Attuvela Mahotsavam: The Biggest Water Festival of Kerala!

In the land of backwaters, there is a special water festival that is yet unknown by many. Let's dive into the enchanting celebrations of Attuvela Mahotsavam and learn about it.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
Attuvela Mahotsavam

Decked up in a boat, immersed in the vibrant mood to welcome Kodungallur Amma, the people of Vadayar in the Kottayam district in Kerala are all gearing up to celebrate the biggest water festival of the state, Attuvela Mahotsavam. The main festival is celebrated in the Meenam month of the Malayalam calendar which falls on 9th April, this year. But the celebrations begin six days before the main festivity. Anand Narayanan - a resident of Vadayar and a photographer walks us through the entrancing rituals and an extravagant gala that lits up the village for 6 days.

The Beginnings 

Attuvela Chat

The Pindi Puzhut ceremony marks the beginning of the construction of the Attuvela Chat at the Llangao temple, six days before the actual festival. “The Pindi Puzhut ceremony is performed by placing the altars on 64 Thooshanila (levels), cutting the Kumbalam (ash gourd fruit) in the middle and filling it with blood-coloured liquid made with Choonad - Calcium hydroxide and turmeric powder, cutting the Nalikeram (coconut) in the middle and then looking at the zodiac signs,” says Anand.

The Attuvela Chat is still constructed by the younger generations of the heir families, who diligently uphold the traditions. Two large cave boats are joined together to form a raft, atop which a teak frond, 18 inches high and 11 inches in circumference, is placed for jumping. The top floor of the three-story chat is fashioned like a shrine, where Kodungallur adorns the idols of Bhagavathy, Khalappad, and Bhishma. Lanterns and Deepalankarana (a stack of diyas) accompany the decorations.


The residents say that the construction of this Chat is associated with a popular legend. A Vadakkumkur king, who was a devotee of Kodungallur Amma, prepared a chariot (Attuvela) as an offering to please Amma and sent it to Kodungallur through the Vembanad backwaters. However, even after the king and the community reached Kodungallur, the chariot did not arrive. Attuvela was mistaken for a warship by a fleet of 'parangis' (Portuguese in Malayalam) anchored in the Kochi backwaters and was hijacked. Since then, the festival has been celebrated with great vigor to welcome the goddess.

The Pre-Rituals


Prior to the Attuela Mahotsavam, the Atuelakadav temple, located 2 km northwest of the Vadayar Llangavil Bhagavathi temple in Marava Thurut Panchayat, is ceremonially inaugurated under the leadership of Adiyam Soman. Before felling the gourd tree to make the flagpole, Soman ceremonially cuts the light pad adiyam with a sword. The flagpole is erected on this auspicious occasion in the presence of representatives from the heir families, carpenters, the Kollan tribe, and Pandarduveetil Nayas, who are responsible for constructing the Attuvela chat. "They cut the palm tree, supported without touching the ground, accompanied by the chanting of the goddess, the sounds of melam, and then bring the goddess to the temple," elaborates Narayanan.

The Main Festival 

Kodungallur Amma

The main festival spans two days, falling on the 9th and 10th of April this year. According to legend, it symbolizes the welcoming ritual given to the Goddess of Kodungallur upon her arrival to visit her sister, the Goddess of Elamkavu. The main deity of the temple is Goddess Bhagavathy.

Throughout the two days of the event, the enormous replica of the temple sailing down the river takes center stage. The procession begins two kilometers from the temple, at Attuvela Kadavu.

On the morning of the 9th, after special pujas at Ilamkavu, Attuela will be taken to Attuvelakadavu Temple, located 2 km northwest of Ilamkavu Temple. At the dawn of the 9th Nazhika of Ashwati day, Kodungalluramma, the all-important goddess, will be seated atop the Attuela Chaadu. After performing the Guruti in the outer field, the Attuvela Chat will depart for Ilamkavu temple around 2 am on the 10th.

Decorated with lamp lights, the Attuvela Chat will bring color to the aura of Muvattupuzhayar village. The journey to Ilamkavu Temple commences with a grand procession, accompanied by musical ensembles and devotees. Gerduan Tokam, a ritual where people dress up as the bird Garuda, along with offerings from various artisans, households, and organizations, accompanies the procession.

The procession reaches the temple, and the Attuvela Darshan opens at 4 am.


On Attuvela day, every house in Vadayar is decorated. Even those who work in faraway places return home to celebrate this festival, and everyone stays awake on the night of the main festival to witness the grand procession on the water," says Anand. It's a festival where people from Karkali like Vadayar, Edavatam, Vaikaprayar, Vallakam, and Tala Yolaparam come together, regardless of caste. Thousands of people from different countries visit Vadayar to witness this festival, yet it remains unknown to many in our own country. The celebrations continue until nightfall, with the sounds of drums slowly fading, marking the beginning of the wait for Attuvela next year.

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