The Mangala Devi Kannagi Temple, standing at an altitude of 1337 meters above sea level within the forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve, is a thousand-year-old granite stone temple dedicated to Mangala Devi, also known as Kannaki. This temple holds significant historical and cultural importance and is among the top tourist attractions in Thekkady.
**Legend of Kannaki:**
The temple is associated with the legend of Kannaki, immortalized in the Tamil epic Silapathikaram by the poet-prince Ilanko Adikal. According to the legend, Kannaki, upon learning of her husband’s wrongful punishment and death in the royal court of Madurai, cursed the city and then retreated to the forests of Periyar.
The temple’s architecture resembles Pandyan architecture, with its construction believed to have been initiated by Chera Ruler Chenkuttuvan. Although currently in a dilapidated state, the temple’s boundary walls and steps still stand, showcasing the glory of its bygone era. The temple complex includes four stone structures housing deities such as Lord Shiva, Lord Ganapathy, and Karuppa Swamy, with several carved structures adorning the walls. Locals also believe in the existence of a secret underground pathway connecting the temple to either the Meenakshi Temple or the palace of the Pandya King.
The temple is not open to tourists and devotees throughout the year. Visitors can only enter the temple on the full moon night during the Chithra Pournami festival celebrated between April and May. During the festival, the deity of Mangala Devi is brought from Kambam due to the temple’s ruined state. The main deity, Goddess Kannaki, is adorned with silk and flowers, and prayers and offerings are made. Women prepare and offer pongala to seek blessings from the deity.
**Visiting the Temple:**
Since the temple is located in the forest area of Periyar National Park, visitors need prior permission from forest officials to visit. The 12 km journey to the temple is covered by a jeep, offering views of the dense foliage and grasslands. Along the way, visitors may also catch glimpses of Nilgiri Tahr and other fauna and flora species.
The Mangala Devi Kannagi Temple stands as a testament to ancient architectural prowess and cultural heritage, attracting visitors with its rich history and mystical allure.