Festival Thai Poosam was celebrated at Thayamkulankara, Kerala, with fervour and devotion.T.S.Viswanathan

The annual Murugan Thai poosam celebration at Thayamkulankara, Kerala, was held recently. The event, which began in 1872, has been going on for the last 142 years. Started by Narayanan Nambooripad, it was carried on by his son Kunjan Nambooripad and now by his grandson Sri Narayanan Nambooripad.

The temple belongs to the Chittoor Manackal family, a branch of the Cochin Royal family. Their palace is at the rear of the temple. Most of them have migrated and the main palace has been converted into an ayurvedic resort and is managed by Rakesh, one of the scions. The other buildings inside the palace compound are occupied by some descendants of the family.

Thayamkulankara, 10 kms from Trichur Railway station, belongs to the Cherpu Muncipality. The Thayamkulankara nada (where the celebration was held) is a village path commencing from the main state highway and leading directly to the temple, which is at the end of the street (nada).

The nada is flanked by a row of houses (agraharams) built by Tamil Brahmins, who had migrated to this village at the invitation of the Cochin King to carry on their textile trade, especially in dhotis for Namboodiri Brahmins. Most of them have sold their houses and left.

Just 300 metres opposite to this temple is the Perumanam Siva temple called erattai appan (two lingas). It is believed that Adi Shankarachaarya sang his hymns here of Lord Siva as “peru vanathu appan”.

The thai poosam falls on the pushya naksthram day of the thai month (January 15 to Feb 15). The festival begins a week before thai poosam. Everyday at the temple, artists from various parts of Kerala stage kutcheris and dance recitals. In the evening, the Nadai is lit with mud lamps with village women and girls participating with fervour.

The night before the poosam, one batch of kavaadis along with the panchavaadyam and Lord Muruga’s ratham, which is pulled from the nada near the Temple of Idumban (Lord Muruga’s devotee) towards the temple at the other end, stops in stages along way. .

On the actual thai poosam day this year, (Jan 17), the festival started at 2 a.m., when the doors of the temple opened for abhishekam, amidst the throng of people.

The majestic aspect of the event began from 9 a.m. on that day.

The first set called Thaayamkulangara Kaavadi Sangham was a combination of melam (percussion instruments) and nadaswaram for Kavadi dancing. Each of the melam sets had 50 members standing and playing the instruments. Each of the nadaswaramsets (including thavil) had 20 vidwans playing.

The Kerala kavaadis were another highlight. Usually in a set there would be five big ‘poo kavadis’ (flower kavaadis) and five huge ‘ambala kavadis’.

Devotees dance with these kavadis to the nadaswaram music, till they enter the temple.

The first set was followed by the second from Cherpu Kaavadi Sangham, then by the third, the Cherpu Bala Sangham, and the last and final, the Perumbalessari Kavadi Sangham, All these sets had different melams and nadaswarams competing with each other.

Another ratha of Lord Muruga, belonging to the final set, came last. Behind it walked the poojaris piercing vels through their mouths and dancing in a trance.

One set after another entered the temple and performed abhisekam on behalf of their sangham. Once this was over and the rathas were taken to their original parking lots, the ‘Seeveli’ began at 3.30 p.m. The utsav moorthy was taken on elephant back in a procession along the entire nada, circumambulated the Idumban temple (on the opposite side) and returned to the temple.

The scion of the Royal family, Narayanan Nambooripad, accompanied the Seeveli, leading from the front. All the nada residents offered the usual “Para” to the deity. Grains in baskets were scooped up in hands and poured back into the basket to complete the offering.

The Seeveli returned to the temple at 6.15 p.m. The deeparadana, another highlight, began at 6.30 pm.

The same night the ritual of kavadi and pulling the ratha in a procession was repeated. It started at 7.30 p.m. from the Idumban temple and culminated at the Lord Muruga temple at 3 a.m. This was followed by the Seeveli. There were fireworks after that.

In the evening, nadaswaram kutcheris were held before the ratha. This tradition has been carried on from 1943. Many noted vidwans from Tamil Nadu such as Rajarathinam Pillai, Mannarkudi Paramasivam, Namakiripettai Krishnan, Madurai Ponnuthaayi and Saidaipet Natarajan have performed in the past. This year it was Harihara Iyer. The profound devotion demonstrated by the people and the Royal family is perhaps the reason why the temple is called ‘Kerala Palani.’