A palmyra tree that gave an appellation to a region and is surrounded by faith and rituals is literally facing the axe as part of the national highway widening work in Kerala’s Alappuzha district. As per the age-old customs, the ‘nod’ to cut down the palmyra palm tree, which literally stands tall on the side of the road near Thottappally, should be given by the ‘Bhagavathy’ (goddess) and ‘Yakshi’ (female evil spirit).
The 'ottapana' (‘pana’ means palmyra tree) has been a landmark for years together for people travelling on the national highway between Kochi and Alappuzha and eventually the place where the tree is standing came to be known as Ottapana. As the buildings and trees had to be cleared for widening the national highway, the tree of Ottapana also has to be felled.
But the cutting down of the tree has been postponed till February 8 when the ‘Pooram’ festival of the nearby Kuruttur Bhagavathy temple ends. The devotees believe that ‘Yakshi’ who is the chaperone of ‘Bhagavathy’ resides in the palmyra tree. This belief is the reason why various poojas and rituals are conducted at the tree during the temple festival.
The poojas and rituals would be conducted this time too. But later after taking the permission of the ‘Bhagavathy’ and ‘Yakshi’, and all the birds and animals that have made this tree their home, the palmyra tree will be felled. Requisite ‘pariharakriya’ will also be conducted.
People belonging to the ‘Adi’ class, who have rights over the tree, would be cutting down the palmyra tree, said Thottappally Subash Babu, who had written a book on the history of Ottapana.