VELICHAPPAD

Paraveppu, impressions of a ritual performed in a Hindu homes in connection with the Uthralikavu Pooram Festival in Wadakkancherry.

One of the remnants of the pre vedic malayali heritage is the institution of Velichappad. Here in Valluvanad with its numerous Devi temples and Kavus (Sacred grooves) velichappads are ever more important to the spiritual ecosystem than anywhere else in the state . This post is about the only Velichappad i know and how he brought the Devi of our temple to life every night during the Chuttuvilakku ( an occasion when lamps are lit around the kavu premises).

Velichappads get initiated to serve the Goddess of the land on self will . It is said that the goddess would choose her representative by sending certain specific omens to him . In case of Bhaskaran Velichappad it was the Devi appearing in his dream to invite him to serve her . Our velichappad is something of an anomaly , He was born into a very wealthy Nair Tharavad and had spent most of his childhood in Rangoon. His uncle had a very good library with best books of the time , while his cousins were white collared professionals. My early memories of him are very vague , It was during mid 1990s that we moved here from Cherpulassery , so he must have been the velichappad of the Desam from the early 90s. The first thing that comes to my mind are his long locks and the sword (vaal in malayalam) which he carried with him . Once a year we would have our turn to host the chuttuvilakku and that is when I saw his fury.

In kavus like ours the vellichapad also doubles up as the temple priest , so on the evening of chuttuvilakku he would first do the regular offerings to the Devi while we lit the lamps. After the lamps are lit and the sun has set , he accompanied with an assistant would go to the temple pond to bathe and this is when his transformation into the goddess starts. He would first discard his normal clothes to wear the red pattu ( silk) , which is the color of the goddess and wear the Devi’s anklet . As he return , the ambience would have been set for his performance thanks to highly energizing percussion by the melam ( Kerala chenda performance) . The out of the world experience would be exemplified by the starry sky of the makara month ( Malayalam calendar)  and the rustling of the banyan leaves swaying in the light wind . He would first enter the kavu , take the blessing from the Devi and then pick up his sword to circumambulate the premise thrice , stopping at all the four corners to communicate with the goddess so as to make his transformation into the Devi less turbulent.

Once the Devi possess him , he would run violently like the Bhadra kali around the kavu proclaiming her utterances to everyone and blessing them. It is an extraordinary sight to watch him move about trembling in fury of the great spirit. At the end he would take a coconut and smash it over a granite carved like a snake , dissipating all our sins. Over the next hour the Velichappad would return back to him human spirit and he would place the red dress and the anklet as an offering to the mother goddess.

sadly we don’t have a desam(region) velichappad today as Bhaskaran Velichappad passed away a few years back . It is only during the pooram that we have a velichappad , who in most cases would be brought from our rival desams.

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