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If someone asks a Keralite, which is the most significant month according to your Malayalam calendar, without hesitation he would reply, "It's Karkidakam". Karkidakam is the last month of Malayalam calendar and it falls on July 16th every year according to Gregorian calender. A non-Keralite may think, "Why this month is so significant even if it marks the end of the year and next month is the prosperous Chingam". Its answer is related to monsoon, climate variations and its associated diseases. During June-July months, monsoon is in full swing in Kerala. So, great chances of getting diseases. Also, since the next month is the new year, people want to leave behind every bad thing to welcome Chingam with a happy soul and healthy mind. Since it's told, a happy soul dwells in a healthy body, people are taking this month to treat them both using traditional methods. Karkidakam can be called as the month of rejuvenation of mind and body particularly Ayurvedic treatments like massaging known as uzhichil, medicines and Karkidaka Kanji- a medicinal food served this month. Malayalam calender is also known as 'Kollavarsham' started around 825AD and it gives somewhat equal importance to both Karkidakam and Chingam. Truth is that a month preparation is done so that Onam can be welcomed with all its greatness and importance. Though it's not followed nowadays, women used to wear 'Dasapushpam' on their hair. It's spiritual as well as physical healing properties. Dasapushpam means 10 flowers and they are Karuva, Poovan Kurunnu, Thiruthali, Krishnakanthi, Nilapana, Cherula, Kayyunni, Uzhinja, Mukkutti and Muyal Cheviyan. No functions are performed this month Whether it's marriage, house warming ceremony, shifting or even marriage fixing, good ceremonies are not conducted this month as it's not considered as a bad month for every good deal. Land registration and vehicle purchases are also very rare. So, as total, business deals are only a few. Everything will be postponed to next month Chingam which starts on August 17. Let me explain some other specialties of this month one by one. Most are somewhat related to Hindu religion and spirituality.

Ramayana reading in every Hindu home

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Karkidaka month is also known as Ramayana month. Let me tell you the reason why it's called so. Through forum discussion, something surprised me most. I think, whole over India, this month is given great significance only in Kerala. This month is famous for dark clouds and heavy rains, and it's believed that people read Ramayana to build self confidence when the most difficult days are passing by.Ramayana written by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan in Malayalam known as Athyadhma Ramayanan is read in every Hindu home in the evenings. It's also recited in all temples of Kerala, both mornings and evenings for one month every day. Thunchaththu Ramanujan  Ezhuthachan, simply known as Ezhuthachan is considered as the father of Malayalam language and literature. Both the great epics were translated to Malayalam for the first time by Ezhuthachan. Due to superstitious beliefs, both were not directly translated. Instead they were written as 'Kilippaattu' (song of a bird),giving rise to a new branch of literature. Since Karkidakam is considered as the dark month, people give much importance to reading Ramayana, in front of deepam (light) filling mind with devotional thoughts. Since it's not possible to read the whole book a month, the fifth kantam - Sundara Kandam is most preferred for reading. Since Sundarakantham is giving more preference to Hanuman than Rama, Hanuman has become an important part of this Ramayana month. Also, reading Ramayana is a great and simple way to attain Moksha, according to Hindu mythology. Usually, youth belonging to different Hindu samajams form a group and they go to each and every Hindu home of their region to recite Ramayana. That shows its importance even among members of young generation. Ramayana reading in every temple of Kerala is a spectacular scene to watch. 

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Karkidaka Kanji(Marinnu Kanji)

It's a medicinal rice food served this month to resist all diseases as it's a bad climate everywhere. It can be served by anyone, but only this month and should be served everyday. It's prepared using Navarra rice, jaggery, shallots, milk, coconut milk, broken wheat, cumin seeds and salt. A few varieties of herbs like Ayamodakam, Kurunthotti, Uzhinjal etc and a few spices like pepper, cardamom, cloves etc are also added. Though it tastes bitter, many people prefer to have this dish during this season. Now readymade sachets are also available everywhere. Leafy vegetables like moringa leaves and spinach are not used this month, as it's believed they contain some poisonous substance in their leaves during this month due to the change of seasons and it's proved scientifically also.

Karkidaka Vavu - the homage to ancestors

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It's a special offering given to ancestors of the family. They are known as 'pitrukkal' and it's the homage and remembrance paid to died members of the family once in an year. It's believed that in amavasi day of Karkidakam month, they get full strength and in order to please them, members of the family give them 'bali' and it's known as balitharpanam. Amavasi means no moon. It's also believed that those departed souls attain moksha through these rituals. This ritualistic homage is normally paid by the elder males of the family, but often done by women and kids also. Normally, it's done in temples. Rice, flowers etc are offered in a banana leaf and after the pooja it's taken to the nearby sea or river. Thirunavaya, Aluva Siva temple, Thiruvallam Parasurama temple, Varkala Papanasam, Shankhumukham etc are most famous for this annual homage. After that, a grand feast is prepared at home remembering them. In many towns, this annual day is celebrated conducting fairs and exhibitions.

A month of reduction sales

It's most popular in Tamil Nadu known as 'Aadi kizhiv' means Aadi month discount. Karkidakam is known as Aadi in Tamil language. All old items of shops will be sold off in discount so that, they can accumulate fresh items for the next month. It's most commonly adopted in some textile showrooms where complete cloth materials will be sold off, even more than 50% discount. So, many people do prefer to do their Onam shopping this month itself. It can save both, money and a lot of time. Onam season is always busy. So, early purchases can save a lot of time too.

Visiting the four brothers of Ramayana - Naalambala Darshanam

It's one of the widely followed practices nowadays, gaining more popularity. In addition to reading Ramayana everyday, if one person is able to visit the temples in a day, in the order Rama, Bharatha, Lekshmana and Shatrughnana, it's considered as good. Also, it's believed that his wishes will come true. After visiting Shatrighnana, he has to return to Rama to tell him, to complete a full circle, which many people don't follow nowadays. Pilgrims should start in the early morning and should complete it before noon, without any break. Naalambalams of Thrissur district are Srirama temple Thriprayar, Koodalmanikyam Bharatha temple of Triprayar, Moozhikkulam Lakshmana Temple and Payammal Shatrughan temple. It's believed that Lord Krishna worshipped these four brothers and at the end of Dwaparaka yuga, when Krishna completed his ninth incarnation on earth, Dwaraka was buried under the sea. The four idols floated in sea water reached Chethuvara coastal region of Kerala. Vakkayil Kaimal who was the minister of Ayirur Kovalakam of Ponnani had a strange dream and he instructed fishermen to get those four idols from the Chethuvara sea. According to the instructions he got through the dream, he installed the four idols in four temples of Thrissur district, which later became big pilgrim places to visit in the month of Karkidakam. The shortest distant Naalambalams are located in Kottayam district within just one or two kilometer radius and surprisingly, all temples are in one place,Ramapuram. The temples are Ramapuram Shri Ramaswamy temple,Koodappulam Shri Lekshmanaswamy temple, Amanakkara Shri Bharathaswamy temple and Methiri Shri Shatrughnanswamy temple. Nowadays, such tours named as 'Nalambala Yatra' are organized by different temples itself. 

Sukhachikitsa for elephants

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Elephants form an important part of Kerala's traditional culture. No one can even imagine a Kerala festival without elephants. Not only men, rejuvenation treatments are given to elephants also. They will be given special massaging, food and Ayurveda medicines. It's commonly conducted in temples, as elephants form a indispensable part of temple festivals known as 'Pooram'. Special bathing and massaging is done to perfectly tone their body for the next one year. Also, this one month is total rest for elephants. In Guruvayoor Srikrishna temple, more than 60 elephants are given special diets, herbal tonics and they are treated in a royal way. Guruvayur Kesavan is considered as the most magnificent elephant of Kerala till now. Special 'Gajapooja' (elephant pooja) is conducted as a homage to him before 'Aanayoott' - the feeding of elephants is started. It is a great event of curiosity among the viewers to see special treatments of elephants and tourists are also attracted.

Prosperous illamnira and puthiri

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It's the month of auspicious illam nira where farmers give reaped paddy to temples for Lekshmi pooja. Since Onam is known as harvest festival, illam nira marks its beginning. Paddy sheaves are brought in bundle to temples by farmers, carrying on their head. They took pradikshanams of the temple. Pradikshanam means they completely revolve the temple. Later, it's taken inside temple and Melshanti (the main priest) after pooja, dedicate it to Lord. Then it's distributed among the farmers and people who visit the temple the particular day. Devotees get one paddy each and it's believed that, if they keep it safe in their homes, it brings wealth, happiness and prosperity to the family. Each year, they collect and tie it in the ceilings of their homes. Gradually, it turns a bundle as years pass by. Puthiri means new rice harvested from the fields and hence the name. Also, rice is stored for the next one year in granaries known as 'Pathaayam'. Illam means Brahmin's home. Earlier, only high caste people own lands and paddy fields and hence the name.

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It's time for annual cleaning

Whole Hindu houses will be cleaned and waste things thrown out just before the commence of Onam. It's believed that Goddess Lekshmi won't enter home in the prosperous new year if it's not kept neat. It's true or false, but people are cleaning homes and surroundings when Karkidakam reaches its last phase.

Hoping you got a lovely experience to know some traditional customs followed during the last month of Kollavarsham. It's really nice to rest and have treatment, controlling all diets to get energy for the next year to work continuously. Also, bhakthi paths give peace to mind and strengthens our heart. So, let me also recite the famous Rama shloka before completing this article.

"Sree rama rama, sree ramachandra jaya
Sree rama rama, sree ramabhadra jaya
Sree rama rama rama Lokabhirama jaya
Sree rama rama rama Ravananthaka jaya
Sree rama rama Hridi ramatham rama rama"


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