It is ‘Thiruvathira Njattuvela’, the season that marks plentiful rains and gleeful sunshine joined together to rejuvenate the farming traditions in Kerala. Commencing from the second half of June (usually by June 22) and lasting for a fortnight this is the most favoured solar transit, when bountiful rains bless the state with prosperity. As the old saying goes ‘Thiruvathira Njattuvelayil thiri muriyathe mazha peyyum’, which means rain pours in without a pause. This is no time for pearl like rain drops, but a fortnight of steady, never ending, ever flowing strands of rain. Unlike the unpredictable and gloomy month the Kallakarkkidakam that follows, Thiruvathira njattuvela in the month of Midhunam, is a favourable season for the farmers, the period that promises abundant crops.
A rain drenched Anakkara, my village
Lush and fresh Anakkara after the rains, June last year
Njattuvelas are determined according to the Sun’s position in relation to the stars. There are twenty seven njattuvelas and Thiruvathira Njattuvela (the solar transit of Alpha Orions) being the heart and soul of the old agrarian Kerala society holds an important position in the Malayalam calender. Njattuvela is the time when ‘njaru’ or rice saplings are replanted, it also means ‘the position of the Sun’ (njayarinte nila). This could be njattu/vela or when the Sun (njayar) takes a break (vela, an interval) from shining too bright and hot upon the Earth. The start of this Njattuvela coincides with the Summer and Winter solstices of the two hemispheres.
All kinds of seeds or saplings planted during this period would flourish. This is the time to plant black pepper, the ‘Black Gold’ of Kerala. Without any set methods or fertilizers any sapling will grow well. Apart from paddy, saplings of Pepper, coconut, arecanut, mango and various fruit-bearing trees are planted during this period. Flourishing crops are assured by the uniform availability of sunlight and rains. Branches of trees and plants are cut and planted to thrive vigorously. Old timers even say that even your tresses would cascade back to thick growth if you trim them during this period!
Look close…there’s a Purple Heron at the far end!
History records that when the Zamorin of Calicut was informed that foreign traders were pilfering the wealth and the spices from our land, he brushed it away lightly by saying that they could loot our spices and crops but not our Thiruvathira Njattuvela!
The trees wearing a gleeful expression
Kalayottam-A post harvest, pre-njattuvela sport in Kerala…I was lucky I could witness one and capture a picture last June!