MAHANAVAMI NAVARATRI FESTIVAL
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Navaratri, the festival of nine nights is the most popular festival, celebrated through out India with varied customs and traditions. Though, this Navaratri Festival is celebrated all over India, different part of it makes a different way of celebration as it symbolizes different things in different regions. They celebrate this festival in a unique way of their own as the people in the Agraharam of Kodunthirapully Palakkad do.
Nestling in small beautiful landscape about 3 kms west of Palakkad town limit, the Agraharam boasts with the collection of Vaishnavates 'Jaiminiya Samavedi Thalavakara Guru' sakha Tamil Brahmins in about 100 uniform row houses, arranged properly on both sides of the streets facing north and south directions. The Agraharam retain much of their original character and housed only Brahmins.
The Agraharam may not attract devotees from far and wide to its precincts daily, yet it has its own unique features which could not be seen any where else.
Apart from other usual Agraharam festivals the most important festivals of the Village is Navaratri festival, which is conducted for nine days. It is celebrated once every year during the end of September month and in the beginning of the month of October. It starts from bright fortnight day just after the Mahalayapaksha Ammavasa.
Unlike to other Tamil Brahmin Agraharam where in the festival is celebrated with "Bommai Kollu" in every house, at Kodunthirapully this festival is celebrated in a unique manner and conducted in typical Kerala style and customs with elephants, processions, drums, panchavadyams and burning of crackers. This might be due to the influence of Namboodri culture of Kerala on Tamil Brahmins.
Here it is the community festival celebrated in the temple in a befitting manner, associated and bound up with Lord Sri Rama, who is incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Sri Rama worshipped Durga Devi for nine nights prior to killing of the demon king ten-headed Ravana on Vijaya Dasami day. And the Navaratri Celebration at this Agraharam is deemed and treated as a benediction in praise of Lord Sri Rama.
It is very joyous celebration celebrated all the days of Navaratri with great fervor and devotion with special significance to each of its day. It is also an occasion for family reunion. People who have gone out in search of their livelihoods make it a point to visit their ancestral homes and relatives during the festival. This generates enthusiasm and emotional bond between families and its members.
An air of festivity descends on the whole village for 9 days. Nine to ten houses are grouped together and assigned a particular day, which they will take the full responsibility of the celebration including feeding the devotees. They compete with one another with much enthusiasm and gusto to make their participation more colorful.
The really memorable one is on the last day, Mahanavami and is held in high esteem. The origin of the Mahanavami lost in antiquity but they might have been around the period of migration.
The Mahanavami Navaratri festival is very much awaited by the devotees out here, and is mainly celebrated with deep devotion and adoration towards Sri Devi and Bhu Devi Sametha Adhikesavaperumal and within the two temples that are closely linked with each other Lord Sri Adhikesava Perumal temple and Lord Ayyappa temple.
There are continuous series of program for the whole day and night. Commencing in the early hours of the morning, the celebrations last till the break of dawn, of the next day. Several caparisoned, more than 18 prominent elephants participates in the procession preceded by Panchavadyam, Chendamelam and Nadaswaram. The celebration is highlighted by day-and-night elephant processions. A huge crowd gathers to watch and listen to the performance, which is really a feast for the eyes and ears.
On the day of Mahanavami, the temple opens by 4.00 in the early morning with Nirmalaya Darshanam which is the first pooja of the day, followed by temple rituals like Ganapathy homam, Vakacharthu, Usha Pooja, and Ashtapadi. By 7.00 a.m in the morning the poojas would come to an end and now it is the time for the ceremonial Procession.
At 7.00 in the morning the participating elephants after their bath lined up in the Agraharam Street for feeding. All the elephants were fed with cooked rice flakes mixed with coconut, jaggerey, ripe plantain and ghee.
By 07.30 a.m. in the morning the Utsavamoorthy, the Processional deity of the Agraharam Lord Ayyappa in the Swaroop of Lord Kothanda Rama is taken out from the Lord Adhikesavaperumal temple accompanied by Nadaswaram and is mounted on a majestic bejeweled elephant preceded by Panchavadyam.
The commencing of the Panchavadyam, the combination of the musical instruments like Timila, Maddalam, Edakka, Elathalam, Kombu and two auxiliaries Sankhu and Kuzhal, begins by blowing Sankhu three times in midst of complete devotional silence is really delightful and takes all to the supreme bliss.
This is then taken round to the temple of Lord Ayyappa preceded by Panchavadyam, accompanied by an array of elephants in their entire caparisoned splendor with colorful silk parasols, (Muthukuda) swaying white tufts (Venchamaram), and peacock feather fans (Aalavatton).
The deity that has reached the Lord Ayyappa temple; after offering the pooja to the Lord is again mounted for the ceremonial return procession of the deity from the temple of Lord Ayyappa to the temple of Lord Adhikesavaperumal by 10.30 a.m accompanied by Valia Pancharimelam a part of Chendamelam in an elaborate form.
While the deity returns from Lord Ayyappa temple, the Adikeshava temple will be getting ready for the Deeparadhana, the mid-noon pooja, and the deity that has returned is led inside the sanctum sanctity of the Lord Adhikesavaperumal temple to offer the mid-noon pooja.
After performing all the mid-noon poojas, by 3.30 p.m. the Utsavamoorthy is again taken out from the temple premise for the procession. More than 18 prominent richly bejeweled caparisoned elephants line up at Lord Adhikesavaperumal temple premise with colorful parasols, swaying venchamaram and aalavattam. Out of these elephants, the processional deity Lord Ayyappa in the Swaroop of Lord Kothanda Rama goes directly to the temple of Lord Ayyappa accompanied by Nadaswaram, as it cannot be taken out of the Agraharam premises. The remaining elephants are staged at one big open play ground. The colorful exchange of silk parasols to the rhythm of Panchavadyam; a musical treat, is a unique feature that takes the attention of all. Singarimelam, a part of Chendamelam and Nadaswaram, also accompanies this. All these add to the festive tempo a great pomp and gaiety.
At this time the temple get ready to offer Sandya Deeparadhana that starts by 6.30 in the evening. The temple of Lord Sri Adhikesavaperumal is fully lit with numerous oil lamps and Lord Sri Adhikesavaperumal with his two consorts Bhudevi and Sridevi on the two sides bejeweled with all kinds of jewelry and ornaments, luminous like crores of rising sun is in full prasanna mood to fulfill the desire of the devotees. It is the common belief that one who prays to Lord Adhikesavaperumal for the boon of a male child on the Mahanavami day at this auspicious moment shall surely be blessed with a boy on the subsequent year and accordingly the devotee donates an elephant for the procession. Thousands from far and near throng at this temple to have a darshan of their Lord.
In the mean time the Nadaswaram and Thayambaka are performed to please the deity and also to entertain the devotees.
The Processional deity of the Agraharam Lord Ayyappa in the Swaroop of Lord Kothanda Rama after offering the pooja at Lord Ayyappa temple is once again mounted on a bejeweled elephant for the final return to the temple of Lord Adhikesavaperumal at late night. Four other elephants preceded by Pandi Melam in the illumination of traditional oil lamps (Pandhams) accompany the deity.
The devotees without sleep, move along with the procession and enjoy all the activities that is going on as they know that this occasion will arrive only once in a year.
With the reaching of Nada-paandi-melam at Lord Adhikesavaperumal Temple from the temple of Lord Ayyappa, the Mahanavami Program reaches its final stage and the Deity is led inside the sanctum sanctity of the Lord Adhikesavaperumal temple accompanied by Nadaswaram and also with rare Jaiminiya Samavedic hymns.
All these celebrations will come to an end only on the subsequent morning by 6.00 a.m. The Prasadam "Neiyyappam" is then offered lavishly to all devotees.
It is not heard that devotees here have ever returned with empty hands. And may be this is the reason why people from far off places make the Kodunthirapully village their destination to be a part of this grand festival.
The governance of the Celebration is managed by "Mahanavami Committee" the elected body of the occupants of the Adhikesavapuram Street, the rightful group of persons authorized by the Kodunthirapully Agraharam to conduct the 9th day celebration of Navaratri Festival at their individual capacity with separate entity.
Now the Committee owns and has with them innumerable number of various kinds of elephant ornaments. The income received by way of renting to the festivals is the main source of revenue for the celebration.
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