Ernakulam:The Sree Poornathrayeesha Temple at Tripunithura, conducts its annual temple festival during the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam. Thus, the celebrations are popularly called Vrishchikotsavam.
The festival is held for a period of seven days and the festivities are grand. Fifteen elephants adorning the traditional head gear (Nettipattam) are lined up before the public while percussionists and other instrumentalist honour the deity.
The most worthy of the elephants (Utthamanaana) is chosen to carry the idol of the Lord around the temple. The sight leaves you spell bound. The temple becomes a haven of art and culture allowing the public to witness some of the most ancient forms of art with performances scheduled round the clock. Renowned names in the world of Carnatic Music, Kathakali, Ottamthullal, Kolukali, Kurathiyattam, etc are seen performing at the festival. Many artists deem it an honour to perform during the Vrishchikotsavam.
However, over the years, the purpose behind the celebrations seems to have gone unnoticed.
The temple was originally controlled by the Cochin royal family. Due to certain reasons, the temple was handed over to a family called Murthurd. The rights were eventually granted to the Cochin Devaswom Board. The rituals, however, have remained unaltered and are carried out with utmost precision even today.
Poojas at the temple are performed by the Tulu Vaishnava Brahmins on a regular basis. They originally hail from Shivahalli, a village situated near Mangalore. A thanthri (the head priest), however, supervises the pooja. This is to ensure that the rituals follow the norms accepted by the royal family. During the festival, the duration of the rituals is longer. A few special rituals are also performed along with the daily poojas as well. Navakkam, for instance, is a special ritual performed only during the course of the Utsavam.
While the Tulu Brahmins perform most of the rituals, the Cochin Maharaja did make provisions to allow one sect of thanthris to perform one pooja everyday. The story behind this special provision is rather fascinating.
Aniyan Naryanan Nampoothiripad, a member of the traditional high priests at the Sree Poornathrayeesha temple, narrates the story. “A brahmin,” he said, “approached Lord Krishna in his court, expressing his grief. He lamented that each time his wife gave birth to a child, the child disappeared. Upon hearing his appeal, Arjuna, who was in the court, volunteers to protect the brahmin and his wife. Lord Krishna, noticing the conceit of the ace archer, decides to teach him a lesson. Arjuna sets out to the brahmin’s hut and assures his protection to the hut where the brahmin's wife is expecting her next child. The next day, the wailing brahmin informs Arjuna that he had lost yet another child and accuses the warrior of not keeping his word. Upset over the outcome, Arjuna decides to kill himself. It is then that Lord Krishna assures him that the brahmin’s children were safe, under his care. He takes Arjuna to his abode where he notices that every child was healthy and safe. Lord Krishna then sends the children back to earth. Thus, he was named Santhanagopalan the one who protects children.”
Aniyan Narayanan Nampoothiripad claims that his family members are descendants of that Brahmin clan. Thus, they are privileged to perform one pooja in the temple.
He added, “The Utsavam is not a mere celebration. It is a period when the temple is worshipped as a whole. This also includes the dwarapalakas or the guards, represented by stone structures. They protect the deity and are considered to be at the beckon call of the Lord.”
Interestingly, each event represents certain philosophical aspects. The Kodiyettam or the hoisting of the flag, according to Aniyan Narayanan Nampoothiripad, is not a mere ritual. The act is similar to the way a yogi elevates his energy levels from the tip of the spinal cord to the skull. The flag represents the elevated levels of energy generated in the temple during those seven days. When the flag is lowered on the final day of the festival, it implies that the energy levels have been brought under control and is bound to remain within the temple for a long period of time.”
In short, there is always a reason behind a celebration. It is up to us to discover the purpose and appreciate it in its truest sense.