South India abounds in temples. The state of Kerala is no exception. These temples are the centers of a large number of fairs and festivals. There are innumerable customs and rituals that are related to these festivals and they are religiously followed at the time of the celebration of these festivals.
Two such prime rituals that are followed in the important temples of Kerala are Pallivetta (Royal Hunt) and Aarattu (Holy Bath). The Aarattu Festival in Kerala is of special relevance at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
History of the Aarattu Festival in Kerala
As mentioned before, the Aaarattu Festival is more of a ritual than a festival that is connected to the temple festivals in Kerala. The custom has been traditionally observed ever since the festivals were celebrated. However at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, this religious rite is observed with so much of ceremonial elegance and splendor that it is synonymous with celebrating a festival. The Aarattu Festival in Kerala therefore gains greater magnitude at Thiruvananthapuram.
Description of the Aarattu Festival in Kerala
The unique feature of the Aarattu Festival as celebrated at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is that when the idols are taken for the holy bath, the head of the royal family of the erstwhile state of Travancore accompanies the procession. It is indeed a very grand procession that is sure to impress one with its magnificence. The idols are taken to the Shankumugham Beach and then given the purifying bath in the sea.
The Aarattu Festival is also celebrated at the Sree Krishnaswamy Temple at Ambalapuzha with much brilliance even though it does not match the celebrations at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Here the festival begins with a flag hoisting ceremony. Apart from the traditional holy bath of the idol, an important feature of the festival as celebrated in this temple is that Ambalapuzha Palpayasam, a sweet dish is always offered to the lord.
Time for celebrating the Aarattu Festival in Kerala
The Aarattu Festival is celebrated twice each year. It is once celebrated in the months of October - November and yet again in the months of March - April. On both the occasions, this festival lasts for a period of ten days.