Karkidaka Vavubali: A ritual to pay homage to departed souls

Family and kinship are human universals. They are the matrix in which we love, and the love transcends death through remembrance. And for a devout Hindu, the new moon day in the Malayalam month of Karkidakam is the day to revere those who have passed away.

Why is Karkidaka Vavubali important?

Vavubali: Revering departed souls
From the ritual. Photo: Onmanorama

It is believed that the souls long departed will be permitted to visit their families on this day and on no other. There is a fixed time when these spirits are allowed to roam among the mortals. And, during this time, the family members are supposed to give them offerings of food and prayers. The spirits, who become happy bless the family and depart. They do not ask for much: only a few grains of raw rice, til (sesame) seeds, a sprinkling of water, and all the loving remembrance you can spare.

The rituals

A person who is doing the ritual has to keep a fast the day before the Vavubali; they can eat food made of rice just one time on this day. There are places where the Vavubali is offered traditionally. Priests will guide and assist you perform the rituals. But, you can do it at home too. There are a couple of things that you have to keep in mind though. The area where you are doing the Vavubali has to be in the north side of the house and it has to be clean. A bath before and after is written in the books. And, it is mandatory that you offer apologies for any mistakes made during the ritual, any spirits you forgot to add to the prayers.

Vavubali: Revering departed souls
A dip in the waters is part of the ritual. Photo: Onmanorama

The places

Vavubali: Revering departed souls
A view of thousands gathered on the Papanasam beach at Varkala. Photo: Onmanorama

Thiruvallom Temple and Shankumugham Beach in Thiruvanathapuram are very popular places where the Vavubali is conducted. The Papanasam Beach in Varkala is another place where thousands flock to offer prayers. Thirumullavaram in Kollam, Thrikkunnapuzha in Alappuzha, Aluva, Ivarmadam near Thiruwilwamala, Thirunavaya and Thirunelli near Wayanad are the other places which see a huge crowd. The ritual, if done according to the specifics, is believed to make our forefathers happy and in turn they will bless you with prosperity and a good life. If, for some reason, you are not able to do the ritual on the day of Vavubali, there are two temples - Thiruvallom Temple in Thiruvananthapuram and Thirunelli Temple in Wayanad - that you can do the rites for the departed souls on any day.

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