The teams of Ayyappa devotees from Ambalappuzha and Alangad took out the ceremonial mass dance (pettathullal) at Erumeli on Thursday, marking the beginning of the final phase of the Makaravilakku season, as thousands thronged the township to witness the unique celebration of communal harmony and victory of good over evil.

The pettathullal denotes a defining moment in the legend of Sri Ayyappa when he killed Mahishi, the demon princess who menaced the life of the rishis who had put up their parnasalas in and around the forests near what is today Erumeli town. Sri Ayyappa was hugely assisted by his Muslim lieutenant Vavar in the Mahishi Nigraham episode of the legend.

The nearly 500 strong Ambalappuzha team this year was led by Kalathil Chandrasekharan Nair. This is his 14th consecutive term as the Samoooha Periyon’ (team leader). The team waited till they sighted the kite (Krishna Parunthu) in the noon skies. They made their offerings before the diety at the Sri Dharmasastha Temple-Chiriyambalam before commencing the petta thullal. The slow rhythmic movements soon picked up momentum and moved to the Nainar Mosque (Vavar Palli) across the road where they were receive warmly by the local jama-at authorities .

The team entered the precincts of the mosque, paid obeisance to the Vavar circled the mosque. Came out and move along with the jama-at leaders towards the Sri Dharmasastha Temple-Valiambalam nearly a kilometre down town. They were received by the devaswom authorities at the temple gates and invited inside for the short stay.

The Alangad team, led by their samooha periyon A K Vijayakumar commenced their dancing in the afternoon following the sighting of the star in the clear skies. They too started off from the Cheriyambalam but skipped the Nainar mosque and danced their way to the Valiambalam.

More than a thousand devotees participated in the petta thullal.

After converging at the Valimbalam and making traditional offerings there, both the teams would trek to Pamba through the age old forest path to participate in the Pamba Vilakku and Pmaba Sadya. They would later move to Sannidhanam and participate in the Makara Jyothi darshan during the Makaravilakku celebration.