With the Sree Padmanabha Swami Alpassi festival ‘Arattu’ procession taking place on Tuesday, the Thiruvananthapuram international airport was shut down from 4 p.m. till 9 p.m. as the procession passes through its runway.
The ten-day Alpassi festival concludes with the ‘Arattu’. The procession crosses the airport and reaches the Shankumukham beach wherein the idols are dipped in the sea for the traditional and ritualistic ‘Arattu’ or holy bath of the lord.
During the ten-day Painguni festival in April, the same routine is conducted.
There is an ‘Arattu Mandapam’ near the airport runway where the idols are kept in sanctity and this commenced during the regime of Anizham Thirunal Marthandavarma in the 18th century, much before the airport was constructed. The procession to the Shankumukham beach has to cross through the runway of Thiruvananthapuram airport and those who go with the procession rest for some time at the Arattu mandapam.
Talking to IANS, businessman and Sree Padmanabha devotee, Sukumaran Nair, said: “The Arattu procession has been a ritual of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple and it is passing through the airport runway to the Shankumukham sea for a holy dip of the idols. This has been in place before 1932 when the Thiruvananthapuram airport came into being.”
The Airport Authority issues NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), which contains information concerning the establishment, condition or change in any facility, service, or procedure among others in airspace management, a week ahead of the procession, airport sources told IANS.
Armed CISF personnel stand guard on both sides of the runway when the procession is crossing it.
Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple officials told IANS that the list of participants in the procession will be presented to the airport management and only those who have passes will be participating in the procession and there will be a strict check by both Kerala Police and CISF on those who are crossing the runway.
The temple management also said that the procession moves through airport runway as this area has been part of the traditional ‘Arattu’ route to Sanghumugham sea for the holy dip.
The procession will have decorated vehicles carrying idols, accompanied by priests of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, members of the erstwhile Travancore princely state, caparisoned elephants, police band, and mounted police personnel on horses accompanying the idols of the lord.
Moolam Thirunal Ramavarma, who is the present titular ruler of Travancore, holds the traditional sword as he accompany the procession to the Sanghumugham beach. The rulers of Travancore used to rule the erstwhile kingdom as “Sree Padmanabha Dasas” or servants of Sree Padmanabha Swamy and tradition and belief is that Travancore was ruled by Sree Padmanabha Swamy with the royal family the “keepers” of the kingdom.