Ever been to a feast where the food is demanded theatrically, by rendering songs? Picture this. A feast you can walk into and enjoy for over 60 days, no questions asked! This is where you get to eat to your heart's fill. And if you know the legendary boat songs, then you may render them in your own style, and ask for specific dishes. The Aranmula Vallasadya is just that, the king of all feasts, where over 60 delicious dishes are served on a plantain leaf!
Every year, the centuries-old Sree Parthasarathy temple in the village of Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district hosts a unique ritual - the Aranmula Vallasadya. This is a ritual offering to Lord Parthasarathy, the presiding deity of the Sree Parthasarathy temple, where the oarsmen of the snake boats are offered a mega feast. With a grand spread of over 60 dishes, this is the largest vegetarian feast in the world. The two-month-long Vallasadya begins during the Malayalam month of Karkidakam [July-August].
Hundreds of people arrive here from far and wide to partake of this popular Vallasadya. The Vallasadya is a ritualistic feast, an offering (Vazhipadu) by the devotees to the presiding deity of the temple. The devotees who offer the Vazhipadu will invite the crew of the snake-boats to the Vallasadya. This sets the stage for immense drama and excitement! The devotees who arrive in a snake-boat or Palliyodam will settle in the Oottupura (traditional dining halls) and sing Vanchipattu or traditional boat songs. As the rhythmic and poetic notes of the Vanchipattu resound across the waters, the feast gets served. The oarsmen will also ask for the dishes as they sing these boat songs! If one's visit to the feast coincides with that of the crew members of the snake boat, then it makes for one resplendent experience.
A grand event precedes this massive gustatory experience. It starts with the Thiruvonathoni (a Garuda-faced boat) journeying through the placid waters of River Pamba, laden with the rice, provisions and vegetables required for the gargantuan feast. The Thiruvonathoni is accompanied by a fleet of Palliyodams. The food materials for the feast are offered by the devotees to the temple. The feast is then prepared for the Lord, and devotees get to partake of the consecrated feast.
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