Onam banner

Celebration of Kerala's Tradition & Culture


Onam is a celebration that involves various rituals and traditions. One of the fascinating facets of the Onam festival in Kerala is ‘Thiruvonathoni’. It refers to the boat that arrives at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple in Pathanamthitta district with the Onam feast delicacies from Kattoor Mangadu Illam.

This tradition has an interesting legend behind it. The Bhattathiri of Kattoor Mangadu Illam did not have children for a long time. Finally when a child was born, he considered it the blessing of lord Parthasarathy in the Aranmula temple. Every year, the Bhattathiri had a practice of feeding a celibate before having his Thiruvonam lunch. On one occasion, such a celibate did not come to his house.  Bhattathiri insisted that he won’t have the lunch unless a celibate came and had food. Eventually a kid came and had the lunch. Lord Krishna, who was impressed with Bhattathiri’s devotion and faith, appeared on his dream and asked him to give the feast to the Aranmula temple. 

From the next year onwards, Bhattathiri would bring the feast on a boat to the Aranmula temple from Mangadu Illam. This boat (known as thoni in Malayalam) eventually began to be addressed as ‘Thiruvonathoni’. On one of these trips, the Bhattathiri was attacked by bandits on his way to the temple. The people of the locality came to know about the attack and arrived at the spot on boats to provide protection for Thiruvonathoni and Bhattathiri. From that year onwards, chundan vallams (snake boats) that serve also as battle boats began to accompany the Thiruvonathoni. In course of time these boats began to be referred to as ‘Aranmula Palliyodams’.

After Bhattathiri shifted his residence from Mangadu Illam to a new place near Kumaranelloor Karthiyayani Temple, the starting point of Thiruvonathoni also changed to this new location known as Kumaranelloor Mana. On the day of Moolam in the month of Chingam, the eldest Bhattathiri of the family would set out on a Churulan boat. When he arrives at Kattoor in Aranmula, the boat receives a grand welcome from the people. The feast will then be shifted to the decorated bigger boat, which is the Thiruvonathoni. The spectacular procession passes through various places including Kidangara, Thiruvalla, Aarattupuzha, Kozhancherry and Kattoor, before arriving at the shore of Aranmula temple on the morning of Thiruvonam. The arrangements for a grand feast will begin then.

The feast will include delicacies brought by Bhattathiri as well as offerings to the deity by various other people. After ‘Athazha Pooja’ that day, Bhattathiri receives a bag of money from the temple priest. This is supposed to be the remaining amount after what was utilized for the feast. Bhattathiri drops the same in the temple repository and starts his onward journey, this time not in Thiruvonathoni though.

Festival Calendar