Peruvananam & Arattupuzha Poorams
During the summer months of March-May Central Kerala turns into one large festival ground with Poorams, small and big, dotting the length and breadth of the land. Processions of caparisoned elephants led by the ubiquitous orchestra of drums called Melams happen in the middle of the day as well as the dead of the night. The most ancient of these is held every year in the Sangam Age Grama (village) of Peruvanam, 13 kms south of Thrissur.
Lakhs of people grace the Peruvanam – Arattupuzha Pooram as it is called. The Poorams in which a score of deities take part is the local people’s ultimate spiritual experience, art connoisseur’s bliss and tourists delight. It has been conducted without fail for the past 1400 odd years, which makes it second only to the Kumbh Mela in terms of antiquity and spiritual significance.
Peruvanam Pooram – Connoisseurs Delight
The Pooram in its early form was a grand 28 day affair conducted solely at the premises of the Peruvanam Mahadeva Temple in Cherpu and was started somewhere in the 1st Century AD. Around 500 years later it was stopped because of certain technical glitches and restarted in the present form of a 10 day event. Later many deities broke away and organised their own Poorams to satisfy the locals, the most famous of the lot being the Thrissur Pooram which was started around 250 years back.
Cherpu Bhagavathy’s Role: Of the 18 deities who attend the Peruvanam Pooram conducted on the Pooyam day of the Meenam month of the Malayalam calendar, Cherpu Bhagavathy has a special role in the proceedings. Bhagavathy acts as the hostess of the show and comes last, waiting for all the deities to finish their processions before starting her own taking along with her anybody who is left.
The Pooram at Peruvanam takes place on a walkway broad enough to hold seven fully grown elephants. Only the best of elephants used to be arrayed on this walkway. That an elephant was chosen for the Cherpu Bhagavathy’s procession had been considered to be a mark of its perfect build and grace.
Cherpu from time immemorial has been setting standards in the making of elephant decorations, choice of elephants and in the quality of its Melam. It is said that the most musical of the Melams, called Panchari, was developed by the poet Mazhamangalam and first performed by the Peruvanam Marar for Cherpu Bhagavathy.
Arattupuzha Pooram – the Deva Mela
In the early days 108 deities from a radius of some 50 kms used to attend the Arattupuzha Pooram which comes on the Pooram day, 3 days after the Peruvanam Pooram. Twenty three of them continue to participate as of date.
Significance of Cherpu Bhagavathy: This is also the festival where the largest number of elephants, over 70 in number, is arrayed in one single procession every year. Cherpu is the most prominent partner of this procession hosting over thirty elephants in its part of the array. The others being Triprayar and Urakam.
This festival from time immemorial has played an important role in the life of the entire community. Everyone from the extended village used to make sure that they were present and anybody who did not turn up for Bhagavathy’s procession was presumed dead!
Other Related Events
The festival starts on the Aswathy day of the Meenam month. We offer Chathussatham – a sweet porridge made of rice, jaggery and coconut milk – as Prasad to Bhagavathy in the evening and later take Bhagavathy’s idol in a colourful procession around the temple. To offer money as Aswathyppanam is excellent to beget children.
Makeeram day marks the formal start of the festival parades. Bhagavathy also goes out of the temple for Arattu – the ceremonial bath. She has processions and Arattu on all days upto Atham.
After the Peruvanam Pooram on Pooyam day and the climax of the season in Arattupuzha on the Pooram day we have the Uthram festivities at the temple and is considered one of the holiest events of the calendar. While the temple employee called Brahmani Amma sings in praise of Bhagavathy is the most auspicious time to pray at Her holy feet.
On Atham day after the procession an elephant pulls down the flagstaff that was erected in front of the temple at the start of the festival thus marking the end of the summer festival.
On the days extending from Aswathy to Atham as all the 23 deities criss- cross the area visiting other localities, taking ceremonial baths at traditional bathing places at rivers and ponds the entire neighbourhood rings with the sound of moving elephants and the accompanying drum music. It is the time when elephants share road space with the pedestrians and vehicles and you are likely to bump into them at street corners if you are not careful!
Anizham in Mithuna is Bhagavathy’s reconsecration day, the birthday!(Change)
The devotees bring their cows to the temple on the first day of Chingam and take them round in Pradakshina.
The Navarathry festival, a very colourful one is very holy, the devotees flock here during that period.
The Thiruvonam Pattu in the month of Thulam also is of great significance. The devotees pray here during the function for prosperous marriage.
The Mandala, the 41 days beginning from the first day of Vrischika used to be the period of Veda chanting and rituals. Changing times have stopped them but the period remains auspicious.