October 31, 2016

The Neglected Jyestha Devi of Manimangalam

Manimangalam is a small locality located near Tambaram, which in turn is located near Chennai in Tamil Nadu state of India . Manimangalam is a historical site. The great battle between the Chalukya King Pulikesi and the Pallava King Narasimha Pallava was fought in Manimangalam in the 7th century CE

In Manimangalam, which has few ancient temples, there is a Jyestha Devi idol lying on the field near Dhanalakshmi Engineering College. The idol has no temple structure or the regular priests to perform poojas. Yet, the local villagers worship this deity as the Mother Goddess.

Who is Jyestha Devi? As per the Hindu Puranas, she is the elder sister of Lakshmi. Lakshmi, who is considered as the deity of wealth, is being worshiped in all temples. There are big temples with Lakshmi as the presiding deity. However, her own sister Jyestha does not find any place in Vishnu temples or her own sister Lakshmi's temples. Barring few temples in Trichy-Tanjore region, Jyestha Devi is generally found outside the Shiva temples or in a neglected corner in the Shiva's temple enclosure.

Tiru Valluvar, the ancient Tamil poet, had written that this world is not for those without wealth. It appears that the statement is true not only for the humans but even for the deities. Jyestha is considered as inauspicious and is believed to bring bad luck. Thondaradi Podi Alwar, one of twelve Alwars, reportedly condemned the worship of Jyestha Devi in the temples. It is said that due to his efforts the idol of Devi was thrown out of the temples. There is no solid proof to prove this theory though. Interestingly, this Alwar's birth star was Jyestha. 

Whatever be the reason and whenever this practice had started, it is true that many of the Shiva temples in the northern part of Tamil Nadu have neglected Jyestha Devi. You can find this idol lying near the fields, outside the temple or in a neglected corner inside the temple complex.

In Manimangalam village, opposite to the Dhanalakshmi Engineering College, a beautiful idol of Jyestha Devi is found. She is found along with her two attendants. As per few versions, they are her children, Manthan and Agni. Some broken idols, probably Somaskanda and others, are found scattered near her idol. It is not sure why and how these idols are found in this site.

You can throw her out of the temple. But she can turn her new place into a temple. A temple is not the one which has structure, but the deity. She may not need a temple structure. The open air and the green fields are more beautiful than your architecture. She has got enough love from the innocent villagers and heritage enthusiasts. She will live long as the deity forever.

Happy travelling.

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