Illam nira, Vallam nira, Vallotti nira
The two priests of Muthappankavu carried the sheaves of freshly cut paddy on their heads and circumambulated around the madappura (the shrine) with all of us following them chanting "illam nira, vallam nira, vallotti nira". This in Malayalam translates to fill my home, my paddy measuring vessels, my granary with grains...
After three rounds of circumambulation they placed the sheaves in front of the dual deities of the Muthappankavu- Shiva as Vellatom and Vishnu as Thiruvappan.
The priests prayed and chanted over the sheaves and invoked the Gods by blowing the conch shells, which was accompanied by the unusual sight of the temple dogs howling alongside. Muthappan temples allow dogs a free run in the temple as they are considered the inseparable companions of Lord Muthappan.
The sheaves were then opened to make small bunches of freshly cut paddy, along with some flowers as prasadam to all of us. This was at the small Muthappan temple a kilometre from our office in Coimbatore. The paddy was brought the day before from a farm near Kollengode in Palakkad District.
This ritual is conducted in all major temples in Kerala midway through the month of Karkidakam (aadi/ashaad), with early maturing grains, a ritual to invite a bountiful harvest, prosperity, and a full granary.This is the major paddy season in many parts of Kerala and a bountiful harvest was essential to food security and prosperity in erstwhile times when agriculture brought in the income and food for the families.
For both of us, not really regular temple goers, this was a rare few minutes of feeling one with the rituals and the unusual deity while thinking of our farmers and the farms, the rains lashing Kerala and praying for the safety of the farms and well-being of farmers. The small, quiet, temple with a small gathering, the simple and elegant ambience, the meaningful ritual and the whole hearted acceptance of the dogs was truly a sublime experience.
We hope these sheaves now attached to the front door of the Bio Basics will bring our organic farmers and us a bountiful year with crops and grains, which we hope to share with you.