This ancient festival that is much awaited by the people of Nemmara and Valanghi, the famous "Nemmara Vallanghi vela", falls on the 20th day of “Meenam” in the Malayalam month (2nd or 3rd of April, every year).
The arrival of Nemmara Vela brings a spirit of celebration and rejoicing to the region. Nemmara and Vallanghi compete to outdo each other in the pomp and show for the vela, which includes decorated elephant processions, instrumental music, and above all the grand fireworks display, which is unique to the Nemmara Valanghi vela. Nemmara and Vallanghi have their own temples for conducting the vela proceedings, but the Nellikkulangara temple, which is the main center for the vela proceedings, is common to both Nemmara and Vallanghi.
Here is a brief description of the Nemmara Valanghi Vela proceedings:
The formalities and preparation for the vela starts around 20 days earlier to the actual date of the vela. On the 1st of “Meenam” the vela representatives and the elders of each desams (Nemmara desam and Vallanghi desam) meet at Nellikulangara and with the permission of all people one red silk cloth called ‘Kuura’ is tied on top of “Kalam”. ”Kalam” is a drawing of the Bhagwathi made using colour powders. It is done by experts having years of experience in this. From that day “Kalam Pooja” and “Kalam Paatu” are performed .The songs in “Kalam Paatu” are for praising the Bhagwathi and telling her legendary story. The “Kalam Pooja” and “Kalam Paatu” continue for the next 21 days.
From the 9th of “Meenam” starts the folk activity of “Kummatti”. This is conducted to resemble the gods of heaven supporting the Bhagwathi for killing the demon “Daarikan”. ”Kummatti” is made of bamboo and decorated with flowers of “Arali”. These flowers are arranged in form of rings and then tied in the rows over the bamboo. “Kanimangalam”,”Mananagodu”,”Puthanthara” and “Vetaikorumakan” are the four main groups who make their “Kummattees”. These groups join at “Vetaikorumakan” temple and the “Kummattees” are placed in front o the temple. Sometimes these “Kummattees” are decorated with lights. Each group tries to out do the other in the number of rows of flowers in their “Kummattees”. These folk activities continue for the next 9 days i.e. up to the 17th of “Meenam”.
The next day starts the “Kari Vela” or the vela in black. This is done to resemble the “Bhagwathi” with Lord Shiva’s disciples called the ‘Bhootha Gana’ coming back victoriously after killing the demon .Each four groups start the “Kari Vela” from their respective places. They dance in front of all the Nair Tharavadu. By midnight these four groups meet in front of “Vetaikorumakan” temple. The next day i.e. on the 19th of “Meenam” night, people celebrate the folk of “Andivela”. That night the sword and “Chilambu” of the Goddess is carried from “Mannam” to “Vetaikorumakan” Temple accompanied by three elephants and “Melam”. The same night the auction for the elephants used in the vela is conducted. Lakhs of rupees are collected during the auction for the vela. One who gets to win the auction gets the opportunity of starting the “Ezhunnallath” or the elephant procession from their house.
Then comes the grand day of “Nemmara Valanghi Vela’. For each desams vela starts from their respective “Mannams”. For Nemmara desam, it starts by “Thidambu Pooja” followed by the reading of the “Variyola” manuscript that was written many years back. Then by 11:30 A.M starts the “Panchavaadhyam”. Meanwhile the decorated elephants are arranged and then the “Thidambu Kayattal” function starts. This is a highly emotional occasion where all the devotees of Bhagwathi pray to her to make the vela a great success without any loss of life, or any other disasters. “Thidambu” or the idol of Bhagwathi is decorated with flowers and made into an arch like structure, which is raised on to the top of the elephant standing in the centre of the procession. Then this procession moves along the town from “Mannam” to “Vetaikorumakan” and then to “Pazhayannur Bhagavathy” temple.
By 4 P.M the procession reaches the “Pandal”. “Pandal” is a huge arch like structure illuminated with numerous lights and it is one of the main attractions of the vela. The function of “Kudamaatam” starts at this point. A number of color umbrellas made of silk and decorated with colour stones and threads are held one after the other along with “Alavattam” and “Venchaamaram”. Again “Panchavaadyam” is played and the elephants assemble in front of the Nellikulangara temple and offer homage to Bhagwathi. Elephants of Vallenghy go to their “Mannam”. This is called “Kavirakkam”.Soon after this function the fireworks for Vallenghy is triggered. For witnessing fireworks, lakhs of people gather on the empty fields of Nemmara. After this starts the firework for Nemmara desam. The fireworks for both the desams inclusive lasts for more than 1 hour.
After this the processions will move to the respective “Mannams”. Meanwhile starts the “Thaayambaka”. By early morning on the next day processions reach “Pandal” and “Pandimelam” starts. By 3 A.M in the morning starts the fireworks, which is called “Raathri Vedikkettu”.There is another important attraction of Nemmara Vallenghy Vela, which is a special structured form of fireworks called the “Kuutu”. It is a unique feature of vela and for viewing this people come from the neighboring districts of Malappuram, Thrissur, Ernakulam etc and also from Tamil Nadu. Lakhs of rupess is spend every year and each desams try new techniques every year to make their “Kuutu” more interesting.
Then the elephants of Vallenghy pay homage to Bhagwathi and return to Vallenghy “Mannam”. Similarly, the elephants of Nemmara after paying homage to Bhagwathi return to Nemmara “Mannam”. This function is called “Kaavukeral”.
Before 9 A.M in the morning the procession of Nemmara reaches “Mannam” and the ‘Thidambu’ is brought down from the elephant. This function is called “Thidambirakkal” and that marks the end of vela.
Vela is the reunion occasion for all the families in Nemmara and Vallanghi.