Kollemcode Thookkam : Memories
Memories and Recollections of Kollemcode thookkam and of how special and unique a place Kollemcode is! | By Dhanesh Nair
On Apr 09, 2016

Kollemcode is a place that is so tied to my childhood that where ever I go,the town becomes a scale to measure beauty and I realise again and again how beautiful a place it is. The town is blessed with Nature’s extravaganza of beaches, coconut groves, paddy fields and temples.
Our house is very close to the famous temple of ‘Kollemcode'. The temple has a lot of uniqueness unto itself. This is one among the fewest temples in the world where the same deities are physically moved and worshipped in two different temples.There are two temples called ‘Pazhaya Mudipura’ and ‘Puthiya Mudipura’.In both temples Goddess Kali is worshipped and effigy of Goddess is like a Semi Circle, which is called as ‘Mudi’ and ‘Pura’ is home. The temple is also known for the maximum number of infant thookam (generally termed pilla thookam) during the festive season.
Generally thookam is an offering from the devotees as a gesture of thanks giving for giving them a kid.My grandparents, parents , siblings , me and all the generations to come will have thookam and it kind of bonds generations that way. Festival is a ten day celebration starting by an event of both Goddesses (Bhadra and Rudhra) coming to the new temple in a procession.From then the celebration and fun begins. Street filled with vendors selling toys to food, people flocking towards the temple from morning till night. This gives a fresh new life to Kollemcode which is otherwise a calm and quiet town.
Once the festival starts, there will be lot of performances on stage from day one. One of my youngest daring act would be to walk to the temple from where I used to live to watch the performances of the day. Celebrations are quite vivid and colourful.I thus had the opportunity to enjoy‘Ottanthullal’ or ‘Chakyarkoothu’ not as one of those competition items in ‘Kerala State Art Festival’. Holding hands of my grandmother who knew stories well, sitting in the first row with a cone of fried peanuts and playing with the sand and listening to the great artist ‘Nattalam Thrichandran Nair’ playing first meeting of Prince Bhima and Lord Hanuman is still fresh in my memory.‘Nokkeda nammude marge kidakkunna markkada neeyangu mari kida shada’ pointing at some of us who sits in the front row brings a lot of giggles in the entire group.
While being young it is mostly dramas where actors speak the dialog, Orchestra without gimmicks, Kadhaprasangam which later gave way to Mimicry . Mimicry was however banned later in the temple premises. Being a kid, sitting in the front row enjoying the dialogues delivered by the actors were mesmerising. Two days are strictly meant for ‘Kathakali’. This is the practice ever since the festivities took its shape and followed till day. I still remember sitting with my Grandmother enjoying the show even without understanding the gestures or the song. When the war between the hero and villain happens and the artists run through the ground chasing each other would bring a bolt of fear and it later turns to a lot of fun.
It is normally on the fourth day that the registration for thookam starts.But of late, registration is done in advance so that there are programs in that evening as well. Registration is a big process by itself.
Every kid will be assigned to a person generally termed as 'thookakar' and the parents or family of the kid are called as 'nerchakkar'. The 'thookkakar' stay inside the premises of the temple eating food provided by the temple, wearing a red and green attire called ‘Pattu and Kacha’. They undergo severe health checks and are strictly prohibited from consuming alcohol or any other narcotic substances.There are however a negligible percentage of antisocials who creep in without notice of the authorities too.But such people are treated with strict disciplinary actions from the temple authorities.There are also a few spare thookakar who are kept as buffers.
Kollemcode temple is one of the oldest temples which allowed people from other religion to be inside the premises and also allows them to take part in thookam. This is from the era where the most heinous incidents of untouchability was in practice. Kollemcode Temple also has a peculiarity that it is one among the first temples to have non Brahmins performing regular Pooja.
Apart from these regular events there are processions from each places to the temple from different communities which includes all major art forms of Kerala. Earlier it was more southern art forms with Panchavadyam but these days ‘Theyyam’, ‘Shinkkari Melam’ and other performances occupy the space. Before the final day of thookam, there is a test run called 'Vandiyottam’ (test run of Chariot). This is primarily an event on the ninth day but to me this was to make sure that the chariot works well and make the platform ready for the next day’s huge event. On the day of thookam, all thookakar take bathe in the sea, where the third Goddess is believed to be residing. They are then taken to dress up much like warriors with representative sword and shield. They are brought to temple in groups based on their numbers as processions. This time both Goddesses will be moved to temporary structure raised by green coconut leaves called ‘Pacha Pandal'. This from here the each rounds of thookam starts.
Normally the word thookam brings a lot of ambiguity since there are few practices like Garudan thookam followed in Kerala and Tamilnadu (Parava Kaavadi).Safety of the infants and person taking them up is done with extreme care with several of protective shields. No such fatalities ever happened except an event where an infant slipped from the hands of the person (thookakaran). This kid was safely caught and saved without any injuries. One of the reported tragedy was that a person falling into the heavy wheels while pulling the chariot.
Infants are taken off their regular cloths and cloth is wrapped around with a protective anti slippery shield. They are then tied and is handed over to the thookkakaran who is tied (notice no body piercing or hanging on the flesh or skins) to the villu (long pole of the Chariot). He is also made to wear security belts made with cloth and security belt of the kid is tied to villu for extra protection. They were lifted of a height of two storeys and they circle around the temple and are brought down.

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