Leaving no feather unturned: The splendour of Alavattom at Pooram

Leaving no feather unturned: The splendour of Alavattom at Pooram
Thiruvambadi's artisan Kadavath Chandran with Alavattoms made by him

Thrissur Pooram is round the corner and preparations are in full swing. People and festival-enthusiasts from all over would throng the Vadakunathan ground in Thrissur to watch the Pooram in all its grandeur. It is not just the majestic elephants with Nettipattam that attract the hundreds and thousands of people to the temple town. Alavattom, a decorative circular fan made of peacock feathers, is also one of the major attractions.

And both Thiruvambadi and Paramelkavu devaswoms will go all out to outshine the other and their chief artisans are ensuring that the Alavattoms are of the best in the league.

The chief artisan of Thiruvambadi devaswom, Kadavath Chandran of Kannimangalam, described the laborious process that goes into the making of these festival artefacts.

“We have completed the majority of the works on the 15 sets of Alavattoms. Only the final touches need to be done now.

“We had started the work by February end. This time around, the peacock feathers were procured from Changanassery. Earlier, we used to get it from Coimbatore. But buses do not allow us to carry them and if we try to bring them in cars, there will be checks at every posts,” he said.

“You can only make Alavattom with good, wide peacock feathers. For one set you need 1.5kg of feathers. And for 15 sets, you need 25kg. Each kilogram costs up to Rs 2,000 and the whole bunch would come up to Rs 50,000,”he explained.

Leaving no feather unturned: The splendour of Alavattom at Pooram
Paramekkavu's chief artisan Thekethara Radhakrishnan

A veteran in this field, Chandran recounted when it all began: “I had learned the art of making Alavattom in 1975 and joined as an assistant and it has been 45 years in this field now. I have been with Thiruvambady for 17 years. I have been actively involved in the work ever since I retired as office assistant from the Catholic Syrian Bank,” he said.

Creating magic with peacock feathers

The first job is to untie the bunch and separate the peacock feathers. The feathers are then finely shaped and cut. Traditional floral patterns are stitched on to the centre of these circular fans. The feathers are then aligned in a circular fashion on the thick board papers.

It takes a minimum of 4-5 days to finish making one Alavattom.

Preparations are in full swing at Paramekkavu devaswom too and only final nitty-gritties need to be taken care of now.

Its chief artisan, Thekethara Radhakrishnan, is making his debut at the grand stage of Thrissur Pooram. A veteran of 35 years, he has been making Alavattoms for smaller festivals (Poorams). He started working at the tender age of 15. He has mainly prepared Alavatom for Aarattupuzha and Kuttankulangara poorams.