The fabulous state festival of Kerala, Onam witness a colourful start with a spectacular cultural fiesta called Athachamayam, held exclusively at the royal town of Tripunithura in Ernakulam district of Kerala, highlighting the religious harmony of the state. The spirit of the festival reflects everywhere and the people, irrespective of caste and creed participate in this cultural carnival. The entire town soaks in the festivity of Athachamayam with attractive Pookalams (floral arrangement), street stalls and wonderful decorations.
What makes it so special is the spellbinding ceremonial parade of caparisoned elephants, tableaus depicting scenes from history and mythology, colourful floats, classical dances like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam, vibrant folk art forms like Pulikali, Theyyam, Kavadiaatam, percussion music like Pandimelam and Panchavadyam, and so on. In short, you will come across with almost every traditional art forms of Kerala at this very single festival.
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Every year, this grand fiesta is observed on the Atham asterism of the Malayalam month of Chingam that falls on August or September. If you are in Kerala now, don’t miss the golden chance to witness the extraordinary Athachamayam Festival 2019 which will be celebrated on September 2, Monday.
Wish to learn more about Athachamayam Festival? Then read on and know in advance the wonders that await you there.
Origin of the Festival
Tripunithura was once known as the ‘Land of the Maharajas‘ and was the erstwhile capital of Kochi. And the festivity of Athachamayam is closely related with the Cochin Royal Family which was grandly celebrated to commemorate the legendary victory of the Raja (King) of Kochi. On the Atham day, the King used to march from Tripunithura to the Thrikkakara Temple dedicated to Vamana, where he offered special prayers. During the ritualistic march of the King, he is accompanied by the representatives from all the communities like a priest from Karingachira Church, Nettur Thangal and Chembil Arayan who represented the fisherfolk. And it excellently showcases the harmony of religions and community. The parade comes to a halt at the royal quarters of Puthen Bungalow and from there they march towards the Tripunithura Hill Palace where the King give darshan to his subjects.
In remembrance of this magnificent procession of the King and his entourage, Athachamayam is held annually with all its grandeur and majestic charm. Today, a senior representative of the Cochin Royal Family flag off the ceremony together with the other two religious leaders.
Practices and Rituals:
After the flag hoisting ceremony, the colourful and spectacular ceremonial Athachamayam parade begins with the lighting of the lamp which is lit by a priest. Hundreds and thousands of people from all walks of life actively participate in this parade and many gather on either side of the streets to get a glimpse of this captivating cultural fete.
Both the ancient and modern art forms of Kerala are beautifully displayed in the procession while the caparisoned elephants, floats, and musical ensembles make it more incredible. People who participate in Athachamayam often wear yellow costumes like Kurta and Pyjama for men and Pavada Davani set for women. Some women also wear traditional Kasavu Saree or Setu Mundu.
Tableaus depicting scenes from religious epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata are also included in the procession where the characters wear elaborate costumes and masks of bright colours. Evil characters and demons are given red masks to represent their aggressive and violent nature.
Kerala’s iconic Kathakali dance is well displayed in the procession. The artists wear costumes like multi-colored jackets, scarves and plaited skirts along with elaborate and colourful makeup.
The traditional ritualistic dance form of Kerala called Theyyam is also an important part of Athachamayam Procession where the dancers wear exotic makeup, brightly colored costumes, large head gears and also paint their faces red.
Kummatti is another unique dance form and here the performers wear costumes made of grass along with multi-colored masks.
Each and every folk art forms with attractive makeup and costumes make the procession extraordinarily splendid.
Highlights of Athachamayam Festival:
The grand Athachamayam Festival is soaked in tradition and drenched in vibrant colours. The main highlight of the Athachamayam Festival is that you can witness almost all the traditional art forms of Kerala.
Folk art forms like Kathakali, Theyyam, Kummatti, Pulikali, Kolkali, Kummi, Mayilattom, Karakattom, Poykal, Ammankudam, Atakavadi, Panjavadyam, Chendamelam, etc are beautifully displayed in the parade. You can also enjoy Vela kali, Pookavadi, Mayil theyyam, Ottan thullal, Bhoothan Thira, Mayoora Nritham, Arayanna Nritham, Arjuna Nritham, Parayan Thullal, etc.
Tableaus of Mahabali, Vamana, Hanuman, Vivekananda etc and other contemporary happenings also find a place in the procession.
Another highlight is Gombeyatta, a unique puppet show from Tumkur, in Karnataka state is a part of Athachamayam Festival from 2013 onwards.
With all its attractiveness and festivity, reflecting the rich culture and tradition of the state, the Athachamayam is a great start that heralds the magnificent Onam Festival.
What do you Experience?
Athachamayam offers you a unique experience like never before. Right from the beautifully decorated streets of Thripunithura to the ceremonial parade, the vibrancy of the festival can be felt. Vendors line up the streets selling all sorts of items and articles along with those related to Onam festival, especially the conical mounds made of clay representing Mahabali and Vamana avatar of Lord Vishnu, called ‘Thrikkakara Appan’ or ‘Onathappan‘, an integral part of Onam celebration which is kept at the centre of the Pookalam during the festival time. The street is also dotted with food stalls selling not only south Indian dishes but also a variety of North Indian cuisines.
You can also find shops selling ethnic Kerala wears like Kasavu Mundu and Kasavu Saree as well as handicrafts items. Thousands of people are seen gathered on either side of the path to catch a glimpse of the spectacular procession while many are busy shopping and some near the food stalls enjoying the hot snacks. The procession is so colourful and mesmerizing with an extravaganza of dance, music and folk art forms. The percussion music like Panjavadyam and Chendamelam are just amazing and sure to get your toes tapping.
Tourists who flocked to Thripunithura to catch a glimpse of Athachamayam is also having a wonderful time here, capturing what their eyes see in their cameras and dancing to the beat of the percussion music.
Cochin International Airport, about 33.2 Km.
Thripunithura Railway Station, about 2.3 Km.
Thripunithura Bus Station, about 800 meters.
Athachamayam Festival is an ideal retreat for the travellers who wish to explore the traditional art forms of Kerala. Be a part of the remarkable Athachamayam Festival and stuff your eyes with mesmerizing spectacles and wonderful Kerala art forms.