Kalpathi Ratholsavam or the Kalpathi Chariot Festival also known as Kalpathy Theru festival is the famous festival of Palakkad District. The annual festival is held at the famous Viswanathaswamy Temple in the village of Kalpathi. Kalpathi is a traditional Tamil Brahmin settlement in Kerala (Agraharam or Traditional house).
The Festival lasts 10 days from the 22nd of Malayalam month Thulam. (Approximately Nov 13). The festival is based on Vedic Tamil Brahmin culture and the actual chariot puja or Ratholsavam lasts for seven days.
The three satellite temples in the village of new Kalpathy, old Kalpathy and Chathapuram also celebrate the festival this period.
Kalpathy Viswanatha swamy temple is the oldest Siva temple in Malabar where the deities are Lord Siva (Lord Viswanatha) and his consort Visalakshi, another name for Parvati. The ancient temple nestles by the banks of the Kalpathy River which is also known as the Nila River.
It was built around 1425 AD by Kombi Achan, the then Raja of Palakkad. Legend has it that a Brahmin widow named Lakshmiammal went to Banaras and brought Lingam which she got from the River Ganga and installed in the present site on the Southern bank of river Neela Bhagirathi. The location of the temple and steps leading to the river brings mind of a visitor the Banaras Temples on the bank of Ganges. Hence this temple is called “Kasiyil Pakuthi Kalpathy” (Half Banaras).
The main attraction of the festival are the six magnificent chariots (three from the Viswanathaswamy Temple and three from the nearby temples of Manthakkara Maha Ganapathy, Lakshminarayana Perumal of Old Kalpathy, and Maha Ganapathy of Chathapuram) beautifully decorated with flowers, flags, sugarcane, coconuts etc are ceremoniously drawn through the streets by thousands of devotees. The procession is accompanied by caparisoned elephants and percussion. It is believed that pulling the chariots will wash off all the sins for a lot of generations.
Rishaba Vahana is held on the 5th day and this is the day where deities of all the nearby temples including Sri Vishwanatha Swamy, are taken out on procession. After that, the main temple’s 3 idols are included in the procession.
The 6 chariots are as follows: main chariot carrying Lord Shiva and additional 2 small chariots for his sons, Ganapathy and Murugan; chariots from the other 3 villages namely New Kalpathy with Lord Ganapathy, Old Kalpathy with Lord Krishna and Chathapuram with Lord Ganapathy. This is known as ‘devarathasamgamam’.
During the festival day’s Special poojas, Vedic recitals, and cultural programmes are held in the temple.
Another procession is held in the final day, during midnight, where procession is held in the floral decorated palanquins and this marks the end of the entire celebrations. When the idols return to their temples, it is marked by the start of Malayalam New Year, Karthigai.
The town of Palakkad, which is headquarters of the same district, is about 3 kms away from Kalpathi. Palakkad Junction is the nearest railway station also, at about 1 km away from the Sri Vishwanatha Swamy temple. Coimbatore international airport is about 55 kms away, which is the nearest airport of this temple. Road communication to Palakkad is quite good from neighbouring cities and people can arrive by buses and taxis as well as personal vehicles for the festival.
- Nearest town: Palakkad – 3 km
- Nearest railway station: Olavakot – 1 km
: Palakkad Junction – 1 km
- Nearest airport: Coimbatore – 55 km