Karkida, the last month of Malayalam calendar which falls in July- August has some religious significance for Hindus. Karkidaka Vavu Bali, also called Bali, is the sacrificial ritual performed in memory of the departed souls of ancestors. On the day of vavu or Amavasi (no moon day) people belonging to the Hindu religion gather on the riverbanks and beaches to offer bali. Varkala Papanasam beach is also one of the major religious destinations on the day. People believe that the departed souls attain `moksha(liberartion) if the ritualistic homage is performed on Karkidaka vavu.
Thousands of people throng the beach on that day offering ritual poojas with darbha (a type of grass), pavithram – the ring made of sacred grass, sesame, and herbs like cheroola. Other ingredients of the pooja – cooked rice, water, etc. will also be placed on a banana leaf before commencing the ritual. Priests from the ancient Janardhana temple help people perform the ritual.
Men, women and children offer Bali to the ancestors. Men wear only a dhoti during the ritual and the offerings done on the banana leaf will be finally immersed in the waters of the sea.
The importance of Karkidaka Vavubali
Hindu customs and rituals give much importance to the rituals that are to be performed after the death. In Malayalam these rituals are commonly denoted as shesha kriya (shesham means after and kriya denotes rituals). According to the Hindu custom, if a member in the family dies, the younger ones in the family have to perform Bali (also called Pithru Tharpanam) to liberate the soul from the shackles of this wordly life and to help the soul achieve eternal peace. The Bali carried out on Karkidaka Vavu (Karkidakavavu) day is called Vavubali which is of great importance.
The regular custom is to perform the ritual on the basis of the calculations on the star of the day the family member has died. However, Karkidaka Vavu bali is performed regardless of these calculations. The rites are conducted as per the Hindu custom and performed in beaches and waterways. Hindus in Kerala never fail to perform this ritual on the day of Karkidaka Vavu.
The rituals and formal procedures
It is mandatory for the person performing the bali to take rice or rice made food only once on the day before the day of the ritual. This peculiar practise is called orikkal in Malayalam (meaning once). A priest will be appointed to guide the person in performing the rituals. Taking a dip in the sacred water before and after the ritual is necessary. Generally bali is performed by the men but on rare occasions women also take part in the ritual.
Shangumughom Beach in Thiruvananthapuram, Sri Parasurama Temple in Thiruvallam, also in Thiruvananthapuram, Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrivikramangalam, the sand banks of river Periyar at Aluva, Bharathapuzha at Thirunavaya in Malappuram and Kozhikode beach are some of the other important places where Karkidaka Vavubali is performed.