Chettikulangara Kumbha Bharani

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Chettikulangara Kumbha Bharani
ചെട്ടികുളങ്ങര കുംഭ ഭരണി
Status active
Genre Festival
Date(s) Bharani Nakshatra in the Malayalam Calendar month of Kumbham
Frequency Annually
Venue Chettikulangara Devi temple
Chettikulangara, Kerala
Coordinates 9°13′37″N 76°31′01″E / 9.227°N 76.517°E / 9.227; 76.517Coordinates: 9°13′37″N 76°31′01″E / 9.227°N 76.517°E / 9.227; 76.517
Inaugurated Early 19th century
Previous event March 06 2014
Organised by Sree Devi Vilasom Hindumatha Convention

Chettikulangara Kumbha Bharani is an important festival celebrated every year at the Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Chettikulangara, Alappuzha district, Kerala.[1] It is held is in the month of March or April, the date being determined according to the Malayalam Calendar. Chettikulangara Bharani in the Bharani nakshatra in the Malayalam month of Kumbha and hence the name Kumbha Bharani. Kuthiyottam and Kettukazhcha are the highlights of the festival. The festival is under consideration to be bestowed with the Intangible Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO.[2]


According to a legend, a group of Village chieftains and their works went to construct the Kollam - Chavara canal,acting on the decision of their king. They were stranded due to an inordinate delay in construction. Authorities turned down their plea to return. During the period they visited the temple festivities of Kollam Mulangakam temple. Attracted by the Kettukazhcha there they vowed to their local deity Chettikulangara Bhagavathy, that they would construct Kettukazhchas for her every year, if they were allowed to leave for Chettkulangara immediately.To their surprise, they were allowed to return to Chettikulangara the very next day, and as promised, they made huge Kettukazhchas and took them to their Bhagavathy’s premises.[3]


Kuthiyottam is performed as an important offering to the deity. It is a symbolic human sacrifice to appease goddess Kali. It is believed that the origin of kuttiyottam is from blood sacrifice to please the ferocious Goddess Kali and the ritual has moderated over time, possibly under the influence of Buddhism.[4] Kuttiyottam sponsors who vow to offer kuttiyottam adopt two or four pre-pubescent who are to symbolically sacrificed on behalf of the sponsor. They are adopted on the day of shivaratri and brought to the sponsors house where a canopy is erected and a shrine of Kali is constructed. They are taught kuttiyottam steps by trained performers. On the day of bharani the boys are bathed and dressed up as kings with paper crown, bangles, fac. Their abdominal skin is pierced with silver or golden thread the ritual is known as Chooral Muriyal the name comes from Chooral(cane), as cane threads were used earlier and muri(cut). They are then taken to the temple, accompanied by pompous procession. In the front of the sanctum sanctorum they dance to four songs praising the goddess and thread is then removed and offered to the goddess. These boys are now ritually dead and may not take part in kuttiyottam again.[5][6]

Kuttiyottam is a blend of dance, music and ritual. The boys perform folk dance to Kuttiyottam folk song. In every house vowed to offer kuttiyottam, performance by trained artist will also be hosted alongside teaching the boys Kuttiyottam. Kuttiyottam folk song has tanavattam tala.[7] Kuttiyottam used to be done only in houses in the 13 Karas of the Chettikulangara Temple but after a recent Deva Prashnam it was allowed to conduct Kuthiyottam in the houses outside of the 13 Karas.


Kettukazhcha is an offering of people of the 13 karas to their deity to thank for favors received as well as to seek her blessings. Chettikulangara kettukazhcha consists of six huge and heavily decorated temple cars known as ‘Kuthira’ (Horses), five smaller temple cars known Theru’ (Chariots) and effigies of Bhima, Hanuman and Panchali.[8][9]


Although Kuthira means horse the temple cars have no similarity with horses and the origin of the name is still unknown. Kuthiras are the bigger of the temple cars and have a height of about 70 to 75 feet. Bottom most part of the Kuthira is called Adikkottu or Vandikkoottu. It is the basic foundation on which the rest of the parts rests on. It is a platform having four big wooden wheels, interconnected by wooden beams. Attached to the platform are two huge wooden poles ('Thandu'), used to steer the Kuthira.Above the adikkottu there is Kuthirakal with a height of 35 feet, consists of four long poles. They are interconnected with Arecanut poles('Alaku') and further strengthened with crisscross formation of Alakus(‘Kuthukathrika’)fastened by coir and Panavalli knots. Bottom part of the Kuthirakkal, called 'adikoodaram' consist of four to five extended layers of slanting box pyramids ('Thattu' and 'Charippu'), then decorated with white cloth('Vella'), colourful glittering clothes and embellishments(‘Thookku’). Above the adikoodaram there is Prabhada.Prabhada is the most magnificent part of the kuthira. It consist of carved wooden sculptors narrating tales like krishnaleela, Gajendramoksham, etc... in the middle of there is elephant caparisons('Nettipattoms'). Although the prabhada gives the impression that it is carved on a single wood, is actually composed of small carefully assembled fragments. Positioned above the prabhada, Edakoodaram is almost half the size of Kathirakal with four to five Charippu made as in the lower portion, comes above the Kathirakal. It also has glittering different clothes and Vella, interlaced with colourful Thookku embellishments. On top of the Kuthira there is Melkkoodaram, pyramidal in shape, melkkoodaram of Chettikulangara Kutira is four faced Kumbhathoppi, not the three face Pallimukham. A white wooden pole ('Nambu') extends from the top of the Melkkoodaram. In Koothira the size from top to bottom is almost same except for the prabhada in between.


Theru means chariot but they resemble pagodas rather than chariots. Theru is smaller than Kuthiras they do not have Prabhada and Edakkoodaram. They have bigger Charippu and prominent illithattu in between Charippu. They diminish in size upwards.


Mattom south kara brings wooden effigy of Hanuman. Human effigy depects Hanuman in the court of Ravana. Kadalipazham garland is an offering for Hanuman.


Panchali effigy is also brought by Muttom south Kara. The effigy depicts Panchali, clad in ornaments, waiting for Bhima who went to gather Kalyanasougandikkam flower.Silk is an offering to Panchali.


Muttom North bring a massive three and half tonne wooden effigy of Bhima. The effigy depects Bhima riding Bullock cart en route to kill demon Baka.[10]


Kuthira from the kara Pela
Kuthira from the kara Pela 
Kuthira from the kara Kaitha North
Kuthira from the kara Kaitha north 
Kuthira from the kara Erezha North
Kuthira from the kara Erezha North 
Kuthira from the kara Erezha South
Kuthira from the kara Erezha South 
Kuthira from the kara Kaitha South
Kuthira from the kara Kaitha South 
Kuthira from the kara Nadakavu
Kuthira from the kara Nadakavu 
Theru  from the kara Kannamangalam South
Theru from the kara Kannamangalam South 
Theru from the kara Ajilipra
Theru from the kara Anjilipra 
Theru  from the kara Kannamangalam
Theru from the kara Kannamangalam 
Theru  from the Kadavoor
Theru from the kara Kadavoor 
Theru  from the kara Menampally
Theru from the kara Menampally 
Panchali effigy from Muttom South
Panchali effigy from Muttom South 
Hanuman effigy from Muttom South
Hanuman effigy from Muttom South 
Bhima efiggy from Muttom North
Bhima efiggy from Muttom North 

Buddhist connection[edit]

A theru from Kumbha Bharani
Wooden five-story pagoda of Hōryū-ji in Japan

There are speculations that kettukazhcha is of Buddhist origins because of the Buddhist history of the region. There are no Hindu festival elsewhere, other than in the nearby region, similar to Kettukazhcha moreover a few Buddhist festivals and Pagoda's sport a striking similarity.[9][11]


  1. ^ Kumba Bharani
  2. ^ DENNIS MARCUS MATHEW (February 18, 2010). "Chettikulangara Kumbha Bharani festival hopes for UNESCO honour". Alappuzha. The Hindu. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  3. ^ "Aithihyams". Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Kadammanitta Vasudevan Pillai (February 11, 2013). "കുത്തിയോട്ടത്തിന്റെ അടിസ്ഥാനം പുത്രബലി". Alappuzha. Mathrubhumi. p. 2. 
  5. ^ Gardner, editors, Filippo Osella, Katy (2004). Migration, modernity, and social transformation in South Asia. New Delhi: Sage. p. 118. ISBN 9780761932093. 
  6. ^ "eKayamkulam Festivals". Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  7. ^ K.G. Mahadevan, K Shaji, S. Akhilesh (1 March 2014). "കുത്തിയോട്ട താളത്തിൽ". Alappuzha. Mathrubhumi. p. 2. 
  8. ^ "Kettukazhcha". Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Chandrakumar (2014-02-03). "കേരളത്തിന്റെ പഗോഡകൾ". Mathrubhumo (in Malayalam). Archived from the original on 2014-02-23. Retrieved 2014-02-23. 
  10. ^ K.G. Mahadevan, K Shaji, S. Akhilesh (13 February 2013). "കെട്ടുകാഴ്ച്ചകൾ ഒരുങ്ങുന്നു". Alappuzha. Matrubhumi. p. 2. 
  11. ^ Alexander, P.C. (2004). Through the corridors of power: an insider's story. New Delhi: HarperCollins. p. 53. ISBN 9788172235505.