Festivals of Swamithoppu
Every day is a ffestival day at Swamithoppu temple. Apart from this, three Car festivals are conducted every year. Ayya’s birthday is also celebreated with great fanfare. The thiruedu vasippu is celebrated from seventeen consecutive days once in a year.
The daily panividai starts very early in the morning. Everyday, around 3 O’ clock the Gurus and the people staying at the temple go to muthirikinaru and take a holy bath. Then, they return to the temple and start the panividai. The Gurus chant ugapadippu, and the devotees repeatit. Then, they open the door of sanctum sanctorum. It is considered sanctifying to witness this scene adidst the sounding of a dozen temple bells and conch. Then, there is the vahana pavani.
Vahana pavani comes around the temple and along the four car streets. The nithiyapal is prepared daily and offered to Ayya Vaikuntar. It was the only food Ayya ate when in human form at Swamithoppu. This offering is done daily without fail. The descendants of Podukutty, the first Guru of Gurugulam, prepare this daily at the temple. Thavanaipal, a gruel prepared with rice and green gram, is distributed to the devotees.
The Noon panividai starts around 11 O’ clock. Daily utchipadippu is chanted. The devotees will repeat it and Thavanipal is distributed to the devotees. One Sundays, large number of people from far and near come over here to participate in the Utchipadippu.
In the evening, panividai starts around 5 O’ clock. The door of the sanctum sanctorum is opened amidst the sound of the temple bells and chankanatham. Then, the Guru would chant ugapaippu. Those who congregate for the evening panividai would repeat this. Then, there will be vahana panividai. The vahana is taken around the temple as well as the four car streets. After this, there will be annadhana. This is the daily routine of Swamithoppu temple. One can have darshan at any time of the day in this temple.
Car festivals are conducted thrice a year during the months of Avani, Thai and Vaikasi. The festival is celebrated for eleven days.
The festivals start on the first Friday of Avani and Thai. In Vaikasi, the festival starts on the second Friday of the month (last week of May and ends on the first week of June). The festival starts with the hoisting of the saffron coloured holy flag, early in the morning. The routine procedures of the festival are followed. In the evening, the Lord is carried around the temple and through the four car streets in a cradle vahana.
On the second day of the festival, the Lord is carried around the temple and through the four car streets in an English Chair vahana. On the third day of the festival a swan vahana, decorated with white flowers is used. The vahana for the fourth day of the festival is a chaparam. On the fifth day of the festival, another chaparam decorated in green colour is used. On the sixth day, the Lord is carried on a Naga vahana. On the seventh day, the vahana is Garuda. On this day, the Lord and the Vahana are decorated in red colour.
His followers go to nearby villages from the very first day of the festival up to the seventh day to get alms of paddy. The paddy is used for the annadharmam on the eight day as well as for the other requirements of the temple.
The eighth day of the festival is the most auspicious one for the devotes. On this day, Ayya Vaikuntar is taken around the temple and through the four car streets in the horse vahana; Then, the Lord is taken to muthirikinaru. Here, Ayya Vaikuntar hunts kali, the unseen enemy. A bow and arrow is used for this ceremony. Later, people drink the holy water from this well. Then, the Lord is taken on a procession to a few villages namely Chettivila, Sasthankovilvillai, Chottapanickan Therivillai and Kamarajapuram. The entire route wear a festive look on that day. People offer surul to the lord. On returning to Swamithoppu, the procession stops at Vadakuvasal and then begins the annadhanam.
On the ninth day of the festival, Ayya Vaikuntar is taken around in a Hanuman vahana. On the tenth day of the festival, Ayya Vaikuntar is mounted on Indra vahana. It is the heaviest vahana. Such a heavy Vahana is seen nowhere in the world. It has the look of a small temple car. On this day, the vahana panividai starts around midnight. The tenth day of the festival falls on Sunday, the most auspicious day for the devotees of Ayyavazhi. There will be a rush among the volunteers to carry these vahanas. People from every walk of life, rich or poor, educated or uneducated carry these vahanas.
The eleventh day is the Car festival. The temple car is decorated beautifully. Around 12O’ clock, the pulling of the car starts. The temple car is pulled through the four car streets. The temple car will come to rest around 5 O’ clock in the evening. These festivals attract thousands of people. Many prefer to stay at this holy place at least for a day during the festival times. Cultural programmes are conducted during the festival days.
Thiru Edu Vasippu
Edu vasippu is conducted during the months of Karthigai and Margali for seventeen days. It starts in the month of Karthigai and ends on the first Sunday of Margali. During these seventeen days, the holy book Akilathirattu is read out for a few hours from 4.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m., A learned man, an expert in the holy book Akilathirattu, explains what is read. This is the basic teaching of Ayyavazhi. The last day is called and pattabishekam. There will be large number of devotees to hear this Edu Vasippu.
Ayya Vaikuntar’s birthday is celebrated on 20th Masi with great fanfare. Ayya Vaikuntar was released from jail on 19th of Masi. Processions are conducted from Tiruchendur as well as from Thiruvananthapuram to commemorate the birth of Lord Vaikuntar and the day he was released from the jail.
Tiruchendur and Trivananthapuram Processions
On the 19th of Masi, People from Kanyakumari, Nellai Kattabomman and V.O.C. Districts, Theni, Vathalagundu and Madras assemble at Thiruchandur. Around 8 O’ clock, people walk towards the sea under the leadership of a Guru from Swamithoppu. They take a holy dip in the sea. The Guru applies namam on everybody’s forehead. The procession starts around 9 O’ clock chanting “Ayya siva siva arakara arakara”. More than fifty vehicles participate in the procession every year.
The procession goes through Seerkatchi, Nainarpathu, Udankudi, Chettiarpathu, Theiyoor, Santhayadi, Kottankadu, Muthukrishnapuram, Padukapathu, Thattar madam, Thisayanvillai and reaches Erumaikulam at noon. Here, the people participate in annadhanam. The, the procession starts from here and travels through Ayankulam, Karaichuthupudur, Koodankulam, Chettikulam, Chalaipudur, Avaraikulam, Ambalavanapuram, Aralvaimozhi, Thovalai and reaches Athalavilai.
The procession from Thiruvananthapuram also reaches Athalavilai. Large number of people from Kerala participate in the procession. This is also Vehicle procession. The procession passes through the towns of Balaramapura, Parasala, Kaliyakavilai, Marthandam and Thuckalay and finally reaches Athalavilai around 6.30 p.m. Vaikunta jyothi is lighted on the top of a hillock called as Vaikuntamalai at Athalavilai. Then, the procession proceeds to Nagercoil. At Nagercoil, the procession foes around the town which is called as nager valam.
A religious conference is conducted at Nagercoil. Eminent Persons participate in the conference. People from different villages come over and stay here over night.
On the next day, that is, the 20th of Masi, the procession begins early in the morning. A Guru of the Swamithoppu gurukulam will lead the procession. More than twenty thousand people particpate in the procession chanting ayya siva siva arakara arakara. The participants will hold a saffron flag in their hands and walk towards Swamithoppu. Decorated elephants and horses also participate in the procession.
The procession goes towards Swamithoppu, via Edalakudi, Suchindrum, Vazukamparai, Ethankadu and North Thamaraikulam. People welcome the procession and garland the leader on the way. The procession reaches Swamithoppu around 12 O’ Clock and go to the muthirikinaru first and then through the four car streets.
Later, the procession goes around the temple. Before entering the temple, the people hand over the flags at the temple. In the evening, there will be vahana panividai and annadharamam etc. Elocution competition is held for school children in the night. Then, a grand gala meeting is held. Eminent Personalities of Tamil Nadu and Kerala irrespective of their religion participate in it.
In the earlier years, a Souvenir was brought out to commemorate Ayya Vaikuntar’s birthday. It was done during the period of Ayya Balakrishna Nadar and Krishnamony Nadar. It was later discontinued.