Govinda Pillai was a Travancore judge of the 18th century, and is the presiding deity of the temple.

This Kerala temple has a Judge Uncle deity for legal hassles
news Faith Wednesday, November 02, 2016 - 15:02

56-year old Jagathamba from Idukki stands outside the closed door of the sanctum sanctorum of the Cheruvally Devi temple in Kottayam, with her mobile in hand.

Her 26-year old son who lives in Bengaluru has been ‘falsely’ charged in a molestation case, Jagathamba tells The News Minute. She is there to facilitate her son’s desire to tell his troubles ‘directly’ to Judge Uncle, whom they believe will get him acquitted. 

Who exactly is Judge Uncle ?

Judge Uncle (Judge Ammavan in Malayalam) is the presiding deity at the famous Devi temple in Ponkunnam. Local lore has it that the judge is known to save innocents trapped in legal hassles. 

In the 18th century, there lived a judge Govinda Pillai -a native of Ponkunnam in erstwhile Travancore province, during the time of King Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma. A learned intellectual, Pillai was revered as a truthful and just executor of law, and had garnered an unshakeable reputation for his impartial judgements, among both the masses as well as the royalty. 

In one of the cases that came up for hearing, Pillai pronounced the death sentence against his own nephew who was the accused. It was only after his order was executed, that Pillai realized that he had made an error in judgement.

Driven by guilt, Pillai pleaded with the King that he be punished for the same. To escape from the quandary, Dharma Raja asked Pillai to pass judgement on himself. 

Pillai promptly ordered that he be hung from a tree with both his feet chopped off, so that he would die a slow painful death. He also demanded that his body be left hanging for three days, as he wanted all to know that no one was above the law. 

Months passed. Rumours soon spread about how Pillai’s soul was seen wandering in the area.

According to Hindu beliefs, the soul of one who dies an unnatural death wanders in search of eternal peace, till such time that sacred rituals are performed to confine the wandering soul inside an object or space, so as to ensure harmony between the departed soul and those left behind in the world.

In Pillai's case, his soul was reportedly confined in a ‘stone’ at the over 1100-year old shrine, which later began to draw devotees seeking the deceased judge’s blessings, especially in cases where a legal resolution was needed.

“Everyday, we have devotees from across the country -irrespective of religion- visit the temple to propitiate ‘Judge Uncle’ in order to resolve a host of legal issues ranging from minor cases to land disputes and serious criminal cases,” says Ajayan, the temple’s Devaswom president.  

According to the temple administration, Judge Uncle is the avowed saviour of all -from ordinary people to VIPs including bureaucrats and IPS officers. In 2013, cricketer Sreesanth found solace in Judge Uncle, when he was accused in the IPL scam. Even newly appointed judges at various courts reportedly visit the temple before taking charge. 

Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan was a recent visitor, with the next Supreme Court hearing regarding the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala scheduled for 07 November. 

While ‘ada nedyam’ and tender coconut are offered to please the deity, it is no guarantee that he will favour someone who is guilty. 

Though there is very little documented history on Pillai, his legend continues to be passed from one generation to another.



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