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Painting of woman holding vilakku.

Nilavilakku is a traditional lamp used commonly in Kerala as well as in Tamil nadu (called Kuthuvillakku).[1] The traditional lamps which is lit during every auspicious occasions; in temples before the worship starts; at the official and unofficial functions.


Syrian Christian Nilavilakku
a lighted up nilavilakku
Bronze lamp used in Temples.

Nilam in the Malayalam/Tamil[1] language means floor or the ground and vilakku means lamp.


Original usage in Hinduism[edit]

The Nilavilakku is integral to several rituals and ceremonies in Hindu families in Kerala. As the sun sets, young girls of the family bring the lighted lamps to the verandah of the house, continued with evening prayers. In the evening the ritual is repeated alongside evening prayers. In Hindu temples, various types of Nilavilakku like 'Kutthuvilakku', 'Thookkuvilakku' etc are used and are very much related to the traditional beliefs and activities in Kerala.

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. In Kerala, many functions are inaugurated by lighting Nilavilakku.[2]

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.

Adoption by other religions[edit]


With the reach of Christianity in Kerala, Saint Thomas Christians (or Syrian Christians) also started keeping 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. A special type of Nilavilakku, called Aal Vilakku is used in Temples of South India, especially in Kerala.[3]


It can also be found in certain Muslim mosques like Ponnani Al Maqtoom Juma Masjid and Jarams (holy caves) in Kerala,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b RRV. "South Indian Traditional Nilavilakku 12 Inch tall". Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  2. ^ "Nilavilakku - The Kerala's Traditional Oil Lamp - Neokerala". Neokerala. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  3. ^ [1]|