Onavillu (the Ceremonial bows)

The making of the Onavillu (Ceremo­nial bow) and offering that to Lord Sree Padmanabha Swamy (Onavillu charthal) is an integral part of Onam festivities in Thiruvananthapuram. The Onavillu is considered as a symbol of prosperity.

These ceremonial bows are ibroad pieces of wood, tapering on both sides, on which miniature paintings of Ananthasayanam, Dasavatharam, Sreerama Pattabhishekam, and Sreekrishna­leela are portrayed. The art and craft of mak­ing this ceremonial bow is the sole preserve of the male members of the Vilayil Veedu family at Karamana in Thiruvananthapuram. The family members observe a 41 day penance before the commencement of the work. The wood of Kadambu, Maruthu, Jackfruit and Aanjili trees are cut in the required dimen­sion, that is, 4.5 ft, 3.5 ft and 3 ft in length, before applying the being painted on. The villu are adorned with red tassels.

Onam in Kerala is considered a festi­val of prosperity and Thiruvonam day is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Maha Vishnu where large numbers of devotees visit Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiru­vananthapuram to take part in the Onavillu charthal or the dedication ceremony of the colourful bows.

The consecration of the Onavillu at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is an age-old tradition that has continued over the years from the 16th century. The bows are first offered to the family deity at the Vilayil Veedu, Karamana for three days and on Thiruvonam day the villus are ceremoni­ously taken to the Sree Padmanabha Temple. While the Ananthasayanam version of the villu is consecrated to Lord Padmanabha, the one with the Dasavathram painting is offered to Lord Narasimha and the villu showing the Krishnaleela is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Sreerama Pattabhishekam to Sree Rama.

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