THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The family from Karamana which has been making ‘Onavillu’ for centuries says that they have been denied the right, this year. The ‘Onavillus’ that the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple will be giving to the devout this year are being made by outsiders, according to a representation they submitted to the temple authorities.
This is in disregard of a convention that has been followed ever since the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple came into being, say members of Vilayilveedu, at Melarannoor, Karamana. Moreover, it is a criminal offence as the ‘Onavillu’ has been registered as a trademark of the ‘Onavillukudumbam’ at the Government of India Trademark Registry in 2011, according to R Binkumar Achari, the eldest in the family. By 2016, the procedures towards patenting ‘Onavillu’ will be completed.
Binkumar says, “There is proof in Mathilakom records to show that the practice of offering ‘Pallivillu’ was restarted in AD 1502, when Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple was renovated during the time of Marthanda Varma. This means that it has been around even before. A petition submitted to Sri Mulam Thirunal in 1865 states how a member of ‘Puthuveedu’ at Tamalam offers the ‘Pallivillu.’ ‘Puthuveedu’ was our great grandfather’s family.”
The discord between the Temple Administrative Committee and the family started last year, when the temple authorities asked the family to make more than 2,000 ‘Onavillu’. It was practically impossible for the family, which has just four craftsmen, to make such a huge number of bows.
Since various rigours are to be staunchly followed, they cannot make more than four or five bows in a day, says Binkumar. Still, they had agreed to make 1800 bows, but the temple authorities were insisting that they make more, as per demand, he says.
The temple authorities asked them to employ more people to produce more bows. Binkumar says, “The person who we employ has to be from the family. We strictly abstain from indulgences, as both the mind and the body needs to be pure. Every bow we make is like our own child. For an outsider, the work will just be a foster child.” This year, they are contemplating on whether to give ‘Onavillu’ directly to the believers.
For every bow sold at Rs 2,000, the family is paid less than Rs 600 from the temple.
If they were to make 1,000 bows a month, each person in the family would make less than Rs 10,000 a month. Despite the meagre amount that they earn, the brothers have left other professions to fully devote their time to make ‘Onavillu’.
Binkumar was a dubbing artist, while Umeshkumar used to work with the government press. Sulabhan, the youngest, was a cine artist. Surdarsan, who is a temple architect, says, “Making ‘Onavillu’ is our birthright.”