History of Kumari Amman Temple | Devi Kumari Temple | Kanyakumari Bhagavathy Temple
Situated on the seashore of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, overlooking the sea, this Kumari Amman Temple is dedicated to the virgin Goddess Devi Kanyakumari. Kumari Amman Temple is said to be over 3000 years old. The Devi stands as a charming young girl in her penance, with a rosary in her right hand. A sparkling nose jewel sheds lustrous radiance. The image, made of blue stone, is believed to have been installed by sage Parasurama. The deity is facing the east. The deity is also called as Devi Kanya Kumari / Kanya Devi / Devi Kumari / Kumari Amman / Shree Bhagavathy / Shree Baala Bhadra / Shree Baala. The name Kanyakumari stands for Kanya meaning Virgin and Kumari meaning Girl.
Kumari Amman Temple has been mentioned in the ancient scriptures Ramayana, Mahabharata, Yajurveda and also in the Sangam age works Manimekalai and Puranaanooru.
Kumari Amman Temple is one of the 51 Shaktipeethams – or divine abode of Goddess Shakti (divine feminine). According to Legend, the corpse of Goddess Sati was scattered into 51 parts throughout the Indian subcontinent. The places where the parts fell are now a sacred place of worship for Shakti worshippers. The goddess’s back is said to have fallen in Kanyakumari.
Kumari Amman Temple is also said to be one of the hundred and eight “Durga Alayas” – Temple dedicated to Goddess Durga.
Kanyakumari and its surroundings are believed to be part of the land which was created by Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Folktales and mythological stories speak about Kanyakumari.
In mythology, it is full of conflicts between Devas and Asuras, and finally the Devas get victory. It is the conquest of good over evil.
Banasura (Grandson of Mahabahali), the demon king, propitiated Brahma. When Banasura asked for a boon of immortality, Brahma expressed his inability to grant such a boon, but gave an option to choose his own manner of death. Banasura wished that if at all he had to die, let his death be at the hands of a virgin. Brahma granted his boon.
Banasura, with this boon, started to harass the Devas and torturing the saints and rishis. Unable to bear this agony, they appealed to Mother Earth who in turn sought the help of Her consort Lord Vishnu, who is the protector of the Universe.
On the Lord’s command, the Devas propitiated Parasakthi who alone was capable of destroying Banasura. The Devas performed a Yagna which was so powerful that the Goddess was much pleased. She promised to annihilate Banasura. As ordained, Parasakthi in her reincarnation came down to earth as Devi Kumari. It is very common mythological fact that whichever reincarnation she took, she would do penance to rejoin her husband Lord Shiva through marriage.
Hence Kumari did penance so that she would be married to Lord Shiva. Shiva, pleased and happy, expressed his willingness to marry her. This was made known to Kumari. Narada who undertook this task arranged a proper time for marriage before dawn and insisted that the auspicious time should not be missed. Elaborate arrangements were made at Kumari’s place to celebrate the marriage.
The Lord Shiva was staying at Suchindrum. The bridegroom’s party started from Suchindrum well in advance with pomp and pageantry. Meanwhile, Narada was prompted by the Devas to do something to stop the marriage, because once the marriage was over, Kumari could not be a virgin and Banasura could not be killed as he could be killed only by a virgin.
Narada hit upon a plan, and assumed the form of a cock and waited at the place called Vazhukkamparai. When the marriage party reached at that place on their way to Kanyakumari, Narada crowed aloud. On hearing this by Lord Shiva and his party, thought that it was dawn and the auspicious hour had passed. Hence they returned to Suchindrum, greatly disappointed.
Meanwhile, Devi Kanyakumari, dressed for the marriage occasion in bridal glory was waiting for the arrival of Lord Shiva and his marriage party. As the bridegroom’s party didn’t turn up, the disappointed Bride Kumari vowed to remain a virgin. Also she scattered all the food items kept for marriage, which turned into sand and pebbles resembling rice and other items. The multi coloured sand found in the Kanyakumari sea shore is attributed to this incident.
Banasura, hearing about the beauty of Kumari, and without realizing who she was, wanted to marry her. Kumari bluntly declined his proposal. Banasura decided to win her by force. A fierce battle ensued at Mahadhanapuram (a place 4 km from Kanyakumari) and in the end, the Goddess Kanyakumari used her Chakrayudha (Discus weapon) and slain Banasura.
All the Devas were watching this and were delighted and sang hymns in praise of Devi Kanyakumari. Then Devi resumed her penance and remained a virgin and continues to perform austerities to this day with the hopes that he will one day unite with her.
Nose ring of Devi Kanyakumari
The nose ring of Devi Kanyakumari is set with rubies. They are so bright and that it could be seen even from the far at night. Also it is told that some ships sailing in the sea, mistaking the brightness of the rubies as the light from the Lighthouse, got wrecked, hitting against the rocks nearby. Due to this reason, the eastern side gate of the Kumari Amman Temple is kept closed.
Position of the Kumari Amman Temple
The entrance to the Kumari Amman Temple is through the northern gate, while the eastern gate always remains closed except on some festivals, when the deity is taken out for the ceremonial bath. The eastern door is opened also on new moon days in the months of Edavam, Karkkidakam (Capricorn and Cancer), during Navaratri and in the month of Vrischikam.
After walking around the outer corridor and crossing the Navaratri Mandapam, the pathway leads to the second corridor encircling the shrine. At the entrance here, is the Kala Bhairava Shrine (Kalabhairava is the ferrous form of Lord Shiva who annihilates everything) and the well known as “Patal Ganga Teerth” which provides water for the Devi’s Abhisegham. After this is the Dhwajastambha (flag mast). From here one can have a clear view of the Devi before going in front of the sanctum sanctorum.
Puja and Worship at the Kumari Amman Temple
The puja’s in this Kumari Amman Temple are carried out according to the Tanthrasamuchayam like the temples in Kerala. Even though the temple is situated in Tamil Nadu, the Kanyakumari Kumari Amman Temple is considered as a Kerala temple since it was once part of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom. Like most of the Bhagavathy temples in Kerala the shine is opened in the Western door. The priests are still chosen from Kerala Brahmin families and they still adhere to the Kerala type of five puja’s per day.
The mantra for worship is;
Amme Narayanaa! Devi Narayanaa! Lakshmi Narayanaa! Bhadre Narayanaa!
Tamil: அம்மே நாராயண! தேவி நாராயண! லட்சுமி நாராயண! பத்ரஏ நாராயண!
Malayalam: അമ്മെ നാരായണ! ദേവി നാരായണ! ലക്ഷ്മി നാരായണ! ഭദ്രേ നാരായണ!
Kannada: ಅಮ್ಮ ನಾರಾಯಣಿ! ದೇವಿ ನಾರಾಯಣಿ! ಲಕ್ಷ್ಮೀ ನಾರಾಯಣಿ! ಭದ್ರೇ ನಾರಾಯಣಿ!
Hindi: अम्मे नारायणा! देवी नारायणा! लक्ष्मी नारायणा! भद्रऎ नारायणा!
The devotees offer New Red Sarees, and Ghee wick lamps to the Goddess.
Festivals of the Kumari Amman Temple
Chitra Pournima Festival:
Full moon day in May
A 9 day festival in the month of September–October. The music artists perform their artistic skill to the Devi at the Navarathri Mandapam. An image of the deity is worshipped at the Navarathri Mandapam throughout the duration of Navarathri. Processions are carried on each of the nine Navarathri nights. On the 10th day of the Navarathri, called as the Vijaya Dasami, the destruction of Banasura is celebrated. An image of the deity mount on a silver horse is taken in procession to Mahadhanapuram, the place where Banasura was slain.
10 day festival celebrated in the Tamil Month of Vaikasi (May–June). During this festival, the image of Devi is taken around the town in procession, both in the morning and evening. During Aaraatu, the eastern door is opened. On the ninth day, the Thoni Ezhunellathu takes place, in which Devi will be taken round the water on the western part in a boat.
This festival is in the Tamil month of Aadi (Karkkidakam) which comes in July – August. The idol is covered with Sandal paste on the last Friday of the Tamil month (Aadi).
Swami Vivekanada’s Visit to Temple
Swami Vivekananda visited this Kumari Amman Temple to get the blessings of Devi Kanyakumari in December 1892, as directed by his Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Also as Devi is the Goddess of Sanyasa.
Opening of Temple & Worship Time
Morning: 6.00 A.M. to 11.00 A.M.
Evening: 4.00 P.M. to 8.00 P.M.