Why Athachamayam at Tripunithura is a unique experience

Athachamayam at Tripunithura
Athachamayam at Tripunithura. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Tripunithura, which is about 7kms from the heart of Kochi, has always had a distinct charm. A drive through this town will take you past some old buildings and remains of forts, which speak of a proud bygone era. Tripunithura was the home of the ruling kings of erstwhile Kochi kingdom, before the state of Kerala was formed. The Hill Palace and the Sree Poornathrayeesa temple adds to its rustic charm. Tripunithura has always been a cultural hub. Arts, music and various art forms flourished here under the rule of the kings and even later. On a normal day, Tripunithura is just another ordinary town in Kerala. But come Chingam and this town wears a whole different look. For, it is time for the unique 'Athachamayam' festivities. **The parade** The Athachamayam is a cultural extravaganza, which kick-starts the 10-day Onam celebrations. The main attraction is the parade. Folk art forms such as Theyyam, Kummatti, Kolkali, Mayilattom, Karakattom, Kummi, Poykal, Ammankudam, Pulikkali, Kathakali, Aattakkavadi, Panchavadyam, Chendamelam are displayed in the parade. Floats depicting immortal moments from epics such as Mahabharatha and Ramayana and current social issues reflect the secular nature of the festival, highlighting unity and harmony. Myths and legends of yore in the forms of gods and goddesses lend colour and diversity to the event. **The origins** As with a lot of other things, no two historians agree about the origins of Athachamayam. A group says that Athachamayam commemorates the victory of the King of Kochi's against the Zamorin of Kozhikode. Another group is of the view that it was the show of power before the soldiers went off for 'Maamankam.' Yet another populist view is that in the good old days, the Maharaja of Cochin considered the festivities to be an ideal opportunity to greet his subjects at close quarters. The King would also undertake this ritualistic march all the way up to the Vamanamoorthy temple, situated in Thrikkakara, about 12 km away from Tripunithura. He then offered special prayers at the temple and before returning to Hill Palace. **The rituals** Traditionally, the festivities commence with the representatives of the royal family hoisting the Atham flag. This is followed by the ceremonial parade around the streets of Tripunithura town, headed by a person dressed as Lord Mahabali. Art forms of ancient and modern times, floats and folk dances add colour and substance to the festivities. Representatives from all communities accompany the Kochi Maharaja during Athachamayam, including a priest from Karingachira Church, the head priest of the Nettur Thangal mosque, and Chembil Arayan, a representative of the fisherfolk. **Why you should be there** If you love to get lost in the crowds, this is your ideal chance. The cultural competitions and various entertainment activities held as a part of the festival are bound to entertain you. Athachamayam opens up a window to the art forms you may otherwise never get introduced to. Apart from the regular footpath vendors who deal with items from handicrafts and cottage sectors, a ten-day trade fair is also organised at Tripunithura. And the entire stretch of road near the Statue Junction turns into a makeshift flower markets. For it is Onam time.

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