Customs & Practices

Thira, Customs and schedule

Vellattu chadangukal

  • Kavil Kayaral ( entering the kaavu)
  • Villikale kettal
  • Poovom Narum Kaishtam edukkuka ( take flower and cord as per wish)
  • Kaavunarthal ( waking up the kaavu)
  • Vellat Odakke
  • Ariyum Poovom Edukkal (Requesting the consent of god to enact the kolam)
  • Animara Pooja ( a custom to honoring the guru /elders of the Thirayattam group)
  • Poovom Narum Kaishtam Edukkuka
  • Vellattu Ezuhthu ( putting make up on the performer )
  • Vilichunarthal ( Praising the kolams once the makeup is over)
  • Vellatt Purappedal ( Beginning of the Thirayattam)
  • Vellatt Kali ( the dance in accordance to the vibrant instruments and songs)
  • Vellat Darshanam ( the incarnation of the divine power in the performer)
  • Kanalattam (The purification of the performer in fire)
  • Samarpanam ( submitting himself to god at the end of the Vellatt)
  • Vettum Velichapadum ( the act of the performer kneeling down, presenting betel leaves and asking for forgiveness of god, for the mistakes he may have committed, whist the Thirayattam performance.

Thiarayatta chadangukal

  • Sandya Vela (awakening god with the chemda melam (Big drums Orchestra) )
  • Oon thattu (awakening god with the Thudi melam ( small drums Orchestra)
  • Kozhal pattu (awakening god with the Kurum Kuzhal ( short Flute)
  • Odak ( the custom of awakening the main deity of the kaavu for Thirayattam)
  • Ariyum poovum edukkal
  • Thira vilichunarthal (praising the glory of the thirayattu kolams)
  • Thira purapppad (the starting of the thira kolam from the animara (Dressing Room))
  • Chootu kaliyum thirayattavum ( the dance of the thirakolam in accordance to the drums, in the light of the torches made of clusters of dried coconut fronds
  • Mudi edukkal ( The detachment of the mudi or kireedam ( head gear) from the koolam’s head, at the end of the Thirayattam performance.
  • Ariyum poovam pidiche valathidal ( the custom of the karanaver and his nephews circumambulating the shrine or temple, thrice)

There are several age old customers and beliefs associated with the Thirayattam, which are strictly and reverently followed through the ages. The first and foremost custom is the thira nischayam (fixing of the thira), details of thira nischayam and the customs that follow is as below

Thira Nischayam

When the avakashikal ( rightful heirs) of a tharavad or kaavu  decides to organize a Thira , the Peruvannan  who performs the thira is invited to the gathering. Here, in the presence of the deities, he is honored with “Dakshina” (offering) and in accordance with his advise an appropriate date is fixed for performing the Thirayattam.
 In certain Kaavukal, the Thira is scheduled to be performed on a stipulated date every year. In some others it is scheduled on an auspicious day, that is convenient for all.  

Once the Thira date is scheduled, there is a custom ” Nirathine Panam Kodukkuka” ( pay for the colors),  this is the payment given to the Peruvannan to meet the expenses of sourcing and processing the   natural colors required  for the Koolam’s Melezhuthu and Mughamezhuthu. Once the Peruvannan receives this payment, the responsibility of performing the Thira as per schedule is his sole responsibility. When the Thira is fixed, the entitled  Peruvannan observes a  “vrutham” for one “mandala kalam” (a period of time), and “Kanji Pakarcha” ( distribution of rice porridge) is carried out at his house hold.

The owners or “Avakasikal” of the Kaavu has the responsibility to make decorations and the following arrangements in  the Kaavu for the Thirayattam festival. Clean the “mandapam” ( platform) and the interiors of the Kaavu, set up “panthals” ( booths)  and decorate with flags, paper and  “kuruthola” ( tender coconut leaves). Set up “animaras” that  facilitates  the makeup and rest room of  the Thirayattam performers. Setup the “kanalattam thara” and source the tember for “kanalattam”.

Irunnu purappad

The start of the procession from the designated Peruvannan’s house to the Kaavu where the Thira is scheduled is known as “Irunnu purappad”. There is another custom, “ Kaiyishtam edukkuka”, that precedes  Irunnu purappad

Kaiyishtam edukkuka

In accordance with the custom, Mootha Peruvannan, casually places an  areca nut on the betel leaf placed in front of the lighted “nilavilakku“ (tall brass oil lamp),and foretells the outcome of the performance as per the position of the areca nut.

After the adoration of the “Guru karanavanmars “(elders), in the presence of  a lighted “nilavilakku”, the Peruvannan sets out on a procession to the Kaavu with limited costumes and makeup. Usually this Kolam is adorned by the Mootha Peruvannan

The procession is greeted at the Kaavu with a lighted “nilaviulakku” on the “Arithara” ( platform covered with rice flour), once again the custom of foretelling the fortune is performed here.

The karanavor of the tharavad or some other person who has taken the “vrutham” presents the Mootha Peruvannan a bunch of betel leaves  and an areca nut. The Mootha Peruvannan, in front of the lighted nilaviulakku (tall brass oil lamp), randomly draws a few leaves from the bundle and casually places the nut on these. Now the Peruvannan foretells  the outcome of the Thirayattam and some important matters concerned with the Kaavu or tharavad,  based on his calculation of  number of leaves taken and the position of the nut on them.

Now in the midst of the “Vadyam” and “Thottam”, a person amongst the temple authorities,  who has taken the “Vrutham”, throws rice to the peedom to awake the god, this is a main custom of “irunnu puirappad”.

Virunnu purappad

When the procession to the Kaavu, is started from any other place other than the designated Mootha Peruvannan’s house it is called a “Virunnu purappad”

Kulichu purappad

In some tempes the “Irunnu purappad” is also called “Kulichu purappad”. Once the performer finishes his purificatory bath and reach the temple, the procession is started from the tree in front of the temple to the place of Thirayattam. The Kulichu purappad has the same customs and ritual of Irunnu purappad.

Here the “kavil kayaral” (entering the kaavu) custom is accomplished.

Poovom Narum Kaishtam edukkal

By custom, the temple authorities assemble the items required for Thirayattam in front of the temple or Kaavu. This include “Pala” (aracanut tree leaf), Kuruthola ( tender coconut leaves), Panthakapoli ( Madal of coconut tree), Pookkettu (Bundle of flower),  Nira nazhi (container full of raw rice), Betel leaves, areca nut etc. The Mootha Peruvannan receives this items and keeps it in his custody, after adoring  and offering these items to the god.

Villikale kettal

There are certain mischievous denizens in the Kaavu who belong to the  “boothaganangal”  of Lord shiva.  This custom is aimed at binding  or restricting them from doing any mischief in the Kaavu, in the course of the Thirayattam festival.

Kaavu unarthal And Vellatt odakke

This custom is the Waking up of the deity with stringent musical instruments like Thudi, Kurum kuzhal, Iathalam, Panchavadyam etc,  along with the high pitched recital of Thottam Ppaatu. 

Animara Pooja

Animara or Aniyara is the place where the Chamayam ( make up) and “udayadakal” (costumes) of the Koolam are ornamented on the performer.  In Thirayattam, this place is maintained with at most purity and holiness. The process of make up is initiated with a Pooja,  in front of a nilaviulakku,  to the deity and the Thirayattam gurukakanmar (elder). Once the chamayam is completed, it is believed that the spirits of the deity will come upon the performer and he assumes the role of the divinity. 

Ariyum Poovum edukkal

Presenting the Pattu ( silk cloth) to the Mootha Peruvannan at the temple as a token of permission to conduct the Thirayattam. Once the Mootha Peruvannan arrive at the Kaavu, the pattu, vilakku ( lamp) , Nira Nazhi, Vettila ( betel leaves and Adakka ( aracanut) are offered at the “Manithara “( platform). Next the name of the deity will be called upon, followed  by  offering rice powder on the deity, amidst the recital of Thottam , Thudi is played in the background. The remaining  musical instruments are put to use only after this custom.

Once he receives the pattu, he enters the Animara with the pattu, the Animara karanaver ties the pattu around his head of the performer. Then  the performer lies down, fully stretched on the Animara  floor to put on the chamayam (makeup).

Nayattu

It is believed that the land is protected and preserved  by the inhabitant Deiva Moorthy ( deity) of the temple or the “Desam” ( land). The “Durmoorhikal” ( evil ) are the cause for all misfortunes, hardships and calamities. The swine is considered as the symbol of all evil and sin. The “Nayatt” ( hunting) is the custom of annihilating the sin by killing the swine.

Kanalattam

In some places the “Kanalattam” has greater significance and it is enacted more prominently.  The “kanal “( glowing wood ember) is formed by heaping jack wood in the Kaavu and burning it with certain rituals and Poojas. The spiritually frenzied Thirayattam performer kicks and even walks on the glowing jack wood ember, this custom is popularly known as Kanalattam

Erayakkali

The custom of adoration by reciting  Thottam pattu along side the clanging of Ilathalam ( cymbals) and Thudi ( small drums)

Chanthu Thira

By custom, the winding up of the Thirayattam event takes place the in the eary hours of the following morning. “Chanthu Tekkuka “ ( erasing the colors) is a custom that is performed once the Thirayattam is over. “Chanthu” is a fragrant black paste made by mixing fried rice, charred coconut shells, Poovan Pazham (Plantain), Ilaneer (Tender coconut), Sharkara ( Jaggery), Karpooram( camphor), Panineer ( rose water)  and chandanam ( sandal wood). The Chanthu is regarded  in equal reverence to Amrut.

The head gear and ornaments of the Thirayaattam performer  are removed and he is made to sit down wearing a single black cloth around his waste. He now receives the Chanthu from the temple authorities  and applies it on his face and body, with bare hands. 
The Chanthu is applied as kuri on the foreheads the Thirayattam group members, instrument players and helpers. The Thirayattam performer puts Chanthu marks on the walls of the temple and tharavads, with his Palms. This ritual is called “Chanthattam”.

It is believed that the awakened  Moothy will revert to its slumber mode once the Thirayattam is concluded, with the Chanthattam. And it will remain dormant till the next occurrence of the Thirayattam.

Kudikkuttal

This is one of the last customs of Thirayattam, the temple authorities and the Mootha Peruvannan asks for forgiveness of god for the  mistakes they may have committed, whist the Thirayattam festival. They pray for the wellbeing and prosperity of the land, people and the  tharavad. With this custom, the doors of the temple are closed 

Social & Cultural impact

The ancient Kerala society was harmoniously entangled with the Kaavukal and temples of the land. The evolutions in the social life of the communities, their beliefs,  concerns, sorrows, festivals, languages, traditions etc, that  are  reflected in many customs of  Thirayattam, confirms that it had its origin some where in these  ancient ages.

Being a temple art form, Thirayattam had great influence on the culture and lifestyles of the society. It has contributed to the intellectual and cultural upliftment of the downtrodden communities to a great extent. The customs and beliefs of Thirayattam have played a vital role in the preservation of the Kaavukal and the greenery within. Hence we can emphasis that Thirayattam is a comprehensive art form that harmoniously coexist with nature and environment.