A Diagram That Shows How Different Groups Of Animals Are ‘Vettekkaran Pattu’ – A Ritualistic Way of Worshiping

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‘Vettekkaran Pattu’ – A Ritualistic Way of Worshiping

Vettekkaran Pattu is a typical ritualistic mode of worship found among Hindus in certain parts of Kerala, India. Here the interesting thing is that the idol being worshiped is a warrior, according to the story contained in the songs sung during the various rituals of worship. It describes the adventurous actions of a great tribal warrior, named Vettekkaranlived in the forest area, Nambumala kotta near Gudalur (currently on the border of Kerala and Karnataka states of India), a long time ago. The forest was so thick and all kinds of wild animals were present there. Naturally, the tribesmen who stayed in the forest were very often attacked and killed by these animals.

Vettekkaran organized the tribesmen and formed a group of soldiers to fight these enemies. These volunteer soldiers were known as Elagirivilli chekavar. They, under the leadership of Vettekkaran hunted and killed animals throughout the forest area, covering almost all areas in Wynad, Kurumbanad, etc. He met the kings and other chiefs of the area and held discussions to resolve the menace. Balussery was chosen by him as his center and he operated from there, providing protection to the people. According to traditional songs, Vettekkaran traveled to a place called Thrikkalangode, near Manjeri in present day Malappuram district of Kerala and bathed in a pond called Kuttankulam and worshiped the goddess of the nearby Valliyankavu temple. After completing these routine worships, he and his team hunted animals in the neighboring forests.

The innocent and ignorant tribe and others living on the fringes of the forests viewed Vettekkaran’s actions with reverence and regarded him as a hero. Even after his death they remembered him and wished for his presence whenever they were in trouble. Several types of offerings were given to this hero to take comfort in their daily lives. Over time, the hero assumed the status of a God and worship became ritual.

Now Hindus, regardless of castes, worship Vettakkaran not exactly as a hero, but as a Hindu God. Several mythological stories are associated with this and the Deity is considered to be associated with Lord Shiva, or Lord Shiva himself. IN Mahabharata (the classic literary work which describes in detail the struggle for power between two sets of cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas), Arjuna, the middle Pandava, wanted to get the most powerful weapon (an arrow), Pasupathastram, by Lord Shiva. He began to do thaps (meditation centered on Shiva) for this purpose, until Shiva appeared before him in person. As a result, Shiva decided to appear before him. But Shiva wanted to prove Arjuna’s sincerity and worthiness to wield such a powerful weapon. So Shiva and Parvathy appeared before Arjuna, dressed as hunters of forest dwellings. After testing Arjuna’s sincerity, to their satisfaction, the weapon was presented with certain conditions. The story goes that a son was born to Lord Shiva and Parvathy while they were in this hunter outfit. This guy’s name is Vettakkoru makan (a hunting boy), abbreviated to Vettekkaran.

In another version of the story, Lord Shiva himself (in hunter’s garb) is considered as Vettekkaran. Shiva in this form is referred to as Kirathan (Kiratha Moorthy).

Vettekkaran, who is regarded both as a hero of the locality and as a personality of divine halo, is installed and worshiped both at Balussery and Thrikkalangode. Now, some people, around the state of Kerala, worship Vettekkaran as their family Deity. The main offering to this Deity is Kalam Pattu (Kalam means a drawing of the idol on the floor, using different colored powder, and Pattu means song). Traditionally, members of a particular community were called Kurupu the community is entitled to draw the large outline of the deity and perform ritual worship by chanting the story of Vettekkaran. Kalam Pattu is associated with the breaking of coconuts. As a special offering, sometimes, twelve thousand broken coconuts are offered as part of this Pattu.

On a slightly raised stage (or on a level platform), a rectangular area will be marked out with posts about six feet high, fixed at the four corners. These posts will be joined together with long wooden rods on all four sides so that a rectangular shape is formed over the shape of the slab. Three long cloths lengthwise will be spread over this as a roof, the central part will be black in color while the other two will be white. The laying of the central part is done ceremonially after a small pooja (worshiping God) and seeking the permission of the person offering this Vettekkaran Pattu. This is done in the morning, on the day of the function. Before noon another small one pooja (called noon pooja) will be there for the Deity. These poojas will be conducted by a priest while members of the Kurupu community sing songs in praise of the Deity. (The song will be supported by a background music using Nanduni, a local stringed instrument generally used only for these types of rituals). There will also be occasional drum beats in between the performance of the devotional song.

In the afternoon, decorating and drawing the colorful sketch of Vettekkaran (called Kalam varakkal or calamitous), inside the rectangle, start. Five different colored powders are used to make the diagram. The colors used are black, white, yellow, green and red. Rice powder is taken as white, burnt rice husk for black, turmeric powder for yellow, powdered green leaves for green and mixture of turmeric and calcium chloride for red. The drawn diagram will be very beautiful and consists of all the features of a real hunter. Soft coconut leaves will hang from the top bars, around the rectangular structure, complete with flower crowns.

At the top (near the head of the diagram), on a bench, an idol of the Deity dressed in flowers will be placed. A small sword is also carried along with this. Worship by the priest begins at sunset, after the opening The horse (a combined rhythmic performance using different types of drums, cymbals, a type of flute, a blowing trumpet, etc.). At first there is a worship outside the house, a little far from the place, which is called Mullakkal Pattu. After that, the sword is handed over to him The burden (velicchappatu), the symbolic representative of the Deity clothed to suit the assumption, by the priest. Then more detailed Melam (a systematic and rhythmic rendering of all the drums and other instruments), the Deity and the Oracle are sent to the place where the diagram is drawn and arranged for worship.

The priest sits at the bottom (near the Deity’s feet) to perform the ritual worship. This worship takes a long time, with devotional backing chants from the Kurups and occasional drumbeats. After the priest’s worship is over, the oracle appears and you do a sort of dance around the diagram. This dance form is called Eedum koorum chavittal. In this dance the oracle takes different steps to the beat of the drum and devotional songs. Again, the priest performs some worship. After that, the devotional songs of the Kurupes continue, where one of them performs a special worship, called Kalam Poli. After this, the Oracle appears again and begins to dance to devotional songs. Drumming will also be in between the songs. This time Oracle enters the diagram for dancing. Next, he sits on a stool and moves the stool, pushing with his feet, to the side of the diagram of the Deity (called peetom nirakkal– pushing the bench sitting on it). Because of this, of course, the diagram is almost destroyed. After that the Oracle comes out and starts breaking the coconut.

Generally, thousands or more coconuts will be there, as an offering, to be thrown. But sometimes as a special occasion the offers will be the breaking of twelve thousand coconuts. The Oracle must throw and break all these nuts by sitting in the same position and throwing over and over again. This can last for three hours (depending on the experience and health of the person, the time can be less or more). The rhythmic drum beat, accompanied by cymbals, will be there as background music. The oracle usually sits on some coconuts taken from the window of twelve thousand nuts held behind him. The story behind this coconut breaking is that the deity’s thirst after hunting is quenched by giving water to the coconut. Another version is that he is pouring cold coconut water on the Deity to remove his anger.

After breaking the coconut the Oracle returns to the place of worship and does some more dancing and distributes small bunches of betel to the person who has offered this pattu Vettekkaran as well as to him others. After the dance, the oracle sits on the stool, while the Kurupas begin to sing devotional songs. After completing this, the oracle completely removes the diagram using the soft coconut leaves available there. The dust mixture collected from the floor will be offered to all present as prasadam (remains of offerings to the deity). This dust is stuck by the devotees on their forehead. Some use this as a remedy for certain ailments.

This type of Vettekkaran pattu is being held in select temples as well as at home, with Vettekkaran as their family deity, in various parts of Kerala. To make the function more lively and attractive, additional items such as Thayampaka (a special rhythmic drum beat accompanied by cymbals), Pancha vadyam (another combination of five different percussion and wind instruments), etc. Previous members of a particular family were called Karor Panikkar had the rights to become Oracle in Vettekkaran Pattu. Later when this family became extinct for sure Nambudiri Families (Kerala Brahmins) assumed this role. Now, some Nambudiri families are following this ritual.

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