The festival comes in the month of March on the Pooyam asterism which
coincides with the full-moon day. The god Subramanya, the son of
Siva is popular in Malabar. There are many temples dedicated to him.
The festival of Kavati Abhishekam is celebrated in the Subramanya temples
At present a large number resort to local temples of
Subramanya and one of the most important of these is situated at Vykam
in North Travancore. More than a thousand pilgrims take their
Kavaties to the temple in the morning. Their contents are emptied either
on or before the image and the devotees return contented that their vows
have been fulfilled and accepted. The devotee who has to take a kavati
has to serve a period of penance before he undertakes the task, during
the course, of which he has to fast and visit the temple of Subramanya.
He carries in his hand peacock feathers, smears his body with ashes, wear
strings of beads round his neck and arms and dresses in ochre coloured
cloth and grows his hair. During the period of penance, he waits eagerly
to get a revelation in a dream as to what article, ghee, milk, rose water,
sandal paste, he is to take as an offerings. His fixed idea is realized
in his dreams. The god comes to him and gives directions and he starts
with his Kavati so as to reach the temple on the due date. These pilgrims
undergo various mortifications. One vows silence and ties a handkerchief
over his mouth, another has an oval band made of metal kept on the lower
portions of the forehead so as to cover his eyes. One has his tongue protruding
between his teeth and kept in position by a silver skewer through it.
Another has a mouth lock, the mouth being covered by a silver band, the
ends reaching over the cheeks, a skewer through both cheeks. They march
in groups and reach the well-known Siva temple of Vykam the previous evening.
There they fast within the temple walls keeping vigil throughout the night.
At dawn they proceed to the Subramanya temple at Udayanapuram, a couple
of miles to the north amidst the din of drums, accompanied by bands of
devotees. Those who carry the Kavaties jump and dance, delirious
with excitement, unconscious of all but the spiritual frenzy which seems
to overtake them. They enter the temple by the eastern door, deposit their
Kavaties before the idol, and look as if they have wakened from a trance.
The contents of the Kavaties are then emptied by the officiating priest
either on the idol or before it according to the nature of the articles-all
liquids being poured on the idol while the solids are placed before it.
If the articles presented-milk, honey, oil, rose water, sandal paste,
sugar, sugar-candy, molasses-are in their original state and not decomposed
and deteriorated, the devotee retires in great peace of mind. The temple
authorities serve the devotees with their meals after which they disperse.
They have to pay a fee for admission of their kavaties. Kavati abhishekams
take place in other Subramaniya temples - Vyttiland Mannath in Cochin
and Ullur in Travancore.