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‘Vettekkaran Pattu’ – A Ritualistic Way of Worshiping
Vettekkaran Pattu is a traditional form of worship found among Hindus in certain parts of Kerala, India. Here the interesting thing is that the god they are coming is a warrior, as the story is in the songs that are written during religious rituals. It depicts the adventurous activities of a great tribal warrior, called Vettekkaranlive in a forest area, Nambumala kotta near Gudallur (currently on the border of Kerala and Karnataka States of India), long back. The forest is very thick and there are all kinds of wild animals. Naturally, these animals attack the species that live in the forest, and kill them, many times.
Vettekkaran organized the tribal people and created a group of soldiers to fight these enemies. These volunteer soldiers are known as Elagirivilli chekavar. They, under the leadership of Vettekkaran hunted and killed animals throughout the forest areas, covering almost all areas in Wynad, Kurumbanad, etc. He met the kings and other dignitaries of the region, and held talks to resolve the danger. Balussery was chosen by him as his head quarters and worked from there, providing protection to the people. According to traditional songs, Vettekkaran traveled to a place called Thrikkalangode, near Manjeri in the present Malappuram district of Kerala and bathed in a lake called. Kuttankulam and worshiped the God of the nearby Valliyankavu temple. After he and his group completed these honorable services, they hunted animals in the nearby forests.
The innocent and unscrupulous tribes and others living in the areas of the forests looked upon the deeds of Vettekkaran with respect and regarded him as a hero. Even after his death, they always remember him and want to be in his presence, whenever they are in trouble. Various types of friends are given to this hero for getting comfort in their daily life. As time passed, the hero took the place of God and the worship became customary.
Now Hindus worship, regardless of castes, Vettakkaran not exactly as a hero, but as a Hindu God. Some mythological stories are connected with this and the God is considered to be related to Lord Shiva, or Lord Shiva himself. Inside Mahabharata (a classic literary work which describes in detail the struggle for power between two groups of relatives, Pandavas and Kauravas), Arjuna, the middle-Pandava, wants to get the most powerful weapon (arrow), Pasupathastram, from Lord Shiva. He started doing it thapas (difficulty meditating on Shiva) for this reason, until Shiva appeared in person before him. As a result, Shiva decided to appear before him. But Shiva wanted to test Arjuna’s honesty and dignity to have such a powerful weapon. Thus, Shiva and Parvathy appeared before Arjuna, dressed as forest-dwelling hunters. After testing Arjunas truth, to their satisfaction, the weapon was presented with certain conditions. The story says that a son was born to Lord Shiva and Parvathy while they were in this hunting outfit. This child is called Vettakkoru makan (son for hunting), which shortens to Vettekkaran.
In another version of the story, Lord Shiva himself (in hunting attire) is considered as Vettekkaran. Shiva in this form is referred to as Kirathan (Kiratha Moorthy).
Vettekkaran, who is regarded simultaneously as a local hero and as a person of divine halo, is installed and worshiped both in Balussery and Thrikkalangode. Now, many people, around Kerala State, worship Vettekkaran as their family deity. The main offering to this deity is Kalam Pattu (Kalam means drawing of the deity on the ground, using powder of different colors, and Pattu means songs). Traditionally, members of a community are called Kurupu area is entitled to draw the large sketch of the deity and for conducting the ritualistic worship by singing the story of Vettekkaran. Kalam Pattu comes with grated coconut. As a special offering, sometimes, the breaking of twelve thousand coconuts is offered as part of this Pattu.
On a slightly higher level (or at level level), a square area will be marked with pillars about six feet high, located at the four corners. These columns will join each other with long wooden poles on all four sides, like the square shape above the plat form. Three long cloths of long length will spread above this as a roof, the middle part will be black in color where both will be white. The placing of the center piece is done in a small after party shop (worship to God) and asking the permission of the person offering this Vettekkaran Pattu. This is done in the morning, on the day the work is done. Before the sixth another small shop (called afternoon pooja) will be there for God. These poojas will be held by the priest while members of the Kurupu community sing songs that praise God. (The song will be supported by background music by using Nanduni, the local string instrument is generally used only for these types of rituals). The occasional drum beat will still be there, in between the focused music.
In the afternoon, decoration and color painting of Vettekkaran (called Kalam varakkal or calamity), inside the triangle, begins. Five different colored powders are used for making diagrams. The colors used are black, white, yellow, green and red. White rice powder will be taken as white, rice bark will be burned for black, turmeric powder for yellow, leaf powder for green and a mixture of turmeric and calcium chloride for red. The picture taken will be very beautiful and has all the features of a true hunter. Fresh coconut leaves will hang from the top poles, around the rectangular structure, which is supplemented with flower decorations.
At the top (near the head of the diagram), on a stool, is placed a statue of a deity decorated with flowers. There was also a small sword along with this. Worship by the priest begins with this prayer, followed by prayer. Kelly (combined rhythmic performance using different types of drums, cymbals, flutes, horns, etc.). In the beginning we worship outside the house, a little to the place, which is called Mullakkal Pattu. After that, we put the sword in his hand Oracle (velicchappatu), the symbolic representative of the Goddess prepared to match the imagination, by the priest. Then with explanation Melam (the systematic and rhythmic meaning of all the drums and other instruments), the goddess and the Oracle are taken to the place where the diagram is drawn and arranged for worship.
The priest sits down (near God’s feet) for worship. This worship lasts a long time, with the support of devotional songs by the Kurups and the occasional beating of the drum. Once the priest’s worship is over the text will appear and do a kind of dance around the diagram. This dance form is called Eedum koorum chavittal. In this dance, the Oracle performs various steps such as drumming and devotional songs. Again, the priest performs certain services. After this the devotional chants by the Kurups continued, with one of them performing a special ritual, called Kalam Poli. After this the Oracle reappears and starts dancing according to devotional chants. Drumming will also be included in the songs. At this time the Oracle enters the diagram for the dance. Further, he sat on a stool and placed the basin, pushing with the feet, next to the image of God (called peetom nirakkal– push the stool you are sitting on). Because of this, naturally, the graphs are almost destroyed. After this the Oracle came out and started breaking the coconut.
Generally a thousand or more coconuts will be there, as an offering, for throwing. But sometimes as a special case friends will have to break twelve thousand coconuts. The oracle has to throw and break all these fruits sitting in the same position and throwing constantly without rest. This can last for three hours (depending on the experience and health of the person, the time can be less or more). Rhythmic drumming, accompanied by cymbals, will be there as background music. The word generally rests on some coconuts taken from the wind of the 12,000 fruits kept behind it. The story behind this coconut washing is that the goddess’s thirst after hunting is quenched by giving coconut water. Another version is that he poured cold coconut water on God to remove his anger.
After breaking the coconut the Oracle returned to the place of worship and danced a little more, and distributed small bundles of betels to the person offering the Vettekkaran pattu, and to others. After the dance, the Oracle sits on a stool, while the Kurups begin to sing devotional songs. After completing this, the oracle removed the image completely using the wet coconut leaves that were there. The powder mix collected from the floor will be offered to all the present as prasadam (the sacrifice to the goddess). Devotees put this powder on their foreheads. Some use this as medicine for certain ailments.
This type of Vettekkaran pattu is held in selected temples and in homes, with Vettekkaran as their family deity, in different parts of Kerala. To make the work colorful and interesting, additional things like Thayampaka (a special rhythmic drum beat accompanied by cymbals), Pancha vadyam (another combination of five different jewelry and gift items), etc. Members of a particular family called Karor Panikkar has the rights to become an Oracle in Vettekkaran Pattu. Later when this family became extinct for sure Nambudiri Clans (Kerala Brahmins) took this role. Now, a couple of Nambudiri families are regular to this rituals.
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