The annual festival here is celebrated according to Hindu calendar
The annual festival here is celebrated according to Hindu calendar in the months of Kumbha (Aquarius) (February-March), maasi magam coinciding with the full moon; this festival attracts vast crowds. The legend has it that the deity appeared on that day in front of Vilva Mangala Rishi. He is said to have discovered Badra Kali (Durga) enshrined in Keezhkaavu. The mentally affected and those suffering from incurable diseases stay here and worship the Devi and by Her grace they get cured and are rid of their troubles and grievances. One might wonder whether this is but a prevalent superstitious belief, but it is not so. It is an absolute truth about this Devi shrine.
Swami was not at all aware of this temple in his earlier days. After Devi's merger in him, he came to know with his divine powers, the legend and historical details about this temple. At a later stage when he first visited this temple everything became crystal clear in his divine vision. The main deity in Bagavathi siddhar peetam at Tambaram namely Kalyana Bagavathi is another form of Chothanikkara Devi.
One might wonder why I chose to write about this Devi in this elaborate and vivid fashion. The reason is simple. I had an unbelievable, miraculous experience related to this Goddess who then became my ishta Daivam (personal God). Also, since childhood, I considered Devi (Durga form) as my divine mother, Lord Krishna as my favourite and Shirdi Saibaba as my guru and guide. I used to contemplate and concentrate on these forms in my daily worship. Being born and brought up in Tamilnadu, I never had an opportunity to visit Chothanikkara or for that matter Kerala state itself, nor heard about the deity till I got married. My husband hailed from a Kerala brahmin family and after our wedding, I went to my in-laws' place at Ernakulam in Kerala.
When I first visited this temple with my husband, I was scared and perturbed on witnessing the screaming and violent actions of some of the mentally affected persons who had come there to seek Devi's grace. My husband briefed me about the glory of the deity and the greatness of this temple.
Now, let me narrate to you the experience I cherish. Both before and after marriage, we both were working as research scientists (he being an electronic engineer and I a solid state physicist) initially at BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center) and later at TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) in Bombay. During that time, I became very sick immediately after my delivery of my daughter in the year 1970 and was hospitalized for more than six months. By God's grace I recovered completely which was like a rebirth for me. I was advised by the doctors not to think of any more babies in the near future.
Meanwhile, after working for thirteen years as a research scientist, my husband decided to start a business along with his brothers in the field of electronics in Kerala. So, we left the job and shifted to Ernakulam, Kerala, along with our daughter who was four years old.
My daughter started feeling lonely in the house not having any company to play with. Ultimately, for a number of reasons, we decided to have another child. But to our great shock, I would not conceive. I was medically checked and as per medical treatment I was given hormone injections at regular intervals. Apart from that since both of us are God fearing, we started visiting all the temples, praying to the Almighty to bless us with another child. Many religious ceremonies and poojas were conducted. Nothing (both medical visits and visits to the temples) yielded any fruit.
One day, my sister-in-law came to see me. She asked us to visit Chothanikkara Devi temple as often as possible (mainly on Tuesdays and Fridays) and pray sincerely to that Devi. Following her advice implicitly, we started our visits to Chothanikkara and continued for about three months. At that time in the year 1976, in the third week of February, she invited me to go with her to Chothanikkara for Maham Thozhal (the day Vilvamangala Rishi was supposed to have been blessed by Devi with her divine appearance) which was supposed to be the most significant and auspicious day in that temple. The belief is that if one visits the temple and gets the Darshanam of Devi at 2 pm (that is when the doors of the sannadhi of Devi open) the wishes and of the devotees would be fulfilled by Devi. There was a huge crowd and even stampede. By Devi's grace we managed to get inside the temple. The whole place was echoing with the divine sound of Amme Narayana, Devi Narayana, Lakshmi Narayana, Badri Narayana. Exactly at 2 pm, the temple doors opened and we could get a good darshanam of Devi and I could spell out my prayers to her.
It is no exaggeration to say that the divine grace of Devi blessed me with a son within ten months, on 2nd January 1977. Since that incident, my love, affection and devotion to Chothanikkara Devi got deep rooted in my heart. Even today, faced with any eventuality I call out to her with the Amme Narayana prayer. No description can do justice to the mysterious power of Devi.
Later, we shifted back to Bombay permanently. In the year 1987, one of our relatives invited us to go over to his house for laksha archana hundred chants of the glorious thousand namavali of the Dhevi and added that a holy man by name Swami Bagavathi had come to his house and that Chothanikkara Bagavathi of Kerala has merged in him. With our life experiences, when we heard that we were overwhelmed with the instinctive urge to meet him. Thus her divine grace blessed us to have the first darshan of Swami on a Friday at Tolaram Towers in Chembur, Bombay during Dassara time. With that, the seed of our love, respect and devotion towards Swami was sown in our hearts.