The ritual of Nadayiruthal
Story Dated: Tuesday, November 29, 2005 22:1 hrs IST
Nadayiruthal is a votive ritual where elephants are offered to the gods and goddesses of temples. The tusker, fresh after a bath and escorted by a ceremonial pageant, temple orchestra etc., is brought before the idol and made to sit on a white cloth and woollen blanket called Vellayum Karimpadavum the symbols of an honourable reception. The priest then performs certain rituals. The identity token tells the name of the committee under which the temple is and the name of the elephant. Once the token is tied around its neck the elephant becomes the property of the temple and is dedicated to the service of the deity. It is thus sanctioned the right to carry the Thidampu (image) of the deity on all auspicious occasions. Nadayiruthal was performed in earlier days by the prosperous families in Kerala. Being an agrarian land, there were very few rich families and hence this ritual was also a rare one. Though agrarian life has given way to modernisation and industrialisation, it is still very expensive to support an elephant as a family property. Nadayiruthal is also performed with other animals. Today, almost all major temples have their own elephants. Elephants have always had a special role in the socioreligious life of Kerala. In addition to being groomed and used for heavy work, they were, and still are, an integral part of almost all celebrations and festivals here. So much so that a majestically caparisoned elephant with mahouts atop holding silken parasols and white tufts is often considered the mascot of Kerala.