There are mainly two days when the elephants steal the thunder at the ancient Vadakkumnatha Temple at Thrissur. One, as you know is the Thrissur Pooram day. The second is during the Aanayoottu or the feast given to the elephants. This normally falls on the first day of the Malayalam month of Karkidakam, which falls on the 16 July this year.
The day starts off with the Maha Ganapati homam, which lasts hours. People believe that this ritual will save the land from the calamities that the monsoon would bring. And then, by around 9.30 in the morning, the pachyderms are brought in for the Aanayoottu ritual.
The elephants are lined up and a special meal consisting of rice, jaggery, and medicinal herbs are fed to them. This is rejuvenation time for the elephants too. After months of temple festivals, this, it is believed, is the time when they are cared for. Nurtured and given Ayurvedic medicines for their well-being.
The Aanayoottu festival at Vadakkumnatha Temple is the most famous one. There are many other temples which hold this ritual during the Malayalam month of Karkidakam, that will last until middle of August.
Now for some facts
During Thrissur Pooram, the elephants are decked up in all finery. According to records, this finery cost over one lakh rupees. But for the Aanayuttu festival, they are not decked up. They are given a bath in the morning. They are made to stand in a row. The priest feeds the youngest elephant in the group and then, the other elephants are fed.
The preparations for Aanayoottu begin well before the sun rises. Rice is cooked in huge vessels, allowed to cool and then rolled up into huge balls. Jaggery and medicinal herbs are added. Sugarcane shoots are also given in addition to coconut palm leaves. In the olden days, the elephants were given special meals through the month of Karkidakom by their owners.
The Maha Ganapati Homam, which starts off the rituals is for propitiating the gods for favorable monsoons. In the olden days, Karkidakom used to be that month when it rained the most in the state. Calamities were common. People stayed indoors, and read the Ramayana and indulged in rejuvenation. The elephants and other animals which formed part of the lifestyle were not left out.
Where? Vadakkumnatha Temple,Thrissur When? 16, July