Making of the Onavillu

via published on September 2, 2006

Thiruvonam is just around the corner. And, the artists at the Melarannoor vilayil veedu are busy designing Ona villu. You may what Ona villu is?

Onavillu also know as pallivillu, is not exactly a bow but a broad piece of wood on which miniature paintings of Ananthasayanam, Dasavaratham, Pattabhishekam and Sree Krishna Leela are portrayed. These are used to convey greetings and consecration of onavillu is an archaic function observed even today at the Temple of Sree Padmanabha.

According to the available temple records, consecration of onavillu was first held in 1520. Thiruvadi of Thruppappour issued orders to Kannelan Matheven Asari to make onavillu. Today, his descendants execute the work.

The family members observe 41 days penance prior to the commencement of the work, which normally begins with the Malayalam New Year. The villu are available in three dimensions – 4.5, 4 and 3.5 ft in length and 6, 5.5 and 4 inches in width. They are half-an-inch thick.

The wood of kadambu, maruthu, plavu and aanjili are used for making the villu as they have smooth surfaces. ”They possess a wooden dye to cut the wood to the required dimension. This dye is more than 300 years old,” said Umesh kumar, one of the artists.

Non-availability of vegetable colours forces us to use synthetic ones, informed Binukumar. To begin with, the wood is cut into the desired size with the aid of the dye. After applying a coat of red, pencil sketches are made. The colours used are yellow, blue, green, white and black.

On the Thiruvonam day, the villus are taken to the temple. They are neatly displayed on the new cloth at the Natakasala at 5 am. The musicians render Raag Bilahari. Then the villus are taken as a procession along the oblong corridor of the temple before it is taken to the abhisravana mandapam near the sanctum.

Here, red tassels and tender coconut fronds are tied. Then a pair of Ananthasayanam villu are consecrated to Lord Padmanabha, a pair of Dasavaratha to the Lord Narasimha, the villu childhood pranks of Sree Krishna are dedicated to Lord Krishna and scenes like the crowning of Sree Rama, Sabarimoksham and Paduka pooja are depicted in the villu consecrated to Sree Rama.

The bows are removed on the third day. In the recent past, the temple trust has taken steps to distribute Pallivillu to devotees for which advance booking is necessary.

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