Arattu festival or ritual immersion of idol of Kerala temples - unique age old tradition

Kerala, often known as “God’s Own Country,” is endowed with Nature's bounty - lots of breath-taking picturesque  palm tree  groves, etc., lining on either side of the  crisscrossing  back waters, fertile paddy fields, thick wooded areas, etc.  It is  also a rich tapestry of varied cultures, customs and festivals native to this land. The other attraction is  Kerala's unique Hindu temples with native architecture dominated by woods and slanting  tiled roof. Thus,  this state stands apart in its  traditional  architectural, spiritual and vibrant cultural heritage.

arattu at Manalikara Azhuvar Sree Krishna

Ārāttu is an important annual ritual associated with Hindu temple     festivals in Kerala, in which the  temple priest reverentially takes the processional idol - Utchava murthy  to a water body like the river or temple tank to bathe the idol in the water in the midst of chanting relevant mantras. This ritual takes place at the end of the temple festival.  

Annually Arattu is celebrated with religious fervor twice  -  the spring festival (March - April) and the autumn festival (October - November). At the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the festival lasts for 10 days.  Arattu ritual is an important traditional ritual that has been around for several centuries. Here, Arattu is conducted under the patronage of  Travancore royal family and the religious  procession goes to Shankumugham Beach for the ritual bathing ceremony.

The Arattu festival includes  grand religious procession in which the  main idol is taken on a caparisoned   elephant accompanied by drum players, music  etc to the venue of ritual bathing. After the bath the priest will do puja and the deity will be taken back to the temple accompanied by music, etc.  Another interesting feature native to Kerala is the participation of a large number of decorated elephants as part of daily puja ritual or major temple festivals. 

The usual rituals are done except usha kala puja. It is said that there are two utsava-idols (processional murtis);  one is made of silver and other is of gold. The former is taken out only during the annual festival.  Arattu procession normally starts at about 6.30 pm from the temple through the east tower. In famous temple, no doubt it is a cultural extravaganza in splendor  

Aarattu ritual, Thiruvananthapuram,

Above images:The Arattu at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: the festival is traditionally presided over  by the  head of the royal family of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom. Top image:  Royal family head Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma leading the Arattu held in connection with the Alpasi festival (Oct. 2017). Note the caparisoned elephants.....................

The royal member  like a savant  still escorts the idols during the procession  donning his traditional attire. During Pallivetta the prince of the royal family shoots a tender coconut using a bow and arrow. This ritual symbolizes  Lord Vishnu (the presiding deity of the shrine) hunting down the demon (evil) in a dense forest and this  unique ritual is held in front of the Sundravilasam Palace inside the Thiruvananthapuram fort. The Pallivetta is held on the eve of Arattu..   
Thirunakkara Arattu at Mahadeva Temple Kottayam The Indian Express

Above image: Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple dedicated to God Shiva, and Parvati (500 years old), Kottayam district, Kerala.  Thirunakkara Arattu is a popular 10-day  temple festival that falls  in the month of March -April ( Meenam month of the Malayalam calendar).  The main attraction of this festival is taking the ''Utchavar'' (procession idol) on the back of a decorated elephant for a ceremonial bath  to  the near-by river (Puzha). This is accompanied by colorful and grand procession consisting of decorated and caparisoned elephants (usually 9 in number including the one that carries the idol), and  an array of drummers and dancers.  The festival activities continue into the night on the 3rd and 4th day of the  festival and traditional Kathakali dance groups from various places perform the whole night and showcase their talents. Their dance themes  include  themes  from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Mohiniattam and Velakalietc   are performed on the temple premises. On the last day the Arattu ritual takes place, and the venue of this event is over-crowded. The Thirunakkara Hill of the Kottayam town is the venue of the celebration. It is an important temple festival of Kerala..............

At Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple, the festival starts asin many temples starts  with a flag hoisting, after bathing the deities. Ambalappuzha palpayasam (a sweet pudding) is offered to the gods as neyvadyam . The eight-day long festival  At Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple, Thrippunithura it is a 8 day event and concludes with an Aaratu.

/Guruvayoor temple,

Above image: The ten-day long Aaratt festival of Guruvayur temple is of ankuradi type and it is popular one.. The festival is held in the month of Kumbham (March) according to the Malayalam calendar.  It starts with the elephant race and the ceremonial flag hoisting on the day of the pooyam astersim. The festival ends with the aarattu or the ritual immersion of the idol. Brahma kalasha ceremony is performed, eight days prior to the hoisting of the festival flag.