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A daily practice of Brahmins to keep their body pure is known as Achamanam.

Aandupiravi (New Year)

The beginning of a new year is known as Aandupiravi.  In Kerala, it is the first day of the month Chingam.  In olden days, people on North Malabar were considered the first day of the month Kanni as the New Year day.  Some believe that the first day of the month of Medam is the day for Andupiravi.

Acharabhasha (language used to address higher ups)

The language used by the lower caste while talking to higher caste is known as Acharabhasha.  This type of language is to be followed compulsory when conversing with higher ups, landlords, officers, nobles and rules.

Acharakallyanam (Betrothal)

Acharakallyanam is the betrothal marriage of Thandan community.  The relatives of bridegroom visit the bride’s residence for fixing the auspicious date and time of marriage is the function.

Acharappanam (advance payment)

Acharappanam is the term of bride price paid to the parents of bride by the bridegroom’s parents. Asari, Kollan (Karuvan) Kakkalan, Kallady communities practiced the system. Once the Acharappanam is accepted, the bridegroom has right over the girl even if the marriage is not solemnised.

Achipudava (Dhothi of wife)

Achipudava is a cloth or dhothi that covers the portion below the knee. In the past only nairs and upper class caste had the right to wear this dress.  Low castes have to wear the dress, which reach only up to their knee.


This is one of the Shodashacharangal of Namboothiris. Adhanam is a rite performed as an extension of Oupaasanam and an introduction to Sroutha rites to be performed in future life.


The function in connection with marriage and funeral are known as Adiyanthiram. Any auspicious ceremony, which includes a ritual, is called Adiyanthiram. Grand feast is an integral part of Adiyanthiram.

Akakoima (temple administrators)

A group of office bearers entrusted with the administration of temples are called Akakoima.  The other two categories were Purakoimma and Melkoima.   Akakoima has to concentrate on the routine affairs of the temples.

Akshara pooja (worship of letters)

Akshara (words or letters) pooja is a function during Navarathri period (September-October) to worship letters.  Navarathri is a festival of nine days observed by Sakthi worshippers in the month of Kanni. Akshara pooja is performed on Vijayadashami day.  On that day members of the family will take their bath and sit in the hall. A nilavilakku (holy lamp) will be lit before them.  White sand will be spread in front of each person.  The head of the family will chant prayer and other will repeat.  After that, each and every one will write Harisree Ganapathaye Namaha; Aviknamasthu in the sand before them followed by vowels and consonants.  After writing, the sand removed and placed on housetop.  The custom of writing letters on paper and tearing of it and placing on housetop is also there.They will take their drinks only after completing the above work.  Instead of sand, the practice of using rice in silver vessels and then writing letters is also prevalent. Akshara pooja was also conducted when children were first placed for writing letters and this ritual is known as Vidyarambhom (starting of formal education). Heavy rush is experienced for Vidyarambhom function at Thunchan Parambu at Thirur, Chittoor Thunchan Madam (the samadhi place of Thunchathu Ezhuthachan), Sree Mookambika Temple at Kollur (Near Mangalore), Thiruvallakkavu near Thrissur, Sarawathy Temple, Panachikkad near Kottyam. Not only Hindus, but people belonging to other religions also used to attend Viyarambhom function. Christians used to write Daivom Thunakkuka (God help us) instead of Hari Sri Ganapathaye Namaha; Aviknamasthu. Muslims write verses from Qur’an on the right hand palm with black ink on a day before Bakrid festival.

Ambalapuzha Palpayasam (Milk pudding of Ambalapuzha)

Ambalapuzha Palpayasam is the famous offering of the Sree Krishna Temple of Ambalapuzha. It can be identified by its taste from other payasams.  It has distinct off white colour and fragrance.  In the morning milk measured and boiled. By the noon boiling milk will almost convert in the form ghee. Then the other ingredients – rice and sugar added.  The payasam so prepared is offered to the Lord during noon pooja.

Ammakazcha and Appakazcha (presentation of cakes, sweets etc)

On the 7th day after marriage, parents of bridegroom send appam (special rice cakes made of molasses, coconut, ghee and other sweet ingredients) to the bride’s house. This ritual is known as Ammakazcha. In return, parents of bride send appam and other recipe to the bridegroom’s house on the 14th day after the marriage, is known as Appakazcha. Paraya community follows these rituals.

Aparakriya / Seshakriya (After death rituals)

Aparakriya is the ritual to be performed by the hirers of a deceased person from his cremation day to the end of pula (death pollutuion).

Ammayiyappam (Sweet Recipes from Mother-in-law)

When a mother visits the house of her son-in-law she has to bring special food items with her.  This was an unavoidable custom of earlier period.  This was known as Ammayiyappam. Ammayiyappam food packet will contain sweets known as Neyyappam, Pottiyappam, kunhikalathappam, kuzhalappam and ripened nendran banana.  Rich mothers brought the items in large vessels and other in baskets.  This custom was prevalent in Tellichery and Kannur areas of Malabar.

Ammayiyonam (Onam with Mother-in-law)

In the matrilineal family there was a system to bring the wife to the house of the husband on the Avittam asterism day during onam festival.  This practice was in force in Valluvanad Taluk of Malabar.  The day was celebrated as Ammayiyonam.

Angam (Duel)

When disputes between people were not solved by the Tharakootam  (the local assembly) or Nattukoottam (the assembly of a desom or taluk), it was sorted out in open fight by members of special community.  This ancient custom prevalent in Kerala was known as Angam.

Anthiuzhichil (Removal of Evil Spirits)

A ritual performed to remove evil spirit(s) from the body.  The leaf of ‘koovalam’ will be put in a vessel containing a solution of lime and turmeric.  A lit wick will be taken in hand.  Firstly seven uzhicil were taken with the vessel.  Later the wick will be placed in the edge of vessel and the uzhichil will be repeated for seven times. After that the solution with the wick and leaf will be poured out in the northern end of house plot and the empty vessel placed up side down.

Anuloma Vivaham (Marriage with a lower caste)

Anuloma Vivaham is the practice of wooing a low caste woman by a man of higher caste.  It was not prohibited in ancient Kerala, while vice-versa (Prathiloma Vivaham) was prohibited.

Arppu vili (Shouting of happiness)

It is an expression of happiness on the birth of male child.  The words “Aarappee…ire….” are shouted during marriage and other happy functions also.


Arathamuzhichil is a function performed on the arrival of bridegroom to the house of bride after marriage and vice versa.  The eldest lady member of the family will mix lime and turmeric in a vessel and make it as red colour.  A lit wick will be placed on the banana leaf.  Using the vessel and wick, the bridegroom / bride will be subjected to uzhichil (waiving the vessel) three times.   After that the contents of the vessel will poured out at a distance place.  The purpose of this ritual is to safeguard the bridegroom/bride from evil spirits.

Ashatamirohini (birth day of Lord Krishna)

The day in the month of Chingam (August-September) when ‘Ashtami’ and ‘Rohini’(an asterism day) comes together is known as Ashtamirohini.  This is birthday of Lord Krishna.  It is also known as ‘Janmashtami’.  Special poojas, functions were conducted in the temples of Lord Krishna.

Ashirvadam (Blessing)

Ashirvadam is the blessings given by elders and Gurus to those who bow before them on auspicious occasions.

Ashta Mangalyam (Eight Holy Materials)

Ashta (eight) mangalyam (marriage or other holy occasions) consists of eight articles that carried on a large metal plate or bronze vessel for offerings.  Asta mangalyam are prepared in different ways. (1) Rice, paddy, tailed mirror, sandal, reddish kumkum, khajel, Grandh (book) and washed clean cloth. (2) Nira (paddy), Nazhi (rice), mirror, flower vessel, vilakku (small holy lamp), adorned girl, gold. (3) Paddy, rice, betel wine, areca nut, coconut, jaggery, banana and vilakku (small holy lamp). (4)Nirapara, Vilakku, mirror, gold, coconut, curd, book, cheppu (small pot). Brahmin, cow, fire, gold, ghee, adithyan (sun), water, king are also considered as Ashtamanglyams.

Ashtangangal (eight practices of Kath Kali)

Keli, Arangukeli, Thodayam, Vandanaslokam, Purappad, Melappadam, Kadhabinayam and Dhanasi are the Ashtangangal. Keli is the practice of informing the public about the staging of Kath Kali by using the musical instruments viz., chenda, maddalam, ilathalam and chengila.  By hearing the sound of these musical instruments, which is known as ‘Kelikottu’, people are aware of the Kath Kali performance.  This is the first function of Kath Kali. Arangukeli is also known as ‘Sudha Maddalam’.  It begins as soon as the light is lit on the stage.  The beating of maddalam and ilathalam will be carried out for ten minutes and after that the curtain will be raised.  In the beginning two characters start their performance.  It is the Thodayam. Music and drums without chenda will also there.  This is performed as prayer for the trouble free performance of Kath Kali. Vandanaslokam is a song chanted by the singers in the end of Thodayam.  In some stories, Vandanaslokam is performed after Arangukeli avoiding Thodayam.  After Vandanasokam, the first stanza of the story will be chanted, which is known as Purappad. After that the actor and actress appear to the stage.  All allowable types of musical instruments will be played.  With this, the curtain will be lowered.  After Purappad, Melappadam begins.  The ‘Manjuthara’ of “Geetha Govindam” will be sung.  This is also known as ‘Manjuthara’. Chenda and maddalam are used. The initial procedure of Kath Kali will end with ‘Manjuthara’.  After that the main actor enters on the scene and starts Kathabhinaya (perform Kath Kali).  When the act is finished Mangalaslokam (final stanza) will be chanted.  This is known as Dhanasi, which makes the end of Kath Kali.

Ashtavivahangal (Eight types of marriages)

: The practice where father gives his daughter to a Brahmachari (bachelor) without any reward. Daivam: Father gives his daughter to a priest with gold ornaments. Aarsham: Father gives his daughter after accepting cows and bullocks. Prajapathyam: Father gives his daughter to man by saying “You may live with her by observing code rules”. Gandharvam: A lover takes his lady without consulting the relatives and performs the rituals. Aasuram: Here a man buys a woman from her parents. Rakshasam: The practice of taking a girl by force after defeating here parents and relatives. Paishacham: Here a girl is forcefully made as wife when she is unconscious.

Athamchadurthi (Vinayaka Chadurdhi)

It is also known as Chadurdhi Ganapathy or Vinayaka Chadurdhi. It comes during full moon period during the month of Chingom (August-September), on the Atham asterism day.  It is believed that on that day one should not look at the moon in the sky.

Athazhapooja (Worship at evening)

is an oblation in temples performed at evening before the close of inner shrine. This will be the last pooja of the day.  It is also known as “Thiruvathazham”.

Athyavasyam kodukkuka (Giving essentials)

The custom of giving essential items for dressing, bathing, frying and cooking to the wife house by the husband during the eve of Onam and Vishu festivals.  This custom was prevalent in the matrilineal society. The status of women was assessed depending on the quantum and value of the materials so received.

Avarohanam (crowning)

Avarohanam means to perform “sthanarohanam” which denotes the crowning to a position

Avarohanam of Irinjalakuda Thachudaya Kaimal

The avarohanam of Thachudaya Kaimal as the ‘Adhikari’ of Koodal Manikya Temple of Irinjalakuda was a political ritual.  Though the temple is situated in erstwhile Kochi State, the Raja of erstwhile Travancore State nominated the Thachudaya Kaimal.  One among the nairs was selected as Kaimal.  After ‘avarodham’ he will get a higher status and position over and above the Brahmins.  The Namboothiris (Kerala Brahmins) used to hold umbrella for the Kaimal.  Only one wooden plank was provided for the Namboodiris whereas two were required for the Kaimal to sit.

Avil Nivedyam

(beaten rice) Nivedyam (offering) is a famous offering for Hanuman in the Tripayar Sreerama Temple.  It is an important offering in Vedivachankoil of Trivandrum-Nagarcoil Road.  The avil nivedyam of Kucheladinam (day observed as a mark of respect to Kuchela, the class-mate of Krishna) is a main offering of the Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayoor.

Ayitham (untouchability)

Nair girl (right extreme) accompanying Brahmin ladies keeping the stipulated distance.
Ayitham was a custom – rather a malevolent custom – prevalent in the society during the rigidness of caste system.  The word Ayitham means dirt.  The people belonging to upper caste practiced this to the lower caste.  Not only touch but even passing nearby will also causes Ayitham.  Fixed distance between each caste was there to keep away from the upper caste.  When a Nair touch or pass near by a Brahmin it will cause Ayitham.  Immediate bathing is the only solution. The funeral will also cause Ayitham.  A person who has already touched a low caste happens to touch another, which may also cause AyithamAyitham by seeing a lower caste person was also prevalent. ‘Mannan’ and ‘Panan’ castes have to give way to Theeyas/Izhavas.  ‘Pulayan’ and ‘Parayan’ have to give way to ‘Mannan’ and ‘Panan’.  A low caste person should not go near a pond where higher caste persons take bath.  If he or she goes it will cause Ayitham to the higher caste.

Logan says that Nayadis, Pulayans,Kanisans and Mukkuvans should keep 72 feet, 64 feet, 32 feet and 24 feet respectively from upper class.  Every one took special care not to cause Ayitham. When Nambooiris and their ladies walk, the helpers will make loud noise like “yahe…. yahe….” or “ho…ho…” as a warning to the lower caste to keep awary from their path.  This practice was known as ‘Theendappad’. Lower caste people also practised the same custom.  They will shout “aey…aey…” so that the upper caste will keep away from the path. They considered this as their duty. The low caste had no right to go near the bathing place of upper caste.  The males should not look at the female who had their menses.  Separate seats were provided in schools for the children belonging to lower caste.  Nobody except Brahmins had the right to worship in temples by ringing the bell.  The doctors belonging to the same caste had the right to treat the patient.  Namboodiries can marry Nair girls, but should not touch the children born in such ladies.  Even the dead bodies will be subjected to Ayitham if touched by lower caste. To identify the low castes easily, it was ordered that they should keep their body portion above waist as naked.  They should not wear any kind of special dress, footwear, umbrella or ornaments.  Only the Brahmins had the right to carry umbrellas.  Other should not carry umbrellas even if it rained heavily.  A low caste woman will take off her cloth from shoulder to show respect to a higher caste.  Women observed the custom and practice more rigidly.  Naboodiries can eat the food prepared by the Kshathriya but their women cannot.  In the Nair communiy men used to take food from outside but their females cannot. In early stages both the higher and lower castes had a general belief and understanding about these practices.  They considered these practices as a part of the day-to-day life like taking food or bath.  But during later stages, matters have changed. The low cast turned against and protested against considering them as low.  They quarreled, sued and shouted. The higher caste still observed Ayitham.  Modern generation will think that these are fabricated stories.  But they are real facts.  Today there is no such evil practice like Ayitham is observed.  Its observance is a criminal offence.

Ayudhapooja (Worship of tools)

A function organized during Navarathri.  The implements and weapons will be placed for the blessings of the god.  Not only implements, but books will also be placed for pooja. The pooja will start on the day of Durgashtami and end on Vijayadashami day.  Ayudhapooja or Saraswathypooja is observed during Thulam (September-October) every year.

Ayyappanpattu (Song of Lord Ayyappa)

A function organised in connection with the Sabarimala pilgrimage.  Pilgrims do this before they start their pilgrimage to the hills.  It is also known as “Pattum Vilakkum” (Song and Lights).

Azhichattam (jumping over fire pit)

Azhi is a fire pit with full of ember and hot stones.  The oracles, devotees and poojaris (priests) jump in the fire pit barefoot.  It is believed that the fire will not cause any burn to them.

AANAYOTTAM (Elephant Race)


        A function at Guruvayoor and Thiruvarpu temples.  The anayottam at Guruvayoor was conducted during the month of Kumbham, which marks the beginning of temple festival; The race of elephant will be conducted on the occasion. The race will befrom Manjulal at the east gate of Guruvayoor to the main entrance of the temple. Later the elephants will be taken to inside of the temple and after running three rounds, the elephant that touches the kodimaram (flag post) will be declared as the winner.  In Thruvarpu temple, anayottam was conducted in the month of Medam to mark the beginning of festival.

ABHARANANGAL (ornaments)

       All ladies are fond of ornaments.  During olden days, stone chains and anklets were used as ornaments. 

     Today they are golden chains and bangles.  In olden days, nair ladies wore rings for earls.  A shining piece tied in a round golden string was worn in the middle of neck. Just below that, a shining metal made of green and red diamonds tied on a golden string was worn.  Bangles made of Thanjavur style was worn in hands.  Rings were worn in fingers.

Devotees at Sivarathri festival at the bank of Aluva Periyar River

       Shivarathri festival is celebrated during the month of Kumbam (February).  In Aluva it is celebrated in great splendor at the sandy banks of Periyar River.

ARANMULA VALLAMKALI (Boat race at Aranmula)

        The Boat race conducted in the Pampa River at Aranumla on the Uthrattathi day of Chingom is known as Aranmula Vallam (boat) kali (race).  This is famous boat race connected with onam celebrations.

Arat procession at Thiruvananthapuram

      The closing ceremony of temple festival is known as Arat.  The idol of the god is taken in festive procession and dips in the river or pond or sea.  The people also dip themselves with the idol.  The poojaris (priests) and followers take part in the function. Usually each temple has its own ponds or it may situate near rivers.In almost temples of Kerala Arat isperformed at the end of the temple festival.  Arts at Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple and Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram  are very famous.

Arat at Guruvayoor Temple
Arat procession starts from Padmanabha Swami temple at ThiruvananthapuramThe beginning of the festival will be on the ‘pooyam’ day in the month of Kumbham.  The festival will end on the tenth day with arat.

Travancore Maharaja (middle) participapting in arat procession
       At the Sri.Padmanabha Swami Temple, Thiruvannthapuram there will be two festivals in a year.  They are in the months of Thulam (October-November) and Meenam (March-April).  Arat is performed in a great festive moon on both the occasions. The Travancore Maharajah also takes part in the Arat.  Therefore, the festival was celebrated in great pomp and splendour befitting to the kingly status. When the arat of other temples were conducted in rivers or ponds, arat of Sri Padmanabha Swami temple was conducted in the Arabian Sea at Shanghumughom.

Arattupuzha pooram

      Arattupuzha Pooram is known as the pooram of poorams.  It is the festival of gods in centre Kerala.  It is one of the most famous poorams of Kerala celebrated with grand splendour.  Peruva(ma)nam was one of the sixty four gramas of Kerala established by Parasurama.  The festival of the Irattayappan temple of Peruva(ma)nam last for 28 years beginning from the Uthram day of Kumbham (February-March) to Uthram day of Meenam (March-April). Peruvanam pooram was the Valiyavilakku and Arattupuzha pooram was the Arattuvilakku.  It was in AD 583 that the Peruva(ma)nam Arattupuzha pooram began.  If it was so they are as old as 1400 years.  The famous Thrissur Pooram has not aged even 200 years.

ARAPPU VILI (Shouting of happiness)

         It is an expression of happiness on the birth of male child.  The words “Aarappee….. irre….”  is shouted during marriage and other happy functions also.

Attukal Temple


      Pongala is an offering made Attukal Bhagavathy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram. This offering can be made on all days.  But offerings on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday are more important.  The most auspicious pongala is performed on the ninth day of the festival conducted during the month Kumbhom (February-March).Rice, jaggery, coconut are to be handed over the temple priest who will prepare a special recipe out these materials and perform pongala. This is the procedure in ordinary days. During festival day women themselves perform the duty.

Praying before starting pongala
       The Pongala on the nineth day of festival was performed with special functions.  Only women are permitted to perform this offering.  They consider it as a great luck and good fortune.  On the day before Pongala they should take special vrathas to make them pure, neat and clean. They have to cook pongala in the temple premises itself.  The pongala function starts from early morning itself.  After taking bath and wearing wet dresses they will undertake the cooking of pongala with their minds all in praise of Attukal Ambika (the godess).  At about 12 noon the fire will be lit in the temple kitchen.  Then crackers will be burst and drumbeats will sound.  On hearing this, women will lit fire in their temporary cooking plots.  Within five minutes the temple vicinity will fully be covered with smoke.  People cannot see each other in the dense smoke.  This indeed a very rate phenomenon.  They continue to offer pongala by cooking the recipe using rice, jaggery, coconut etc in earthen pots till it is ready.  At about four O’ clock the temple priest bring the holy water which was used to consecrate the idol and by using the areca nut petiole the holy water sprayed in all pongalas.  When the holy water sprayed, this will become a part of the offering made to Attukal Ambika. After this function, they carry the pongala on their heads and returned to their homes.

       Attukal temple premises are not enough to provide space for all devotees. Women devotees occupy about 5 Sq.Km for offering.  Here devotees performing pongala near Sri.Padmanabha swamy temple, which is 5 KM away from Attukal.

       It is believed that Attukal was the resting place of Kannaki, the great heroine of ‘Chilapathykaram’.  After punishing the Pandya Rajah, who killed her husband, Kannaki proceed to Kodungallor.  On the way she halted at Attukal for a while.  Knowing the arrival of Kannaki, the people of Attukal welcomed her by offering pongala. The famous ‘Attukal Pongala’ is celebrated in memory of Kannaki’s visit to Attukal.
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