The essence of Indian culture lies in respecting all life forms on Earth. Maintaining a harmonious coexistence between man and nature has been ingrained in our culture since the very old times.
And perhaps it is this trait of our civilization which shows it in a distinctive light. Maintaining the sanctity of these ancient traditions and rituals which depict a unique bond between man and animal, comes the Aanayoottu festival. Celebrated in the Vadakkunnathan Temple Thrissur, this religious festival of Kerala is a historical convention that celebrates elephants.
The festival doesn’t just mark the religious beliefs of the state but is associated with the change of seasons too. The quintessential rains have a lot to do with the origin of this festival. When people everywhere in the world change their food choices during the rains why should the animals stay behind.
It is this cultural intricacy that makes this festival unique. It is specifically celebrated in the rainy season or the Karkidakam when the monsoons are receding. Hailed as the month of rejuvenation, Karkidakam traces its roots back to the ancient science of Ayurveda. The very popular Aanayoottu Festival 2020 will be held on July 16.
Kerala is synonymous with Ayurveda. This thousand-year-old ceremonial ritual is related to the Vedic tradition of the state. Traditionally, it is believed that the science of Ayurveda is quite helpful in balancing the three body doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha. During monsoons, it is believed that our bodies naturally respond much better, handling these doshas, if treated right. Thus, to regulate the internal systems of the body, Keralites maintain a particular diet regime during monsoons.
1. Karkidakam - A Month of Rejuvenation. When the seasonal reversal of winds and the bursting of monsoon is over, the Karkidakam or the month of rejuvenation starts. It is believed that during this month the monsoon season shifts in its last phase. As per the Hindu calendar, this month is dedicated to Lord Shiva. And both in Northern and Southern India people fast to worship Bholenath.
Aanayoottu Festival is an extension of the ancient ayurvedic traditions which were followed in Kerala. Karkidakam marks the end of the rainy season and it is the best time to condition the animals too.
As a gesture of reverence towards Lord Ganesha, the festival is chosen to feed the elephants. These gentle giants are tended to with love and care. They are fed the right amounts of Ayurveda-inspired treats along with special concoctions with sugarcane, rice, ghee, coconut and the Ganapathi pooja prasad with ayurvedic medicines for cleansing their systems.
Another reason to dole out all the food on the Gajaraj is to impress Lord Ganesha, the remover of all obstacles and the God of good beginnings.
2. Gajamukhi and the Gajaraj Connection. In Hindu mythology, elephants are considered sacred. And there is a deep mythical connection between Ganesha and Elephants. The story of Ganesha wearing an elephant head is a well-known mystic tale of his origin. In a warm gesture to celebrate the change of seasons and regulate the bodily health of the elephants, the festival has been connected with Ganesha making it culturally and religiously relevant.
3. The Celebration of Aanayoottu Festival. Elephants are loved in Kerala. You get to see a different side of human nature when a whole crowd gathers to feed them. The pachyderms are brought inside the temple and lined up in proper queues. Facing them are thousands of people who come here just to feed them as it is believed that doing so would appease Lord Ganesha. The ritualistic gesture not only symbolises the removal of all negativity from their lives but is also a cleansing dietary ritual for them.
The Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur Kerala holds a significant place in the temple’s tradition. It is the second-largest festival held in its premises after Maha Shivaratri. The calendar dates of the festival are decided as per the Malayalam calendar and mostly fall in July. The USP of the festival, the peace with which it culminates, is a symbol of unique harmony between man and the revered elephants.
17 July 2019
Vadakkunnathan temple in City of Thrissur
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