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At Kalpathy, a confluence of cultures

Staff Reporter
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Wonderfully engraved chariots and concerts by maestros lend a unique charm to the festival

Rhythm of colours:A view of the Kalpathy car festival in Palakkad.
Rhythm of colours:A view of the Kalpathy car festival in Palakkad.

: The Kalpathy music and car festival, organised annually from November 8 to 16, is a festival of unity to preserve the traditions of a hoary past. It has become a spectacular cultural extravaganza with unique temple chariots and Carnatic music concerts by maestros attracting people from far and wide. The festival is centred on the Sree Viswanatha Swamy temple (Kundampalam Siva temple) on the banks of Kalpathy river, a tributary of the Bharathapuzha.

It is also a festival of reunion of families. People from the Agraharams (Brahmin villages) of Palakkad dstrict, who are living outside the State or the country, get together during the season. The Kalpathy car festival is one of the biggest festivals in India, next only to the famous Puri Jagannath Swamy temple car festival in Orissa.

Elegant fare

Though there are similar car festivals at Thiruvarur, Mayavaram, and Avinasi in Tamil Nadu, the grace of Kalpathy car festival is something unique, said N.N. Ramachandran of Kerala Brahmana Sabha, one of the earlier organisers of the festival.

The elegantly decorated temple chariots trundling their way through the streets of the Agraharams of Kalpathy is an unforgettable experience. The chariots are wonderfully engraved and sculptured, representing the stories from the Hindu mythology.

It is said that the deity of the Viswanatha Swamy temple was brought from the Ganges at Varanasi, and sage Bana had worshipped in the temple. A stone inscription in front of the temple gate proclaims that it was built in the Malayalam year 600 (1425 AD) by Itti Kombi Achan, the then Raja of Palakkad.

Blending traditions

While the rituals of the temple and the mode of worship are strictly in accordance with the Tamil Brahmin culture practices outside, like drum-beating, decoration of the chariots of Gods etc., bear the essence of Kerala traditions. The festival, believed to have been celebrated from time immemorial, is becoming a national festival attracting people from different parts of the country and outside.

Kalpathy car festival was the biggest festival of the then Malabar in the erstwhile Madras presidency and continues to be so. The main attraction of the festival is the rolling of Rathams (temple chariots) through the streets of the four Agraharams (Brahmin villages) in the Kalpathy area between November 14 and 16.

It resembles the famous car festival of the Puri Jagannatha Swamy temple in Orissa.


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