Arattu Festival in Janardhanaswamy Temple

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Dates of Arattu Festival 2023 : March-April

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Arattu Festival in Janardhanaswamy Temple, Varkala Overview

One of the most significant festivals in Kerala, the ten-day Arattu festival is celebrated in the Janardhan Swamy temple with elephant processions, ornamental silk umbrellas and all night kathakali dances. The Arattu is more of a ritual than a temple festival. A grand procession, a ceremonial bath and serving of a sweet dish - Palpayasam; marks the festivities of the Arattu. It is celebrated twice a year in Kerala; March - April and October - November.

Venue of Arattu Festival 

Janardhana Swamy Temple, Varkala

About The Arattu Festival

Procession at the Arattu Festival
Procession at the Arattu Festival

Arattu Festival is celebrated in Janardhana Swamy Temple which displays the magnificent and vibrant colours of this place. It starts on the Karthika Day of the Malayalam Calendar with Kodiyettu (Flag Hoisting) and ends on Uthram Day (another auspicious day) with Arattu. The festival is observed in the month of Meenam (March-April) and is a ten-day affair.

The fourth and fifth day of the festival includes all-night performances like the traditional Kathakali dance. A procession of five richly decorated elephants through the streets mark the end of the festival. The elephants are adorned with ornamental silk umbrellas and beautiful fans. The Arattu or the holy bath of Lord Vishnu is held on the Uttaram Day in the Arabian Sea which is near the temple.

Rituals at the Arattu Festival

Kerala Mounted Police at Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple
Kerala Mounted Police at Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple

Arattu is a ceremonial procession for Lord Vishnu which marks the end of the ten-day festival. The night before the parade, there is another procession inside the fort called 'Pallivetta'.

On the day of Arattu, His Highness, the Ex-Maharaja enters the temple. After performing some rituals, the procession moves out through the eastern gate, accompanied by drums, nagaswaram etc. 

His Highness leads the procession with a sword in his hand and is escorted by armed guards, infantry, mounted police till the Sanghumugham beach. An elephant goes in front with a drum on its back. The drum is beaten to indicate the arrival of God according to ancient beliefs. 

The procession leaves the gate at around 5:00 PM with a 21 gun salute. The ceremonial bath is taken once the parade reaches the sea.

Main Attraction at Arattu Festival

The Dutch Bell

A major attraction of the temple is the Dutch Bell which is believed to be cast in 1757. It was offered by a Dutch sailor to the temple as an oblation. The story behind it is that a Dutch ship refused to move as it passed by the temple. The captain heard the chiming of a bell from the temple. He promised to give a bell in his ship to the temple as an oblation if the Lord allowed his ship to sail further. Soon a wind came which moved the ship safely. The caption returned and kept his promise.

About The Janardhana Swamy Temple

Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple
Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple

It is one the ancient temples of Kerala and is a renowned pilgrim destination dedicated to Lord Vishnu, known worldwide for the Arattu Festival celebrated here. It has a known history of roughly 2000 years. The temple is known to have been built by the devas. However, it soon became dilapidated and thereby reconstructed by the Pandya king. It is located on a steep hill at the entry point of the beach road. It has a splendid architecture and faces the Papanasam Beach.

Its closeness to the sea adds to its glory and spiritual aura. There are brightly coloured idols of Hanuman, Garuda and Lord Shiva. The Janardhana Swamy Temple has been attracting a large number of devotees for a long time especially during the Arattu Festival. It is interesting to note that it is the only temple in Kerala which is devoted to Lord Vishnu in the name of Janardhan Swamy.

History Of The Temple

Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple
Sree Janardhana Swamy Temple

There are many legends associated with the Janardhana Swamy Temple. The most famous legend is of Lord Brahma. It is believed that Lord Brahma once descended on the earth to perform a sacrifice and chose Varkala as his Bhoomi (place of sacrifice). He became so engrossed in his sacrifice that he forgot his job of creation. Lord Vishnu was aware of this and came to Varkala in the disguise of an old man. The Brahmins offered him food, but nothing satisfied his hunger. Lord Brahma realised this and came to see him. Lord Vishnu then requested him to stop his sacrifice and recommence his duty of recreation. Hence, the temple was built to commemorate this legend.

Thus, to experience the true essence of Kerala, it is essential to witness a festival there, and there could be nothing better than the Arattu festival itself! Its splendid architectural features are worthy of admiration, and it has been attracting an average of ten thousand people during this season. The temple and the festival echo the traditions of South India and are worth a visit.

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