Said to be over a thousand years old, the Mathurakali Amman temple in the village of Siruvaachoor is one of the most popular in South India. Mathurakali, a form of Goddess Kali, is believed to be extremely powerful, due to which the temples draws huge crowds from across the world. The temple was one of our stops on our recent trips to Trichy for Bubboo’s mundan.
The temple, a little more than a small shrine, is very beautiful. It seems untouched by time, and you feel like you have gone back a few decades as you step inside. At least, that is how it felt to me. There is a bit of commercialisation, yes, but that is negligible as compared to the money-minting machines that many temples today seem to have become, I am sorry to say.
The first sight that greets you as you step into the temple courtyard is a row of huge mortars and pestles. These can be used by devotees to grind raw rice, to which jaggery is added later and is shaped into lamps, known as maav-vilakku in Tamil. I had only heard stories from my Amma about my grandmother preparing such lamps with great devotion, but this is the first time I got to see them. I even got to taste the vilakku maavu, a sweet mixture of rice and jaggery.
We saw a number of families visiting the temple to get their children’s heads tonsured or their ears pierced, some of whom were letting out loud, scared wails.
Like in most temples of Goddess Kali, lemons play an integral part in the pooja ceremony. Stalls selling lemons, flowers, and other assorted pooja paraphernalia abound outside the temple.
Outside the temple, the village looks idyllic, serene and untouched by pollution.
The temple and its location is intricately tied up with local legend. Belief has it that the temple has been built at the very place where Kannagi, a Tamil Vaisya woman, rested, centuries ago, after having taken revenge on King Pandyan of Madurai, for an injustice meted out to her husband Kovalan.
The Siruvaachoor Mathurakali Amman temple is open only on two days of the week – Monday and Friday – throughout the year except for Navratri, at which time it is open on all nine days. During the other days of the week, local legend has it, Mathurakali Amman does not reside at the temple; she goes to stay with Chelliamman, the local Siruvaachoor deity who invoked her and requested her to stay in the village.
According to tradition, Chelliamman was a local deity of Siruvachur. Her powers became delimited by a tantric, who started using the powers for destructive purposes. Mathurakali Amman, a form of Goddess Kali, happened to visit the place seeking shelter from Chelliamman for a night. During her stay, Chelliamman revealed her servitude, and Mathura Kaliamman did away with the Tantric and saved Chelliamman. Chelliamman, in order to greet Mathura Kaliamman, moved to the Periaswamimali, a nearby hillock, requesting the latter to stay in Siruvachur, while demanding that the initial offerings should be presented to her.
How to reach:
Perambalur is the town nearest to Siruvaachoor. However, as far as I know, Trichy would be easier to reach from other parts of India. Trichy is well connected to the village of Siruvaachoor by road, and one can hire a taxi to get to the temple from Trichy. The journey takes about an hour.