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 olden times.
And perhaps it is this trait of our civilization which gives it a distinctive persona. 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- the festival is a historical convention that celebrates elephants in Kerala.
The festival doesn’t just mark the religious beliefs of the state but is associated with the change of seasons. The quintessential rains have a lot to do with the origins 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 Karkkidakam, when the monsoons are receding. Hailed as the month of rejuvenation, Karkkidakam has its roots settled in Ayurveda.
Kerala is synonymous with Ayurveda. The thousand year old tradition holds its roots in the vedic traditions of the state. Traditionally it is believed, Ayurveda is a good time to balance the three body doshas-Vaat, Pittha and Kaffa. During monsoons, the body is believed to respond more positively to treatment. To regulate the internal systems of the body, Keralites maintain a particular diet regime during monsoons.
When the seasonal reversal of winds and the bursting of monsoon is over, the Karkkidakam 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 for appeasing Lord Shiva.
Aanayoottu festival is an extension of the ancient ayurvedic traditions which were followed in Kerala. Karkkidakam 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. Utmost care is taken to feed them the right amounts of ayurvedic inspired treats. They are fed special concoctions with sugarcane, rice, ghee, coconut and the Ganapathi pooja prasadam along with ayurvedic medicines for cleansing their systems.
Another reason to dole out all the food love on the Gajaraj is to impress Lord Ganesha- the remover of all obstacles and the god of good beginnings.
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 regulating bodily health of the elephants, the festival has been connected with Ganesha making it culturally and religiously relevant.
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 and appease Lord Ganesha. The ritualistic gesture not only symbolises removal of all negativity from their lives but also 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 is the how peacefully it culminates in a symbol of unique harmony between man and the revered elephants.
17 July 2019
Vadakkunnathan temple in City of Thrissur
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