The festival, that equals Thrissur pooram in grandeur, is on April 3

The preparations and security arrangements are in full swing for the famous Nenmara-Vallangi Vela festival.

The festival falls on April 3 this year. For its smooth conduct, thatched sheds (pandals) are being erected on the route of the procession of caparisoned elephants in Nenmara town. Arrangements to spray water en-route and in the pandal vicinity are also being made to keep the area cool, the festival committee officials say.

Water is being stored, and fruits like water melon are being procured for elephants in huge quantity. A huge Aana Pandal (elephant shed), for housing over two dozen elephants, has been made. A team of veterinary doctors are camping in the area. An elephant squad is also being commissioned, the committee officials say.

The Vela festival of Nenmara and Vallangi villages of Chittur taluk, situated on the lap of the hills surrounding the Nelliampathy forest, almost equals the Thrissur Pooram in grandeur and rituals.

The Vela is celebrated after the harvest of paddy, when the fields are empty and dry. The festival is believed to be the birthday of the presiding deity Nellikulangara Bhagavathy of the Nenmara temple. There is also a belief that the festival is to celebrate the killing of a demon by the Goddess.

The festival falls on the 20th day of ‘Meenam’, the Malayalam month. The two competing villages, the Nenmara and the Vallangi, have their own temples but converge at the common Nellikulangara Bhagavathy temple for the Vela.

The festivities for the Vela start 10 days before with the hoisting of flag in the respective temples. The Nenmara village starts its Vela from Mandam or Vela Mandam, and Vallangi from the Siva temple.

There will be 11 to 15 elephants for each of the villages.  These elephants are decorated and along with accompaniment of percussion instruments, taken through the main throughfares of the town in the evening to reach Nellikulangara temple.

An attraction at the festival is the display of fireworks on the final day. The magnificent show has both sides vying to get the upper hand for which every year, new techniques are tried to out.

Aana Pandal, an arch-like structure where the caparisoned elephants are accommodated, is another attraction. The pandal is huge and fully decorated and illuminated with electric lamps.

There is competition between the two groups in this, too.  Both the groups keep the design and the illumination of the pandal a top secret to outsmart the other. The selection of the tallest and most popular elephants of the State is another prestigious issue for the competing teams.

Competing to get the best elephants, they pay exorbitant sums during a bidding process called Ekkam. Some times for the same elephant, both the groups compete pushing the rent to lakhs of rupees for a day.

But the people of Nenmara and Vallangi, the festival is a time of family reunion. This is the time when people, who leave the village for work or other purposes, return to spend time with their family and take part in the festival.