legend behind this temple which dates back to more than 800 years. The illustrious family of Veluthaattu Mana were renowned spiritual healers of the land, who followed strict and rigorous traditional rituals meticulously. The then Veluthattu Namboothiri had a pious and faithful assistant by name of Kummipilly Nair, who accompanied him everywhere and was well versed in all the rituals and traditions followed by Brahmins.
At that time, it so happened that a young girl in that land got severely possessed. Things took a terrible turn with her getting extremely violent and viciously attacking any healer who approached her with the intent of curing her. Ultimately, her family approached the Veluthaattu Mana Namboothiri with the problem. The wise Namboothiri, in turn, sent Kummippilly Nair to get rid of the possession and cure the girl. Kummippilly Nair identified the powerful spirit to be that of the Chovva Bhagavathi, which supposedly had two conflicting natures; one of which was extremely benevolent and peaceful, and the other that was fearful, destructive and troublesome. He got rid of the destructive part and carried the benevolent spirit with him back to Veluthaattu Mana, where it was accorded a place of prominence with the other gods and goddesses, to be worshipped regularly.
Over time, a period of intense internal strife forced the Veluthaattu Mana family to flee the land and establish their base at Tirur in Malappuram. The Namboothiri handed over the Mana along with all its Divine spirits and possessions to Kummippilly Nair. Subsequently, Chovva Bhagavathy became the ‘Upasana Moorthy’ of the family. Her benevolence and divinity very soon spread across the land, and people started thronging the temple to seek her divine grace.
The temple attained name and fame, especially since the Chovva Bhagavathy had powers to quell the impediments posed on a person due to ‘chovva dosham’ or unfavourable influence of the planet Mars, that could result in delayed marriage or severely troubled times. Even today, devotees from far and wide flock over to seek her blessings and pray for her mercy in removing unfavourable obstacles from their life due to the evil influence of ‘Chovva’ or Mars.
The temple provides a list of offerings which can be done by the devotee to appease the Bhagavathy and gain her grace. Accordingly, various Pushpanjalis, Para Nirakkal, Guruthi, etc are done as per the specific requirements of the devotees. All poojas are done as per Brahminic traditions, by the lineage of Tanthris from the Manappad Mana. The Chovva Bhagavathy is believed to go all out of her way to grant the wishes of her sincere devotees.
The temple is also graced by the presence of various other equally powerful ‘Upadevatas’. like Vettakkaran Swamy, Kalladikodu Neeli Bhagavathy and Vellayam Bhagavathy, who are worshipped with much reverence. Sree Dharmasastha can be seen in the South West corner of the temple while Sree Muthappan Swamy sits facing the temple. Chathan is also worshipped here. The Navagrahas are placed in the North-East corner of the temple and the Nagadevathas consisting of Nagaraja and the Nagayakshi along with other Serpents are worshipped in the sacred groove outside the compound wall of the temple. There is also the Dampathy Rakshas and Durga Bhagavathy who are worshipped with much reverence. Regular poojas and offerings are made to all the Upadevathas to appease them and invoke their divine blessings.
Chovva Bhagavathy or Veluthaattamma as affectionately addressed is extremely fond of jewellery and adornments, and true to her desires, is covered in gold and finery. The sanctum sanctorum is lit up with oil lamps which shed a glow so very magical and beautiful, totally enthralling the devotee who stands transfixed to the spot. I had heard a lot about this powerful Bhagavathy, but nothing had prepared me for the absolute divine radiance that emitted from the deity, engulfing me in a spirit of blessed love and belonging. It was as though I had come home. I stood mutely before her with all humility for a long time, spellbound and unwilling to take my eyes off her for fear of losing out on that glorious sight!