The ‘kuthiyottam’ ritual performed by devout boys at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple as part of the annual pongala festival began on Monday. This year a record number of participants, 936, are taking part in the ritual. The kuthiyottam is an age-old ritual which is a symbolic representation of the mythological fight between the goddess and demon Mahishasura.
According to the legend, though the goddess had the ultimate win, large number of her soldiers were left wounded in the fight. The boys who represent the wounded soldiers stay on the temple premises for seven days till February 17.
On Monday, the ritual began with the boys receiving the ‘prasadam’ from the temple chief priest around 9.30 am. On the following days the boys will begin their day with a bath in the temple pond and visiting the goddess in wet clothes.
“After the bath, they will take water in a ‘kindi’ (a kind of traditional pitcher), circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum and have ‘darshan’ of the goddess. After lying prostrate in front of the goddess they will be seated at a designated place on the temple premises,” said temple office-bearers.
The boys stay at the temple wearing a ‘thorthu’, a medium-sized cotton towel, and are allowed to meet their parents only one time on the day when they return from the pond after bath.
The temple officials said elaborate arrangements have been made for the comfortable stay of the young devotees. The menu includes ‘kanji’ (rice porridge) in the morning, ‘sadya’ in noon, and ‘aval’ (rice flake), plantain and tender coconut for dinner.
Traditional art forms will be performed for the boys during the festival days. This year the performances include ‘theyyam’, ‘kavadiyattam’, ‘mayooranritham’, ‘pookkavadi’, ‘arjuna nritham’, ‘parichamuttu kali’, ‘neyyandimelam’ and ‘panchavadyam.’
The main kuthiyottam ritual will be held on the pongala day evening in which the boys, dressed up in colourful attire with a crown and garland, are brought in front of the idol of the goddess. It follows ‘chooralkuthu’ ritual in which a piece of ‘chooral’ is pinned to their dress.
They will then accompany the colourful procession in which the idol of the goddess is taken out to the Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Manacaud, and stay there in the night. After the return procession next day, the ‘chooral’ is taken off in the culminating ceremony.