Pathala PonniammanThis is a featured page

" Dasavadhnaya vithmahe Jwala malaya dheemahi! dhanno Parasakthi Prasadoyadh!!"

Pathala Ponniamman - SaranathanPeople who see Purasawakkam today, in the heart of the city, congested, bustling with activity and the virtual concrete jungle that it is, will not be able to give credence if someone tells them that this area was nothing more than a village at one time, rich with green fields, fresh and cool air laden with the fragrance of the paddy fields around blowing and the local population always busy with tilling, seeding, weeding or harvesting the fields. The picture it presents today is so diametrically opposite that any person who relates such stories would be pooh-poohed. But it is true, nevertheless. The 300-year-old Pathala Ponniamman temple, situated in the junction of Millers Road, Alagappa Road and Flowers Road is one of the last vestiges of that forgotten age. This was a part of the fields of those days. It so happened that persons who were digging a well in the field found a piece of rock after they reached a particular depth. When they tried to move the rock from that place, they realised that it was not a mere rock, but the idol of Amman. They moved the idol to a corner at ground level and returned to their work. Once again their crowbars hit against something hard. This time, they heard a metallic sound. They were excited and retrieved another idol of Amman, made of pancha loka - an alloy made out of five different metals. The news that two idols of Devi have been found while digging a well spread among the residents - villagers - of Purasawakkam. They came out in large numbers, gathered round the idols and concluded that they must have been worshipped by our ancestors who would have hidden them during one invasion or another of an ancient ruler. They built a temple for Her and started worshipping her. Because She was found in the pit dug for a well, they called her ‘Pathala Ponniamman.’ The area around the temple went through many changes soon and has become one of the main city centres now. But Devi continues to grace the place from Her abode. This deity is considered to be the Guardian Angel of Purasawakkam. She is the Ellai Amman - or the deity guarding limits of the area - for Purasawakkam. She is worshipped first before commencing any festival in any temple in and around Purasawakkam. Pathala Ponniamman - SaranathanWhat was a small structure 300 years back has now grown into a sprawling structure. The well - from which the idols were retrieved - is there in a corner of the temple. Devotees - descendents of those who lived in Purasawakkam for a long number of years - gather there for performing rites, to receive Her concurrence before venturing on anything new. Many in those days have created grants and sanctions - manyam as it is known in Tamil. The puja is performed by priests with hereditary rights.
The metal image of Pathala Ponniamman is corroded and deformed due to the fact that it was buried under the earth for long number of years. But what is corrosion for a devotee! She continues to shower her blessings as ever. In the olden days, Pathala Ponniamman used to be taken out of the temple in procession during Brahmotsavam. It is said that it would take around 6 months for the deity to return to the temple. All the pujas and other rituals used to be performed only outside the temple, wherever She is, during that period. But such practice is not in vogue these days. The most important festival is Navaratri and it is celebrated with all grandeur on all the days. Sapta Annanmaar Sannadhi Generally, in all Amman temples, there would be a sannadhi of Sapta Kanyas, or the seven maidens. But there is a sannadhi of Sapta annanmaar (or the seven elder brothers) in Pathala Ponniamman Temple. It was preordained and foretold that the eighth child born to Devaki would kill the tyrant, Kamsa. Kamsa was petrified and he killed all the seven children born to Devaki. When the eighth child - Krishna - was born, Vasudeva took him out of the prison stealthily, left him in Gokulam and brought back a girl child born there. Pathala Ponniamman - SaranathanKamsa heard of the news of the eighth child having born to Devaki and rushed to the prison to kill it. He was amazed to find that the eighth child - preordained to kill him - was a girl. But that did not stop him from attempting to kill it. When he held the child by its legs and swung it in the air, to dash it against the earth, it rose up in the sky assuming the form of Kali and laughed at Kamsa, saying that the child born to kill him was growing up ‘somewhere else.’ The priest of the temple informs us that it was that Kali who thus was brought to the prison in the place of Krishna and who gave Kamsa the slip, is worshipped as Ponniamman in Purasawakkam. And the seven children born to Devaki before the birth of Krishna - who are the elder brothers of Kali as well - are worshipped as Sapta Annanmaar. She is there. She is there despite the rolling number of years. Untouched by time. Untouched by the constantly changing shape of the area around her, surrounded by trees and greenery, standing as silent witness to a bygone era, amidst the hustle and bustle and polluted air of the city. And She will continue to be there forever, for She is the very source of all life.

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