Instead of the massive confluence of faith and culture, Oachira Parabrahma Temple saw a miniscule gathering on Sunday as the annual Kettukazhcha was held with rituals only.
Usually the renowned car festival takes place on a large scale, drawing thousands of devotees and visitors from all parts. While nearly 200 cars representing various ‘karas’ (areas) in Karunagapally, Karthikapally and Mavelikkara taluks had participated in the festival last year, this time there was only a single pair of bulls.
Oachira Kettukazhcha, a carnival that parades the biggest bull effigies in Asia, is held on Irupathettam Onam to celebrate the harvest festival. Considering the current situation, the temple committee had decided to observe the festival in symbolic manner, following just the basic rituals and ceremonies. All the celebrations and related events were called off and nobody was given permission to bring cars to temple this year.
Every year, preparations for the festival begins much in advance and the huge effigies are always built by experts. All the participating karas from all three taluks will be in a celebratory mood for a month and Kettukazhcha is the culmination of all festivities. The cars come in all sizes and while some can be very small, most of them stand at a height of 30 feet and above.
Symbols of Lord Shiva’s vehicle Nandi, each car consists of two bulls in red and white adorned with pieces of golden kudamani (ornated umbrellas) and a caparison. The festival is also a celebration of the agrarian culture, as bulls are an integral part of farming. It is also ‘Kannukali Onam’ (Onam for cattle) in some parts. Vishwaprajapathi Kalabhairavan, one of the cars paraded in the jam-packed padanilam (rally ground) last year, was 65 feet tall. It was accompanied by several others in varying heights making the pageant an impressive spectacle.
This year, it was the lone car of the temple committee that stood at the nearly deserted padanilam in the evening and all the rituals came to an end with deeparadhana (prayer with lights) and ezhunnallathu (procession). “We were approached by several karas but we couldn’t permit any of them. The temple remained closed for the public during the last six months, but devotees will be allowed entry after the festival from Monday onwards,” said temple committee president Sreedharan Pillai.