Month of penance, prayers starts for Kerala Hindus

via Pioneer News Service | Thrissur published on July 16, 2008

Hindus in Kerala started their month of penance and prayers on Wednesday, the first day of Karkataka month of the Malayalam calendar. For one full month from this day, Hindu homes in the State would reverberate with the voices of those who read Ramayan. The practice is to start the reading of the epic, considered the holiest book for them, on the first of the month and conclude on the last day of Karkataka.

For the Hindus of the State, Karkataka is a month for penance and prayers, visit to temples and abstinence from non-vegetarian food. Prior to the start of the month, they observed the ritual Pottiye Purathakkal (casting away of the inauspicious) on Tuesday evening, during the Karkataka Samkranti, the time when the earth shifted from the path of Mithuna to that of Karkataka.

They enter the holy month with purity in thoughts, cleanliness at homes and simplicity in life, or so the belief says.

For the Hindus of central Kerala, especially Thrissur district, Karkataka is the month for Nalambala Darsanam (worship at the four temples). The belief is that the sins of an entire life is washed away if one offers worship at these four temples on the same day in the month of Karkataka, also known as the month of Ramayan. They believe that this is the month of Ram and so of Ramayan.

Adhyatma Ramayanam, the holiest version of the Ramayan for the Keralite, also states that Ram is the one name that frees human being’s soul from the cycle of birth and death. Thunchath Ezhuthachan, the creator of this book, says, “The name Ram is one that solves the (cycle of) births and deaths. If a human being if he utters that name by as he approaches death he (or she) would cross the vast ocean of births and deaths with that one life.” The Nalambala Darsanam is said to be the most sublime practice for this goal, people of central Kerala believe.

Each of these four temples is dedicated to a son of King Dasaratha of the era of Treta. The most prominent among them is the temple at Thriprayar where the reigning deity is Lord Sri Rama. The next in prominence is the Koodal Manikyam temple of Irinjalakkauda, where the lord is Bharata. The other two temples are those of Lakshmana and Shatrughna at Thirumoozhikkulam and Payammal.

The belief is that the idols installed in these four temples are the same ones which Lord Sri Krishna had worshiped at his Dwaraka in the era of Dwapar. It is also believed that all these idols were installed in the four temples on the same day. This is also why the faithful prefer to offer worship on all these four temples on the same day.

The month is also a season of bright business for the small tour operators of central Kerala as they get groups of faithful everyday for visits to these four temples.

The temples are scattered over an area of several square kilometres and so accessing all the four destinations on the same day by public transport system is nearly impossible. The only way left for the believer then is to depend on the small tour operators and taxi-operators.

Karkataka has been traditionally known as the month of penury and poverty with never-abating torrential rains and empty food stores. Things have improved the financial situation but the faith, the only succour for the poor, has survived.

Publishers say that Karkataka has become a season of bright business for them as well. Ramayan is being published every year by almost all the leading publishing firms in the State and all of them get good business as well.

The managing director of a Kochi-based publishing company, who by himself is an atheist, says that Ramayan has become a commercial commodity over the past ten years and it had almost become a “craze” during Karkataka over the past four-five years.

“The business is invariably good and that prompts us to produce and distribute better quality books each year. The cover price is not a problem for the customer when it comes to the matter of faith but readability is. Just like any other commodity, here also there are versions aimed at the aged, middle-aged, young and children. Even English Ramayans are being sold in good numbers,” he said.

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