Elephants are an integral part of the festivals in Kerala. Here, for a difference, we are not talking about live elephants, but about the Ezhara Ponnanna, (the seven and a half golden elephants) that steal the thunder at annual festival at the Ettumanoor Temple in Kottayam.
According to the records, the Ettumanoor Mahadeva temple is one of the oldest temples in the area. The present temple complex dates back to 1542 AD. The Ezhara Ponnanna (seven and a half golden elephants) darshan forms an integral part of the festival in this shrine. The seven and a half golden elephants was the gift of the king of Travancore to the temple and there is an interesting story of how it was brought from Thiruvananthapuram to Kottayam. But, before we tell you that story, allow us to explain the term -Ezhara Ponnanna. Ezhu, in Malayalam is seven, and ara is half. There are eight elephants that were gifted by the king, of which seven of them are two feet tall, while the eighth is just a feet tall - hence considered half an elephant.
The main means of transport, those days was by boat. From Thiruvananthapuram the gifts were carried by boat through the canals connecting it with Kollam and Ashtamudi Lake to Alappuzha and then on through the Vembanad Lake. And soon, people started following the journey. Gradually, it became a procession. When the procession passed by the Karumadi Lake which is near the Amabalapuzha temple, the boat would not move.
It was found that the Lord Krishna at Ambalapuzha temple was not pleased that the king was sending gifts to Ettumanoor temple, without acknowledging him. The king, immediately sent gold 'pathakams' or coins and begged for forgiveness. The boats cruised along after this incident and reached Ettumanoor, where to this day the Ezhara Ponnanna are kept safe.
The annual festival is from February 9 - 18 this year. The Ezhara Ponnana Darshan is on the night of the seventh day of the festival - that falls on the 16th of February.
Ettumanoor is about 11kms away from Kottayam Ettumanoor has a railway station, but not all trains stop here. The Cochin International Airport is about 76kms away.