Vettekaaran Pattu

Category: Other Folk Arts
Published on Tuesday, 02 September 2014 15:23
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Vettekaran Paattu

Priya Krishnadas                                                         

 

Vettekaran Pattu, was part and parcel of our summer vacations at the Tharavadu. As children we witnessed it, year after year, mindlessly. It was only now, when the new gen questioned the significance and relevance of these rituals, my quest to understand it began!

 This is not an in depth research paper or article. It was just put together to share some basic info about Vettekaran Paattu , its history, the ritual , the legend and its socio- religious significance with family members. The inputs are from elders in the family, conversations with the Kuruppanmar, the book by Dr. Babu Mundakkad and of course the inevitable Google! The photographs and videos have been recorded by me at the Vettekaran pattu held at Kannambra Nair tharavad 2012.

 


 
Customs and Rituals

Kodi 

 

The Mannathi (washer- woman caste) arrives with the 10 muzham  cloth required for the Pandal and hands it over to the  Kuruppanmar. The cloth can be Kodi (new) or Alakiyathu  (washed).

 

Kaal Naattal

The space where the Paattu is conducted is called the “Paattu Arangu”. Where the Paattu is conducted annually, it is a specific defined area and it is assumed that the divinity remains here and the place is not cleaned after the Pattu , until the next year. The ritual of the Pattu begins with “Kaal Naattal”.  The East-West facing Arangu is 4-18 kol in length and 3-10 kol in width, the circumference is 16 kol and 8 viral. (the size varies within the prescribed ratio depending  on the space available at the venue.) The four corners of the rectangular space is marked by entrenching wooden (Jack fruit Tree / Plavu) pillars at the 4 corners, beginning with the pillar at the SE corner, the Agni Kon.

 

 

 

 

The ceiling of the Mandapam or the Paattu Arangu is woven with rope in the South-North direction on the frame or ‘Ezhuka’. The pillars and the roof are then covered with the white cloth. The space thus demarcated is then sanctified. 

Paddy and rice in a banana leaf are placed in the centre of the arangu.

A ‘Vaal Kannadi’ is placed on a Peetam or stool covered with Pattu Vellari (2 ½ nazhi) , Vettila (betel leaves) Adakka (areca nut)  Plantains, Coconuts and or wicks (thiri) are kept as an offering.

The Vaal Kannadi is symbolic of Devi or goddess.

 *These rituals start around 11 am and then they break for lunch. The next segment starts around 2pm. (based on this year’s (2013) schedule)

 

 

Koora Idal

The Yajaman (or the devotee who is offering the Pattu) and the Kurup stand facing each other in the east  - west direction respectively. ‘Koora idatte? Koora idatte? Koora idatte? ‘, asks the Kurup and waits for permission from all concerned, i.e, Yajaman, Marar, Shanthi, Kazhakam etc. Once permission is granted the Paattu cannot be cancelled for any reason (not even death in the family). The  Yajaman then hands over the Koora or the Red Silk Cloth. This is then placed on the roof and the Marar blows the conch thrice, signaling the proceedings of the Paattu.

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Ucchapaattu or Ucchapooja

This ritual is performed after the Ucchapooja in the temple. The Tantri or the Namboothiri of the related temple (Viswanatha swamy temple @Kannambra) conducts the Pooja. The pooja starts with a nivedyam to Ganapathi . The two lamps in front of the peedam are indicative of Ganapathy on the right (of the namboothiri) and Vettekaran on the left. The nivedyam is  followed by Marar playing the chenda.  

Vaal ezhunallippu

The sword or ‘Vaal’ is brought in a procession of Kuthuvilakku and Paani (a kind of single beat played on the chenda). In   Kannambra since the Vaal is offered daily nivedyam and poojas within the temple , it is already energized , so it can only be handled by the thantri or the temple priest. It is brought into the pattu arangu and placed on the ground , leaning on the peedam.

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The divinity of the respective god/ goddess is invoked (avahikkuka) onto this ‘Vaal’. The Vaal here is symbolic of Vettekaran .  While the Namboothiri offers Nivedyam he is accompanied by Chenda melam. 

The Uccha  Pooja  then continues with invocations are sung in  praise of Ganapathi, Saraswathi, Shiva and Vishnu 

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The songs are sung by the Kuruppanmar in accompaniment to the Nanduni , a string instrument and the Kuzhi thalam /Chengila.

The Nanduni is a two string instrument made from wood such as Koovalam (Bael tree) or Kumizh. (white teak). The wood is hollowed out before shaping. The upper string is for the drone while the lower produces the melody. The string was originally made of Pothanchittamrith creeper. A mature creeper is cut and softened by boiling it with paddy and then strung to the wooden veena base. Nowadays, the tamburu string is used or the electric cable! ( the kurup affirms that it has an excellent temper which sustains a beautiful shruti! )The string is plucked with a round wooden piece called the ‘vayana’.

 

Mandapam after the Ucchapaattu and Namboothiri pooja ends.

Sthuthi or song in praise of Vettakaran follows the invocations. The Vazhinada recital   describes the various temples the deity passes through as he comes down from Kailasam to the Paattu arangu. At the end of the recital and the pooja, the ‘Vaal’ is carried back into the temple by the Thanthri , to the accompaniment of Chenda Melam.  

 


 

Kalamezhuthu

  


Steeped in tradition, ritual and faith, the art of Kalamezhuthu of the Kalatta Kuruppanmar continues to this day without major changes since days of lore. Kalamezhuthu comes under the classification of “Dhooli Shilpam” or powder sculpture. The kolam , rangoli etc. also belongs to this category. Dhooli shilpam as prescribed in ancient Sanskrit texts use 5 main colours (panchavarna podikal) - white, black, yellow, green and red.  


 

 

White colour is obtained by powdering rice (unakallari), black from burnt husk (umikeri) . Leaves of plants such as mylanji /vaka/ilanji or koovalam are air dried and powdered for green colour. Lime (chunambu) added to turmeric renders red and yellow is turmeric powder. No instruments or tools are used for shape or measurement. Created with great skill and dexterity of the wrist and fingers the final drawing is in 3D. Beauty of the figure, design and the colour combinations are a vision to behold! Sculpted with skill and the dexterity of the fingers, a pride of our folk tradition!

The Ezhuthu begins at 4pm with a ritual called Kalam kurikkuka or Ganapathiku kurikkuka. The mandapam is sanctified, decorated with Kuruthola and lamps are kept at four corners. 

 

 

As with all rituals in our tradition, we first pay obescience to Ganapathy to remove all obstacles and ensure smooth progress. A lamp is lighted in the SE corner and below it a‘padmam’ (shadkonachakram) is drawn .With white rice powder the words “Om Hrim” are inscribed.  Avil (beaten rice), jaggery and plantains placed on a leaf are kept as nivedyam (offering). 

The rectangular space within the mandapam is demarcated, to draw the kalam. Within the rectangle a line (east- west) is drawn to mark the centre. This is called the ‘sutravara’.  It is from this line that the outline of the figure  (roopam)of Vettekaran takes shape. 

Outside of the body outline an ‘aura’ or alavattam is marked by sprinkling black powder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The garment at the waist called the ‘veerali pattu’ is drawn first with pattern which is traditionally prescribed, though the colour combination can vary. Feet, hands, weapons, face, neck, the aura, jewelery are all elaborated following a certain order. The finale is the drawing of the eye. As with sculpting tradition  (shilpa shastra) of Indian art, once the eyes are done, the prana or breath of life is believed to be infused in the deity. This is referred to as the Kannumizhikal ritual. The crown (kireedam) and the outer kalam are then given final decoration. Vettekaran is in standing posture , with a mustache and beard and green in colour denoting divinity (as with the kathakali ‘paccha vesham’ )

 Figure  (In these photos the figure is that of bhagavathy,)

 

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The legend

 Vettekaran is the colloquial form of Vettakorumakan. The word literally translates as “son of hunt”.

In the Mahabharata , while the Pandavas are in exile, Arjuna retires to the forest to do a penance, in order to obtain the Pasupathaasthra from Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati take on the form of hunters (Kirata- and therein lies the story of Shiva as Kiratha moorthy ).They grant Arjuna the asthra but not before they teach him a lesson in humility. Vettekaran was the son born to this divine couple as they spend their days in the forest.

 

Vettekaran grew up a naughty and fierce warrior, creating destruction with his bow and arrow. The rishis and the saints who lived in the forest requested Lord Vishnu to put an end to this menace. Vishnu appeared as a hunter with a ‘churika’ in his hand. Fascinated by this new weapon, Vettekaran asked him for it. Vishnu granted his wish on one condition that once he took it in his hand he was to never put it down! Thus, you see the vettekaran figure with the bow and arrow in his left and the churika in his right. The moment of the ‘picture’ (or the photograph moment) is when he holds the sword in his hand , realizes he has been fooled and turns around to look at the hunter who gave him the churika. When he does, (which is why you see the both feet facing the same side and one foot slightly lifted.) seeing no one else around , he recognizes it as Vishnu and a calm settles over him.

 Vettakaran Paatu

Vettekaran Paattu ritual is mostly confined to the Malabar region and worshipped in namboothiri illams and only in Nair tharavads, who were war lords. The Paattu is conducted as a vazhipad. The ritual is believed to appease the deity and grant good health, happiness and prosperity to the family. In North Malabar the ritual takes the form of Vettekaran Theyyam. The prime center of Vettekaran worship is at Kota Balusserry temple where he was welcomed from  TamilNadu and instated by a Kurumbranattu raja. A predominantly Dravidian Shaivite ritual the Myth becomes a visual imagery through this ritual of Kalmezhuthu paatu. Representation , Symbolism, and Manifestation are characteristic of all traditional religious ritual.

 

In this paattu these factors can be seen at various stages. Invocation of the deity into the sword or vaal. The symbolic appearance through the kalamezhuthu. The manifestation of the deity through the velichapad or komaram. Through the whole ritual we can also observe the basic 3 fold universal theory of creation –preservation – destruction. 1. Creation of the kalam, 2.preservation in the worship 3. destruction in the kalam maykkal at the end. The whole process is repeated year after year ensuring this cycle.

The ritual now proceeds to another segment. As the figure takes final shape and form the others in the Kazhakam start decorating the Kalam with lamps, garlands, offerings etc.

 

 Lamps awaiting light  

 

Hanging lamps, garlands of flowers, leaves, betel leaves and areca nut. The nivedya leaves wait to be filled.

A closer look at the garlands

F:vettekaran & bhagavathy picsdecorated kalam (2).JPG

The completely decorated kalam

The kalamezhuthu and alankaram takes about 4 hrs.. At dusk the deeparadhana is performed at the temple. Following which the Marar conducts the Sandyavela. The madambi vilakku in the kalapura is lit and the  Keli or thayambaka followed by chenda patt (പറ്റ്), Kuzhalpatt (പറ്റ്), Kombupatt (പറ്റ് )etc. are performed as organized by the one who offers the vazhivad. During this time the kalam alankaram is in progress.

It culminates with the Peedam Ezhunnallichu vakkal, an important ritual , i.e a Peedam is covered by  red pattu and kept at the top end of the kalam. On this peedam Thiruyudayada (mundu njorinjathu)  valkannadi and garlands are placed.

 

 

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Mullackal pattu 

After the keli/thayambaka the Marar and his group proceeds to the site of Mullackal pattu. Mullackal pattu in Kannambra is held at the balikal pura of the Viswanatha swamy temple 

(general rule is that is has to be held away from the venue of the kalam). 

 

Picture: ready for the mullackal pattu and pooja inside the balikal pura

 

The Namboothiri brings the Vaal representing the deity and another Vaal representing Vettekaran’s Churika, to be used by the Komaram/Velichapad *and  places them leaning on a Peedam and starts the Pooja. The Kurupanmar then start the Mullackal Pattu. The songs are same as Uchappattu such as invocation (vandanam), vazhinada (nambumalayode balussery) and sthuthi but sung in a different tone. As the songs end, the Komaram reaches there. The Namboothiri hands over the Theertham, Prasadam and the sanctified Vaal to the Komaram.

The Ezhunallippu of the Komaram and the deity (vaal) into the kalam area is a procession of Lamps and Melam. The organizer/s  here can decide to add extra frills such as more pradakshinams,  panchavadyam, nagaswaram, edakka etc. On a grander scale thalapoli, elephants etc are also sometimes seen depending on the availability of finances and time. Whatever  the  add-ons , the ezhunalippu  has to compulsorily end with the melam. 

*For Vettekaran Pattu the Komaram is a Namboothiri. In  year (2013) a new experimentation was tried at Kannambra. An edakka panchavadyam! i.e  Edakkas (5)  were used in place of the traditional  Thimila.

 

 

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The Kalampattu is associated with ritualistic dance performances such  as :-

Eedum Koorum chavittu:

      Once the vadyam ends the komaram begins the ritual dance known as Eedum koorum chavittu. It is performed in accompaniment to the rhythms of chenda, elathaalam , kombu, kuzhal etc. The orchestra is led by the marar. He chooses the rhythms which the Komaram recognizes and performs steps accordingly.  

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Kalapradakshinam: 

  Komaram then proceeds to the kalam by which time the kalam is ready and all lamps are lit. He dances around the kalam performing different steps and rhythm . The same orchestra as for eedum koorum accompanies the dance. The Chembadavatta thaalam is played first, after which the Marar has to play the drums according to the steps the komaram chooses to perform. Komaram can perform 5 to 21 Pradakhinams. The velichapad then leaves the vaal at the peedam and leaves the kalam. 

 

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Kalam pooja

The Namboothiri begins the nivedya pooja. The marar plays the edakka while the pooja is being done or occasionally the marar also sings while playing the edakka akin to  kotipadi seva . When pooja ends, the vaal  (deity) is carried back into the temple premises. ( this is so in Kannambra as the vaal is worshipped inside the temple. It is  energized divinity , so can be carried only by the namboothiri/thanthri). At other places the vaal is in the paatu arangu until the whole ritual is over.

The kurupanmar start the kalampattu as the nivedyam ends. The varieties of songs are sung such a ammannachaya, kesadipadam, niram, katha paduga and paadiveykkal etc. these songs are sung in various ragas and thalas. It is rendered in the sopanam style.


Thiriuzichil

The ritual of thiriuzhichil , the custodial right of the Kurup, is next . There is no kalampaattu at this time. The offering of vellari and coconuts placed along the perimeter of the kalam in the north, south and west are for the bhoota-ganas of Vettekaran  and dhikpalakas. The Kurup offers his pooja circumbulating around the kalam waving dhoopam using palm fronds (Kavungin pookkula) and Thiri. At the end of this the offerings, hanging lamps and the vettila adakka alankarams are removed. 

 

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Kalathilattam (Kalathil nritham): 

The third part of the ritual dance is inside the Kalam. The deity  believed to have manifested in the body of the Komaram. He comes back to the arangu now with the ‘Kolvaal’ and enters the Kalam, removes a few Kuruthola and dances on the figure of Vettekaran.The Kurup accompanies the Kalathilattam with songs. After the first song, ‘Uttameniyo patto,’ he picks up the Vaal he left at the Peedam earlier. ‘ Poomala thulasi,” is then sung to which the Komaram performs specific steps . The kalam is partly erased by the end of this ritual. The Kurupanmar continue with the song ‘Engine chollavu’ during which time the Komaram keeps the swords at the Keedam and leaves for washing his feet.

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Kalam azhikal process now starts with the Komaram cutting down the Kuruthola and covering the face of Vettekaran. He continues to erase the Kalam and the Kurupanmar continue to sing songs such as ‘Kaavil vadakeni’, ‘Maadathil meethelo’ and ‘Kunnalakono’…..

The fascinating ceremony of  Nalikerameru (Breaking of coconut) begins now. The number of coconuts ranges from 3 to 12008 (Pantheerayirathettu nalikeeramerru).  Placing a cloth on a heap of coconuts the komaram sits down on it and starts throwing the coconuts on a stone placed there for this purpose. He is assisted by the Kurups (handing over the coconuts) and the melam keeps the rhythm as he throws. The coconut represents our head and the throw surrender. Thus symbolically the breaking of the coconut represents surrender of our mental faculties in order to remove all troubles that may befall the family.

Kalam maykkal (Kalasam)                 

 After breaking coconuts, the Komaram returns to the Kalam, picks up the Vaal (churika) from the Peedam and cuts down the Kuruthola decorations. He sits in a Peedam (peedam nerakkal) and moves around erasing the Kalam and also dances intermittently. He is accompanied by the Kurupanmar with the singing starting with ‘Vazhkedam Valusserry’ and reaching a crescendo with the song , ‘Chitrapeedam….’ The Kalam is completely erased by now.

The velichapad by now is in complete trance and runs towards the devotees to make his predictions (kalpana parayuka). It is believed that the deity speaks through him. The kurup then hands over a handful of rice from the offerings at the kalam which the velichapad sprinkles over devotees as a blessing. He then proceeds to his peedam , places the vaal  on it ,sprinkles rice and walks around it  (pradakshinam) paying his respects to the arangu (vida parayal). Meanwhile the chenda is played on the valam thala in a single beat. The colour powders of the face of vettekaran are collected and heaped to be given as prasadam to the devotees.  The devotees now prostrate or offer prayers at the kalam.

 

Kooravalikkal


The Kalampattu event ends up with Kooravalikkal. Kurup take some rice and sprinkles it upwards as worship after removing the Koora. As for the Koora idal he asks for permission from all present “Koora valikkatte” “Koora valikkatte”, “Koora valikkatte”. Then the red cloth on the ceiling is gathered in a coil , placed on a banana leaf and handed back to the Yajaman. This ritual is done only on  the last day of the paattu.

 

 

 

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(this video is of Koora valikkal ceremony 2012 after the Bhagavathy Pattu)   


 

Conclusion

 I have concentrated merely on presenting the ritual in this write-up. Other aspects such as history, legend, socio-political- religious factors have just been touched upon. There are more legends and myths connected with the Paattu such as the origin of Kalatta Kurupanmar, how they came to be the custodians, stories of Kurumranattu Raja, Nilambur Raja, Balusserry, Travancore Raja etc.  There is whole lot more to discover within the words of the songs!

Just to add a snippet on social statement of those days;

In the earlier days I believe the Kalam Pooja by the Namboothiri was done in a stealthy manner. The Namboothiri makes no noise and  the bell (kaimani) too  is rung very softly during deeparadhana.  The chenda is also played very softly. There is an interesting story behind this hush-hush Pooja. The paattu was an exclusive right of the Kallatta Kurupanmar.  When the Kurupanmar left to have a bath after the Kalamezhuthu, a Namboothiri is supposed to have sneaked in and conducted the Pooja, thus assuring a place for them in this ritual. Now there is also a Kottipadi seva during the Namboothiri pooja.

We can trace the roots of rituals such as Paattu, Padayani etc, to a time when war was a way of life. Narratives and songs of valour and the victory of good over evil were sung, acted and eulogized to inspire and encourage the warriors. The appeasement of the divine was necessary for victory. And it is probably these acts that an elaborate ritual like Paattu evolved. The symbolic representations and interpretations are multi- layered denoting the evolution over a long period of time. Since this is attributed a high level of sanctity and considered a powerful ritual of the divine energy , the modern times have not interfered  too much with the way it is conducted.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Priya Krishnadas is a Mohiniyattam artiste who currently lives in Palakkad. She can be contacted at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

  

 

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