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   Jul 17

Karkadaka Maasam

It’s nearing dusk and thankfully, the rains have ceased. As I walk hurriedly to the temple nearby, I can hear the shlokas of the Ramayanam from nearly every house I pass.. It’s 16th July 2012 and the Ramayana maasam has begun.

Sree Rama Rama Rama,Sree Ramachandra Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Ramabhadra Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Sithabhirama Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Lokabhirama Jaya

Sree Rama Rama Rama Ravananthaka Jaya

Sree Rama Mama Hridi Ramatham Rama Rama

Karkadaka masam popularly known as the Ramayana Masam in Kerala and the Aadi maasam in Tamil Nadu falls on the last month of the malayalam calendar and the fourth month of the Tamil calendar. Malayalis have always referred to the old solar calendar of the malayalam era “Kollavarsham“.

From special discounts on religious books to a ready-made mix of ‘Karkadaka Kanji’ or ‘Marunnu Kanji’; a special gruel made during this season (some call it the Monsoon Soup Recipe(!)), the city markets are all set for this ‘panja’ maasam – the month of scarcity, because it is also the time of the torrential monsoons of the South when the days are dull, gloomy and rainy. The Karkadaka month has long been identified as the period for preventive treatments and rejuvenation therapies due to this very reason.

As per the Hindu astrological almanac – The Panchangam – new ventures and auspicious functions such as marriages are not held during this month.

 Some Important Rituals:

KARKADAKA VAAVUBALI/ Pithru Tharppana (propitiating the departed souls)

A ritual dedicated to the dead ancestors and relatives is performed on the Amavasi or no moon day in the Karkadaka Masam. Thousands of people visit the sea shores and riverbanks to offer ‘bali’ to their departed ancestors. Temples and religious organizations make elaborate arrangements for the ritual. It is believed that the souls of dead ancestors attain ‘moksha’ or eternal peace when ‘Vavu Bali’ is offered. It is performed under the guidance of an elderly person or priest.

Darbha (a type of long grass), pavithram (ring made of darbha grass), cheroola (a special herb), ellu (sesame), cooked rice, water and banana leaves are the important accompaniments needed for performing bali ritual. The ‘bali’ ritual done on a banana leaf is finally taken to the river/sea by the person who offered the bali and that person dips in the water along with the offering leaving it in the water.

Pithru Tharppana

Pithru Tharppana

In 2012, July 18th and 19th are the dates for the vaavubali. I think this year it begins at around 3:30m on 18th July and goes on till 19th July.

A karkadaka vaavubali story: You may be wondering why there is a special day for this, right? One of my friends told me that it is assumed our ancestors live on the side of the moon which is not visible from earth. New moon is the day when the sun rays never reach the side of the moon which is facing earth, due to which we cannot see the moon. It means that the sun rays are completely on the other side of the moon, where our ancestors live – which is like noon time to them.

Similarly full moon day is that day where sun rays are completely on the side of moon facing earth, so it will be night time for our ancestors. So one day for our ancestors is 28 days for us, with new moon day as meal time and full moon day as midnight for them. So when we do a bali on new moon day, we are actually serving lunch for our ancestors.

So what is special for the new moon day of karkadakam? It is assumed that Devas live on Meru parvat, which is on the north pole of the earth. In Geography classes, we have learnt that there are three months in a year in north pole region when the sun never sets. It happens when the sun is on the utharayanam and reaches the max north area. Similarly there are three months where it is completely dark there, when the sun is on the dakshinayanam. Here, we can consider that one day for Devas is same as one year for human beings, with dakshinayanam time as night and utharayanam time as day. The middle of utharayanam time is the lunch time for Devas, which comes in Karkadaka vavu day!

So it is inferred that we are choosing for vaavubali, that day in a year when we get an opportunity to serve lunch for the Devas and ancestors together.

Ada courtesy Hari Menon Photography

Ada courtesy Hari Menon Photography

In northern Kerala, people also believe that the dead ancestors pay visit to homes on the Karkadaka Vavu (കര്‍ക്കടക വാവ്). Therefore people prepare and offer Ada (a sweet made of rice) to the departed souls.
Some of the important places and temples to offer Vavu Bali are:
Thirunelli, Varkala Papanasam, Thirunavaya, Sri Sundarekhsa Temple in Kannur, Thrikunnapuzha, Thiruvillavumala, Shanghumukam in Trivandrum, Aranamula, Thiruvallom, Kollam Thirumulavaram, Aluva.
Karkidaka Vavu Bali

Karkadaka Vavu Bali

RAMAYANA PARAAYANAM– Decades ago, Karkadaka Masam used to be one of the difficult months due to heavy rains and floods. To ward off nature’s fury people used to read the Ramayana during this month. Ramayana means “the march (ayana) of Rama in search of human values.”
Ramayana Vaayana

Ramayana Paraayanam

The famous Malayalam Version of the Ramayana titled Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu written by Thunchath Ezhuthachan is the one recited during this month. After lighting the evening lamp, devotees sit before the nilavilakku (traditional Kerala lamp) and recite the Adhyatma Ramayanam in a particular rhythm. The reading of the epic is managed in such a way that the reading ends on the last day in the Karkadakam Month.
The Ramayana is a smriti which is translated as “from memory”. It is composed of verses called Sloka, which are in turn grouped into individual chapters called Sargas, wherein a specific event or intent is told. These chapters or sargas are grouped into books called Kaandas where Kaanda means the inter-node stem of sugar cane, or also a particular phase of the story or an event in the course of story telling.
According to The Hindu, academic M.G. Shashibhooshan says, “The month represents a time when there is heavy rain and people read the Ramayana to build self-confidence during the difficult times. It is not always possible to complete the entire book, so mostly ‘Sundarakandam,’ the fifth book is read.” Sundarakandam is the fifth book in the Hindu epic – the Ramayana. It depicts the adventures of Hanuman. Surprisingly, this ‘Sundarakandam’ is the only chapter of the Ramayana in which the hero is not Rama, but rather Hanuman. Hanuman’s selflessness, strength, and devotion to Rama are emphasized in the text. Hanuman was fondly called Sundara by his mother Anjani and Sage Valmiki chose this name over others as this kanda deals mainly with Hanuman’s journey to Lanka and back.

Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana Hanuman

Sri Sita Rama Lakshmana Hanuman

aapadaam apahartaaram daataaram sarvasampadaam. .
lokaabhiraamam shriiraamam bhuuyo bhuuyo namaamyaham..

” I bow again and again to Sree Rama who removes (all) obstacles and grants all wealth and pleases all. “

This is a salutation offered at the start of reading any scripture as per tradition. This prayer is for removing all obstacles encountered. The prefix Sri to Rama indicates that Rama is always accompanied by Sri, His consort Seetha in the form of goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi.

Ramayana is not only significant in the spiritual element embedded in it but also holds out ideals for every home and family. The Ramayana is the legend of Lord Rama. But it is not just an account that should be read during a particular period or a poem of mere presentation.

It tells the story of a noble human being, his bonds and relations, how a man should behave, the path that is to be chosen for a good life and more. We can trace out the duty of a younger brother to the elder one which is reflected in Lakshmana and Bharatha. The extreme and untainted attachment to his master can be seen in Lord Hanuman. The unadulterated loyalty to her husband and tolerance can be spotted in Sita Devi. Ramayana focus on fraternity of brotherhood, lenience, endurance, dedication and devotion.

If we can get our children to read The Ramayana, it will have a profound impact on their minds. The Ramayana describes the epic battle to wipe out Evil. It not only teaches us dharma, it also sheds light on the unpleasant situations that we may have to face in life and the choices that lie before us. It teaches us that problems are inevitable in one’s life, but if one is filled with wisdom and devotion one can overcome any problem.




Some people drink Karkadaka Kanji, a gruel mixed with herbs and medicines, in the month.

The Making of Karkadaka Kanji


1 teaspoon each of the following herbs:

Aashali (Peppergrass or Garden Cress), Fenugreek (Uluva), Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander seeds, Aniseed, Dry Ginger, Black Cumin, Nutmeg, Cloves, Varattu Manjal (Curcuma Longa), Uzhinja (Cardiyospermum Halikakabam or in Sanskrit, Indravalli), Thazhuthama (Boerrhavia diffusa or Hog Weed), Kurunthotti (Sida rhombifolia) roots, Kari kurinji (Strobilanthes ciliatus), Puthirichundu, Changlam piranda, Ayamodakam (Caraway, Persian cumin or Ajwain), Ariyaaru mix.

1/2 cup Navarra Rice (A special kind of rice grown in Kerala. Unlike brown rice in spite of its health benefits, this rice is still not included in main stream cooking.) You could also use par boiled rice (matta ari)
2 tablespoons whole mung beans (green gram)
2 tablespoons broken wheat

1/2 cup fresh milk
1/2 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon ghee
2 pearl onions/shallots
1 teaspoon salt
Jaggery/Karipetti to taste.


1. Boil the herbs,beans, rice and wheat in a litre of water.
2. When the rice, beans and wheat appear cooked add both the milk. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and jaggery, stirring to combine.
4. Heat ghee in a pan and sauté the chopped shallots to a golden brown colour. Pour the tempering over the kanji.

Karkidaka Kanji

Karkadaka Kanji


In these days of city living, I think it’s easier to buy a karkadaka kanji mix because it’s very hardto find all these herbs unless you have an ayurvedic store nearby or you live in the countryside.

NALAMBALA DARSHANAM (obeisane at four temples)
A pilgrimage to the four temples dedicated to Lord Ram and his brothers is undertaken in the Ramayana Masam. It is believed to be a ‘punyam’ (heavenly reward of holiness). The Nalambalam is of Rama and his brothers Baratha, Lakshmana and Satrugna. The worshipping and praying at Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar, Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Shatrugna at Payammal (all in Thrissur district) and Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikulam (in Ernakulam district but somewhat near to Payammal) in a day is the practice. After the Darshan at Triprayar in the morning the devotee is supposed to worship at Payammal before noon.
There is even an order in which we need to go about paying respect to the Gods – The pilgrimage has to begin with Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar. Bharatha is the first brother of Rama. The next worship is therefore to Bharatha. The second brother is Lakshmana. It therefore necessitates the next worship at Moozhikulam where Lakshmana is. The final worship is to Satrugna at Payammal.
Read interesting stories about the Nalambala Darshanam at Karma Kerala – Gods & Goddesses. I love such stories and I think you will too :))
This month is considered as the month of Goddess Lakshmi. The Lalitha Sahasranamam is chanted to invoke Goddess Devi and archanas are offered. The day before Karkadakam commences, there is a spring cleaning like process known as “Chettaye Purathakkal“. Not only is the exterior cleaned on this occasion but the purification of mind and body is also observed. During earlier times, from Karkadakam 1 onwards a set of auspicious things including Ashtamangalyam and Dasapushpams were arranged in front of the nilavilakku in the morning. Normally used auspicious things were gold, rice, sandalwood, small casket containing vermilion, vaal kannadi (a special kind of handled mirror), small lamp, kindi (metal water pot with a spout) and kasavu mundu (dhoti with a gold brocade border). Dasa pushpams include tulasi, karuka, mukkutti, kayyunnyam, krishnakranti, cheroola etc. This ritual was called Lakshmiku Vaykkal or Sheepothi orukkal for prosperity. Nowadays, Hindus are not too strict on these procedures.
Most of the temples in Kerala will conduct Ganapathy Homam in the morning and Bhagavthi Seva in the evening throughout Karkadakam.
During Karkadakam temples in Kerala will witness Anayoottu. Marking the beginning of the treatment season for elephants, a mass feast for elephants will be held at the Vadakkumnathan Temple at Thrissur on the first day of the Karkadaka maasam, attracting elephant lovers from far and wide. Freshly bathed elephants with sandal-paste and vermilion smeared on their foreheads will be lined up at the southern tower of the temple to be fed rice mixed with ghee and turmeric, fruits, cucumber, dried coconut, sugarcane and jaggery.
Aanayootu @ Vadakkumnathan temple

Aanayootu @ Vadakkumnathan temple


This is the only month when the elephants of Kerala especially those at Guruvayur, have a 30 day time off for ayurvedic rejuvenation followed by nearly a month of complete rest.

So go ahead and have a great month ahead!! Get yourself pampered by ayurvedic drinks and massages, visit temples and feel that sense of peace pervading your mind, feed the elephants, pray to your ancestors and read the Ramayana 🙂


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