In Fires Will I Stand To gain Your Hand, Mangadu
I had this plan to dedicate my first six posts to the deities of the six main paths of hinduism, the Shanmadas. And in all respects I now cast my mind at the lotus feet of the divine mother, by the shadow of one of her ksethras that I have visited time and again, never getting bored, and ever being thrilled with the grace and benevolence of her divinity.
Mangadu is a small suburb in Chennai near Poonamallee. Literally it can be translated two ways, Mangai (mango)+ Kaadu (forest) or Mana (marriage)+Kaadu (forest), both having ample reasons for being the name of this place. The place is sometimes wrongly thought to be a shakthi peetha, for no body part of the burnt Dakshayini ever fell here. However, the place is as divine and sacred as any shakthi peetha and has its own interesting purana and traditions.
The fights between Shiva and Parvathi occur time and again in the puranas. Rather than taking it in a negative sense the broad mind should think beyond and realise that these tiffs were indeed ‘played’ for the benefit of humanity, its prosperity and well being. The sthala purana of Mangadu too begins at one such fight, when Shiva and Shakthi are strolling about the beautiful gardens of Kailasa. Parvathi in a playful mood as ever closes Shiva’s eyes throwing the entire creation into darkness and for a second, risking the sutainability of the world. Shiva flares up and in his tremor shaking anger curses Parvathi to be gone from him.
Devi, accepting her mistake, comes down to bhooloka and attacted by the mango groves near the sea (Mangadu) decides to stay there and undergo fierce thapas to regain the hand of Shiva. She starts her thapas in the midst of panchagni or Five Fires. The five fires could represent the Five syllables of the Panchakshari (Na Ma Shi Va Ya), in eternal meditation of her lord or could represent the Pancha Indriyas (the five senses) which are to be kept controlled during the penance. The Devi stood on one leg and with one hand raised above her holding the japa mala and another held in a meditative pose, focussing all her mind on the lord of kailasa. The penance went on for a very long time and it is believed that Lakshmi and Saraswathi came down to keep her company for the period of penance. In the end the penance was ofcourse successful and Shiva appeared before her and agreed to accept her hand in marriage, thus giving the place its other name, Manakaadu or the Forest of Marriage. All’s well that ends well 😀 . Parvathi was accompanied by Lakshmi and Saraswathi to her marriage in Kanchi where she took the hand of Maheshwara once again.
But alas, in the haste and joy of marriage, Kamakshi forgot to put off the yogic fire ie. the panchagni at Mangadu. Filled with the divine power of Devi the fire heated up the entire place surrounding Mangadu, making it uninhabitable. Years went by and the lands surrounding Maangadu became parched. It was then that Adi Shankara happened to pass that way and sensing the presence of Ambal he braved the heat to make it to the place where the tapas was done. He felt the power that resided there and wanted to make it a place of worship for the good of humanity. To bring the heat under control he established a wonderous structure that is seen no where else on this planet- The ArdhaMeru. The Meru is in essence a three dimensional projection of the Shri Chakra which is the ultimate sacred symbol for all shakthas. The ardha meru is, on the other hand a half projected version of the chakra where the Madhya Bindu (the dot) and the triangles and circles around it remain in two dimensions, with the rest projected in all the three dimensions. Rather than being made of metal, this ardha meru was made out of herbs. The sthapana of the Ardhameru reduced the heat in the place and started drawing devotees to the divine spot of penance. Even today all main poojas and offering are to the ardha meru alone. Abhisheka is, however, not done to the ardha meru as it is herb based. Adi Shankara also established the code of worship for the place and left, blessing the land and praying for its power to remain and help the layman.
Today Mangadu remains a major temple where devotees throng along on sundays, tuesdays and fridays to get a glimpse of devi and the ardha meru. The sanctum also has a beatiful PanchaLoha idol of Thapas Kamakshi (in her penance) complete with panchagni and all. The Utsavar is flanked by two other idols of Lakshmi and Saraswathi and enjoys a ride in the golden chariot everyday.
Unmarried women and men alike come to the temple on sundays and take part in the poojas praying for a worthy life partner. Six sundays of regular worship is believed to bestow one with marital bliss. The go-pooja or cow worship is quite famous in this temple. Every sunday, tuesday and friday the first darshan of Devi is bestowed upon a cow. The cow stands with it’s tail facing the deity when the screen is drawn and Shri Kamakshi gives her first darshan for the day at 5 am. The tail is believed to house Lakshmi and taking part in this go-pooja is supposed to shower one with prosperity. The gold chariot is another attraction to the temple and is drawn around the prakaram every evening.
It is a popular belief that there is nothing without reason that goes ungranted here, as Devi remains in the kshetra in an elated mood of winning back her lord. Mangadu is easily reached from Chennai and is one of the places that remains unspoiled by the madness of development all around. May She grant every one of us peace and joy.