March 23, 2018

The Neglected Jyestha Devi of Rajkilpakkam

In the border between two villages, Rajkilpakkam and Sembakkam, at the southern outskirts of Chennai city, a 200 years old Alavattamman Temple is located. Near that temple, the stone icon of Jyestha Devi lies neglected under a tree in a corner. She is found along with her two attendants. As per few versions, they are her children, Manthan and Agni.

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.

This idol of Jyestha Devi might belong to the Pallava period. (I will leave it to the experts about the period. I might be wrong too.) Interestingly, there is no ancient temple of Pallava or Chola period nearby. The village temple is hardly 200 years old. Within one km radius, there is a roadside Vishnu temple a new Kamakshi temple. That makes me wonder where is that ancient temple where she was once installed and then thrown out. The temple which had neglected her is no more; but, she is still there. 

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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