AH, what a memorable experience it was, being in Kerala during the Onam festival!
The trip for enjoying the Onam feast with my mother-in-law and kathakali, music and other cultural shows ( without her ) was pre-planned but my landing in Thiruvanthapuram on the concluding day of Maharudra yagnam in the Sreekanteswarm temple, opposite to her house, was providential. Chanting rudram and Chamakam along with the learned Nambudiries in the morning and Lalithsahasranamam during the Bagavathy seva in the evening was enjoyable for me and hope for the God too, as I know that He will overlook the incompatibility of my harsh tone with the musical modulations of the group recitation. I also enjoyed the poornahuthi, the final part of the yagnam, where only ghee was poured into the leaping tongues of the fire god and not bundles of kancheepuram silk saris or basketsful of costly fruits. Sreekanteswaran would have appreciated this act as for the past eleven days, the priests were asking for all sort of things under the Sun, while repeatedly chanting ‘Chamkam’ and it makes no sense to burn large quantities of eatables and wearable in the belief of pleasing the Gods. The God knows the value of food items. The Nambudiries also know that ; that is why they perform the ‘Utchapooja neivedyam’, mid-day offering, on a clean plantain leaf, just the required quantity of eatables, rice , currys, pickles etc( eight items) and soon after the worship offer that to a Brahmin. Along with him all the devotees who are present in the temple are offered food and this goes on every day.
I do not know how many of you have visited the Sreekanteswarm temple. Dedicated to Lord Siva. This small temple ( compared to the vadakkunath temple in Trichur or Mahadeva temple in Vaikom) with a dominating golden flag staff and dedicated daily rituals attract numerable local devotees although many outsiders skip its unaware of its presence, after visiting the landmark Padmanabha temple. Poojas are performed strictly as per the thanthrik style of Agmasastras with utmost devotion and sincerity. When the women devotees, with moist eyes and palms on their chest, call Him, “ente Sreekanteswara!), how small I feel with all my chanting of mantras and what not!
From there I go through the eastern gate, to the Durga temple maintained by the Brhamana sammooham on which I have already published a write-up in this forum and then to the Mahaganapathy temple close by and sing my ‘ Arasum moodu Ganapathy mamapathy’ pattu or prayer song, loudly without worrying how the curious men and women tolerated my verbal onslaught . I sang for solely for myself and I am sure that Mahganapathy too would have liked it, as He is the source for the evolution of the spiritual spring within me.
About 100 meters away, is the famous sri.Ananthapadmanabha swamy temple,one of the 108 divyasthal or holy place, for Vishnu, standing majestically with a 100 feet, seven tier gopuram, by the side of the pond named padma theertham (lotus spring). Unlike other temple towers in Tamilnadu and else where, the gopuram here is not unintentionally vandalized by applying paints of different shades but the massive structure, an architectural marvel full of aesthetically carved sculptures deserve better maintenance. How the west would have maintained such immovable and irreproducible structural assets, had those been on their land( and collected a huge sum as visiting fee!)!
The ground floor under the gopuram (main entrance in the eastern side) is known as the ‘Nataka Sala’ where Kathakali is staged in the night during the ten-day uthsavam (festival) conducted twice a year, during the Malayalam months of Meenam and Thulam. The corridor inside, extends to the sanctum sanctorum, and in the center is the eight foot tall, gold covered flag shaft after which are the huge statues of Anjaneya and Garuda on either side facing the sanctum and then the statues of dwarpalkas, gate-keepers, large and equally attractive. To the left is a treasure house of granite pillars some producing musical notes and all carrying fascinating carvings. There are four gates to the temple, the pathways paved with granite slabs leading to the long corridors, outer prakaram, with granite pillars with splendid sculptures carved on each of them. The space around is covered with snow white river sand, evenly spread and maintained neatly.
I enter the gold-covered granite pillar-supported gracious mantapam, in front of the sanctum, where only the Maharaja of Travancore, who ruled the state as His dasa or servant, is allowed to prostrate.
What a visual delight is this! Could there be another Onasdya, onam feast better than this?(including my mamiyar’s-mother in-law’s?)