As 78-year-old Thankamma puts her foot on the ground facing the centuries-old Pakkil Sree Dharma Sastha Temple here on Sunday morning, she will be greeted with a warm welcome.
After offering the customary darsan of the main deity here, the woman, believed to be a descendant of the mythical character Pakkanar, will soon open a makeshift shop to sell her stock of hand-woven baskets and mats. The place will come to life later, people queuing in front of stalls selling traditional products in particular.
Although a sense of foreboding hangs in the air, the age-old tradition of Pakkil Vanibham which has been severely curtailed by the pandemic over the past two years, is making a comeback with considerably greater force. Before the biggest event here, there was a one-day fair on similar lines at Samkranthi on Saturday, which also coincided with the Karkidaka Samkrama festival.
According to organizers, elaborate arrangements for the month-long trade fair, which offers local communities a chance to reconnect with their cultural roots. But reminders of the pandemic may still be there, from masked attendees to signs urging people to social distance.
The month-long event, which begins on the first day of Karkkidakam every year, has long served as a one-stop market for traditional goods, agricultural tools, pottery and wooden furniture. This year’s event is expected to feature around 60 booths, while a few more may open as the event progresses.
“The traders have all arrived and there is a particular excitement this year. The pandemic, which has forced a reduction of the event for two consecutive years, has given us the opportunity to remember how important it is to connect with our roots and our culture,” said Mahesh Mariyappally, chairman of the temple devotees committee.
Pallikonam Rajeev, coordinator of the Center for Local History and Heritage Studies in Kerala, a platform of local history organisations, attributes the event to the region’s Buddhist heritage. The place of the Vanibham, which is called Padanilam, once served as a training area for army units under the ancient kingdom of Thekkumkoor. Ironically, this is the same location where the Travancore army under its Dutch commander Eustachius De Lannoy defeated Thekkumkoor in 1970,” he pointed out.