'Kuthiyottam', 'Kettukazhcha' mark Bharani festival at famed Chettikulangara Devi Temple

Festive fervour gripped the entire Onattukara region as the Bharani festival got underway at the famed Chettikulangara Devi Temple in Mavelikkara. Photo: Special Arrangement

Alappuzha: Weaving tradition and devotion into a vibrant tapestry, the Bharani festival got underway at the famed Chettikulangara Devi Temple near Mavelikkara in Alappuzha in the wee hours of Thursday as a festive fervour gripped the entire Onattukara region of Central Travancore.

The rituals and pujas, which started a week ago as part of the festival, reached its zenith on Kumbha Bharani day today. Marking the festival's beginning, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple opened at 4.30 am. This was followed by 'Kuthiyottam', a ritualistic art form which features boys aged eight to 12 years dancing to devotional folk music. The procession, painting a breathtaking spectacle against the morning sky, reached the temple grounds at 6 am.

As the day progressed, the highly anticipated 'Kettukazhcha' pageant of colossal effigies captivated the spectators. 'Kettukazhcha', a procession of chariots as high as 100 ft, is a century-old tradition associated with the festival. By 4 pm, six majestic temple cars adorned with horse motifs, five chariots, and idols of Bheema and Hanuman, embarked on a regal journey from the 13 Karas or provinces surrounding the temple.

In the Kettukazhcha pageant, the villages of Erezha Thekku, Erezha Vadakku, Kaitha Thekku, Kaitha Vadakku, Pela, and Nadakkavu contributed with horse motifs. The chariots hail from Kannamangalam Thekku, Kannamangalam Vadakku, Kadavoor, Anjilipra, Pela, and Nadakkavu. The idols of Bheema, Hanuman, and Panjali are from the villages of Mattam Thekku and Mattam Vadakku, respectively.

The 'Kettukazhcha' being taken to Chettukulangara temple as part of the Bharani festival. Photo: Special Arrangement

As the Kettukazhcha aligns at the festival venue, Kazhchakandam, the temple deity will descend on a Jeevatha, blessing the offerings brought by the villagers. The festivities will continue until the early hours of Friday.

Strict security measures
To ensure the seamless flow of events, rigorous security measures have been implemented in the region, including traffic regulations effective from 2 pm. A contingent of 600 police officers, led by four DySPs, has been deployed to manage the crowd. Parking grounds have been designated at eight locations within a four-kilometre radius. District Collector John V Samuel has declared a local holiday for government offices and educational institutions in Mavelikkara and Karthikappally taluks, with public examinations and interviews proceeding as scheduled.

Organised under the auspices of the Sree Devi Vilasom Hindu Matha Convention, the Chettikulangara Bharani festival holds special significance, venerating Goddess Bhadrakali with a rich history spanning over 1,200 years.

'Kuthiyottam' is a ritualistic art form which features boys aged eight to 12 years dancing to devotional folk music. Photo: Special Arrangement

Recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the festivities extend beyond the temple premises, enlivening the entire Onattukara region with cultural celebrations. For instance, almost all households in the Onattukara region prepare 'Konjum mangayum,' a spicy dish made of dried prawns and tender mango, in their house as part of celebrating the festival. Over the years, it has also evolved into a cultural feast, offering tourists and locals an enchanting experience where spirituality, art, and community harmoniously converge.

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