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Nainativu Nagapoosani Amman Temple

On July 10, 2024

The ancient and historic Nainativu Nagapoosani Amman Temple lies 36 km from Nallur, the ancient capital of the Jaffna kingdom in Sri Lanka. This temple enshrines Goddess Parvati, who is worshipped by devotees as Nagapooshani or Bhuvaneswari. Her consort, Shiva, is Rakshaseshwar (Nayanair).

The Portuguese looted and destroyed the original temple in 1620 CE. The current restored structure came up in 1788. In June 1958 and March 1986, the temple was attacked, burnt, and severely damaged by the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple is a Shakti Peeth where Sati’s anklets fell. Anklets have great significance in the worship of Shakti.

Nainativu Nagapoosani Amman Temple

Nainativu means ‘island/city of the temple,’ while Nagapooshani means ‘the Goddess who wears snakes as ornaments.’ The Brahmanda Purana mentions this temple.

The temple complex has 4 gopurams (gateway towers) 20–25 feet in height. The Raja Raja Gopuram in the east stands 108 feet tall. The temple finds mention in ancient Tamil works like Manimekalai and Kundalakesi. There are around 10,000 sculptures in the renovated temple. The entrance is beautifully decorated with paintings, engravings, and oil lamps.

Bhuvaneshwari' means ‘Queen or ruler of the Universe’. The goddess is the Divine Mother, who is the queen of all the worlds. The entire Universe makes up her body, and all beings are the jewels that adorn her infinite being. All the worlds represent a flowering of her own Self-nature. Hence, she is also related to Sundari and Rajarajeshwari, who is the supreme Lady of the Universe.

In Hindu mythology, Bhuvaneshvari is the 4th of the ten Mahavidya goddesses. Bhuvaneswari is the supreme goddess who creates all things and destroys evil. As per Hindu mythology, she is the most powerful goddess in the entire Universe. Parvati is Goddess Bhuvaneswari’s Sagun Roop. Her Beeja mantra is “Hreem.”

She is also referred to as Adi Shakti or one of the earliest forms of Shakti. She has the power to change situations as per her wishes. Supposedly, even the Navagrahas and Trimurtis are powerless to stop her from doing what she wants. She can order the Trimurtis to carry out her bidding, too.

The Legend behind Nainativu Nagapoosani Amman Temple

According to legends, Lord Indra established this temple, while seeking relief from Sage Gautama’s curse. The story finds mention in the Mahabharata epic.

Ahalya was the wife of Sage Gautama. Once Indra saw her and was overcome by lust for her. Knowing that Ahalya was a chaste woman and would not succumb to temptations, Indra took the form of Gautama and approached her when the sage was not around. He seduced the unsuspecting Ahalya, but the sage discovered what he had done. Furious, he cursed Indra to have a thousand marks that resembled the vagina/yoni all over his body.

Indra became the butt of ridicule, with others calling him Sa-yoni. Feeling utterly humiliated, Indra exiled himself to Manidweepa (Nainativu) island. There, he worshipped the Moolasthana murti of the Goddess to get relief from his sins. His devotion and sincere remorse pleased Goddess Bhuvaneswari Amman. She appeared before him and changed the vaginas on his body into eyes. After this, she took the name “Indrakshi” (‘akshi’ means ‘eyes’).

According to another legend, several centuries after the above incident, a Nagam or cobra swam across the ocean toward Nainativu from a nearby island called Puliyantivu, holding a lotus in its mouth to worship Bhuvaneswari Amman (who Indra had already consecrated). An eagle (Garuda) saw the cobra and, being its natural foe, tried to kill it. In fear, the cobra coiled itself around a rock in the sea around half a kilometer from the Nainativu coast. The eagle stood on another rock (Garudan Kal, “the Rock of the Eagle”) a little farther off. The first rock got the name ‘Paambu Sutriya Kal’ (in Tamil) or ‘the rock around which the snake coiled itself,’ while people called the second rock ‘Garudan Kal’ or ‘the rock of the eagle.’

It so happened that a Chola merchant, Maanikan, a Bhuvaneswari Amman devotee, was sailing across the Palk Strait. His intent was to trade with the ancient Naka Nadu. When he saw the eagle and the cobra on separate rocks, he grasped the situation and begged the eagle to spare the cobra’s life. The eagle agreed on the condition that the merchant should build a beautiful temple for Goddess Bhuvaneswari on Nainativu island. Also, he should propagate her worship in the form of Nagapooshani Amman to invoke her blessings for universal peace, prosperity, and humanity. The merchant agreed and kept his promise by building a beautiful temple. The eagle, the story goes, took 3 dips in the ocean to atone for its sins against the serpent race of Nagas. In this manner, Garuda and Naga settled their longstanding feuds.

Benefits of Worshipping at the temple

Nagapooshani Amman is believed to be very powerful. This temple attracts a lot of childless couples, who believe that the goddess will bless them with a child. One can see many tiny statues of babies and cradles made in gold and silver which are the offerings of devotees.

Festivals at the Temple

Aadi Pooram festival is celebrated grandly in this temple. Aadi Pooram is the day Parvati attained puberty. Other major festivals here are Shivaratri and Navratri. However, the most important festival at the temple is the 16-day-long annual Mahostavam (Thiruvizha). It attracts more than 100,000 devotees. During this period, there are many events like the Swarna Ratholsavam ("Manja Thiruvizha"; golden chariot festival), Ratholsavam ("Ther Thiruvizha"; chariot festival) and Poongavanam ("Theppa Thiruvizha"; float festival). Aadi Velli days (Fridays) in Aadi month (July–August) and Thai (January - February) are also very important here.

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