No Stones Left Unturned; Journey With Attukal Amma
Beena Lal in conversation with Lekshmy Rajeev, author of Attukal Amma
On Aug 01, 2016


Standing with folded hands inside the temple, sometime in 2012, I watched the procession of a priest carrying the deity on his chest, with the accompaniments of music, my heart swelled with mixed feelings of adoration, love, trust, doubt, fear and eagerness.”

Those are the very words that came out from Lekshmy Rajeev, author of “Attukal Amma - Goddess of Millions”, as she started talking about her debut coffee table book.

Lekshmy continued.

“Coming from a family where worshipping God is as normal as every breath you take, God is a reality in our home”, she said. “My life was no different from an ordinary middle class girl’s. After our marriage we started living in Chennai and later I started working for Niyogi Books, dealing with coffee table books. It was a normal journalist's life but I enjoyed my job, sometimes promoting other's works too.”

As years passed by the thought of not having children bothered her. As is the norm in such scenarios in India, family and friends advised them to visit temples and perform poojas. Ten years with by and finally she was blessed with not one but two babies. Soon after the arrival of the twins she moved back home, Trivandrum.

Days passed routinely. Waking up, chores, kids, their studies, at the end of the day all she felt was that another day over. And that was it.


“Nothing seemed exciting, people take you for granted, your very existence is not noticed. After a certain age, nobody pays you any attention. If you have a prestigious job, you are glorified. Otherwise you are just an entity, your absence is noticed, if a shirt is missing, a favorite food is not on the table.  Your presence is not felt, your absence is.

In short, value of a normal, ordinary woman is virtually nothing. Such depressing thoughts were brewing inside her too. It was during one of those days, while at the temple, that she saw that procession, and it changed her life.

“The sight of the deity being carried by men on their shoulders (seeveli) filled me with agony of a different kind. Looking at the way the Goddess is being treated, being worshipped, decked up in flowers and jewelry, carried around on head by men, I felt even more miserable. I am also a female, feeling futile inside and out. Life outside these premise seemed totally different and dejected,” she remembered.

That day, after reaching home, she started writing what was on her mind, what was bothering her. Words poured out and took the form of a poem. “After pouring it all out, a pertinent question came up. When did the actual worshipping of Attukal Amma, start?”

This was the time when an urge to start writing a book on 'Attukal Amma', came to Lekshmy’s mind.

“I went back to the temple, and talked to the people working inside the temple.” They shared with Lekshmy whatever they knew, but there were no records. Many elderly people living nearby had stories to share but they had no historical validation either.

“I started writing with what information I could gather but after the first chapter I stopped. I wanted to research in detail and write a book which had stories that were never been told. Thus I started my journey which took five years to complete. I felt so happy and content with this book. There were moments of frustration, hitting your head against the wall, depressed but all through those difficult times Devi was there with me, sometimes guiding, sometimes finding new paths, sometimes stopping me and urging me to take a diversion, ” recollects Lekshmy. The photos by ace cinematographer Hari Thirumala, Manoj Vasudevan Nair and the unique sketches of Artist Madanan added just the magic a Goddess’s book deserved.

Publishing a book in India is not as easy as it sounds. Finding the right publisher sometimes is as critical as researching, writing and editing a book.

“After completing the work, I started looking for a publisher to publish my book. The publisher with whom I was working earlier turned me down, which was a matter of disappointment. I decided to pursue my dream with renewed strength and soon met V K Karthika from Harper Collins. After going through the manuscript, her eyes moistened. She paused before talking. She said this book will be published. That's it. The rest of the procedures all fell in place,” said Lakshmi, almost certain that the Devi’s blessing have continued to guide her in this journey.

Now that the book has been launched it is certain that many local myths would be busted and stories you may never have heard of before will roll off this book. This well-crafted book will give every believer a new way of seeing Attukal Devi.

“When the book was launched earlier this month, it was a moment of great relief for me. I could feel the blessings of the Devi, pouring down on me as I watched the audience gathered to be a part of that precious moment. Life will go on but I'm sitting back with a sense of happiness and tons of gratitude for all those who guided and helped me in this five year long journey,” reflects a tired and pensive Lekshmy.

Where the journey of an author ends, starts the journey of the readers.

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