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Illam Nira – The Harvest Festival in Guruvayur Temple Kerala

Illam Nira ceremony held at the Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in Kerala is associated with agricultural harvest. This unique ceremony extols the fact that majority of the Hindu festivals and ceremonies are a tribute to nature which sustains all animate and inanimate. This ceremony is observed specifically for a prosperous harvest season and is observed in many other temples in the region including Sri Mahadeva Temple Mammiyoor, Perumthatta Shiva Temple, Parthasarathy Temple and Chowalloor Shiva Temple.

For Illam Nira, newly reaped paddy spikes are brought into the temple and on the next day special pujas are performed on the paddy spikes. ‘Illam Nira’ symbolically represents a very good harvest season in which the house is filled with rice for the next season.

Five days after the Illam Nira ritual is the Niraputhari ritual. In this ritual half of the paddy spikes are used to prepare ‘Puthari Nivedyam’ – the rice offering to Lord Krishna with newly reaped rice. Also prepared is a sweet dish with the new rice known as ‘Puthari payasam.’ The remaining half of the paddy spikes is distributed to the devotees.

On the Niraputhari ritual day, Lord Krishna is served Puthari Nivedyam, Puthari payasam, uppumanga (salted mango pickle), dish made with special leaves, butter and curd during the puja conducted at noon.

This is then later distributed to the devotees.

A similar ritual is also held at the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.