File photo:Kottiyoor temple during Vyshakha festival
Kottiyoor is a famous pilgrim center in North Kerala; popular as Dakshina Kashi (Kashi of the South). The temple has many unique features. Natural flora and fauna is creatively blended with devotion and spirituality. It is opened to devotees only once in a year. Entrance to ladies is also limited to few days.
Located in Kannur district, this serene place is 60 kilometers away from Thalassery.
Surrounded by misty mountains, crystal waterfalls, rocks and dense forest; Lord Shiva’sswayambhoo (Self-originated) idol is worshipped here..This place is popular as Akkare Kottiyoor.
On the opposite banks of the river, there is a Devi temple named, Ikkare Kottiyoor. This temple is accessible throughout the year and transportation services are also in plenty,since this area is well populated.
According to mythology, in the northern part of the river Bavali, that originates from Wayanad region of Western Ghats, there was a small lake. This lake is believed to be divine and filled with Goddess Sati Devi’s celestial tears .The idol (Shivalinga) is said to have originated here on a mound. This spot is called Manithara.There is a platform for Goddess is called Ammarakkallu.
One of the significant features of this temple is that the roof of the shrine is thatched with palm leaves. The God is quite accessible to all devotees; as they can climb on the mound and submit their offerings to the Shivalinga.
Pilgrims believe that a bath in the Bavali River itself is rejuvenating an experience thanks to the medicinal herbs it is carrying through its flow.Devotees feel a positive spiritual energy throughout the pilgrimage. Fresh air and pristine natural beauty help them move ahead chanting OmNamashivaya. Worshippers stand in queue on this river for long hours to get a Darshan.
A view of River Bavali
While moving bare foot along the forest path, there are many pebbles and rocks, medicinal plants etc along the stream sides. Devotees pick pebbles from the river during their bath and grind it on big stones on the banks, to make a sandal like paste which is applied on their forehead. The place is a rich hotspot of biodiversity, symbolizing the prayer of nature before Lord Mahadeva.
One of the rare rituals of this temple is Rohini Aradhana. On this auspicious day; the priest would embrace the idol. Excited devotees throng to witness the blissful moments, chanting the holy panchakshari, on this day.
According to available sources, during the Vaishakha festival season alone (May-June), human beings enter into this isolated wild forest, a habitat of as many as wild animals. Local residents stay distant from the temple surroundings.
After the festival season, all the shrine area, including the Manithara would be totally submerged in flood.
Devotees arrive from neighboring districts and distant places to offer their annual prayers and have holy Darshan of Lord Mahadeva.
Different communities in the Hindu religion have specific roles for participation in the Kottiyoor festival, especially the residents of the region from Vatakara to Kannur.
For this, small groups of men stay in temporary shelters, away from home and observe penance for many days. Such shelters are made in their own locality and enroute upto Kottiyoor, at community level. They maintain brahmacharya and prepare these offerings with extreme purity.
These different community groups are entrusted to prepare ghee, cotton wicks, milk and tender coconut as offerings. Milk, ghee and tender coconut are used to offer abhishekam on the Lord’s idol. These are carried on foot to the temple at specified periods. This group use traditional items like olakkuda (an umbrella made of Palmleaves). Symbolic remnants of age old rituals are still in existence.
Common pilgrims need not undergo such systems and they can visit as they do in other temples.Odappoovu, white brush of hairs made from beaten bamboos, is popular among the devotees who buy this on their return journey and hang in their houses, to mark the Kottiyoor pilgrimage.
The mythology of this holy place is linked with Daksha Yagam.
Sati Devi, wife of Lord Shiva expressed her longing for attending the Yagam, conducted by her father King Daksha. Lord Shiva was not so happy with her desire because they were not invited to the celestial event since Daksha had a row with Lord Shiva. Still, He permitted Sati to attend the Yagna with a condition that she shouldn’t return, if disgraced.
As the Lord foresaw the incident, King Daksha humiliated Sati Devi. She took no time to surrender herself to the flames of the yagna fire. Lord Shiva opened his third eye with never ending anger and the result was the death of King Daksha and his supporters. The whole place was burnt as a result of the Lord’s ire. It is believed that Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu came to this place to heal Lord Shiva from extreme anger.
Kottiyoor is believed to be the venue of this Yagam and the get-together of Trimurthis (triumvirate- Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva).
Even if it is a strenuous trip along the western ghats, especially during heavy rains; believers feel refreshed once they touch the God’s land.
Route: Kozhikode-Koyilandi-Vatakara-Mahe-Thalassery-Koothuparamba-Nedumpoyil-Kelakam-Kottiyoor.There would be temporary bus station, taxi stand, hotels, comfort stations and limited lodging facilities for long distant pilgrims during the Vaishakha festival.
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