Legend of Vellayani Devi Temple
According to a legendry tale once, a blacksmith or kollan by the name Kelan Kulasekhara saw a frog near Vellayani Lake possessing divine spirit of the goddess. He grabbed the frog with the help of an assistant and reported the matter to the Nair chieftains residing in the locality. Kelan Kulasekhara, with the help of the chieftains, erected the temple and consecrated the idol, Thiru Mudi, invoking divine spirit into it. Even today the authority to perform the Uchabali, a sacred ritual associated with a festival of the temple, is held by the Nair families. The priest of the temple is not selected from the Brahmin community but from the Kollan or blacksmith community.
Deities of Vellayani Devi Temple
Vellayani Devi Temple enshrines the idol of Goddess Bhadrakali, deemed to be the daughter of Lord Shiva. The image of the deity made of wood is among the largest idols enshrined in the temples of Kerala. The idol, known as Thirumudi in Malayalam language, is four and a half feet in height and is decked with ornaments of pure gold and studded with precious gems. Besides this, the temple also houses several other deities known as upadevatas. These include idols of Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Nagaraja. Another sub temple has been constructed in the vicinity of the main temple that houses the idol of Madan Thampuran. An antler kept in the temple is also worshipped. It is deemed by the people that the antler helps in invoking the spirit of divinity.
Festivals of Vellayani Devi Temple
Vellayani Devi Temple celebrates the colourful festival Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam, organised once in 3 years during the months from February and April. This well known festival forms an integral part of life of the people residing in this region, portraying their rich cultural heritage. The temple, organising the festival for almost 50 to 60 days, is known for celebrating the longest non pilgrimage festival in South India. Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam, literally meaning 'the festival to sumptuously feed Devi,' is celebrated mainly through staging of drama of the legendary story of Goddess Bhadrakali and Darika, the demon. The drama reflects the triumph of good over evil force. It also stages their confrontation, the battle scene and the execution of Darika at the hands of the Goddess.
Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam is celebrated and staged on different days in several parts by the residents of this region. Some of them have been mentioned below:
Karadikottu is the inaugural custom of the festival executed with the beating of a special drum. The performer is named as Panan by the local people.
Kalamkaval is another significant custom of the festival performed in the temple premises and also in the vicinity. According to the legendary story, Goddess Bhadrakali had moved about in different directions in search of her enemy, the demon, before killing him. To commemorate this incident the devotees celebrate Kalamkaval. During this ritual the chief priest holds the idol of the deity on his head and performs a dance. He then enacts of being possessed by trance and fall unconscious on the ground.
Uchabali is another important custom practised during the festival. The performer enacts almost sixty four gestures while staging Uchabali. Some of the significant gestures performed are sarppamudra, mathsyam, chathurasramam, sampannam, and jyothimudra. A well decorated crown made of coconut in placed at the site of Uchabali.
Paranettu is a significant event of Kaliyoottu Mahotsavam. As per the legendary story, a fight had commenced between the goddess and the demon Darikan. The battle scene is depicted through a drama known as Paranettu. It is usually enacted by the residents of the region on a stage set up at a height of almost 100 feet. The drama is usually performed at night that witnesses an august gathering of audience from different places.
Nilathilpporu is known to be the concluding day of the Kaaliyoottu festival, celebrated by the Vellayani Devi Temple. According to the legendary story of this festival, the demon named Darika, after a fierce battle at the end pleads for mercy from the deity. The goddess however, beheads the demon.
On the last day of the grand festival of Kaliyoottu, a big procession is carried out known as Arattu. For the procession the idol of the deity is thoroughly cleaned with water stored in 101 pots. This ritual is usually performed a girls below ten years of age.
The temple celebrates the famous Pongal festival during the Malayalam month of Meenam. It is observed on the Aswathy Nakshatram also known as Aswini Nakshatra. The custom of cooking rice with jaggery, ghee, coconut and other ingredients in small pots is known as Pongala. The womenfolk usually engage in cooking to appease the Goddess.