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`Kavutheendal' observed at Kodungallur

By Our Staff Reporter


KODUNGALLUR, MARCH 27. The atmosphere was electric. Hundreds of devotees, all in red and overcome by ardour for the deity, stormed into the Kodungallur Bhagavathy Temple here this evening during the `kavutheendal' ceremony of the Bharani festival. The participants, called `komarams', worked themselves up into frenzy, brandishing ceremonial swords and singing earthy songs in praise of the Goddess.

"This is one of the oldest temple festivals in the State and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world," said T. K. Vijayaraghavan, president, Cochin Devaswom Board. "Is there any other place of worship where you can talk dirty," asked A. M. Unnikrishnan from Palakkad. "This unique ritual shows the diversity of our culture and the dialectical nature of our philosophy." Mr. Vijayaraghavan claimed that about 8 lakh devotees had attended the Bharani festival. "Most of them are from the towns and villages of north Kerala. The festival is also an assertion of Dalit identity. Long before the enactment of the Temple Entry Proclamation, the Kodungallur temple was open to the Dalits during the Bharani festival," said Mr. Vijayaraghavan.

Mr. Unnikrishnan (38) had been attending the festival right from childhood. "My father used to carry me pick-a-back as he went around the temple. This festival belongs to us, the marginalised communities. The community I belong to sings hymns that describe the Bhagavathy legend. These are different from the usual Bharani chants," he said. The rites also protest against some of the established religious practices. "The worship is `tamasic', a celebration of raw and untamed energy, an expression of repressed power," said E. K. Ravi, secretary, Kshetra Kshema Samithy.

Everything about the place had a sense of rhythm. There was no chenda or maddalam. But the wild dancing and delirious chanting evoked an effect similar to that of a traditional ensemble. The folk mnemonic, `thanaro thannaro', was on every lip. Possessed, the devotees ran around the temple, striking the temple with sticks, which signified the `kavutheendal'.

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