Monday, January 18, 2016

Arthunkal Church Perunnal (Feast)

Arthunkal St.Andrews Basilica is a very famous Christian Pilgrimage center in Kerala.This shrine is also familiar as 'Arthunkal Palli'.(Palli is Malayalam word for Church).It is also called as St.Sebastian's Church since St.Sebastian is its patron.
Arthunkal Church is situated at 'Arthunkal' in Alleppey District which is a coastal place and the west side of the Church is Arabian Sea.The Church is very ancient and was established by the Portuguese 500 years back.The Church is well known for the  religious harmony of Kerala which is visited by devotees belonging to all faiths.Hindu pilgrims to Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple after witnessing 'Makara Vilakku Festival' while coming back this way, alights here to pray in this Church as a traditional custom.
It is believed that St.Sebastian heals several ailments including crippled,  physically disabled people,mental disorders and so on.Hence during the feast days many such devotees also  visit this Church in anticipation to get his blessings. 
The feast of St.Sebastian which takes place every year in this Church is a very popular spiritual event in Kerala when devotees from all over the state throng in large numbers to this place.The 'Perunnal' of this Church is a two week celebration and this year in 2016 the feast days are from January 10 to 27.
Usually every year the most important feast day is  on January 20. January 27, the last day of this celebration is also very important and known as 'Ettam Perunnal'.
The 'Perunnal' of Arthunkal Church which falls in the Malayalam month 'Makaram' every year is also famous as 'Arthunkal Makaram  Perunnal'.

A procession carrying the statue of St.Sebastian to the beach and back in a chariot is an important event of the feast usually held on 27th January  in which large crowd of devotees participate.On this occasion many ardent devotees crawl on their knees,some roll on the ground all the way from the beach to the Church  as their 'nercha' (offering) to express their love,respect and devotion to the Saint.Offering small replica of bow and arrow is a traditional practice of this church.

Cherthala is the nearest Railway Station which is 8 km and Alapuzha Railway Station is 21 km.Cochin International Airport is only 68 km away. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Makar Sankranti

Makar Sankranti is an auspicious occasion which is celebrated all over India and neighboring countries like 'Nepal,Myanmar,Sri Lanka,Camodia,Thailand' etc.It is called as Makara Sankramam or Makara Sankranti in Kerala which is a grand festival day in all temples of Kerala especially at Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Swamy Temple.Makara Sankramam followed by 'Makara Vilakku' is the most important and significant celebration of this temple and on that day evening 'Makara Jyothi' is witnessed at 'Ponnambalamedu' and 'Makara Nakshatram' a celestial star appears on the eastern horizon.
Special pooja rituals will be held at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple at the time of 'Makara Sankramam'.This year the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa Swamy will be opened and Pooja rituals will be held  around 1.30 a.m. on 15th January 2016.
Makara Sankramam is the auspicious time of transition of Sun into the zodiac sign of 'Makara' which is Capricorn.Usually this happens on January 14th or 15th every year.From this time on wards Sun starts to move towards North for a period of six months which is known as 'Utharayan' in India.During this period the days will be longer and warmer and people consider this period to perform   auspicious things as well as sacred rituals.The other six months period when Sun moves southwards is known as 'Dakshinayan'.
It is believed  that one year  of humans is one day for 'Devas' (the celestial beings).Utharayan period which is called as 'Utharayana Kaalam' in Malayalam is considered as the day time of the Devas when they will be awake.The other six months which is  'Dakshinayana Kaalam' is the night time of the Devas.
More over Makar Sankranti brings the spring season and people celebrates the occasion joyfully.People greet the season by getting rid of the old and useless articles,clean the house and surroundings,prepare special dishes and sweets,wear colorful new dresses,visit friends, relatives and exchange gifts,sing and dance in groups and so on.
In Kerala may be because the climate is moderate throughout the year and Makara Sankranti does not bring any notable changes in climate  it is not a big celebration.
In Tamil Nadu it is a four day celebration and is called as 'Pongal'.In Karnataka also this is a four day celebration and known as 'Makara Sankramana'.In Gujarat it is known as 'Uttarayan' and in States like Punjab,Haryana and Himachal Pradesh it is known as 'Maghi'.It is 'Bhogali Bihu' in Assam and 'Khichdi' in Uttar Pradesh.
Colorful paper kites flying by young and old alike can be witnessed in many states as a joyful pastime during this celebration period.Beautiful kites having various shapes and color will be available in plenty at all shops during this period.