Most festivals are a celebration of colours, music and crafts. Kshetrachamayam Sajan and Babu of Alathoor Veedu, near Chenganoor in central Travancore, are well-known artisans who craft the decorations for elephants. "We consider ourselves fortunate to get this chance to do this sacred work," they say.
The duo have stitched the Trikodi and made the jeevatha, and decorations that adorn the elephants for more than 110 temples in Kerala and other States. They also excel in making specially decorated copper plates (amarachaarthu) placed in boats during the Uthruttadi Vallamkali (boat pageantry) of Aranmula Krishnaswami Temple, which is the most famous boat race in central Travancore that is held on the eve of Onam.
Amarachaarthu (decorated copper plates placed on boats) features the face of a dragon on the top, followed by nine imprints signifying the nine planets besides the symbols of the moon and the snake.
This decorated copper plate is covered on the sides with red velvet cloth, on the sides of which five different coloured-threads are used, adding more colour to the amarachaarthu.
Caparisons for elephant
A similar method is used to make caparisons for the elephants. The size of the nettipattom (one is that used to adorn the elephant's forehead) depends on the size of the elephant. It is cast in copper with the sides covered and decorated with threads in five colours.
The copper casts are further embellished with chandrakala (crescent) and snake. Sajan and Babu say that now-a-days nettipattoms are even used as decorative pieces. The Trikodi (flag hoisted to mark the start of a festival) is made of velvet in red, green, yellow, blue and white designs. There are specific measurements for making the Trikodi that specifies that it should only have a quarter of the length of the flag post on which it is hoisted.
Jeevathas are a familiar feature of temple festivals in central Travancore. The jeevatha is decorated with red velvet cloth and copper plates that are embossed with symbols of the moon and an image of the deity. Sajan and Babu say that creating the jeevatha is the most sacred of their crafts and also the most difficult.
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