Athachamayam Festival, Tripunithura and Me

8/22/2012 07:32:00 AM

Alright! Wow! Yes! I finally did it. 

This is all what was coming to my mind, yesterday evening, sitting in ladies waiting room at Ernakulam KSRTC Bus Stand. I felt really good, and the only thing left to accomplish the state of total relief was to reach back home. 

Now I am home, and though I wanted to wait, and post it on the later date sometime, I thought I should rather just pour out the whole entire experience and give way to fresh and new thoughts and ideas. so here it goes. 

First of all, A very happy Onam to all of you, today is the second day of this 10 days long harvesting festival in kerala, and I am sure, many people will be enjoying the festivities already. The festival begins with a grand procession in temple town of Tripunithura / Thrippunithura,   also the early capital of kingdom of Cochin, on the atham day (Atham Nakshatra or Star) of Malayali month Chingam. That's why it is called "Athachamayam" or "Atha /Atta Chamayam", Atham is followed by many other activities, event like boat  race, pulikali and other processions etc on next 9 days of the festival.

This is my second procession or parade experience is Kerala. While Kochi Carnival is more of fun and turns out like a cross dressing competition, this is more serious business. its like two recipes slightly similar ingredients but both are different in taste. I Planned and attended Cochin Canival during my south india road trip and This event, after almost 3 years of thinking about it, I have finally been able to attend and this is precisely why I sound so darn excited. and well, I would love to taste some other dishes, but for now I am definitely satisfied.

So where do I begin... perhaps the right place to start will the  night bus journey to Ernakulam. how much I was cursing myself and everyone else, for why I was on that bus. huh!. I hate bus journey and specially in the night, though none would have heard me complaining so far but thats very true. Since I could nt decide till the last minute if I really wanted to go, I missed on train tickets, and doing a good check on my contacts, if anyone were going from here, I just contacted my friend in Kochi and Kollam to come meet me up when I am there and boarded the bus. So yes I was literally cursing anyone who's ever done anything bad to me, ( watch out you guys! ) every time the bus stopped I felt like getting down and run back home, and oh did i mention this was my first and last solo bus night trip ever.

Right I am not a traveler really. I think above are certain feelings I fight with every time i get out. Its just like if your crazy nervous before beginning it and once your done with it you are like, okay! Yeah! I could do it. I can do it. and then this iBackpacker is just a mind game, atleast for me, because physically also I am not at all strong, I can say this because I have swollen feet right now.


Anyways, I did it. for once. The journey from bangalore to ernakulam was horrible, I couldnt sleep, I couldnt keep my mind off. all bus stations and road side dhabas on the way, kept reminding me of Trekmaniax times, because all we used to do was less trekking and more checking out road side dhabas and eating. By the time dawn broke, I was in my good senses again, and the view of very striking neon colored houses and chain of coconut trees from the bus window took all my fears and restlessness away. I was looking forward to the trip.

About 8:30 I reached Ernakulam interstate bus stand, ( There is a big reason why I am writing ernakulam, in full  every time, wait for it.) Tripunithura is 10Kms away and there are frequent buses and autos to the place. The event starts at Govt Boys high school near statue junction and the town bus stand. Bus dropped me right on the parallel road 1km apart, and i decided to walk.

Tripunithura, its a very cute town with beautiful old style kerala houses. I read it has many temples, but ones I noticed were few of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, great architecture, vast-spread and peaceful. the one of this road to bus stand right in the heart of the town was among one of the top in my list, thanks  to the wrong lens mounted on my DSLR body and me hurrying up for the parade, I couldnt shoot it.

The procession begin ontime, Unintentionally though, I kept comparing it with Kochi carnival, here participating were many school kids, cute girls in beautiful princess attires, boys showing kalari moves, and not one but Many king Mahabalis' with their countesses ( from what i understood). What I was interested in was to see all the art forms of kerala in one go, and actually I could up to some extent see most of them, not enormously yet, briefly to satisfy my hunger authentic art faces.
Before I forget, I need to mention this one thing, more than everything else, I salute the people of kerala, young ones to the old, who more than anyone, organizers, spectators or photography enthusiasts like me,     are responsible for keeping kerala's true spirit alive. from pulikali dancers who paint their bodies so articulately, to theyyam performers to the drummers and other participants who walk 2km barefoot in the hot sun carrying 50kgs on their head and shoulders. With the dedication they present, not only in parades likes these, but otherwise, for example theyyam which are sort of duty of god for them but only a performance for us, they deserve all the praise and applause.

atham, tripunithura

coming to photography part of it, do I need to see its an unmatched spectacle full of lovely bright colors. I definitely can not estimate how much money, planning and hard work goes in to it, but its a treat for photographers. having said that, its not at all easy to photograph such events with hundreds of people around. I think the lessons I learned in cochin carnival interms of how to shoot and what and with which lenses to, were pretty useful in here. I will be writing more about those details in flickr as I start posting the pictures. for now I would just say, these events are for brave hearted only. you have to 100% there in the moment, put all your energy just like the participants, be as energetic and engaging as they are, and above all wait for the right movement to click. all this makes a difference while you can take 500 pictures and get out of 50 good ones, or you can take 100 pictures and get out with 100 excellent written on them each.

By the time I was done shooting the parade, I was drained out of energy, I took my time, checking out some kerala kasavu sarees, bought one as I was planning to, then took an auto to the hill palace museum. which I had planned for the rest few hours I had, only when I reached there, I got to know that they govt had declared a holiday and they weren't even allowing to see it from outside. After exploring a church close by, since I had plenty of time, I took the bus back to the bus stand, I also thought about my friends suggestion to visit marine drive, which is very close to the bus stand, but funny! the Auto driver told me that it was blocked on some judge's order.

Anyways this is when I was checking out marine drive, on iPhone maps, I realized I was in Kochi. Yes, beat me up, I have forgotten my own lessons since I have been out of touch for almost 2 years, or perhaps it was my iPhone screen, I didn't zoom out and saw the entire map clearly. I was so focussed on finding the 3 points on the map, I had to be, I did not see what was around. I was right in the parallel of fort kochi and the part I had been to before. I am seriously, I couldnt find an explanation of using three names Kochi, Cochin and Ernakulam for one single place. but my mistakes, If I would have seen the map better and had a peaceful much researched and preplanned trip like I used to do, I would have used my time well and to the fullest. my parting thoughts  at "ernakulam" and dedicated to "ernakulam".

P.S. I had a peaceful sleep and company of a cute nun on the way back. thank god!...
Pictures coming up on flickr soon. 

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  1. Thats a lovely article on Athachamayam. Its been long since I saw one.
    Ernakulam is the name of the district, Cochin refers to the city and Kochi has been derived from Fort Kochi. Earlier the city was callede Ernakulam. After the city gained importance through tourism and touristic places (Fort Kochi), it has been slowly replaced by Cochin/Kochi.

  2. Superb article. You could have contact me before visiting Hill palace museum, My house is next to museum. I was not available on that day (you had my phone number right) but I would have directed you to right places :)

  3. @Niranjan - Ya ..its pretty confusing.. think it'll end up as short and sweet kochi which is good. I find it hard to pronounce Ernakulam in Malyali way. its a tongue twister for me :P

  4. @Agni - Hey Thanks.. I know you had to go to the hospital with your dint wanna trouble you... still it went well...except that extra round to the museum.. if to say... but that gave me a good glimpse of the town, which in my opinion is beautiful..vintage and cute...unlike the rest of the parts of kochi/cochin or Ernakulam..


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