Nilam in the Malayalam language means ground and vilakku means lamp.
The Nilavilakku is integral to several rituals and ceremonies in Hindu and Saint Thomas Christian families in Kerala. As the sun rises, young girls of the family bring the lighted lamps to the verandah of the house. The girl is joined by the children and elders of the family, especially the grandparents, chanting hymns. In the evening the ritual is repeated alongside evening prayers.
Saint Thomas Christians (or Syrian Christians) have nilavilakku in their churches and homes. Traditionally, the nilavilakku is lighted and kept at the main front entrance of a home. Syrian Christian art forms like Margamkali and Parichamuttukali are performed around nilavilakku.
Lighting the Nilavilakku on any occasion is believed to be auspicious. Nilavilakku plays an important role in the presentation of various art forms. The art forms are performed after lighting the lamp. It is also used for film shooting ceremonies in South Indian cinema.
Nilavilakku is usually made of bronze or brass. Usually cotton wicks doused in oil or ghee are used for lighting the lamp. There are three ways of lighting the lamp. In one, only one wick is lit and is directed towards the deity or sacred space and in another there are two lit wicks in two directions. The third alternative is with five wicks in five directions.
- The rendezvous book of Kerala: activities & experience. Kerala (India). Dept. of Tourism. 2006. p. 83.
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