THE "DEEPA" CEREMONY: Shara Koodam ablaze
|1. DAILY PUJAS & CEREMONIES
|2. MONTHLY PUJAS
|3. ANNUAL FESTVALS AND EVENTS
1. DAILY PUJAS & CEREMONIES
The following Pujas are performed everyday by the Shantis - temple priests:
- Palliunarthal : 7.5 naazhikas (3hours) before sunrise
- Abhiseka : 1.25 naazhikas (30 minutes) before sunrise
- Usha-puja: 25 naazhikas (30 minutes) before sunrise
- Ethrtth-puja : Between 2.5 naazhikas (1 hour) and 2.75 naazhikas (1.5 hours) after sunrise
- Pantheerati-puja : Between 5 naazhikas (2 hours) and 6.25 naazhikas (2.5 hours) after sunrise
- Navaka-kalabhisekam : 7.5 naazhikas (3 hours) after sunrise
- Uccha-puja : Between 11.25 naazhikas (4.5 hours) and 15 naazhikas (6 hours) after sunrise
- Thirija-pantheerati : 5 naazhikas (2 hours) before sunset
- Attazha-puja : Between 2.5 naazhikas (1 hour) and 5 naazhikas (2 hours) after sunset
2. MONTHLY PUJAS
- Ekaadashi & Dwaadashi : 11th and 12th day of the lunar-month; the day Sri Krishna gave Geethopadesha to Arjuna
- Pradosham : 13th day of a lunar fortnight; a day of fasting and praying to Shiva; the day Shiva appeared as Nataraja and danced to please the gods.
- Chaturthi : Fourth day of a fortnight; dedicated to Ganapathi to help ward off obstacles.
- Sashti : 6th day of a full moon fortnight; dedicated to Subramanya for progeny and prosperity
- Ashtami : Special rituals for Vishnu and Shiva
- Pournami : The full moon night
3. ANNUAL FESTVALS AND EVENTS
The main festival of 10 days duration takes place in the lunar month of Vrishchigom (16 November- 15 December). On the ninth day - Thiru-Onam - of this holy month, the temple flag is hoisted to mark the commencement of festivities.
The first five days of festivities are much like temple festivals elsewhere. Daily processions carry Krishna and Sahadeva idols towards East, West, North and South of the temple. But the sixth day marks the start of many events that are special and unique to Thrikodithanam temple.
Ceremonies and performing arts that mark the festival season are:
- Plaam-keeyil-kottu : Percussion session under the old Jackfruit tree
- Panacchikaletta : This event, marking the start of Deepa, begins at around 1:00 AM on the 10th night. South of the temple, at a spot called Edapzhanji-padikkal, an orchestra plays the Vikku-chenda, Thimila, Chekkil, Ilathaalam for more than an hour. The musicians then proceed westwards.(Legend: This event commemorates the grand reception given to a victorious military commander called PAAZHAYIL ASHAAN. He is welcomed by the citizens of Thrikodithanam with drums and cymbals and is ceremonially taken out to witness the DEEPA. This hero too is consecrated along with Manikanthan (Ayyappa), at the Sastha shrine.)
- Chhadi-kottu : After Panacchikaletta, the orchestra reaches the western entrance of the temple. After offering prayers to Narasimhamoorthy, they then use the same musical instruments to perform Chaadikottu. As the term indicates, in this performance, the drummers leap and jump in a certain way while while moving towards the eastern entrance and Deepa site
- Otta-kol-kottu : By drumming with a single stick on the Vikku-chenda, the performers create a unique cadence. After this, between 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM, the main ceremonies for Deepa commence.
- Murian-kulam : Ceremonial baths in the temple pond.
- Kodi-naatin-kunnu : Hoisting a flag on an adjacent hill.
THE SPECTACULAR DEEPA
This special event is conducted on the north-eastern side of the temple Thirumuttom (grounds). It commences after dusk on the 9th Festival Day and carries on until the early hours of 10th day morning.
The centrepiece of this event is a pyramidal structure called the Shara-koodam (Arrow-heap). To make this structure, pillars are fabricated from plantain stems kulavaazha and bound by strands of the arecanut palm to form the square base. Then small frames are made atop this base by tying together wood splinters. Once the base structure and the small frames are ready, 1001 flares made of cloth bundles dipped in oil are placed on a structure called the sankaetam.
After a special percussion session (Panachickaletam and Chadikkottu), this entire pyramidal structure is set alight when the final evening prayer procession - Seiveli pooja - passes that way. The huge framework of 1001 flaming "arrows" presents a grand sight.
This entire event is supposed to mark Sahadeva's reaction when he hears of the demise of his mother, Madri. Overcome with despair, he tries to jump into her funeral pyre. This drama too is re-enacted every year by the Brahmins of the Mecheril Illom.
Then there is a sudden end to festivities on the hill - lamps are doused, elephants are sent back and the priests go home after taking a final ritual bath in Muriankulam . People then collect the ashes of the fire as prasaadam and depart.
Ashtami-Rohini : Sri Krishna`s birthday is also an important festival day at Thrikodithanam Temple.