The festival at Ulloor Bala Subrahmania Swamy temple

temple entranceThe Bala Subrahmania Swami temple situated in Ulloor-- a stone's throw from Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. The annual "Thaipooya Kaavadi maholsavam" here attracts thousand of devotees from far and wide. The festival falls on "Pooyam" day on the Malayalam month of Makaram(January).

The Kaavadi, originally meant a contraption which could be used to carry ones belongings. The contraption is shaped like a bow with a pole which could be placed on one's shoulder with belongings balanced on either sides and is usually made of wood.

The legends have it that Sage Agasthya, had wanted his favourite disciple, Hidumbasura, to bring two hillocks, from Kailasam, the abode of Lord Shiva. Hidumbasura, and the obedient disciple set out to Kailasam and plucked out the two hillocks after paying due obeisance to the Lord. He made a bow of wood and placed the two hillocks on either side of it and balanced it across his mighty shoulders the first Kaavadi ever. He planned to bring it back to his Guru's ashrama, but destiny and the Lord Subrahmaniya had decided otherwise.

As ill-luck would have it Hidumbasuran lost his way in the dense woods on his way back to his Guru's ashrama. Lord Subrahmanian came in the guise of a king and took the tired Hidumbasura to his kingdom. The tired asura slept off and when he woke he could no agni kavadilonger lift the Kaavadi, with the two hillock. The bewildered asura saw a small child playing on top of the hillock and with his powers of penance understood that the child was indeed Lord Subrahmaniya who had come to test him. He bowed before the Lord. The Lord blessed him and was relieved of all sins. This happened in the Pooyam (Poosam) day of the month Makaram on which day the Kaavadi festival is celebrated. The festival begins with the "Kappukettal"ceremony which falls twelve days before. The devotees who have decided to take the Kaavadi goes on a "vritha" of abstaining from violence, sex and non-vegetarian food. Most of them stay in the temple premises. There are mainly three types of Kaavadi at Ulloor of which the "agnikavadi" holds the centre stage. In agnikaavadi, the devotee jumps into the burning embers and come out unscathed as they put "it due to Lord's grace".

The procession accompanied by caparisoned elephants sets off early in the morning from Shiva temple near Gowrisapattom and covers over five kilometers to the Subrahmania temple. Tiny tots go in for the "palkavadi" a pot full of milk, while the young people take the "pookavadi" the kavadi may contain vibhuthi or flowers which will be offered to the deity after the procession.

The day when dog rules the faith

Dogs too have a temple for them. Ignore the eyebrows that rise at this. But that is the unique feature of the ten-day annual Meenamaholsava at the Ulloor Sree Balasubrahmaniya Swami Temple.

The temple complex is quite old and has Shiva, Shasta and Krishna deities in addition to the presiding deity of Balasubrahmanya. The legend has it that Tarakasura, during his fight with Lord Subrahmania hid in the thick forests, now the temple premises. Lord Subrahmaniya could not find Tarakasura, and Shasta, who had come to help his brother in the fight, pitched in. His constant templecompanion was a dog and this dog is supposed to have smelled the Asura every time the God could not see him. And it is as veneration to this legendary dog that the "nayaveyppu" is held every year. The "naya"(dog) is taken out in a procession around the temple and installed in the shrine along with the Shasta. Only that the dog looks more like a miniature of an elephant.

The festival begins with the ceremonial flag being raised by the temple high priest. The other highlights of the ten-day festival are the "Palliyannilavu". The deity, decked in all the finery and taken out in a chariot around the temple three times and will be accompanied by the traditional temple orchestra "panchavadyam". Oil lamps lights up the whole temple complex during the pallinyannilavu procession. The "aarattu" or the procession is held on the 9th day and offerings are made to the deity. The festival comes to an end with the ceremonial flag being lowered. And the devotees wait for next year for the another festival, treasured with glowing memories of the last one.


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