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Celebration of Kerala's Tradition & Culture


The Athachamayam parade held at Thripunithura in Ernakulam district every year during the month of Chingam marks the beginning of Onam festivities in Kerala. Before independence, the event used to be held at Thripunithura as it was the headquarters of the Maharajas of Cochin state. On this day, the Maharaja of Cochin with his entourage visited his subjects. A parade of folk art forms, musicians and caparisoned elephants was carried out, making it a colourful event. 

In 1949, Athachamayam was temporarily stopped for the merging of the Travancore-Cochin kingdoms to form the short-lived Thiru-Kochi state. The parade resumed in all its glory in 1961 when Onam became a mass festival in Kerala. The procession, which used to start from Hill Palace, now starts from Attam Nagar, near the high school ground and ends there.

The royal Athachamayam is preceded by a three-day ritual. The royal town crier arrives in the village on an elephant and beats the drum to get the villagers’ attention, and proceeds to announce the start of the rituals. As a symbol of religious harmony, the Kakkattu temple priest, Nettur Thangal and the priest of Karingachira pay a visit to the king on the day of the parade. The king enters the palanquin to begin the parade after greeting the visitors. He wears vibrant jewels known as ‘veeralipattu’ and the royal crown in gold. After the procession, a lavish sadya is held followed by the awards ceremony to recognise the achievements of outstanding locals. 

Folk stories abound over the Athachamayam. One among them is related to Thrikkakkara Vamana Moorthi Temple. It is said after the last Cheraman Perumal, the Thrikkakara festival was conducted through the combined efforts of 56 kings. But the festival on the day of Atham was carried out by the king of Kochi and the Samoothiris. According to folk history, the first Athachamayam procession was carried out by the Maharaja of Cochin at Thrikkakara. This custom came to a halt when the Thrikkakara temple was taken over by the king who ruled Edapally.

Another folklore states that the Athachamayam parade was conducted as a remembrance of the revolt that happened when the Maharaja of Cochin tried to capture the land of Vanneri from the Samoothiris. After he lost the battle, the King never wore the crown and used to place the ‘Kulashekhara’ crown on his lap in later processions. Another historical account claims that the king of Kochi displayed his military might in honour of his victory in the Battle of Kochi between Kochi and the Northern region. The Athachamayam parade, which is held every Onam, evokes memories from bygone eras and is a symbol of religious unity.

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