Maavilakku starts in the same way as mulappaari. That is, servaar thaaththa takes karakam and leads maavilakku. But, girls take mulappaari from temple and wait for the karakam there. But as maavilakku gets ready at home, in every street/lane they start in their street/lane and join the procession led by karakam at some specified points/locations, as the procession proceeds. In our lane, it is our vaasal, as servaar thaaththa’s house is just opposite to ours, we get to join him first as well. Today the whole day has been very busy preparing maavilakku. Removing bran from rice, and grinding it into powder and then making that into paste.. Always Selvikkaa comes for that, as mother alone cannot do that. We don’t have Kuthural. So we use Velthai Chithi’s. We borrowed another ulakkai from pushpaththai so that mother and Selvikka can do it together. They are very rhythamic. I love watching them using two ulakkai like that. They are fixing three vilakku on the side of the kudam. Because, I will need space to keep my hand to hold it. The kuthuvilakku that is being fixed on the top has five threads. “Bring oil, bring oil”. Chithi shouts. “do you know who is sponsoring oil today”? There are few families. There won’t be any scarcity for oil today. I think there will be more than 100 maavilakku today. In our lane itself there are fifteen. There are those thekkuththeru people, kilakkuththeru people.. have you forgotten the Sinnangulam group?” “Sinnangulam maavilakku has come, it has come…” someone is shouting outside. Sinnangulam is a small village outside our town. Traditionally they join Kombai for all festivals. They come in a line and wait just before our lane. They get to join the line next to our lane people. I am ready. I am bit anxious, nervous, excited, all of those. “Bring Summaadu, bring summaadu”. Summadu is a basically a towel folded like a ringball, kept in between kudam and my head to keep the kudam balanced and keep my head cushioned. “keep your head straight”. "Careful, careful, it is windy, look, the oil is spilling. Bring white cloth to wipe it.." Mother comes with a full kit: few white cloths, a thukku (stainless steel container) to carry oil, and another towel for another summaadu. "We need two thukku, one to collect oil from the sponsors and I will keep one to keep filling”. Chithi, the manager. Mother brings another thukku. “Careful, careful, it is windy. Keep your head straight”. Guarded by few people to keep the lights not-off, the maavilakku goes on my head. I hold it. “Keep a cloth yourself, hot oil will spill, you will have to keep wiping them, otherwise you will get hurt”. Two white cloths are given to me for both my hands. It is little not so convenient to hold the kudam, rather, I am finding it very difficult. "Don’t worry", there are few of them holding it along with me. Ok. I turn my head to see if thaaththa has taken karakm. “Don’t move, don’t move”. How am I going to walk if I shouldn’t move? “Slow, slow. Slowly turn your head and walk”. Great.
The karakam started. I join the karakam as the first maavilakku in the line. Others join after me. We walk. Slow. Slow. We reach the end of our lane. Sinnangulam group joins the line. We walk towards the temple. Few hands are keeping the lights not-off, few other hands are holing the kudam with me, oils is being filled by a hand that manages to find a way, I keep wiping the spillage, We have reached the temple. Wow, it feels like an achievement itself. Another some poosai and kottu. Another group from koyiladitheru joins the line. we move.. “Do you want a break”? Selvikka asks. I can’t nod. She got the signal. She prepares her summaadu. Few hands lift the kudam off my head. I move out of the place finding a way through their legs. They move keeping the kudam in the air. Selvikka moves in. The line moves.
I have got a break now. “Chithi, Can I go and see the whole line and come back”? “No, what are you nuts? You can’t go anywhere”. “I will be back in a flaaASH”.. I have vanished from their eyes like a flash indeed. I know how to negotiate the crowd. I am in front of the procession, I mean karakam is first for the maavilakku line, but preceding karakam there are some entertainments. Here is where all the fun is.
Someone is playing silambu. I stop there for a couple of minutes.. run, run, there is this guy spitting fire out of his mouth and playing similar to silambu but he uses theeppandham, a stick with kerosene dipped cloths tied at both the ends and are lit, flame, whoo. Scary. run, run… someone is carrying agnichatty. A pot with oil light inside, carried on hands/palms. Hope that neem leaves cushion keeps the heat off their hands. The difficult part of carrying agnichatty is he/she should get saami, otherwise everyone will tell that he/she didn’t fast well (during the whole panguni month). I suppose shaking like that helps them to keep the heat off their hands. run.. run… I am running short of time. “Eeh, what are you doing here”? Karuvayan chiththappa has spotted me. “Aren’t you supposed to carry maavilakku”, “Yes, I have got a break. Selvikkaa is carrying now”. “I know. They have sent me to look for you and bring you back”. We go and collect oil from the sponsors and go back to our group. The maavilakku comes back to me. It is slow-walking time again..
During another break, I got to see aayiranganpaanai. It is carried on the head as well, like maavilakku. It is a clay pot with so many flowery holes in it. The oil light kept inside the pot glows through the holes and looks very beautiful there are few of those in the line. Filling oil in this kind of pot is little tricky. They generally come out of the line, fill up and go back and join the line. The crowd makes it little more difficult, but, hey, they are not strangers for such a crowd. They manage.
It was a very long slow walk. Tiring. Do I complain. Nah. I will do it again, any time. The whole town came and watched the maavilakku. Many walked with us. Some stayed at the front end of their lanes and watched us when we walked past them. Some were hanging from their terraces. Some on the street lights. Parked bullocks carts were working hard. I would say that it is the best idea to stay in one place and watch, if you want to catch up with the whole thing. Silambu will go past you, theeppantham will go past you…. But, but, you can’t get a good look, as it is sooo crowded , you just can’t see anything. Senthil gets to see all the fun. He runs, runs, runs and runs. He is a free bird during these days. I will have to ask him if I have missed anything else.
We are home. Mother is busy taking the rice paste off kudam. Tomorrow we will get paniyaaram (not from the maavilakku rice paste) as there is always too much rice ground in excess off maavilakku, and it is always paniyaaram day after maavilakku. I love paniyaaram.