Bharani- Kodungaloor - Kerala - Fairs and Festivals, Temple Festivals
Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Fairs and Festivals

Temple Festivals
Bharani - Kodungallur

Bharani festival dedicated to goddess Kali, is celebrated at Sree Kurumba Bhagavathy Temple located at Kodungallur, Trichur district, one of the grandest and ancient temples in Kerala. It is also one of the first temples in Kerala which removed the restrictions of caste and religion, and permitted devotees belonging to lower strata of the caste hierarchy entry to the temple premises, when other temples barred their entry round the year. 

The Bhagawati temple houses many peculiar beliefs and customs. The goddess presiding over the temple at Kodungallur is known as the Sri Kurumba Bhagavati. The word 'Kuruppa' in Malayalam denotes small-pox and it has some affinity with the name in which the goddess
is known. The goddess is believed to preside over the disease small pox. 

The festival Bharani comes in the Malayalam month Meenam which corresponds to March-April. Bharani is the second asterism of the lunar month and that is the most important day of the festival. The festival observed in goddess Bhadrakali's honour is mostly celebrated by the low-caste Avarnas, to celebrate the goddess's victory over the demon Daarika. A large congregation of  Velichappad (oracles), both men and women come to participate in this peculiar festival.  

The Godess as Kali and her dependants are supposed to revel in their greed for blood. The shedding of blood by the sacrifice of a large number of cocks form a distinguishing feature of this festival.

The festival officially opens with the ritual 'Kozhikkallu moodal' on the Thiruvonam day of the month of Meenam. The ritual involves sacrificing a cock on a red silk cloth placed near two stones that stand covered with sand outside the line of circumambulation, in the northern precincts of the temple. The members of the Kodungallore Bhagavathy family has the right for performing the ritual. The first cock is offered by the Thacholi clan, the ancestors of the popular hero Thacholi Othenan from Vadakara in North Kerala. The ceremony symbolizes the beginning of the fight between the goddess and the demon.

After the cock stone ceremony, Venad flags are hoisted on a peepal tree in the north eastern corner of the temple by Edamukku Moopan's symbolizing the relation between Venad and the temple.

Pilgrims flock to Kodungallur from all parts of Kerala bringing with them offerings of rice, salt, chillies, betel leaves and nuts, turmeric, pepper and a number of cocks. It is believed that pilgrimages undertaken to the temple on this occasion is enough to safeguard the pilgrims and their friends and relatives from the perilous attacks of cholera and small-pox.  Most of them make their offerings and return home before the Bharani day. 

'Kavu Theendal', (the pollution ceremony) is the most important event of the Bharani festival and is celebrated on the Aswathy day of the month. It is overseen by the King of Kodungallur. Hordes of vellichappads (oracles) including women who have arrived from other parts of the state assemble at various spots in the temple compound.

A red ceremonial umbrella is unfolded over the king's head. This is the signal to begin the ritual. The vellichappads in their red attire charge around the temple in a mad rush, waving their sabres in the air, while members of their retinue strike the temple roof beam with sticks and hurl objects including cocks over the roof on to the inner quadrangle. Their cry of nada- nada-a is varied by terms of unmeasured abuse leveled at the goddess of the shrine. This abusive language is supposed to be acceptable to her. The offerings by devotees include turmeric powder, kumkum, pepper etc and the cocks. A particular spot inside the temple is set apart for the distribution of Manjal Prasadam (turmeric powder on which divine blessings have been invoked). Some of the devotees anoint themselves with turmeric, some others dance and sing abusive songs while some of the oracles hit themselves with the sabre and start bleeding. The velichappads and their followers circle the temple three times in a frenzy and then fall before the king for his blessing. 

The temple is then closed to the public for a week. Its doors reopen after the 'purificatory' rituals are conducted to cleanse the shrine of the 'stain' of Kavu Theendal. The purificatory ceremony is conducted on Kartika day, the next day after the Bharani. The premises of the temple and its vicinity are swept clean and the wells purified. In the evening, the eastern door is opened and the inner precincts are swept clear. The Nampootiri priests go in and perform the 'punnyaham' or purificatory ceremony and give away Pasu Dhanam or gift of cows as an adjunct of the purificatory ceremony. The usual daily poojas are resumed from the next day onwards. A large number of devotees attend this pooja as it is esteemed a great merit  to worship when the shrine is opened after the festival. The pilgrims take home the 'prasada' consisting of sandal paste mixed with turmeric and a black paint of burnt rice known as 'chantu'.