A daily practice of Brahmins to keep their body pure is
known as Achamanam.
Aandupiravi (New Year)
The beginning of a new year is known as Aandupiravi.
In Kerala, it is the first day of the month Chingam.
In olden days, people on North Malabar were considered the first
day of the month Kanni as the New Year day. Some believe
that the first day of the month of Medam is the day for Andupiravi.
Acharabhasha (language used to address
The language used by the lower caste while talking to higher
caste is known as Acharabhasha. This type of language
is to be followed compulsory when conversing with higher ups, landlords,
officers, nobles and rules.
Acharakallyanam is the betrothal marriage of Thandan
community. The relatives of bridegroom visit the bride’s residence
for fixing the auspicious date and time of marriage is the function.
Acharappanam (advance payment)
Acharappanam is the term of bride price paid to the parents
of bride by the bridegroom’s parents. Asari, Kollan (Karuvan) Kakkalan,
Kallady communities practiced the system. Once the Acharappanam
is accepted, the bridegroom has right over the girl even if the
marriage is not solemnised.
Achipudava (Dhothi of wife)
Achipudava is a cloth or dhothi that covers the portion
below the knee. In the past only nairs and upper class caste had
the right to wear this dress. Low castes have to wear the
dress, which reach only up to their knee.
This is one of the Shodashacharangal of Namboothiris.
Adhanam is a rite performed as an extension of Oupaasanam
and an introduction to Sroutha rites to be performed
in future life.
The function in connection with marriage and funeral are
known as Adiyanthiram. Any auspicious ceremony, which includes
a ritual, is called Adiyanthiram. Grand feast is an integral
part of Adiyanthiram.
A group of office bearers entrusted with the administration
of temples are called Akakoima. The other two categories
were Purakoimma and Melkoima. Akakoima
has to concentrate on the routine affairs of the temples.
Akshara pooja (worship of letters)
(words or letters) pooja is a function during Navarathri
period (September-October) to worship letters. Navarathri
is a festival of nine days observed by Sakthi worshippers
in the month of Kanni. Akshara pooja is performed
on Vijayadashami day. On that day members of the family
will take their bath and sit in the hall. A nilavilakku
(holy lamp) will be lit before them. White sand
will be spread in front of each person. The head of
the family will chant prayer and other will repeat.
After that, each and every one will write Harisree Ganapathaye
Namaha; Aviknamasthu in the sand before them followed
by vowels and consonants. After writing, the sand
removed and placed on housetop. The custom of writing
letters on paper and tearing of it and placing on housetop
is also there.They will take their drinks only after completing
the above work. Instead of sand, the practice of using
rice in silver vessels and then writing letters is also
prevalent. Akshara pooja was also conducted when
children were first placed for writing letters and this
ritual is known as Vidyarambhom (starting of formal
education). Heavy rush is experienced for Vidyarambhom
function at Thunchan Parambu at Thirur, Chittoor Thunchan
Madam (the samadhi place of Thunchathu Ezhuthachan), Sree
Mookambika Temple at Kollur (Near Mangalore), Thiruvallakkavu
near Thrissur, Sarawathy Temple, Panachikkad near Kottyam.
Not only Hindus, but people belonging to other religions
also used to attend Viyarambhom function. Christians
used to write Daivom Thunakkuka (God help us) instead
of Hari Sri Ganapathaye Namaha; Aviknamasthu. Muslims
write verses from Qur’an on the right hand palm with black
ink on a day before Bakrid festival.
Ambalapuzha Palpayasam (Milk pudding of
Palpayasam is the famous offering of the Sree Krishna Temple
of Ambalapuzha. It can be identified by its taste from other payasams.
It has distinct off white colour and fragrance. In the morning
milk measured and boiled. By the noon boiling milk will almost convert
in the form ghee. Then the other ingredients – rice and sugar added.
The payasam so prepared is offered to the Lord during noon
Ammakazcha and Appakazcha (presentation
of cakes, sweets etc)
On the 7th day after marriage, parents of bridegroom send appam
(special rice cakes made of molasses, coconut, ghee and other sweet
ingredients) to the bride’s house. This ritual is known as Ammakazcha.
In return, parents of bride send appam and other recipe to
the bridegroom’s house on the 14th day after the marriage, is known
as Appakazcha. Paraya community follows these rituals.
Aparakriya / Seshakriya (After death rituals)
Aparakriya is the ritual to be performed by the hirers
of a deceased person from his cremation day to the end of pula
Ammayiyappam (Sweet Recipes from Mother-in-law)
When a mother visits the house of her son-in-law she has to
bring special food items with her. This was an unavoidable
custom of earlier period. This was known as Ammayiyappam.
Ammayiyappam food packet will contain sweets known as Neyyappam,
Pottiyappam, kunhikalathappam, kuzhalappam and ripened nendran
banana. Rich mothers brought the items in large vessels
and other in baskets. This custom was prevalent in Tellichery
and Kannur areas of Malabar.
(Onam with Mother-in-law)
In the matrilineal family there was a system to bring the
wife to the house of the husband on the Avittam asterism
day during onam festival. This practice was in force in
Valluvanad Taluk of Malabar. The day was celebrated as Ammayiyonam.
When disputes between people were not solved by the Tharakootam
(the local assembly) or Nattukoottam (the assembly
of a desom or taluk), it was sorted out in open fight by
members of special community. This ancient custom prevalent
in Kerala was known as Angam.
Anthiuzhichil (Removal of Evil Spirits)
A ritual performed to remove evil spirit(s) from the body.
The leaf of ‘koovalam’ will be put in a vessel containing a solution
of lime and turmeric. A lit wick will be taken in hand.
Firstly seven uzhicil were taken with the vessel. Later
the wick will be placed in the edge of vessel and the uzhichil
will be repeated for seven times. After that the solution with
the wick and leaf will be poured out in the northern end of house
plot and the empty vessel placed up side down.
Anuloma Vivaham (Marriage with a lower
Anuloma Vivaham is the practice of wooing a low caste
woman by a man of higher caste. It was not prohibited in
ancient Kerala, while vice-versa (Prathiloma Vivaham) was
Arppu vili (Shouting of happiness)
It is an expression of happiness on the birth of male child.
The words “Aarappee…ire….” are shouted during marriage and other
happy functions also.
Arathamuzhichil is a function performed on the arrival
of bridegroom to the house of bride after marriage and vice versa.
The eldest lady member of the family will mix lime and turmeric
in a vessel and make it as red colour. A lit wick will be
placed on the banana leaf. Using the vessel and wick, the
bridegroom / bride will be subjected to uzhichil (waiving
the vessel) three times. After that the contents of
the vessel will poured out at a distance place. The purpose
of this ritual is to safeguard the bridegroom/bride from evil
Ashatamirohini (birth day of Lord Krishna)
The day in the month of Chingam (August-September)
when ‘Ashtami’ and ‘Rohini’(an asterism day) comes together is
known as Ashtamirohini. This is birthday of Lord
Krishna. It is also known as ‘Janmashtami’. Special
poojas, functions were conducted in the temples of Lord Krishna.
is the blessings given by elders and Gurus to those
who bow before them on auspicious occasions.
Ashta Mangalyam (Eight Holy Materials)
Ashta (eight) mangalyam (marriage or other holy occasions)
consists of eight articles that carried on a large metal plate
or bronze vessel for offerings. Asta mangalyam are prepared
in different ways. (1) Rice, paddy, tailed mirror, sandal,
reddish kumkum, khajel, Grandh (book) and washed clean cloth.
(2) Nira (paddy), Nazhi (rice), mirror, flower vessel, vilakku
(small holy lamp), adorned girl, gold. (3) Paddy, rice, betel
wine, areca nut, coconut, jaggery, banana and vilakku (small
holy lamp). (4)Nirapara, Vilakku, mirror, gold, coconut, curd,
book, cheppu (small pot). Brahmin, cow, fire, gold, ghee,
adithyan (sun), water, king are also considered as Ashtamanglyams.
Ashtangangal (eight practices of Kath
Arangukeli, Thodayam, Vandanaslokam, Purappad, Melappadam,
Kadhabinayam and Dhanasi are the Ashtangangal.
Keli is the practice of informing the public about
the staging of Kath Kali by using the musical instruments
viz., chenda, maddalam, ilathalam and chengila.
By hearing the sound of these musical instruments, which is
known as ‘Kelikottu’, people are aware of the Kath
Kali performance. This is the first function of Kath
Kali. Arangukeli is also known as ‘Sudha Maddalam’.
It begins as soon as the light is lit on the stage.
The beating of maddalam and ilathalam will be
carried out for ten minutes and after that the curtain will
be raised. In the beginning two characters start their
performance. It is the Thodayam. Music and drums
without chenda will also there. This is performed
as prayer for the trouble free performance of Kath Kali. Vandanaslokam
is a song chanted by the singers in the end of Thodayam.
In some stories, Vandanaslokam is performed after Arangukeli
avoiding Thodayam. After Vandanasokam,
the first stanza of the story will be chanted, which is known
as Purappad. After that the actor and actress appear
to the stage. All allowable types of musical instruments
will be played. With this, the curtain will be lowered.
After Purappad, Melappadam begins. The ‘Manjuthara’
of “Geetha Govindam” will be sung. This is also
known as ‘Manjuthara’. Chenda and maddalam are used.
The initial procedure of Kath Kali will end with ‘Manjuthara’.
After that the main actor enters on the scene and starts Kathabhinaya
(perform Kath Kali). When the act is finished Mangalaslokam
(final stanza) will be chanted. This is known as Dhanasi,
which makes the end of Kath Kali.
Ashtavivahangal (Eight types of marriages)
Brahmam: The practice where father gives his daughter
to a Brahmachari (bachelor) without any reward. Daivam:
Father gives his daughter to a priest with gold ornaments.
Aarsham: Father gives his daughter after accepting
cows and bullocks. Prajapathyam: Father gives his daughter
to man by saying “You may live with her by observing code
rules”. Gandharvam: A lover takes his lady without
consulting the relatives and performs the rituals. Aasuram:
Here a man buys a woman from her parents. Rakshasam:
The practice of taking a girl by force after defeating here
parents and relatives. Paishacham: Here a girl is forcefully
made as wife when she is unconscious.
Athamchadurthi (Vinayaka Chadurdhi)
It is also known as Chadurdhi Ganapathy or Vinayaka Chadurdhi.
It comes during full moon period during the month of Chingom
(August-September), on the Atham asterism day.
It is believed that on that day one should not look at the
moon in the sky.
(Worship at evening)
Athazhapooja is an oblation in temples performed at evening
before the close of inner shrine. This will be the last pooja
of the day. It is also known as “Thiruvathazham”.
Athyavasyam kodukkuka (Giving essentials)
custom of giving essential items for dressing, bathing, frying
and cooking to the wife house by the husband during the eve
of Onam and Vishu festivals. This custom was prevalent
in the matrilineal society. The status of women was assessed
depending on the quantum and value of the materials so received.
Avarohanam means to perform “sthanarohanam”
which denotes the crowning to a position
Avarohanam of Irinjalakuda Thachudaya
The avarohanam of Thachudaya Kaimal as the
‘Adhikari’ of Koodal Manikya Temple of Irinjalakuda
was a political ritual. Though the temple is
situated in erstwhile Kochi State, the Raja of erstwhile
Travancore State nominated the Thachudaya Kaimal.
One among the nairs was selected as Kaimal.
After ‘avarodham’ he will get a higher status
and position over and above the Brahmins. The
Namboothiris (Kerala Brahmins) used to hold umbrella
for the Kaimal. Only one wooden plank was provided
for the Namboodiris whereas two were required for
the Kaimal to sit.
Avil (beaten rice) Nivedyam (offering) is a famous
offering for Hanuman in the Tripayar Sreerama Temple.
It is an important offering in Vedivachankoil of Trivandrum-Nagarcoil
Road. The avil nivedyam of Kucheladinam (day
observed as a mark of respect to Kuchela, the class-mate of
Krishna) is a main offering of the Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor.
girl (right extreme) accompanying Brahmin ladies keeping
the stipulated distance.
was a custom – rather a malevolent custom – prevalent
in the society during the rigidness of caste system.
The word Ayitham means dirt. The people
belonging to upper caste practiced this to the lower
caste. Not only touch but even passing nearby
will also causes Ayitham. Fixed distance
between each caste was there to keep away from the
upper caste. When a Nair touch or pass near
by a Brahmin it will cause Ayitham. Immediate
bathing is the only solution. The funeral will also
cause Ayitham. A person who has already
touched a low caste happens to touch another, which
may also cause Ayitham. Ayitham
by seeing a lower caste person was also prevalent.
‘Mannan’ and ‘Panan’ castes have to give way to Theeyas/Izhavas.
‘Pulayan’ and ‘Parayan’ have to give way to ‘Mannan’
and ‘Panan’. A low caste person should not go
near a pond where higher caste persons take bath.
If he or she goes it will cause Ayitham to the higher
Logan says that Nayadis, Pulayans,Kanisans and Mukkuvans should
keep 72 feet, 64 feet, 32 feet and 24 feet respectively from
upper class. Every one took special care not to cause
Ayitham. When Nambooiris and their ladies walk, the helpers
will make loud noise like “yahe…. yahe….” or “ho…ho…” as a
warning to the lower caste to keep awary from their path.
This practice was known as ‘Theendappad’. Lower caste people
also practised the same custom. They will shout “aey…aey…”
so that the upper caste will keep away from the path. They
considered this as their duty. The low caste had no right
to go near the bathing place of upper caste. The males
should not look at the female who had their menses.
Separate seats were provided in schools for the children belonging
to lower caste. Nobody except Brahmins had the right
to worship in temples by ringing the bell. The doctors
belonging to the same caste had the right to treat the patient.
Namboodiries can marry Nair girls, but should not touch the
children born in such ladies. Even the dead bodies will
be subjected to Ayitham if touched by lower caste.
To identify the low castes easily, it was ordered that they
should keep their body portion above waist as naked.
They should not wear any kind of special dress, footwear,
umbrella or ornaments. Only the Brahmins had the right
to carry umbrellas. Other should not carry umbrellas
even if it rained heavily. A low caste woman will take
off her cloth from shoulder to show respect to a higher caste.
Women observed the custom and practice more rigidly.
Naboodiries can eat the food prepared by the Kshathriya but
their women cannot. In the Nair communiy men used to
take food from outside but their females cannot. In early
stages both the higher and lower castes had a general belief
and understanding about these practices. They considered
these practices as a part of the day-to-day life like taking
food or bath. But during later stages, matters have
changed. The low cast turned against and protested against
considering them as low. They quarreled, sued and shouted.
The higher caste still observed Ayitham. Modern
generation will think that these are fabricated stories.
But they are real facts. Today there is no such evil
practice like Ayitham is observed. Its observance
is a criminal offence.
(Worship of tools)
function organized during Navarathri.
The implements and weapons will be placed
for the blessings of the god. Not only
implements, but books will also be placed
for pooja. The pooja will start
on the day of Durgashtami and end on
Vijayadashami day. Ayudhapooja
or Saraswathypooja is observed during
Thulam (September-October) every year.
Ayyappanpattu (Song of Lord Ayyappa)
A function organised in connection with the Sabarimala
pilgrimage. Pilgrims do this before they start their
pilgrimage to the hills. It is also known as “Pattum
Vilakkum” (Song and Lights).
Azhichattam (jumping over fire pit)
is a fire pit with full of ember and hot stones. The
oracles, devotees and poojaris (priests) jump in the
fire pit barefoot. It is believed that the fire will
not cause any burn to them.
AANAYOTTAM (Elephant Race)
function at Guruvayoor and Thiruvarpu temples. The
anayottam at Guruvayoor was conducted during the month
of Kumbham, which marks the beginning of temple festival;
The race of elephant will be conducted on the occasion.
The race will befrom Manjulal at the east gate of
Guruvayoor to the main entrance of the temple. Later
the elephants will be taken to inside of the temple
and after running three rounds, the elephant that
touches the kodimaram (flag post) will be declared
as the winner. In Thruvarpu temple, anayottam was
conducted in the month of Medam to mark the beginning
ladies are fond of ornaments. During olden days,
stone chains and anklets were used as ornaments.
Today they are golden chains
and bangles. In olden days, nair ladies wore rings
for earls. A shining piece tied in a round golden
string was worn in the middle of neck.
Just below that, a shining metal made of green
and red diamonds tied on a golden string was worn.
Bangles made of Thanjavur style was worn in hands.
Rings were worn in fingers.
at Sivarathri festival at the bank of Aluva
festival is celebrated during the month of Kumbam
(February). In Aluva it is celebrated in great splendor
at the sandy banks of Periyar River.
(Boat race at Aranmula)
Boat race conducted in the Pampa River at Aranumla
on the Uthrattathi day of Chingom is known as Aranmula
Vallam (boat) kali (race). This is famous boat race
connected with onam celebrations.
procession at Thiruvananthapuram
closing ceremony of temple festival is known as Arat.
The idol of the god is taken in festive procession
and dips in the river or pond or sea. The people
also dip themselves with the idol. The poojaris (priests)
and followers take part in the function. Usually each
temple has its own ponds or it may situate near rivers.In
almost temples of Kerala Arat isperformed at the end
of the temple festival. Arts at Guruvayur Sri Krishna
Temple and Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram
are very famous.
at Guruvayoor Temple
procession starts from Padmanabha Swami temple
at ThiruvananthapuramThe beginning of the
festival will be on the ‘pooyam’ day in the
month of Kumbham. The festival will end on
the tenth day with arat.
Maharaja (middle) participapting in arat
the Sri.Padmanabha Swami Temple, Thiruvannthapuram
there will be two festivals in a year. They are in
the months of Thulam (October-November) and Meenam
(March-April). Arat is performed in a great festive
moon on both the occasions. The Travancore Maharajah
also takes part in the Arat. Therefore, the festival
was celebrated in great pomp and splendour befitting
to the kingly status. When the arat of other temples
were conducted in rivers or ponds, arat of Sri Padmanabha
Swami temple was conducted in the Arabian Sea at Shanghumughom.
is known as the pooram of poorams. It is the festival
of gods in centre Kerala. It is one of the most famous
poorams of Kerala celebrated with grand splendour.
Peruva(ma)nam was one of the sixty four gramas of
Kerala established by Parasurama. The festival of
the Irattayappan temple of Peruva(ma)nam last for
28 years beginning from the Uthram day of Kumbham
(February-March) to Uthram day of Meenam (March-April).
Peruvanam pooram was the Valiyavilakku and Arattupuzha
pooram was the Arattuvilakku. It was in AD 583 that
the Peruva(ma)nam Arattupuzha pooram began. If it
was so they are as old as 1400 years. The famous
Thrissur Pooram has not aged even 200 years.
ARAPPU VILI (Shouting of happiness)
is an expression of happiness on the birth of male child.
The words “Aarappee….. irre….” is shouted during marriage
and other happy functions also.
Pongala is an
offering made Attukal Bhagavathy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram.
This offering can be made on all days. But offerings
on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday are more important.
The most auspicious pongala is performed on the
ninth day of the festival conducted during the month
Kumbhom (February-March).Rice, jaggery, coconut
are to be handed over the temple priest who will
prepare a special recipe out these materials and
perform pongala. This is the procedure in ordinary
days. During festival day women themselves perform
before starting pongala
The Pongala on
the nineth day of festival was performed with special
functions. Only women are permitted to perform this
offering. They consider it as a great luck and good
fortune. On the day before Pongala they should take
special vrathas to make them pure, neat and clean.
They have to cook pongala in the temple premises itself.
The pongala function starts from early morning itself.
After taking bath and wearing wet dresses they will
undertake the cooking of pongala with their minds
all in praise of Attukal Ambika (the godess). At
about 12 noon the fire will be lit in the temple kitchen.
Then crackers will be burst and drumbeats will sound.
On hearing this, women will lit fire in their temporary
cooking plots. Within five minutes the temple vicinity
will fully be covered with smoke. People cannot see
each other in the dense smoke. This indeed a very
rate phenomenon. They continue to offer pongala by
cooking the recipe using rice, jaggery, coconut etc
in earthen pots till it is ready. At about four O’
clock the temple priest bring the holy water which
was used to consecrate the idol and by using the areca
nut petiole the holy water sprayed in all pongalas.
When the holy water sprayed, this will become a part
of the offering made to Attukal Ambika. After this
function, they carry the pongala on their heads and
returned to their homes.
temple premises are not enough to provide space for
all devotees. Women devotees occupy about 5 Sq.Km
for offering. Here devotees performing pongala near
Sri.Padmanabha swamy temple, which is 5 KM away from
It is believed
that Attukal was the resting place of Kannaki, the
great heroine of ‘Chilapathykaram’. After punishing
the Pandya Rajah, who killed her husband, Kannaki
proceed to Kodungallor. On the way she halted at
Attukal for a while. Knowing the arrival of Kannaki,
the people of Attukal welcomed her by offering pongala.
The famous ‘Attukal Pongala’ is celebrated in memory
of Kannaki’s visit to Attukal.