Shashi Tharoor MP was clearly excited as he stepped onto the palliyodam (boat), to attend the elaborate rituals of the iconic vallasadya festival at the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple in Alappuzha. The boat swung a bit, but in his signature style, Tharoor soon found his balance. Greeting the oarsmen with folded hands and his quintessential smile, he was in Aranmula a few days ago to enjoy the famed vallasadya, considered one of the largest ritualistic vegetarian feasts in the country with around 70 dishes. Oarsmen are offered a mega spread as part of the ritual, that's been held in the temple for eons.
The parliamentarian was an invited guest at the vallasadya offered by the former Vice Chancellor of Kalamandalam PN Suresh, for the Thaimaravumkara palliyodam. Even though Tharoor had been invited for the sadya earlier too, this is apparently the first time that he could actually make it. He offered prayers at the sanctum sanctorum of the Parthasarathy temple before stepping into the Thaimaravumkara palliyodam at Sathrakadavu ghat. He enjoyed the rhythmic vanchipattu (oarsmen’s song) and even sang along to encourage the boatmen.
He entered the temple premises along with PN Suresh and the people of Thaimaravumkara and proceeded to the dining area. There, Tharoor touched the holy lamp and folded his hands as a mark of respect before sitting for the sumptuous meal. “Even though I have enjoyed many varieties of food from different parts of the world, this is the first time that I have been served so many dishes,” said Tharoor excitedly.
His favourite dish?
A delighted Tharoor said that the curries he asked for by singing, the ripe bananas, sesame balls, the olan, kaalan and rasam curries were all excellent. “Please do not ask me what my favourite dish is, as I would be in a dilemma,” he added after enjoying the vallasadya. Tharoor didn’t forget to meet the oarsmen to thank them personally. Meanwhile, the boatmen invited the MP to attend the forthcoming Uthrittathi boat race. After that, Tharoor happily posed for a few selfies with them. Shashi Tharoor rested for a few hours before returning to Thiruvananthapuram by 5 pm.
The vanchipattu sopanam – devasangeerthanam contest conducted jointly by the palliyoda sevasangam and the Travancore Dewaswom Board would be held at the temple premises till August 20. A team each from the fifty two palliyodams or localities could participate in the competition. The participants must be between 18 – 40 years. The teams that take part in the initial rounds until 16 August would be allowed to attend the Eastern, Central and Western regional competitions to be held on 17,18 and 19 August.
Meanwhile, the finalists chosen from the regional contests would compete in the mega final scheduled on August 20. The winning team would get the ever-rolling trophy crafted in 52 sovereigns of gold, sponsored by Madathil Raghu, a noted businessman based in Kollam. Besides, there would be exciting cash prizes too. The teams that win the second and third positions too would get trophies and cash prizes. The vanchipattu competition was inaugurated by Travancore Dewaswom Board president K Ananthagopan. Palliyoda sevasangam president KS Rajan presided over the inaugural function.