Friday, July 31, 2009

Important festivals in August 2009

It has been some time since I posted. During this time, I went on a very satisfying pilgrimage to Sabarimala and have been busy since my return. Before I realised it, we were on the threshold of August, which is a month full of festivals after a lean period of a couple months. Since details of the Sabarimala trip will take longer to post, here are the important dates for the month of August 2009.

5th August 2009 - Aavani Avittam or Yajur Upakarma
Yajur Upakarma is a very important festival in the Hindu calendar. Though only the menfolk observe the rituals, it is equally important for the whole family. Tradtionally the rituals start early in the morning with recital of Kamokarshit japa followed by Yagnopaveetha dharanam and Kandarishi tharpanam. After this is the Vedarambham.

The rituals are as always followed by a sumptuous lunch with payasam and vadai. Many dishes like Morkoottan or Parikkai pitla or Aviyal, thoran, pachadi, erissery are prepared for the lunch.

6th August 2009 - Gayathri japam

Again the rituals are only for the menfolk. The men have to recite the gayatri mantra 1008 times in the morning.

13th August 2009 - Gokulashtami or Ashtami Rohini or Janmashtami

Gokulashtami is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. There are many people who observe a fast on this day until midnight, which is supposed to be the time of Krishna’s birth.

The main neyvedyams for Gokulashtami are Cheedais, Neyyappam, Sweet Avil, Palpayasam and Butter.

23rd August 2009 - Ganesh Chaturthi and Sama Upakarma

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. The festival is celebrated differently in different parts of India. Among the Tamil Iyers it is celebrated by offering pooja to Lord Ganesha and offering Kozhukkattai, Neyyappam and Payasam as neyvedyams. Though it is not a custom among Kerala Iyers, many families install an idol of Lord Ganesha and do pooja and immerse the idol in a lake or river or sea on the 3rd or 5th day after Chathurthi.

The Upakarma or Avani Avittam for Samavedis is also celebrated on this day, though the Gayathri Japam is done along with Yajurvedis on the 6th August.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Ode to Puthucode (Now With Pictures)

Unfortunately I didn't have all my pictures ready when I posted about Puthucode Bhagavathy. Now I have them ready and here they are. The picture at the top is of course the Bhagavathy Herself.
First the Temple Entrance:

Next the Outer Prakaaram

Third, the Mahaganapathy Sannidhi

Next, the Namaskara Mandapam

Finally, the Naga Prathishta

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Ode to Puthucode

I realize that I have just completed 200 posts. I am dedicating this 201st at the lotus feet of Puthucode Bhagavathy, Sri Annapoorneswari, whose blessings have guided me in all my endeavours and who showers Her blessings to one and all by her enchanting smile. A while ago, at the request of a fellow Puthucodean, I had written up a piece about our Bhagavathy. Parts of this have been published earlier at Hindupedia as well as here. I am now republishing it here.

Puthucode is a small picturesque village lying at the westernmost border of Palghat Dt and bordering Trichur Dt. It is approximately 40kms away from both Palghat and Trichur towns. The nearest railway stations are Palghat and Trichur. The nearest airports are Coimbatore and Cochin. The village is located 6 km west of Vadakkencherry on the Palakkad-Thrissur stretch of National Highway 47. There are regular bus services from Trichur and Palghat to Puthucode.

Puthucode agraharam has four streets with row houses and was exclusively inhabited by Brahmins until a few decades ago. Where the four streets meet is the famous Annapoorneswari temple. It would be apt to say the four agraharams radiate from the central Annapoorneswari temple. The temple occupies a vast ground with a large outer prakaaram and an inner prakaaram. The main entrance to the temple faces the east and as you enter the temple there is a deepastambham beyond which is the entrance to the inner prakaaram of the temple. The inner prakaaram is also very large with wide halls known as vathil madams on the four sides where discourses and concerts used to take place. The madapalli or the cook house is also situated here. As you go inside is the Mahaganapathy Sannidhi facing east. Going around Mahaganapathy Sannidhi you reach the main temple of Annapoorneswari. The Deity faces west. The Deity is also known as Santha Durga and is a very powerful Devi bestowing her benevolent blessings to all her devotees. The idol of Devi is almost 4 feet tall with four hands. She is always dressed in a pattu pavadai. To see the Devi in her full chandanakappu after the deeparadhana in the evening is at once electrifying. It gives one such joy, peace and real happiness. One just cannot take the eyes off Devi when she is adorned in full chandanakappu.
It is said that Sage Parasurama installed 108 Durga temples in many parts of Kerala and this is one among them. Currently it comes under Naduvil madom Devaswam. The daily poojas are performed by Tamil Brahmins except during Navarathri festival when they are performed by thantris affiliated to Naduvil Madom Devaswam.

In front of the garba griham or sanctum is the namaskara mandapam, where veda parayanams and other daily recitals of Devi Mahatmyam and Shyamala Danadakam are done by devotees.
When you come around the namaskara mandapam, there is the prathishta for Naga devata, Dharmasastha and Palliyarkkal Bhagavathy on the north west corner of the main temple. A unique offering (vazhipadu) of azhil is conducted in front of this sannidhi. A new cloth (a set of four thorthus) dipped in gingelly oil is hung on the pole in between the two stone pillars. After doing a special pooja the archaka lights the cloth dipped in oil and allows it to burn down to ashes. This ash is used as prasadam and smeared on the forehead. It is believed that this offering will relieve one of all types of obstacles and misfortunes in life.

The other important offerings (vazhipadu) in the temple are kalabhabhishekam, niramala, chuttuvilakku, archanas, etc.

On the outer prakaaram, is the west nada, which is also known as aanapandhi which has the gold plated dwajasthambam. This is where the thayambaka and keli take place during navarathri celebrations.

Along the northern compound wall of the temple is the agrisala, where cooking and dining take place during the annadhanam of navarathri.

The sarat navarathri during the months of September and October is the biggest festival in the temple. All the Devi’s devotees who are far from home assemble at Puthucode for these nine days. The dwajarohanam for the festival is on the prathama after Mahalaya Amavasya and the aarattu on vijayadashami day or the tenth day from the dwajarohanam. There are processions with caparisoned elephants twice a day for the first four days inside the temple around the outer praakaram and on the following four days the procession of caparisoned elephants with accompanying panchavadyam and chendamelam is taken to the four villages on successive days, starting with the South Village on the sixth day. The utsavamoorthy of the deity is taken atop the caparisoned elephant to all the villages for Her to see Her subjects. There is a pallivetta on the ninth night followed by aarattu on the tenth day. During navarathri the utsavamoorthy is taken atop the elephant to the nearby stream every morning where the deity is given a bath and after due alankarams taken back to the temple.

Offerings of measures of paddy and rice, puffed rice, flowers, etc known as parayeduppu are made to Bhagavathy during the procession of elephants to the respective villages. The parayeduppu for the south village is on the aarattu day when the deity returns to the temple after her holy bath in the stream.

After aarattu the elephant has to touch the dwajasthambham which marks the end of the festival for that year.
In 2003, a tusker pushed the kodimaram instead of touching and it came off at the root. Devotees took this as a signal from the Goddess and installed a new one covered with full gold at an expense of over Rs. 50 lakhs.

True to Her name there is annadhanam on all the nine days of navarathri for all devotees. Puthucode pulinkari which is served with rice and olan is unique to this navarathri sadhya. (There is a famous saying among the Palghat Brahmins which goes like this – Puthocode vitta gramamum illai, pulinkariye vitta koottanum illai – which can be translated to “Puthucode is the ultimate in agraharams and pulinkari is the ultimate in vegetable curry") The sadasadaya payasam (Idichu pizhinja payasam) offered to Bhagavathy during these days is also very famous.

In the past the Navarathri Sadhya was conducted from the annuities offered by various people to the temple. However with the enactment of land reform bills in the early 70s all the annuities to the temple were stopped and for sometime there was not enough funds even to conduct the daily poojas of the temple. With the cooperation and effort of the villagers a trust called SAPCO (Sri Annapoorneswari Pooja Coordinators) was formed and the poojas and other daily rituals have been reinstated with increased vigour. The Devi has blessed all Her children with wealth, health and great careers and they in turn pay their respects to Her by donating to the temple funds.

The temple is open from 5.30am to 10.00am and 4.30pm to 9.00pm daily for worship. The deeparadhana in the evening is at 6.30 pm.

At the end of North Village is a Siva temple. The temple is situated at a lower level than the surrounding village. There is a large tank known as ayyankulam in front of the Siva temple. The presiding deity faces east. There are also sannidhis of Mahaganapathy and Dharmasastha inside the temple. The annual festival in the Siva temple starts on the Thiruvathira day of the Malayalam month of Dhanu and the aarattu is on the eighth day. Mahasivarathri is also celebrated in a grand manner with Maharudram, Abhishekam etc. Annabhishekam on the Pournami day of the Malayalam month of Thulam is very famous.

The temple is open for worship at 5.30am to 10.30 am and again at 4.30pm to 9.00pm.

Just outside the Siva temple there is a newly constructed SivaMahal in North Village, which can be used for functions like weddings, upanayanams etc.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Important festivals in July 2009

The month being Aani and Aadi, the monsoon months in India in general and in Southern India in particular, there are not many important festivals in July. The festival season begins with the advent of Shravana in the month of August. However there are some important days observed in the month of Karkitakam/Aadi.

17th July 2009 - Karkitaka Sankranthi
Devi Bhagavathi is worshipped specially in the month of Karkitakam and the pooja starts on this day. The house and surroundings are given a good cleaning and Devi is installed in a special peetham in the pooja room

21st July 2009
This is considered a special day to propitiate the pitrus and pitru tarpana is given to the deceased especially by the side of holy rivers.

31st July 2009 - Varamahalakshmi Pooja
This is a special pooja performed by women to propitiate Devi Bhagavathi for the well being of the family and a long and happy married life. This the pooja is not performed in our family and hence I am not aware of all the rituals connected with the pooja.

Have a healthy Karkitakam!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Recipe: Pacha Kadugumanga

Pacha Kadugumanga is also a unique dish of Kerala and goes well with rice, idli, dosa, kozhukkattai or chapathi. This is a good combination to go with any type of molakoottal. As the name suggests, this dish is made with pachamanga (raw mango). Mixed with cool curds and seasoned with green chillies and mustard, this dish tastes simply superb on hot summer days. Here is the recipe.


Raw mango (big) : 1
Grated Coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies : 3 or 4
Mustard : 2 tsp.

Fresh beaten curds: 1 cup
Oil: 2 tsp.
Urad dal: 1 tsp.
Curry leaves: few
Salt to taste
Sugar : 1tsp (Optional)

Wash and cut the mango into small pieces as in manga curry. Grind the grated coconut with the green chillies and 1 tsp mustard and salt to a smooth paste. Instead of water, add a little beaten curds for easy grinding. Mix the mango pieces and ground coconut paste and sugar to the curds and mix well.

Heat the oil. Add the remaining mustard. When the mustard splutters add the urad dal. When the urad dal turns pinkish, add the curry leaves and pour the tempering to the prepared dish.