Kalpathy (Palakkad) Ratholsavam of Kerala - a hoary tradition and legacy of Tamil Brahmins of Palakkad

Kalpathy ratholsavam, Palakkad, Kerala. twitter.com

Kalpathy, Palakad, Sree Vishwanathaswami templehehindu.com

Above image:  Sree Vishalakshi Sametha Sree  Vishwanatha Swami Temple (1425 AD) car festival,  Kalpathy Agraharam, near Palakkad, a declared first heritage village of the state of Kerala. It is also known as Dakshin Kasi or the 'Varanasi of the South. Locally this site is called  Half of Kashi” or “Kashiyil Pakuthi Kalpathy”................    

Kalpathy car festival, Kerala.  philaindia.info

Kalpathy car festival, Kerala. philaindia.info

Palakkad, Kerala location map  in.pinterest.c

The temple chariot run or Therottam in Tamil is held annually in most of the temples in Tamil nadu or elsewhere, but in a few temples like Sri Nataraja temple at Chidambaram the chariots are taken out twice a year. Ther Thiruvizha or ratha festival has been a joyous occasion to see massive rathas gently moving along the road around the temple.  It is an exciting and soul-stirring experience to see them  being pulled forward by hundreds of devotes holding firmly on the huge ropes tied to the car on either side - left and right. Pulling the ''sacred moving temple'' is a sort of prayer to the almighty. The belief  has been that such a religious duty will help the devotees  get salvation (vaikundam). 

Kalpathy ratholsavam, Palakkad, Keralasouthtourism.in

 Among the temple chariot festivals of Kerala, the famous one is the annual  Kalpathy Rathoschavam (Ratholsavam) - a ten day event that falls in the month of November (Tamil month of Aippasi) a great cultural and religious  extravaganza of hoary tradition.  As part of the festivities the  decorated rathas carrying the god will be taken out in the last  two days. It is held in the famous   Sri Visalakshi Sametha Sri Viswanatha Swamy (1425 AD) temple of Kalpathy Agraharam near Palakkad city of Kerala state. The temple is close to  the Nila River (also called Dakshin Bhagirathi).  According to a  stone  inscription to  the east  of Shiva Temple it was built in the Malayalam year 600 (1425 AD) by Shri Itti Kombi Achan.

Kalpathy rtholsavam. elephant pushing the ther. Kerala. alamy.com

Kalpathy Viswanatha swami temple. Kerala. tourkicks.in

Here, Devaratha Sangamom or therottam event is of great antiquity roughly 700 years old,  marking the culmination of the annual car festival of the temple. It  is normally  preceded by Upanishad recitation, Vedic discourses, etc. The Tamil-speaking  Brahmins living in the Agraharam play an active role along with others.  Migrated to Palakkad in the 14th century from Mayavaram and other places of the delta area of Tanjore (Thaanjavur), TN, they established 96 agraharams and 18 within Palakkad town. 

The tradition at the temple is that  the first 6-8 days, there will be focus on   Vedic chanting of hymns, temple certain rituals (based on Vedic worship), etc. The religious ceremonies for the Ratholsavam  are held at participating temples in the four Tamil Brahmin Agraharams of Kalpathi,  New Kalpathi, Old Kalpathi, Chathapuram and Govindarajapuram.

Kalpathy agraharam, Palakkad, keralablog.railyatri.in

Kalpathy agraharam, Palakkad, kerala. blog.railyatri.in

Above images. Agraharam is a Brahmin settlement almost disappeared in Tamil Nadu for various reason. Here in Kerala the agraharam is a heritage site officially recognized by the state government, example Kalpathy.  The rows of houses on either side with a common wall  symmetrically  aligned in proper direction,  fa├žade with a sloping tiled roof supported by wooden pillars set on the pial (in Tamil 'Thinnai') are the main features. Open yard (mittham), Tulasi maadam,  storage room, separate quarter for woman on period etc.,  are other common features. Agraharam represents a  shared space of a brahmin community where classical music chanting of mantras are part of daily activities...........

The festival and mode of worship held here  are,  though based strictly on the Tamil Brahmin Vedic culture and ethos, one can see a blend of native culture as well, the temple architecture, beating of  drums,  decoration style of the ratha, etc. The highlight is  native communities play an active role in this festival. 
Kalpathy ratholsavam, Palakkad, Kerala  kerala tourism.org

The important festival event that is carrying the utchavars (processional idols of the temples) will be held in the last two days. The entire rathothchavam is held with utter dedication and religious fervor.  There will be more than one chariot of different sizes. The chariots here differ from those of Tamil Nadu with respect to upper part (canopy)  over the  decorative wooden base. The decoration of the  upper part of the ther/ratha  is like a pinnacle-spire  fastened with  flowers, flags, sugarcane, coconuts, etc., unlike the rathas /cars of Tamil Nadu. 

This festival  involves participation of  three smaller temple near-by as mentioned above in new Kalpathi, old Kalpathi and Chathapuram and the chariots from these temple carry  other gods -  Vishnu, Ganesha and Murugan.  The main one carries the idols of God Shiva and goddess Parvati and all these chariots meet at the Agraharam settlement. The long-drawn festival will end with Ezhunnellippu and Dhwajavarohanam in the early hours of the day.