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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kallil Bhagawathi - A Jain Retreat

By Shri P.N. Sampath Kumar from Kochi.

He is currently working with the Cochin Shipyard.After reading your post on Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala, we thought of utilising our Sunday to visit the Kallil Bhagawathi temple near Perumbavoor. We were there on the the 20th July 2008.
Kallil Bhagavathi temple is a cave temple on a hill top at a place called Methara. Though dedicated to Bhagavathi (which they claim to be swayambhoo), on the back wall a Buddha like structure in the sitting posture (about four feet high). is carved. It looks like some Tirthankar or Mahavir himself. It is not very difficult to make out that even with the dim light within the sreekovil. The Bagavathi in front of Mahavir due to its small size gives vision of the carved mahavir figure on the back side. The bhagavathi has been ornamented with metallic (brass) face and major poojas are performed only to her.
The Shrine

The Mahavir carving has also been garlanded but the main pooja is for the Devi. Within the sreekovil, on the right and left hand side of Devi, two more statues of about 1.5 feet high are also seen. Outside the sreekovil, on the left hand side of the diety, one dwarapalaka type of statue which looks very old (details like eyes, ears, nose etc are erased due to passage of time) is also seen which is also kept garlanded by the devotees.
Modern Steps leading to the ShrineThere is a mandapam (made of sand stone) about four feet square where devotees can stand and offer prayers without any high peetham (as generally seen in other temples).

I Chatted with the priest for some time. Surprisingly, there was no hesitation on his part to accept the theory of Jain temple taken over by Hindus. Further he threw some more light into the theory as below:

“This used to be jain centre (temple?) main carving on the wall is of Parshwanath” and the devi is said to be Padmavathi (a jain goddess).
When Hindus took over, we considered (sankalpam) Parshwanath as Bramha, Padmavathi as Bhagavathi and other two deities on the left and right of the devi as Ganapathi and Siva” There are a few idols kept outside which is believed to be sarpakavu or nagarajas / naga yakshis.
Interestingly, there is no sign of demolition of any structures / idols. Only some additions like pavements, Mandapam and sopanam steps and designs on both sides of sopanam seem to made so as to suit to the hindu style. That means due to some reason, the jains might have abandoned the place centuries ago and would have been occupied by the Hindus only recently. That may be why the priest is able to explain the story correctly.

There is a siva (kallil sivan – on the planes, not cave) temple nereby who is said to be the husband of Kallil Bhagavathi. By the time we finished bhagavathi, siva temple was closed. There is ample scope for survey in and around the area. The place is calm and beautiful. About half a km walk from the road towards the temple.

The approach

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