Kerala festival stories - Welcome to Uthralikkavu Pooram
Uthralikkavu Pooram is a grand festival that happens during February or March every year at the Sree Ruthira Mahakalikavu Temple otherwise known as Uthralikkavu temple near Vadakancherry, a town around 20 kilometers away from the cultural capital of Kerala - Thrissur. The festival is primarily a "Vela", as it is called in the local language of Malayalam.“Pooram” is another term similar to 'Vela' but represents the festivals that happen during the Malayalam month of “Pooram.” Since the Uthralikkavu Vela looks similar to Thrissur Pooram, people tend to call it as "Uthralikkavu Pooram.” The Vela happens at a little temple in the village of Akamala, near Vadakkancherry.
The deity of the Uthralikkavu temple is the "Bagavathi" - Devi Kali. The myth states that "Kelathachan" - a title given to the governor of the region assigned by the Maharaja of Kochi, had once visited the Mookambhika temple for the blessings of the Bagavathi. On his return from Mookambika, the Bagavathi placed herself on top of Kelathachan's umbrella. She travelled all the way to Vadakkancherry, at Akamala and when the umbrella was lowered, Bagavathi got down and placed herself down in the form of a rock. Years later, while people were working in the fields, a Harijan lady named Uthrali used this stone to sharpen her sickle and she found blood coming out from the rock. The villagers gathered and brought the high priests and explained the incident and it was found that there is a presence of Bagavathi in that region. That gave way to a Bagavathi temple at Akamala and it was named after Uthrali. Later the temple got to be known as "Uthralikkavu Bagavathi Temple".
Uthralikavu Pooram is a harvest festival, commemorating the blessings of the Goddess for a successful harvest. The villagers from three villages start their journey to Uthralikavu as a procession with the elephants. In early history, it was just two villages that participated in this Vela, namely Enkakkad and Kumaranellur. The parade is towards the Uthralikkavu Temple where they meet and commemorate the blessings from the Bagavathi. Later the Kochi Maharaja started coming and staying at his palace at Vadakkancherry to witness the Vela. From then on, the villagers of Vadakkancherry also started to be a part of the Vela. Essentially villagers from three directions march towards the temple along with elephants and a set of percussion orchestra (Panchavadyam, Melam, etc.). One of the lead elephants would have a deity on the top. During earlier days the Kochi Maharaja used to appoint two armed guards for the lead elephant which is followed till date. But, today Kerala Police represents the guards and two policemen would be guarding the main elephant with the deity. The villagers start by around 12 in the noon and reach the temple in an hour. The festival is a great event where all the villagers meet together and celebrate with massive fireworks and drum beats. The event slows down by night and restarts the next day morning in full strength and the villagers return the next day morning by around 8:30.
The customs followed today are same as the ones followed centuries back. However, the Vela has become very extensive in its grandness. The fireworks, the number of elephants and the grandeur have increased manifold. The festival is conducted by the villagers irrespective of caste and creed.
This would be one of the best festivals for travelers to witness and experience the grandeur of Kerala festivals. At Green Earth Trails we organize group tours to Uthralikkavu every year. Guests traveling with us feel thrilled to witness and be a part of the festival that is culturally so extravagant. We organize it very diligently and have assistance from a lot of local experts who help our guests to enjoy the Vela comfortably and learn about stories connecting to the land, its people and its Goddess.
If you wish to participate in Uthralikkavu Pooram this coming year, please feel free to be in touch with us. We have been organizing private as well as group tours to Uthralikkavu Pooram every year for the past 10 years. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The article was prepared with the help of Mr. Prabhakaran Achuthan who is a localite of Vadakancherry, who extensively takes part in the Vela and knows a lot of stories connected to the festival.