Association of Thrikkakara Temple with Onam Festival
Thrikkakara temple's association with Onam is rather old. The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Vamana, who is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Since Vamana is associated with the demon King Mahabali, this temple holds an important place in the evolution of the primarily agrarian festival Onam. Therefore, it is not surprising to see Onam as the main religious festival in this temple near the Cochin. In this article, let us see the celebration of Onam festival in this temple.
Onam Festival at Thrikkakara Temple
Being a Lord Vamana temple, Thrikkakara temple is considered to be the centre of Onam celebrations all over the world. According to the legend, it is considered as the abode of the King Mahabali. The main religious festival Onam at this temple is celebrated over a period of 10 days in the Malayalam calendar month of Chingam. During the Onam festival, a pyramidal statue is installed at the house representing Lord Vamana. Hence, this is installed as a symbol of honour at all other sites across the state during the Onam festival. The pyramidal statue is called as Onathappan or Thrikkakarayappan. According to the legend, the legendary King Mahabali was sent to the underworld by Lord Vamana at this site by placing his foot on the head of demon King. At the time of sending the demon King to Pathala, the underworld, Lord Vamana gave him the permission to visit his subjects at the time of Onam. The genesis of the name Thrikakkara can be traced from the Malayalam word Thiru-Kaal-Kara. The English translation of this is the place of the holy foot. The features of the Onam festival as celebrated at this temple are given below.
- Flag Hoisting: The temple festival during Onam starts with the flag hoisting on the first day (Atham). This ritual is a common feature during festivals in different temples of Kerala. After the ceremonial flag hoisting, the arrival of the Onam festival season is announced in all parts of Kerala by drawing the procession.
- Atha Chamayam: At Thrikkakara temple, a ceremonial laying of floral layers takes place to mark the beginning of the Onam festival. In olden days, the Maharajah of Cochin used to come in ceremonial wardrobe and procession to visit the deity to mark the occasion.
- Art Performances: During the main festival of Onam, the temple showcases several cultural events that promote the art forms such as Chakyar Koothu, Patakam, Kathakali and Ottamthullal. In the same period, even musical performances are also conducted for the benefit of the disciples. Most of the rituals also use the Panchavadyam and Thayambaka during the temple rituals during this period.
- Temple Rituals: Many temple rituals make use of the percussion instruments used in the Panchavadyam. Each day during the Onam festival has its own ceremonial significance. Hence, the temple authorities perform the right ceremonial rituals on each day. There are separate ceremonial rituals for Lord Ayyappa, Lord Krishna, Rakshassu, Lord Shiva and Goddess Devi. The noted actress Navya Nair performed the dance titled Shivoham before Lord Shiva inside the temple premises this year (2015).
- Decoration of Idols: During the festival time, the presiding deity is decorated in sandalwood paste, clothes and ornaments. To mark the significance of each day, the idol is decorated in all the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
- Ona Sadhya: In the last two days of the 10-day festival, the temple premise is filled with people in the anticipation of Ona Sadhya or feast. People who have the delicious feast at the temple premise would promise to come back every year with the taste of the food lingering on their taste buds. As a result, the magnitude of the feast has increased over a period of time. At present, over 20,000 people have attended the traditional Onam sadhya or feast. Even people from other faiths also devour the taste of the feast in large numbers every year.
- Procession: On the penultimate day, a grand procession is taken out in the temple premises. This procession is often referred to as Pakal Pooram by the locals. A procession similar to this is held on the final day as well. It is referred to as Sheeveli. This procession usually has the presiding deity on the capronized elephant. The deity is usually accompanied by eight other capronized elephants. The procession would stop at each gate of the temple for the devotees to offer their tributes.
- Culmination of Onam Festival: On the final day or the 10th day, the temple staff would welcome ceremonially the Demon King Mahabali. Subsequent to that, the idol of Lord Vamana would be given a ceremonial bath at the sacred water tank near the temple. In Kerala, it is called as Aarattu. After that, the hoisted flag is lowered to tell the world outside the winding up of Onam celebrations.
Thrikkakara temple has been associated with the harvest festival of Kerala, Onam, through legends. The temple has been the pivotal centre for the Onam activities due to the presence of the presiding deity Lord Vamana who is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to the legend, Lord Vamana lowered the people-friendly demon King Mahabali to the underworld Pathala by placing his foot on the demon King. While sending the demon King to the underworld, Lord Vamana gave him permission to visit his subjects once in a year during Onam. This event said to have happened at the temple location. Hence, all the events leading to the Onam festival in the state start from and end up in this temple. During the time of the 10-day Onam festival, a lot of things happen at this temple, which includes the traditional Ona sadhya or feast, atha chamayam, ceremonial procession, etc. A large number of devotees throng the sanctum sanctorum of this temple to seek the blessings of Lord Vishnu and offer their gratitude to him. It is from this temple, the message of the arrival of the festive season gets propagated to different parts of the state.