Neelamperoor Padayani, a spectacular visual treat of devotion, kicks off

The padayani marks the grand finale of the 16-day long Padayani celebrations that got off immediately after the Onam. Photo: Manorama

Accompanied by flambeaus and rhythmic rhymes, the grand swans (Valiya Annams) have descended upon the sleepy village of Neelamperoor in Central Kerala with the Pooram Padayani festival kicking off.

The unique ritual art form, staged at the Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavati temple, marks the grand finale of the 16-day long Padayani celebrations that got off immediately after the Onam.

Let’s take a look at the rituals staged at the event:
The Padayani venue featured the arrival of Kavalpisachu, a semi-divine impersonation that performs as the Adiyanthara Kolam (main effigy), on Tuesday night. The character is said to take a cue from the story that Bheemasena, a mythical strongman character in the epic Mahabharat, came across Kavalpisachu, while wandering in search of Kalyanasaugandhikam flower. The effigy of Kavalpisachu is made in a unique way by breaking tender coconut leaves into eight portions.

Makam Padayani  on Wednesday night
Makam Padayani celebrations are closely associated with the agrarian roots of the Padayani festival. The Makam Padayani, staged on Makam that falls on Wednesday, symbolizes the birth star of paddy crop and features the effigy of Ambalakotta as the Adiyanthara Kolam.

Ambalakotta is presented as a depiction of the Gandharvakotta that Bheemasena runs into during his journey. Prior to the arrival of Ambalakotta, the Velakali ritual will be performed by 10 pm, followed by the staging of Kudampoojakali and Thothakali rituals, respectively.

Pooram Padayani on Thursday
On the Pooram Padayani day, three grand swans made of plantain stems and tender coconut leaves, will make their entry into the venue. The biggest of the swan will be 11.25 kol (about 40 feet) high while the other two will be around 5.25 kol high. The arrival of these grand swans seeks to reminisce the story of Bheemasena witnessing a flock of beautiful swans in the garden where the kalyanasaugandhikam flower was located. The grand swans will be also accompanied by 81 smaller swans called Puthan Annam. The padayani will draw to a close after the entry of the ‘Goddess on lion’ as the Adiyanthara Kolam.

Chandrayaan Kolam to bring in novelty
Devotees offer Puthan Annam effigies to the temple for various purposes – to get their things done or as a mark of honour for the things already accomplished. While the Puthan Annams are generally 1.25 kol to 2.25 kol high, a 5.25-kol high effigy is being offered as a Puthan Annam this time by twin brothers Jyotish and Jagadeesh. This is the first time in a decade that such a huge effigy is being dedicated to the temple as Puthan Annam. The other new effigies to be featured in the Padayani festival this year will include the Kolams of Chandrayaan, sage Parasurama with his axe, and Lord Ganapathi on the rat, etc.

Offer Chethipoo (Chethi flower) to deck up Kolams
All forms of effigies (kolams and annams) that feature in the Neelamperoor Pooram Padayani are crafted with unparalleled skill using natural materials such as green leaves of jack fruit tree, tender leaves of coconut, or the fibrous stem of plantain. To deck up the Valiya Annam effigies, a huge volume of Chethi flowers is needed. Interested parties can offer the same to the temple today and tomorrow. Make sure that these flowers are offered in bunches. For more details, contact temple secretary on the phone number 6282971504.

How to reach the venue
If you are going from Kottayam, take MC Road and head to Kurichy Outpost Junction. From there, turn right on Kurichy – Kavalam Road and drive around 4 km to reach the temple. Those coming from the Alappuzha side can reach the temple straight through the Kavalam Road.

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