Onam is the state festival of Kerala and Keralites all over the world celebrate it. Festivity reaches its zenith at Aranmula. For the people of Aranmula and those who are visiting the village during Onam season, it is a days’ long jubilation. What makes the celebration at Aranmula different are the two mega events that you witness during Onam season. One being Aranmula Boat Race and the other being Aranmula Vallasadya or the ritualistic, grand feast.
Onam sadya is always associated with Onam celebration. The vegetable rice meal with around twenty-six side dishes served on a banana leaf is an essential part of the Onam celebration. However, for Aranmula Vallasadya sixty plus side dishes are served.
The feast given to the oarsmen of Palliyodams or holy snake boats at Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple is sponsored by the devotees. They offer the provisions and vegetables to the temple which is used to prepare the feast.
Besides the oarsmen, hundreds and thousands from all over the world attend Aranmula Vallasadya. Obviously, it is one of the largest vegetarian feasts in India. Given the number of items on the leaf platter and the way, it is served make it a unique banquet.
Thanks to my friend and colleague, Vishnu Raj who is a native of Aranmula, we have all the photos and videos. fb@ vishnu.raj.3511.
History and legend of Aranmula Vallasadya
Aranmula Vallasadya has a rich history intertwined with legends, rituals, traditions, and beliefs. Being in practice for centuries, the Vallasadya is dedicated to the presiding deity Aranmula Parthasarathy. There is a mention of the feast in the Aithihyamala, a collection of stories of Kerala. Scholar Kottarathil Sankunni (1855- 1937) dates the event to have been in practice for three centuries.
Mangattu family is a prominent family that is closely connected to the Aranmula temple. Traditionally, on every Onam day, the family feeds a boy in devotion to Lord Krishna. One year, on Onam the family couldn’t find the boy. Later, it was revealed by Lord Krishna that he was the boy whom they were feeding the previous years. And the family was asked to feed him at the temple. Since then, it has been a sacred tradition of the family to arrange for the Sadya on Onam day.
According to one legend, one oarsman among the hundreds who reach the temple is Lord Himself. As it is not possible to identify who the Lord is, all the guests reaching on snake boats are served the feast.
In holiness and practice, the food offering is for Lord Krishna.
An outline of Vallasadya
Aranmula Vallasadya more than a feast is a ceremony with many rituals. Once the crew of snake boats reaches the temple premises in the morning, as per the tradition, they are presented with betel leaves, areca nuts, and tobacco. They are then escorted to the temple premises with proper accompaniment. The oarsmen circle the temple singing Vanchippattu (traditional verse by oarsmen), in praise of Lord Krishna.
- The two-month-long Vallasadya hosts around one lakh people during the period.
- One Vallasadya offering is meant to feed a minimum of 250 people.
- The total expense can come to INR 75,000.
- The Thiruvonathoni (a special boat) used as part of the ritual costs INR 15,000.
- Ashtami Rohini day, believed to be the day of Lord Krishna’s birthday is the most important day of the feast.
For more information, please contact Temple Seva Sangh: 0468-2313010/8281113010.
Rituals at Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
Special prayers and offerings are made in the morning at the temple. The temple officials will welcome the pilgrims arriving at the temple gate with Dakshina and Ashtamangalyam.
The Mangattu family carrying the traditional lamp to Aranmula temple is an auspicious event. The lamp is used to light the temple lamps. Only after that, do prayers, and the preparations for the Vallasadya begin.
The main event takes place by noon after Uchapooja. At about eleven o’clock, the ceremony begins with the offering of food to the Lord on the plantain leaf. Thereupon, the devotees are served.
The Vallasadya – Grand feast
For a Sadya in Kerala, it is customary that the head (short side) of the banana leaf be on the left side of the person sitting. It is no different for Vallasadya. In fact, each curry has its own place on the leaf.
There are forty-eight items served on the leaf with each item having its spot and order to be served. More items are served upon asking. What is unique is the way they ask for these items. In the video, you can listen to people singing to the tune of Vanchippattu and asking for the item they want. Where they are singing is the dining hall and that is the traditional method of asking for more items to be served.
The belief is that any food items asked for in this tone are served. So, once someone makes the request, the item is to be served without saying a no.
Below are the items served for the feast:
Rice, dry banana curry, yam dry curry, taro root dry curry, jack fruit dry curry, dry sugar, Unniapam, dal vada, sesame seed roll, lump sugar, raisin, flattened rice, popped rice, sugarcane, banana slices, honey, sugar, jaggery, fruits, pappad, mixed vegetable curry, cabbage curry, red spinach curry, papaya curry, senna tora curry, roasted erissery, kichadi, salted mango, pachadi, eggplant curry, stew, olan, six kinds of pickles, lentil, butter, sambar, rasam, pulissery, ripe mango curry, curds, five kinds of payasam, sweetened cow’s milk, normal water, and dry ginger water. An exhaustive list isn’t it?
When? From August 04 to October 9, 2022
Venue: Aranmula Temple premises in Pathanamthitta
Dress code: Being a holy place, you must wear the traditional dress. And being Onam season, women usually wear the traditional golden fringed saree, blouse, and skirt and men wear the dhoti.
Points to note for those coming from outside Kerala
- Expect large crowd
- The rainy season in Kerala coincides with the Onam season
- It is the season of boat races. Take precautions while venturing out to water bodies.
- Aranmula village is usually packed full during this season. Plan your trip and accommodation much in advance.
- Online booking in advance is needed to partake in Vallasadya.
A Travel enthusiast and Foodie, craving to explore the intricate beauty of nature and its gift of delectable treats. Pens down his thoughts and experiences to present a delightful journey for his readers