Postcards From The 75th Ayappan Festival, Tattamangalam, Kerala

Tattamangalam, a village near Palakkad in Kerala, is a small place if you compare it to the sprawling cities of today. However, it is quite big if you choose to compare it to the surrounding villages. It is the village where my mother-in-law was born and grew up, a cherished childhood and adolescence, judging from the several anecdotes she has narrated to us of the customs and traditions, the people and the lifestyle of her hometown. I have visited Tattamangalam a couple of times with her in the past and it is, indeed, a quiet and charming place, a world that is far, far away from the hustle and bustle of my own today. However, it is very recently, towards the fag end of 2018, that I got an opportunity to witness the Ayappan festival celebrations that are an annual affair in this village.

For the last 74 years, Tattamangalam has been conducting festivities to commemorate ‘Ayappan season’, the period between Diwali (October-November) till Pongal (January 14), which is when the maximum number of pilgrims visit the holy temple of Lord Ayappa at Sabarimala. These festivities in Tattamangalam, typically held towards the end of every December, are quite grand, I have always been told, including parades by elephants, performances by music artistes, large-scale community meals, frenzied beats of drums and cymbals, and the blowing of trumpets. In December 2018, Tattamangalam celebrated the 75th edition of the Ayappan Festival Celebrations, and my extended family and I figured it was time to pay a visit. I am glad we booked our tickets at the very last minute (we were lucky to even get them, indeed!) and visited, for the festival was bigger and better than ever.

Many families staying away from Tattamangalam had had the same thoughts as we did, I suppose, as we saw an influx of city-dwellers to witness the festivities. I was, naturally, thrilled to see the magnificence of it all, in a relatively less crowded setting at that, and went crazy clicking pictures with my camera. It was lovely meeting my mother-in-law’s old friends and acquaintances, and just walking around the clean village roads, breathing in the pure air. We even managed to do some shopping for the bub in the fair that came up in the village streets, on the occasion of the festival celebrations.

I leave you with some pictures from the celebrations, of the pretty stalls that came up all over, of our walks around Tattamangalam.

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The people of Tattamangalam, making rangolis at their doorsteps, in preparation for the ceremonial procession to pass through the village
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People lighting the lamps, at one of the many serene temples in Tattamangalam
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The ceremonial elephants, being readied for the procession around the village. Check out the anklets are being tied around their legs!
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A chariot being readied, for the ceremonial procession
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The ceremonial elephants, all decked up, being taken for a walk around the village
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Taking selfies, with the majestic tuskers in the background
The ceremonial elephants, saluting at one of the temples in Tattamangalam
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The celebrations are all set to begin, and the men with the drums, cymbals and trumpets pour in to the village
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… And the celebrations begin! Here are devotees dancing and performing pooja on the backs of the elephants.
The sounds of trumpets, cymbals and drums rent the air. I can’t put into words the frenzy and fervour that filled the atmosphere at this time.

 

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Stalls selling earrings, hair clips, toys, bangles, food and what not, lining the streets of Tattamangalam. Oh, my, the village wore a fair-like atmosphere!
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Goddess Bagavathiamman, making the rounds of the village, in her bedecked chariot
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The chariot for the procession, all decked up and ready. Here, women are preparing rangolis on the ground, in preparation for the chariot to make its customary rounds around the village.
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A close-up of the men making the music. You should check out the video on my Facebook page to understand just how magical this was!
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Scenes from the idyllic village life in Tattamangalam. Sigh! I would love to spend a couple of days more soaking in this serenity!
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Two stone elephants adorning someone’s doorstep, in Tattamangalam. They surely caught my fancy!
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The gorgeousness that was the village pond! My mother-in-law used to swim here, apparently, when she was a little girl.
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The famed Kerala nei payasam (kheer cooked in ghee) getting ready for the community meal
A musical performance in the village, to commemorate the Ayappan Festival
The elephants, their duties done, being fed before they were led to their holding places to take rest. This was, as per me, the most amazing thing.

Check out my Facebook album for more pictures from the celebration!

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Tips for travellers:

  1. The nearest railway station to Tattamangalam village is at Palakkad. From Palakkad, it is quite easy to find a cab that will take you to Tattamangalam. The roads are in excellent condition, and the on-road journey takes barely half an hour.
  2. The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. From Coimbatore, it is a roughly 1.5-hour journey on road to Palakkad, with the roads in excellent condition. Local trains also ply between Coimbatore and Palakkad.
  3. There are no great stay options in Tattamangalam, as far as I know, considering that it is but a small village. Your best bet would be to rent a hotel/stay in Palakkad, and hire a cab to reach Tattamangalam.
  4. Please do find out the exact dates and timings for the Ayappan festival timings in Tattamangalam from the presiding body, the Sri Dharma Sastha Utsavam Trust, if at all you plan to witness them.
  5. I am pretty sure there are several villages across Kerala that host similar festivities for the Ayappan festival. Tattamangalam’s celebrations are believed to be among the best, though. I don’t have any information about the festivals that might be conducted in other villages, but we do receive the schedule for Tattamangalam, as it is my mom-in-law’s ancestral place.

I hope you guys enjoyed the visuals! Please do let me know, in your comments!

 

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25 thoughts on “Postcards From The 75th Ayappan Festival, Tattamangalam, Kerala

  1. This looks like an interesting festival! But where is Tattamangalam? In India right? Because we can’t find this information in your story… Also, we wonder if the bananas on the charriot are for the elephants during the festival, or for the goddess? And is it still safe today to swim in the pond where your mother-in-law used to swim?

    1. @Travel With Mei and Kerstin

      Thank you! It was indeed a lovely experience being a part of this event.

      Umm.. I’ve already mentioned in my post that Tattamangalam is a village near Palakkad, in Kerala, India. I’ve also provided directions on how to reach the place.

      Bananas are considered auspicious in India, and are a part of most religious ceremonies. The bananas on the chariot are a form of decoration, I think, not for the elephants or the Goddess. Maybe, after the ceremony is over, they would have been distributed amongst the people – I’m not sure.

      And, yes, it is still safe to swim in the pond that my mother-in-law used to swim in. People still do.

  2. Ayappan Festival looks like an incredible experience and your pictures do it justice! It must have been great to experience it with your mother-in-law and meet her friends.

  3. Tattamangalam and the Ayappan Festival looks well worth a visit. I’ve not yet visited around Kerala region, so would be nice to do so. I enjoyed reading about the festival stories of the elephant parades, performances and the amazing chariots!

  4. I did enjoy the visuals! I’m not a festival person but the colorful visuals are quite appealing. I love the anklets on the elephants but I worry about them in the chains. And the stalls lined with all the colorful souvenirs are pretty!

    1. @trimtravels

      Glad you enjoyed the post! πŸ™‚

      I understand your concern about the chains. The elephants are chained for the purpose of the ceremony, as it might not be safe to leave them unchained in the midst of a crowd. They are completely free after the ceremony, as far as I understand.

  5. I’ve never heard of this festival and it was such a fun read. The ceremonial elephants and the accessories they wear are so colorful and beautiful. Great photos too!

  6. Good to know the elephants are only chained for the parade to protect them and everyone as they walk the procession, as seeing the photo with their legs chained made me cringe. Sounds like an interesting festival, so lively and colorful. Why do people make rangolis at their doorsteps?

    1. @Lara Dunning

      I think the elephants aren’t chained after the ceremony. As I was saying earlier, I don’t know for sure, as we were there only for the duration of the ceremony.

      Rangolis are considered auspicious in India, and are an important part of any religious ceremony. They are believed to please the Gods, apart from making the place look beautiful and calming the minds of the onlookers. πŸ™‚

  7. Love the way you relate the personal connection to this place. And fortunately, I am fluent in both British and American, because I assure you, few Americans know the meaning of β€œfag end.” πŸ˜‰ For my North American friends, this means the β€œbutt end” as in refencing a cigarette butt … or the useless end and remnant. And then, knowing the meaning, were you really implying the β€œuseless end” of 2018? Inquiring linquistic minds. πŸ˜‰

  8. The Tattamangalam festival looks so grand and steeped in tradition. It seems so calm and peaceful, an atmosphere of celebration and joy coupled with devotion. Such a far cry from the shape that festivals in Urban India have taken nowadays.

  9. ah the kolam & all somehow resembles brahmin theruvu s in my hometown trivandrum.. used to roam around there back to hit birds.. πŸ˜‰

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