Padayani is the annual ritualistic festival celebrated in Bhadrakali temples of Central travancore zone with due dedications. It may be regarded as the remains of ancient Dravidian concept of God and the mode of worship, offering Rathi (lust), Raktham (Blood) and Lahari (intoxication). The very spirit of central travancore finds its appearance in Padayani as that of Malabar in Theyyam. All the Sixty Four art forms play vital role in Padayani. Actually it is the combination of music, dance , painting, satire etc. Padayani reflects the ancient socialist society before the Aryanization and Chathruvarnya, the four caste system. So, the whole village take active part in Padayani without any racial discriminations. Each and every Padayani Karappuram (centers or village celebrating Padayani) observe padayani in their own way, in different aspect such as observation of rituals, order of performance and span of Padayani days. Obviously, the difference noticed is huge.
Padayani is celebrated during the months of Kumbham, Meenam and Medam ( Approximately February, March and April). Kolamezhuthu, Kolamthullal, Kolappattu, Thappumelam, Vinodam- the satire part, are the essential parts of Padayani. Kolams are folk deities drawn on well processed green areca leaf sheath with natural colours. Kolappattu (lyrics) includes prayers, admirations and requests to the deities. Thappu is the 'Asuravadya' made by covering a round frame of Jacktree hardwood with buffalohide. Kolamthullal is the rhythmic footsteps and dance, which a performer makes in tune with the Kolappattu and the Thappumelam. Vinodam includes satire and protest targeting the social evils and vanities. Bearing Palakkolam singing Kolappatu, dancing with the thalam of thappu , the whole villagers pray to God to bring in prosperity, eradicate the ill effects of wicked deities, ensure good crops and so on. It is a way of worship with no intermediary between man and God. Further, we can see a life which is friendly to the nature and worshipping it without exploitation.
The art nowadays are very rarely performed in Tamil Nadu but well carried out in Kerala and Karanataka.In Kerala it is called Pulikali.
The myth behind Padayani
According to Hindu mythology, evolution of Padayani is related to the birth of Kali. Once an Asura(demon) named Darika delighted Lord Brahma through his hard practice of penance and gained blessings that, he would be killed only by a women. Darika went on with his atrocities. Failing to defend Darika, Devas approched Lord Shiva for help. Hearing the atrocities of Darika, Lord shiva kindled with anger and opened his third eye bursting out fire. It is from this third eye, Kaali was born. Accepting the request of 'Devas' and obeying the instruction of her father Shiva, Kaali left for the abode of Darika mounting herself on Vethal accompanied by 'Koolee Ganam'. The fight between Darika and Kaali was really frightening. At the end of the battle, Kaali cut off his head. Holding head in her hand and with overwhelming anger she returned to Kailasam. To pacify her and to satisfy her lust for blood, Devas performed variety entertainments like dance, mimicry, dialogues and, comedies. But it did not work. As she was going through the Gopura , the goddess paused a while seeing the painting depicted angry Kaali and she smiled. She asked her father "who drew this?". Shiva answered, This was drawn by Kurup' (Kurupu Kurichu"). She glanced at the Kalam(Painting) once more and burst into laughter. Attempts made by Lord Shiva and his Bhoothagana to pacify and delight kaali are imitated as such in Padayani celebration. Even today kalamezhuthum Pattum is strictly conducted in Kaali temples with it own ritualistic originality. Even now, Kurup ( a caste) draws the kalam.
As the people promised to offer their own blood, kaali became quiet and delighted. Padayani is celebrated annually for the protection and prosperity of the village and its people.
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