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Last Updated Friday May 26 2017 04:46 AM IST

Why Athachamayam at Tripunithura is a unique experience

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Athachamayam at Tripunithura Athachamayam at Tripunithura. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Tripunithura, which is about 7kms from the heart of Kochi, has always had a distinct charm. A drive through this town will take you past some old buildings and remains of forts, which speak of a proud bygone era. Tripunithura was the home of the ruling kings of erstwhile Kochi kingdom, before the state of Kerala was formed. The Hill Palace and the Sree Poornathrayeesa temple adds to its rustic charm.

Why Athachamayam at Tripunithura is a unique experience The figurines being paraded at Athachamayam. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Tripunithura has always been a cultural hub. Arts, music and various art forms flourished here under the rule of the kings and even later. On a normal day, Tripunithura is just another ordinary town in Kerala. But come Chingam and this town wears a whole different look. For, it is time for the unique 'Athachamayam' festivities.

The parade

Video: Athachamayam celebrations

The Athachamayam is a cultural extravaganza, which kick-starts the 10-day Onam celebrations. The main attraction is the parade. Folk art forms such as Theyyam, Kummatti, Kolkali, Mayilattom, Karakattom, Kummi, Poykal, Ammankudam, Pulikkali, Kathakali, Aattakkavadi, Panchavadyam, Chendamelam are displayed in the parade. Floats depicting immortal moments from epics such as Mahabharatha and Ramayana and current social issues reflect the secular nature of the festival, highlighting unity and harmony. Myths and legends of yore in the forms of gods and goddesses lend colour and diversity to the event.

The origins

Why Athachamayam at Tripunithura is a unique experience The king of Kochi watching the Athachamayam festivities in a file photo from 1949. Photo: Onmanorama

As with a lot of other things, no two historians agree about the origins of Athachamayam. A group says that Athachamayam commemorates the victory of the King of Kochi's against the Zamorin of Kozhikode. Another group is of the view that it was the show of power before the soldiers went off for 'Maamankam.' Yet another populist view is that in the good old days, the Maharaja of Cochin considered the festivities to be an ideal opportunity to greet his subjects at close quarters. The King would also undertake this ritualistic march all the way up to the Vamanamoorthy temple, situated in Thrikkakara, about 12 km away from Tripunithura. He then offered special prayers at the temple and before returning to Hill Palace.

The rituals

Athachamayam at Tripunithura People dressed up for the leopard dance wait for their turn. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

Traditionally, the festivities commence with the representatives of the royal family hoisting the Atham flag. This is followed by the ceremonial parade around the streets of Tripunithura town, headed by a person dressed as Lord Mahabali. Art forms of ancient and modern times, floats and folk dances add colour and substance to the festivities. Representatives from all communities accompany the Kochi Maharaja during Athachamayam, including a priest from Karingachira Church, the head priest of the Nettur Thangal mosque, and Chembil Arayan, a representative of the fisherfolk.

Why you should be there

Athachamayam at Tripunithura Social issues become an important part of the floats. The stray dog menace was one of the prominent ones. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

If you love to get lost in the crowds, this is your ideal chance. The cultural competitions and various entertainment activities held as a part of the festival are bound to entertain you. Athachamayam opens up a window to the art forms you may otherwise never get introduced to. Apart from the regular footpath vendors who deal with items from handicrafts and cottage sectors, a ten-day trade fair is also organised at Tripunithura. And the entire stretch of road near the Statue Junction turns into a makeshift flower markets. For it is Onam time.

  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    The formal inauguration of the Athachamayam festivities. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    A mythical scene on one of the floats. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Social issues are a favourite theme for the float. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    A float depicting a rural scene. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    A float which was taken out as part of the celebrations. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    An adaptation of a mythical scene . Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Who does not like magic? Another float which was seen at the Athachamayam. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    A float depicting a mythical scene. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    The floats at the Athachamayam depict various scenes from holy books. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    People watch the procession heralding the start of Athachamayam festivities . Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Living gods: People dressed up at Gods and Goddesses wait before the festivities begin . Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Theyyam artist walks the road as a part of the parade. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Students take part in the parade which is a part of the festivities. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    Pulikali is an essential part of Onam celebrations. A person dressed up as a tiger waits next to the other floats before the festivities begin. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
  • Athachamayam at Tripunithura

    A child dressed up as Maveli waits with his friends. Photo: Josekutty Panackal

    Athachamayam at Tripunithura
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