Last night me and Sulu were laying sleepless. And he started this topic – about the 90s when we had darkness more than lights in India. Every kid of 90s would be aware of those years. I would get a thousand stories if I dig into that subject. At this moment I just want to talk about just one of the memory that came through our conversation last night.
February month will always begin with temple festivals. Every fest will last to 10 days. About this I am planning to post an another one which will exactly explain how we the kids used to celebrate those 10 days, to be specific 10 nights. So let me begin to unwrap this particular occasion which comes in the top of my memory.
Thrissur and Palakkad are the districts which witnessed my childhood. And those are cities where people keeps temple festivals close to their heart. In Palakkad there is a temple called ‘Chinakkathoor Kavu’. This temple’s fest is counted as one of the most celebrated fest in Kerala. This post is about the rituals we follow on the fest of this temple. To be more clear about what I am gonna say, you need to listen to a story. Lemme begin…
My grandpa narrated this story to me when I was a kid. But I still can remember each word and twists of it. Its about the goddess worshipped in the temple which I mentioned earlier ‘Chinakkathoor Kavu’. The myth about the origin of the Chinakkathoor temple will take us to the Ramayana period. Rama and Lakshmana were in search of Seetha who was kidnapped by Ravana and they reached Vilwadri (the Vilwa Mountain, now known as Thiruvilwamala). Lord Ayyappa and Goddess were accompanying them. After reaching Vilwadri Rama asked them to find a place to take rest. But they did not return even after a long time. Hence Rama and Lakshmana went looking for them and found them taking rest at the top of the hill. The myth has it that an angry Rama pushed lord Ayyappa down to the south and gave a good beating to Goddess. (As per this purana lord Ayyapa is situated in a very lower place from Lord Rama temple at Thiruvilwamala. And the deity is called Ayyappa in the pit!).
The goddess was beaten up by Rama and ran for her life crying “ayyayyo” and stopped running when she reached a place called Chinakkathoor,and took position there, facing the north.
Based on this story we used to do follow some rituals just the night before the special day of fest. Our family also used to follow this. We all will wake up early in the morning, say like around 2 AM. The whole family will join in this. Will get up, fresh up and start walking targeting the river. There are 3 rivers in my village and one of them is Nila/Bharathapuzha which is the second longest river in Kerala. We will use natural torch with dried leaves of coconut tree. We will fire it and walk cutting the deep darkness in front us. The advantage is that it will give you light plus a warm environment around which will help you to survive that blood-clotting cold.
We will carry many items on this early morning journey. All the items required for the ‘pooja/aarathi’ will be taken. Even we carry bedsheets so that the kids can get some sleep if required after reaching the destination. Both sides of the road towards the river is rich with tallest trees. Those trees will bow their heads into middle of the road due the weight and it will make a ‘റ’ shape till the end of the road. So when you walk waving our ‘leaf torch’ you will feel like exploring an ancient cave. A 20 minutes walk will take you to the laps of river. On the way we must scream like how goddess did in the above said story, its a part of rituals. You can hear people screaming and making louder noises from all nearby roads.
Once reached we will find a comfortable place on the sand shore to get settled. There won’t be much water in the river as this fest is in summer. Hence you can find lot of place anywhere on the shore. You can also see lot of neighbourhoods ruling their tents here and there. My both sisters were kids at that time and they will sleep once they reach the river. Sometimes on the way itself they start sleeping on my parents shoulders. I never used to get sleep in such situations. Now we have to find a perfect stone from river which will be used as idol of goddess for pooja/aarathi. Now we need to take bath in the river to make mind and body pure. That’s the part I always hated. The water will be frozen like ice, you will dare to dip a single finger in it. After a lot of thinking and calculations I will jump into the river and somehow take a bath just for the sake.
Meanwhile mom would’ve started preparing payasam which is required for pooja. Before it gets done we will clean the idol and other things ready for the pooja.
Once everything is ready the pooja begins. As per Hindu traditions this will be carried out. Next everyone will have the payasam on the shore itself. By the time we can see the sun rising up from the depths of somewhere. The yellowish-orange rounded sun will reflect his face on the river as if looking at a mirror. Around 5.30 – 6’o clock we will be back to home. The freshness and energy you get on that whole day is beyond my explanations.
From last few years I don’t see much people following this ritual. May be everything is changing along with the generations. In less than 10 years all these will fall in the list of extinct rituals…