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Updated: November 16, 2009 17:53 IST

Kalpathy car festival, preserving a great heritage

Staff Reporter
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The beautifully decorated chariots move through the Kalpathy villages during the car festival.
The beautifully decorated chariots move through the Kalpathy villages during the car festival.

The majestic chariots of the Gods rolling through the streets of the Kalpathy Agraharams (Brahmin villages), the first heritage village of the State in Palakkad, are a rare sight reminding one of a great cultural heritage.

The three-day Kalpathy car festival which began on November 14 is a colourful festival of a hoary tradition that attracts people from all walks of life and from many parts of the world. The pulling of ropes of these cars by people irrespective of their caste, religion and gender is a symbol of human integration.

The festival described as the ‘father of all car festivals in the State’ is one of the biggest festivals next only to the famous Puri Jagannath Swamy Temple car festival in Orissa.

The sight of the elegantly decorated cars weaving their way through the streets of the four Agraharams of Kalpathy is an unforgettable experience. These rolling temple chariots are wonderfully engraved and sculptured representing legendary stories of Hindu mythology. Though there are similar car festivals in other States, the beauty, grace and rhythm of the Kalpathy car festival are unique.

The elegantly decorated cars and the charming goddess clad in a white silk robe dancing through the streets for three days from November 14 are a sight to behold.

The festival is centered around the Sree Viswanathaswamy Temple on the banks of Kalpathy river, a tributary of Bharathapuzha. It is said that the deity was brought from the holy Ganges at Varanasi, and sage Bana had worshipped at this temple. A stone inscription near the temple proclaims that it was built in the Malayalam year 600 (1425 AD) by Itti Kombi Achan, the then Raja of Palakkad.

The three satellite temples in the villages of New Kalpathy, Old Kalpathy and Chathapuram celebrated the car festival.

The festival is based on the Vedic Tamil Brahmin culture. The Tamil Brahmins who migrated to Palakkad in the 14th century established 96 Agraharams in the district and 18 within the town.

Social importance

Though the rituals inside the temple and the mode of worship are strictly in accordance with the Tamil Brahmin cultures, practices outside like drum beating, decoration of the chariots, etc., are truly of Kerala style.

The week-long Carnatic music festival organised by the State government as part of the car festival is also part of a great tradition.

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