Karkidakam, as we told you is steeped in customs, traditions, and rituals. 'Niraputhari' is yet another unique tradition that transcends the changing times.
Long, long ago, agriculture used to be the backbone of the society. In those days, the harvest was totally dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon. A good harvest was therefore literally a gift of the gods. and it deserved a celebration - both of thanks to the gods and the jubilation of the humans as well as a prayer for such harvests as will fill the granaries of the household.
The sheaves from the first cuts during the harvest would be carefully gathered. The women workers on the farm knew the craft of weaving them into sumptuous tassels that could be hung up in the main granary of the household. This used to be called "Kathir Katta". The men would then carry full sheaves and take it in a procession to the household, shouting "Nira Nira yo Nira; illam nira, vallam nira vallotti nira" (= fill, oh fill, the house and the storage bins, fill them again and again). Ears full of grains would be stuck with seals of cow-dung and mud to the doors of the household, and a palm imprint would be left, dipping the palm in rice paste. And then, a payasam would be made out of this rice and served to everyone gathered.
At the temples
Now, this tradition is limited mainly to the temples across the state. The paddy for the 'Niraputhari' fete is grown on some farms. The paddy fields in Pazhunnana near Kecheri in Thrissur district is one of those places. It was nearly a decade ago that the Alattu family started cultivating paddy, especially for the 'Niraputhari' fete. They sow a quick yielding 'Kanaka' rice. And over the last couple of years, they are one of those most sought after people for the temple authorities.
Alattu Chandran, Babu, Ittammin and Krishnankutty follow the tradition now. Chandran says that thousands gather at the paddy fields to see the sowing and the reaping which is still done in a traditional way. They also do not allow workers from outside the state to participate.
“We have been providing the stacks of rice to Guruvayoor temple for ages now and there are over 500 other temples across the state we send it to,” he says. About a couple of days before Niraputhari, people come from far and wide to pick up the stacks of paddy. The authorities from Travancore Devaswam board collect the paddy sheaves for about Ettumanoor, Ambalapuzha, Erumeli, Malliyoor, and temples across the state.