OF POORAM PADAYANI
Pally Bhagavathi Temple, Neelamperoor has a history of about 1700 yrs and it is one of the few relics of the Buddhist culture in Kerala. It is situated about 3 Kms west of Kurichy Out post in Kottayam-Changanacherry M.C.Road . It was built at a time (between AD 250- 300) when Buddhism was at hay day of its prosperity. It is said that Banavarma,Other wise known as Cheramanperumal, who the sole emperor of Kerala, had become a Buddhist monk and spent the last days at Neelamperoor. While he was the ruler of KeralaHindus accused him of having favoured Buddhism they even refused to co-operate with him. As matters came to a head, he agreed to conduct a debate about Hinduism and Buddhism. If Buddhists won the debate Hindus had to accept Buddhism .If they failed the king agreed to abdicate the throne. Accordingly scholars of both the religions participated in the contest. Hindus arranged six eminent scholars from south India to argue their case. The Buddhists lost the case. There upon Cheramanperumal abdicated the throne and left the palace as a Buddhist monk. Thus he came to Neelamperoor and built a Buddha Vihara.
As years passed Buddhism lost its power and prestige in Kerala. It was at this period of Hindu renaissance that this Devi temple had been constructed. Even before the arrival of Cheramanperumal a temple was here dedicated to lord Siva. It was owned by ten Brahmin families known as Pathillathil pottimar. Neelakanta is another name for Siva and hence the place came to be called Neelamperoor. Dissatisfied with the arrival of perumal the Brahmins with the idol of Siva migrated to Vazhappally in Changanacherry It is said that perumal had consecrated the image of perinjanathu Bhagavathi in Thrissur
The principal deity of the temple is Goddess Vanadurga. On the southeast corner behind the sanctum sanctorum we find the image of the Snake god. Outside the main temple are the temples of Lords Ganapathi, Siva, Dharmasastha,Mahavishnu and Rakshas.The priest of this temple belongs to Kollapally Madom in Neelamperoor. On special occasion the chief priest from the family Kannampally at Ayamkudy comes. Every day poojas are performed . The Maharaja of Travancore sponsored the first pooja of every day, but his sponsorship stopped with the decay of monarchy. Pudding ofcourse is the main offering to propitiate the deity; but its preparation differs from what it is in other temples. The water for this purpose is taken from the unripe coconut.
The festivals of the temple are two in number- the ten day festival in the solar month meenam with its nineth day falling on pooram and the pooram padayani which starts from the day next to Thiruvonam in Chingam ( the first solar month of the Keralite calendar ) and lasts till Pooram, the birth day of the deity.
The festival Pooram Padayani of this temple is a rare and unparallelled phenomenon because it represents a synthesis of the Buddhist and Hindu cultures. It is strikingly similar to the Buddhist festival seen by Fahiyan, the Chinese traveler in Padaliputra (Patna in Bihar). It also resembles the ceremonies held in Sreemoolavarom which was once a budhist centre in Kerala,. The Pooram Padayani is characterised by the display of exquisitely decorated effigies of Swans, Bhima, Ravana, Yakshi,Elephant etc. These are offerings in gratitude by devotees for the fulfillment of their desires. Making of these effigies need consummate craftsmanship. About one lac rupees is needed for the construction of Big Swan. The cost of conducting a padayni is shooting up year by year and the organisers are facing huge problems in mobilising the required funds. Donations made by the local people and various organisations are the main source of receipts for meeting the expenditure.
Padayani begins at 10 p.m on the avittam day with prayers. Flames are received from the priest. With this flames devotees set fire to the bundles of coconut leaves. With these bundles in hand they move to the monument of Cheraman perumal at the western side. After receiving his symbolic sanction, they start padayani. This continues for the first four days. The next four days are characterised by Kudapadayani which consists of floral decorations on umbrella-shapes made from the stems of coconut leaves. From the eighth day to twelveth effigies made out of green leaves of jackfruit trees are offered. The effigies displayed for the twelveth day are made of the fibrous stem of plantains or slender leaves of coconut stems. The last two days are characterised by the display of swans (Annams) which are made of plantain stems and slender leaves of coconut trees with floral decorations. The highlight of the days is ofcourse the offering of the big swan to propitiate the deity.
O On the final day a smith breaks a coconut and turns it round. On the basis of this he makes some predictions. The temple closes at 10 P.M and then starts what is known as Kudampooja. The padayani is characterised by Thothakali, a rhythmic dance in accordance with songs from the folklore and the beating of the drums. Devotees arrange themselves round the big fire at the centre twirling small clothes in an artistic pattern and dance. Spectators from different parts of the country throng to the place to see this rare artistic form. The most spectacular of all is the display of the BIG SWAN which is about 45 feet high. Other swans and fully decorated effigies enhance the beauty of the seen.
When the padayani is over, people disperse in different directions. The gurusi offered by a specially chosen devotee who has undergone austeries for several days with penance and meditation.
Thus POORAM PADAYANI in Bhagavathy temple is quite a fascinating festival which has been attracted by research scholars from different parts of the country.
|Happiness beyond limit|
Where devotees dance (based on kathakali) to mark the begining of padayani
|THOTHAKALI- Another form of dance in padayan|
MURI” A ritual performed by
devotees before the offering in padayani
offering swan coming to the padayani ground
of Neelamperoor Palli Bhagavathi temple