Irro… Irro… Irro…
The above cry is familiar to any Malayali who has witnessed the simple grandeur of any festival in Kerala. Throughout the length and breadth of Kerala, there are various festivals showcasing various artforms and recounting various tales.
Among the 14 districts of Kerala, there is one as big as your dreams called Palakkad. Bordering Tamil Nadu on one side, this district has lots of folklores and stories to narrate. This piece of land that was once a major point in the Rajakesari highway to Muziris, also boasts of a lot of festivals. The intertwining of Tamil culture with the local Malayalis has whipped out some interesting festivals. Let’s look into some of the lesser-known festivals of Palakkad.
This festival celebrates a victory attained almost 1000 years ago and is one of a kind in Kerala (the only “Rana vela” in Kerala). Legend has it that the King of Kongu attacked the small fiefdom of Chittur situated in the eastern parts of Palakkad. The brave warriors were small in numbers and could not withstand the onslaught. They prayed to the Prathishta in Chittur Kavu Temple and the Devi herself came and fought the battle. Just like Manapullikaavu, here too the Goddess is Bhadrakali in form. There are many attractions to this festival such as “Kummati”, where half-naked kids don a colourful glee and smear themselves with Black powder all over. Various depictions of the mythical characters parade in palanquins and of course, the Devi through her oracle, the ‘velichapadu’, joins the celebrations. A ritualistic enactment of the battle happens with the Devi beheading the King of Kongu.
Also known as Valiya Vilakku Vela, Vadakkanthara Vela is celebrated at Sree Kachanam Kulam Thirupuraikkal Bhagavathy temple. The festival happens once every three years and an interesting ritual of this festival is the Karivesham. People will paint themselves greasy black and will visit homes to bless and announce the arrival of the Vela. The Devi or the Goddess is also regarded as the infamous Kannaki, who burned the city of Madurai with her Chastity. The Vela (or the festival) ends with Kazhchasheeveli aka the ritualistic procession where as much as 15 caparisoned elephants can be seen bobbing their heads in unison to the accompanying melams. The next one is scheduled for March of 2021.
Manapullikavu Vela is celebrated at the Manapullikaavu Bhagavathy temple. Here the Devi is Bhadrakali in her calm state. Legend has it that a lady from Kannur, who was married off to Palakkad, brought the Devi with her and ritualistically installed the deity in the present-day temple. The festival is celebrated at the end of February and the first week of March. ‘Chaandh’ is a black formula which is available in all the Bhagavathy temples. The Chaanthaattam or the ritualistic bathing of Devi with Chaandh is the main attraction during this Vela. Fireworks are a sight to be seen and the Manapullikaavu Paandimelam is only second to that of Thrissur Pooram.
Palakkad is not complete without the Palakkad Iyer festivals. Kalpathi Ratholsavam is a festival with deep roots in our neighbouring state. The ‘Theru’ or ‘Radham’, a gargantuan chariot weighing tonnes, is decorated as a moving temple and paraded through the streets amidst joyous callings. It is usually a common sight at festivals in Tamil Nadu. This tradition was brought to Palakkad by immigrant Tamil Brahmins. There are 18 Agrahrams or Tamil Brahmin settlements in Palakkad and each has its own Ratholsavam. Principal among them is Kalpathy which also boasts of the largest Ratham. The festivities start with cultural festivals and Carnatic songs. It ends with the Rathayatra where humans (and even elephants!) push a goliath of Ratham through the streets of Kalpathy, accompanied by the frenzied melams and people in a trance-like state.
Well, that’s my list. Do you have other festivals from Palakkad that you’d want to share? Do you have something more to add about these festivals? We’d love to hear it. Tell us in the comments section below.