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On Velichappadu – Oracles in Kerala Temples a Vanishing Culture

Velichappadu was an important aspect of temples in Valluvanad region in Kerala. Velichappadu has the power to know the mind of the deity and he communicates it to the people. They are noted for their deep red color dress, long hair and the unique sword that they carry which are decorated with small bells. Velichappadu, also known as Komarams, is no longer an important aspect of temple culture.

Anu Prabhakar writes in DNA about the vanishing culture of oracles in Kerala Temples.

The practice of instating a velichappadu (oracle of God) at temples is a phenomenon particular to the Kerala belt of Valluvanad, dotted with small towns like Ottapalam, Shoranur and Pattambi.

Decades ago in such towns, a fantastical figure like a velichappadu used to enjoy a lot of importance. His advice was believed to be the word of God himself. No one dared to challenge it. And a man being anointed as velichappadu was a matter of pride for the entire family.

Today, however, youngsters shy away from becoming a velichappadu and the few existing ones — who are in their 70s and 80s — talk about forming trade unions to fight for better salaries. With belief in the velichappadu wearing thin, only a few temples still follow the system. Out of earshot of the deity, the velichappadu themselves admit that it is a vanishing culture.  

Kutty Krishnan hails from a family of velichappadu: his dad was one, his brother is one, and even his father-in-law was one. But now there are few takers for his profession. Besides the low salary, a rigid lifestyle discourages youngsters from taking it up. “If someone you know dies, you are not supposed to go to the funeral because you have surrendered your mind and soul to God. Who will be ready for all this?”