The Konganpada festival at Chittur is a fusion of myths, history and religion. Spread over a couple of days, the festival commemorates a war which is said to have occurred around AD 918.
During those days, Chittur was a very fertile land, plush with resources. It was also a trade hub. People from across the mountains, especially the Kongu country, which includes parts of the present-day Coimbatore District used frequent Chittur for trade. Skirmishes were normal. And these skirmishes form the roots of the present day Konganpada festival.
Once, the king of Kongu country decided to attack Chittur and sent an ultimatum. The people of Chittur were scared and approached the Mother Goddess at the temple in Chittur and it is said she agreed to lead the Nair warriors in the war.
And unlike the wars of today, the Kongu King stuck to the rituals of war, which is reenacted zealously by the devotees. The first ritual is the 'Chilambu' where the Nair chieftains receive the letter; gather at the 'Kalari' or the gymnasium of an ancient family called the 'Sreekandath'. They then perform a dance and try to appease the goddess. A couple of days after that, a 'kaniyar' or an astrologer is called in to predict the outcome of the war and the festival. After that comes the 'Kummatti' – young men from across the village who arrive to take blessings from the goddess and take a pledge to fight for their land.
These warriors gather for 'Arippathttu' and then proceed to Poovathum Kavu, which is the battleground. At midnight, they come back to the temple in a procession. The fight begins when 101 firecrackers are burst. A procession starts from the temple with various groups of people decked out in a war like outfit. Small girls are dressed up as boys and small boys are dressed up as girls and taken around on the shoulder of their fathers or uncles. This is known as the 'Kuttikolam'.
At night, the villagers assemble at the house of the Chittedathu family and one of the members are dressed up as the Kongan. He then travels to the temple on a horse for the traditional 'olavayana' (reading the declaration of war). Rival groups run horses on the street in a mock war. Few of them feign death and are taken back to their wailing relatives. A lot of traditional art forms like the Parisamuttu kali finds a stage here during the war. Fireworks, mark the victory over the Kongan army. And the festivities end with 'Pallu' where four major Nair family members come to thank the goddess for victory.
Konganpada is not just a festival for the people of Chittur. It is history coming alive once more, year after year. It is an event that is celebrated by all religious denominations in Chittur. The festivities being on Sivarathri day and continue for two weeks.
When: This year the final day of the festival falls on 21 March.
Where: Chittur is about 14 kms from Palakkad. Palakkad is well connected with the rest of the state via roads and railway. The nearest airport is Coimbatore International airport, about 54kms away.
Also read : The festivals in March