Festivals in Ancient Kerala

Aarattu and Pallivetta

Pallivetta (Royal Hunt) and Arattu (Holy Bath) are part of the rituals of the festivals of some of the major temples of Kerala.

The speciality of the Arattu at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is that the head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore still provides escort to the procession of idols. The two annual ten-day festivals of the temple fall in October- November and March- April

On the ninth day of the Utsavam Pallivetta or the hunting expedition is performed. At 6.00 p.m. Deeparadhana is performed by the assistant priest after the processional deity is brought outside and kept near the flagstaff. After Deeparadhana, the procession with three elephants is led outside the temple and goes round the outer walls and Rudrathreetha. Meanwhile the Lord is greeted with nirapara and lighted lamps by the households. When the deity returns back to the temple, the deity is taken on another elephant and goes outside the east nada up to Kalyana Mandapam. From there the hunting expedition returns to the temple and go nine rounds running. Pallivetta is symbolic of the Lord hunting the boar and catching it, it also denotes the destruction of evils like Kama, krodha (desire, anger) etc of life. After the hunting expedition, the tired Bhagavan is supposed to sleep in the forest itself. Hence the deity is kept on the mandapam inside the temple to be woken up at 6.00 a.m. the next morning on Aarattu day.


On the tenth and final day of Utsavam before the Aarattu procession, the assistant priest performs Deeparadhana. The Aarattu procession goes round the temple and finally brought to Rudratheertha in front of the Bhagavathi temple. The feature of the Aarattu pooja is the bathing of the deity with tender coconut milk provided by an Ezhava family. The story goes like this - Once during Aarattu, the Lord appeared as a Nambudiri boy appeared at the gates of this family stating that he was extremely thirsty and asked for two coconuts. The Ezhava who was a devotee of the Lord arrived with coconuts which were later offered to the deity. Since then the Ezhava family is known as Tampuran Patikkal. At this auspicious moment, thousands of people also bathe along with the Lord chanting His name as it is considered washing away one's sins committed during the previous year.

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