I just have no idea what really prompted me to draft this post at this time of the year ‘coz i have been saving this one to be posted at the time of Navratri this year. Well, I guess, may be standing witness to a “Shingari Melam” last night in Mylapore might have pulled the trigger off….
Having been born in Puthucode in Kerala and with my close family members still living there, I can never be ashamed to say that we celebrate Navratri in the best way!!!! It is definitely a spectacle to watch atleast once in everybody’s lifetime and I am honored and humbled that I get to be a part of it every single year.
For Starters, Puthucode is a sleepy lil place off the NH 47 . It is midway between Palakkad and Trissur. A major chunk of Puthucode is basically around the Annapoorneswari Temple and the Shiva Temple. 4 villages (a.k.a Agraharams), 1 for each direction ( North, South, East and West) and 1 lil market place called Anjumuri. This is kinda the essence of the Puthucode that i know. 🙂
The run-up to the festivities starting from Day One till the Vijayadashami day ( Day Ten) , planning for Navaratri every year(a Herculean task) starts months before the actual dates. Inviting donations, making arrangements for everything from scratch.. the Arches, Elephants, Decorations for elephants, Floral decorations, Food and Stay arrangements etc.
Navratri starts off with the Ceremonial “kodiyettam” in the temple.The divine flag of Devi is hoisted in the Golden “Kodimaram” ( Flag mast) on the Mahalya Amavasya day after Sunset.And there it goes, its nine full days worth of celebrations due!
From the next day onwards, its made sure that the poojas in the temple are done to the dot with every minute detail taken care of. Each of the four villages are given two days each. In these two days , all the poojas, decorations, sadhya ( the feast) and other decors are the responsibilities of those assigned villages.
Its apt to say that every village takes these days very seriously and do the best that they can to exhibit the grandeur of the festival. It is literally a competition between the villages and the villagers,to be honest.They provide accommodation to anybody who wishes to stay there during the festival and offer food too.
Every village is decorated with an arch with lighting since Day One. During the Big Vilakku Days, i.e., the sixth, seventh,eighth and the ninth days, elephants are brought from various places and adorned with all possible Chamayam and paraded through the length of the streets.
The temple decoration is the best during these days and its totally worth it even if we get to stand in long,winding queues to get the blissful darshan of the Divine Mother. Its just beautiful to see The Mother always smiling during all of these 10 days. There will be very little sight of bare temple walls during these days as flowers and lighted lamps adorn the temple completely.
A typical vilakku day starts with the Devi Aarattu early in the morning and proceeds with the Ezhunnalath. The tallest elephant in the group is blessed with the Thedambu ( An ensemble with the idol of the Divine Mother) and paraded through the village along with other elephants and the panchavadyam and melam.
Come the lunch hour and its guaranteed mammoth line in front of the Agrashaala. The Pulingari( A gravy of pumpkin, jaggery and a variety of spices and coconut) of Puthucode is very famous and people from everywhere wait to have a morsel of rice mixed with pulingari.A simple lunch is complemented with the best of the Payasams make it an unforgettable feast one might ever have had in their lives.
Evening again the festivities resume with the Ezhunnalath and the usual fare of Panchavadyam and Melam with the best of Artistes in their respective genres leading the group. No wonder they say Music is Bliss.
On the tenth day,the Araattu day, it is symbolically a day for all the villages to sign a peace treaty and putting an end to the self proclaimed competition and gather in the temple premises to witness the Lowering of the flag ceremony thus officially putting an end to the nine day long festivities . This day also means that we get back to our boring monotonous lives back in the cities.
Puthucode Navaratri has many many lovely and charming legends and faces and one has to be present in person in the midst of all these to truly understand and appreciate the awesomeness of it. So, do make it a point to be there at least once in lifetime …coz after that it might be a regular and inevitable affair for you to be a part of it.