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Kalam pattu- a traditional method of offerings to different deities
Traditionally, in Kerala various art forms are developed from worshiping methods. Using natural powder with different colours, pictures of different Deities are drawn and offerings are made. The drawing is called Kalam and the process of offering Kalam pattu. Ayyappan, Bhagavathy, Vettekkaran, Nagam, etc. are represented through these Kalam.
After originating life on earth it took thousands of years for the evolution of mankind, which is considered to be the highest form of life on earth. It is estimated that the age of the present type of human being on earth is slightly more than fifty thousand years, though the evolution of mankind started still earlier, may be around three lakh years before. After the evolution man started learning and copying several things from nature. He saw different life forms and forces around him, many of them he could not control or tame. So he started assuming that these are not natural, but had some super powers or characteristics than natural ones. As a result, he started respecting and worshiping these powers. His inborn aesthetic senses injected different styles to these worship. Gradually these worship forms assumed certain characters and got evolved as different art and cultural forms. Worship centres developed as centres of social gathering started attracting people which helped improve propagate art forms. Slowly these worship forms and various functions connected with it became rituals and got connected with faith which was carried over to generations.
Kalam pattu is such a ritual developed through years. In fact it is a form of offering to a Deity. Selected families got trained in various aspects connected with the worship which gradually helped them to become experts in it. More over, as per the social system prevailing in those days, they got classified as a special caste (Kurup, Nambiar, Pulluvar,etc.) with the sole right to perform this function.
Kalam pattu is mainly a ritualistic way of worshiping, after drawing a large sketch of God (Goddess)
using powders prepared from natural materials. This large size drawing is referred as Kalam and the process of drawing is called Kalamezhuthu (writing Kalam). Generally, Kalam Pattu is performed for the Deities such as Bhagavathy (Bhadrakali), Ayyappan (Sastha), Vettekkaran (see http://www.indiastudychannel.com/resources/89804-A-special-offering-Deity-Vettekkaran.aspx ) and Nagam (Sarpam). In some places Kalam Pattu for Gandharvan, Kshethra palan, Veerabhadran, Thripuranthakan, Aarianambi, Rudhira maha kali, Deivathar, Anthimahakalan, etc. are also conducted by certain sections of the society.
The ritualistic process
The history of Kalam Pattu in Kerala is as old as the human settlements. Here this ritual is performed in three stages viz., Kalamezhuthu (drawing), Kalam Pattu (traditional way of singing the prayers accompanied by special types of musical instruments) and Kalam Thullal (Velichapatu - the oracle- a personification or representative of the God who is being worshiped - dances over the drawing and destroys the Kalam). Actually, this ritualistic worship has three dimensions social, religious and aesthetic.
Kalam Pattu is basically based on the believes of the particular community which conduct these rituals. Religious backing will be there. However, it is important that the rituals are conducted systematically and with faith. As mentioned above only traditionally trained people conduct it. The whole function start just before noon. In the beginning the platform where the ritual is going to be performed will be cleared and the basic arrangements made. Generally, it will be a rectangular (size of the sides vary from Deity to Deity) platform or a floor where four wooden posts, about six feet high, will be fixed at four corners. They will be connected each other at the top using wooden rods. Parallel coir ropes will be tied across, width-wise. Then after a short pooja (worship), three lengthy pieces of clothing will be put across the top (length-wise) to give a cloth ceiling to the rectangular plat from (the colour of the cloth varies according to the Deity for whom the offering is made), with the permission of the person who organise the Kalam Pattu (This process is referred as 'Koora idal').
After lunch the expert artists (belonging to the caste or the social group which is entitled to perform this Kalampattu) start drawing the Kalam, known as Kalamezhthu. The drawing has to be done systematically and following all norms. The whole process of drawing may take two to three hours. It will be an experience watching the full drawing. It starts with the marking of a full length vertical line at the centre and slowly progressing to all sides. First the portion of head and head wears are drawn marking a horizontal base line. The artist uses his thumb and index finger for drawing border lines. For beautification the other portions of his palm is also used. The border line of the Deity's figure is first drawn with white powder. Then colours are applied with coloured powders to make it more natural. Rice powder is used for white colour. Black is the powder of burned husks of rice. The green is obtained by powdering dried green leaves (Leaves of certain trees - Vaaka, Manchaadi, Kunni, Ithikkanni - retain the green colour even after drying). Yellow powder is obtained by grinding dried turmeric. A mixture of turmeric and lime gives red powder. The concept is that these five colours represent the five bhoothas (Panchabhootha). Yellow stands for earth, white for water, green for air, black for sky and red for fire. These colours are primarily used in all the art forms, even in the famous Kathakali, Kootiyattam, etc.. The expert artists make about eleven colours by mixing these primary colours in different combinations, if necessary.
Watching the kalam preparation is very interesting. It is a mixing of two and three dimensional drawings. The body parts like nose, breasts (in the case of Goddesses), etc. are given three dimensional effects by putting colours in thick or by using fillers (two small rice or paddy heaps – representsing the agricultural production - covered with colours make breasts). The drawing will occupy the whole area under the rectangular platform demarcated. The Deity drawn will have all the details generally attributed. For example, the weapons, four arms, other symbolic gadgets, etc. are drawn according to the respective Deity. The diagram drawn will be very beautiful and will consist of all features of that deity. Generally in such drawings the eyes are drawn in the open form at the end, since it is believed that once the eyes are opened the Deity drawn gets the power. To decorate the platform tender coconut leaves will be hung around and across the rectangular structure supplemented with garlands made of different flowers.
Once the Kalam drawing is completed, at the topside (just above the head of the diagram), on a stool, an idol of the Deity garlanded with flowers will be placed. In most of the cases the drawing will have its head on the East and feet on the West. At the bottom, below the feet, arrangements for pooja will be made. Oil lamps, sandal sticks, flowers, water etc. will be there. The priest will sit there on a wooden plank and do the worship. The artists who prepared the kalam will sit on the Southern side of the Kalam, with certain typical musical instruments (Nanduni- a string instrument and small cymbals) in their hand. They are to sing the songs depicting the spiritual and historical importance of the Deity. Intermittent to the offerings by the priest, the songs and the percussion renderings will be there.
In the evening by Sun set, another worship session starts with rhythmic renderings of percussion instruments such as 'Chenda', 'Maddalam', cymbals, Kurum kuzhal, etc., generally referred as 'Deepaaradhana"and 'Keli kottu'. After this there will be a gap, during which special programmes will be arranged, mostly using percussion instruments. The main offering, Kalam pooja, starts after this. The priest sits at the bottom (near the feet of the Deity) for conducting the worshiping. This worship takes a long time, with supporting devotional songs by the artists and occasional drum beating.
Once the priest's worship is over the Oracle (the representative of the Deity – generally an expert performer will assume this role) appears and do a sort of dancing around the diagram. The Oracle will be dressed in coloured clothes, red, white or any other colour as the case may be and will carry a weapon (sword). A belt with small bells and anklets also with bells will also be worn by the Oracle. This dance form is called 'Eedum koorum chavittal'. In this dance the oracle takes different steps according to the drum beating and devotional songs. After sometime, the priest comes and does some more worshiping. Once this is over the devotional songs continue, with one among them doing a special worshiping, called 'Kalam Poli'. After this the Oracle appear again and starts dancing following the devotional songs. (There will be differences in the whole proceedings according to the Deity under consideration and also the regions). He sits on a stool and moves the stool, pushing with legs, in side the diagram of the Deity (called the 'peetom nirakkal'). Because of this, naturally, the diagram gets destroyed almost. The songs or the drum beating will be alternately continued during this time. After this the Oracle will stand up and as part of the dance will cut off all the tender coconut leaves hung around, and with this completely defaces the Kalam.
At the end of this the powder mix collected from the floor will be offered to all present as 'prasadam' (remnants of offerings to the Deity). This powder is pasted by the devotees on their forehead. Some use this as a medicine for certain diseases. Before distributing the prasadam the Oracle will convey the blessings of the Deity to the the organizer. If the Deity is not pleased with anything that also will be conveyed.
The above give a very general description about the Kalam pattu. Lots of differences exist among the offerings to different Deities. However, these offerings are existing in various parts of Kerala. Only a very small number of persons are there at present who can perform these various forms of Kalam Pattu. Also in certain cases only people belonging to a particular caste are allowed to perform this. Thus the the art form may slowly vanish in due course.
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|Author: T.M.Sankaran 17 May 2011||Member Level: Gold Points : 1|
|Following references give three photographs related to the above article.|
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