A small grove with an area of 1.1 hectare is situated in Periyakumatti village in Cuddalore district of Tamilnadu, dedicated to the goddess Kilialamman, on the state high way between Cuddalore and Chidambaram. The main deity is sheltered within a temple of brick and mortar. A perennial pond is situated in the forecourt of the temple where people clean themselves before entering the precincts of the sanctum.
In this grove, Kilialamman is the main deity and Aiyanar is the secondary deity. Terracotta horses line the way to the Aiyanar shrine. People offer flowers, fruits and pongal (rice cooked in milk and jaggery) regularly. Images of peafowl and terracotta horses are offered to Aiyanar on special occasions. Goats and fowls are sacrificed to the goddess Kilialamman. After harvesting, the village people ritually offer paddy to make pongal and to perform puja and ghee for lighting the lamp in the temple. Oil extracted from the punnai (Alexandrian laurel) seed is used to light the lamp. The people believe that the goddess Kilialamman protects them from floods, cyclones and other catastrophic events. The priest performs spiritual healing with the neem twigs. Hunting and gathering of wood are strictly prohibited. Fallen twigs and wood may be used for temple purposes. The annual festival is celebrated in the month of Aadi (June- July) every year. During the annual festival, before taking out the procession of the decorated Amman, four goats are sacrificed in the four corners of the temple for the smooth conduct of the festival. There is a common belief that if those who want progeny must make and offered pongal to the deity, tying a thottil (cradle) on the uddhala, vidimaram (Indian Cherry /Cordia mixa) tree in the grove.
A merchant was carrying a cartload of tamarind to be sold at Cuddalore. While the merchant was crossing the grove, he heard a call and looked around. He could not find anybody except a parrot sitting on a banyan tree. The merchant got scared, since the place was desolated, and drove his cart faster. After reaching the market, the merchant found charcoal instead of tamarind. The merchant realised his mistake of not responding to the divine call. He returned to the grove and sought pardon for disregarding the anonymous call. Kilialiamman, the goddess of the grove, appeared before the merchant and offered consoled him. After that, the merchant visited the grove and worshipped the Amman regularly. Kilialiamman was satisfied with his devotion and reconverted the cartload of charcoal into tamarind. The merchant was happy and, as a token of atonement, he installed an Amman idol inside the grove and started worshipping the goddess regularly. Since the Amman was believed to have been incarnated as a parrot on a banyan tree, the goddess got the name ‘Kilialamman’ - Kili (parrot) + aal (banyan) + amman (goddess) - and the grove is known as ‘Kiliaalamman thoppu’ (Kiliaalamman grove).
Biodiversity of the grove
The grove extends over an area of about three acres and is a conserved patch of tropical dry evergreen forest. The soil is humid and damp in texture. The grove is relatively less disturbed with a dense vegetation cover. Around 45 plant species belonging to 33 families are found in the grove. The major species occurring are Callophyllum inophyllum, Ficus hispida, Ficus amplissima, Ficus recemosa, Acacia leucophloea, Azadirachta indica, Lepisanthes tetraphylla, Borassus flabellifer, Atalantia monophylla, Paramignya monophylla, Acacia leucophloea, Pongamia pinnata, Syzygium cumini, Dioscorea oppositifolia, phoenix pusilla, Ecbolium viridae, Calamus rotang, Pandanus odoratissimus, Theriophonum minutum, Cissus quadrangularis, Gloriosa superb, Tinospora cordifolia, Coccinia indica, Hemidesmus indicus, Aristolochia indica, Asparagus racemosus, Combretum albidum and Lepisanthes tetraphylla.
In general, the threats are mainly anthropogenic activities due to the development in and around the temple. Cattle browsing is high in the grove because of a waterbody nearby.