Thiruvananthapuram: Navarathri idol procession on

Will reach Padma temple on September 20

Thiruvananthapuram: The idol of Saraswathi Devi, accompanied by those of Kumaraswamy and Monnootinanka, started out on its annual pre-Navarathri journey from Padmanabhapuram in Kanyakumari to Thiruvananthapuram on Monday. The inter-state ritual procession, with over 150 people escorting the idols (Devi in a palanquin, Munnoottinanka on a caparisoned elephant, and Kumaraswamy on a silver horse) on foot, will reach Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple on September 20, covering over 100 kilometres in nearly three days.

After being accorded a ceremonial welcome at the eastern entrance of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the Devi idol will be installed at the Navarathri Mandapam near Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple. The Munnotinanka idol will be placed at the Chenthitta temple, and Kumaraswamy will be housed in Aryasala Devi temple. After a night of rest for the Devi, the 10-day Navarathri celebrations will begin the next day on September 21. In a low-key ceremony on August 17, Travancore Devaswom Board officials received the idols of Munnoottinanka from the Sucheendram Temple and that of Lord Subramaniam (Kumaraswamy) from Kumaracoil in the foothills of Veli Hills in Kanyakumari.

The Navarathri procession began today with the hand over of the traditional sword placed on a silk-covered pedestal in front of a mural of Lord Padmanabha in Upparika Malika, the fourth floor of the Padmanabhapuram Palace. ('Upparika' is a Persian word meaning tall.) The sword, which was accepted by devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran, symbolized Marthanda Varma’s 'Thrippadidanam' in 1750, the warrior King's historical decision to relinquish his throne and serve the Lord.

The procession, which began at 7.10 a.m. halted at Kuzhithura late in the evening. On September 19, the idols will be given a ceremonial welcome at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Kaliyakkavila. The night halt on the day will be at Neyyatinkara temple, where pujas will be held on the idols. The procession will reach the capital on the evening of the third day, on September 20. What was once a ritual created to sustain the Travancore royal family’s link with its former capital in Padmanabhapuram is now signifies inter-state cultural harmony.

Lore has it that the medieval Tamil poet Kambar, the author of Kambaramayanam, had presented his Saraswathi Amman idol to a Chera king during the Sangam period in the early 12th Century. The King had promised Kambar that a festival will be conducted every year for Saraswathi Amman without fail. It was easy to keep the promise as long as the capital was in Padmanabhapuram. But when Swathi Thirunal (1813-1846) shifted the capital to Thiruvananthapuram, the threat of Tipu's aggression triggering the move, there was a fear that the Travancore kings would abandon Kambar’s Saraswathi.

It was to allay these fears that Swathi Thirunal thought up the Devi’s annual pilgrimage. He also embellished the narrative. “He did not like the idea of Saraswathi travelling alone, he wanted her to have a bodyguard. This was how the warrior king Kumaraswamy, an incarnation of Lord Subramaniam, came to accompany her,” said historian M G Sashibhooshan. “He gave her a friend, too. This was Munnottinanka,” he added.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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