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Pulluvars are a primitive Dravidian group.The term pullu means a bird of omen. There are many sub-pisions within the Pulluva Community. The majority among them are called Nagampatikal(People who sing snake-songs). There are pulluvars who are not Naagampatikal. They are known as pretampatikal (People who sing ghost songs). Most of the art forms of the pulluvars are ritualistic. Most of their songs are related to worship,ritual,custom and exorcism. The pulluva art is expressed in the background of snake-worship, ghost worship and magic. The pulluvars of Kerala are closely connected to the serpent worship here.One group among these people consider the snake gods as their presiding deity and perform certain sacrifices and sing songs. This is called ’Pulluvar Pattu’. This is performed in the houses of the lower castes as well as those of the higher castes, in addition to serpent temples.

Serpent Temples

The song conducted by the pulluvars in serpent temples and snake groves is called Sarppapaattu, Naagam Paattu, Sarppam Thullal, Sarppolsavam, Paambum Thullal or Paambum Kalam. The main aspects of this are Kalamezhuthu (Drawing of Kalam), song and dance. The women perform the serpent dance(Sarppam Thullal). Austerities start seven days or nine days prior to the day of the dance. Once they start the austerities they themselves prepare food. They avoid eating certain food items that are considered to be impure. The pandal where the serpent dance takes place is adorned with palm leaves, granium flowers, chrysanthemum indicum, champaka, lotus, banyan leaf, betel leaf, ripe arecanut and branches of coconut flowers. The form of the serpent is drawn with rice and colour powder.

The serpents are worshipped in front of the Kalam and are offered Noorum Paalum (Lime and Milk). After the pooja, the head of the family which conducts the sarppam thullal gives bunches of coconut flowers to the perfomers who start dancing rhythmically. They are supposed to represent the serpent gods, who accept offerings and grant boons to the devotees. The intensity of the dance heightens gradually. It is believed that prophesies which the dancer gives at the point of heightened intensity of the dance usually comes true. They fall on the floor in a trance and rub off the Kalam at the end. The musical instruments used by the Pulluvar are Veena, Kutam (pot) and Thaalam.These instruments are made by the Pulluvar themselves. Pulluvar songs are sung on Aayilyam Pooja, the day which is considered to be very auspicious. The presiding deity of the Aayilyam is the serpent.The main temples of Kerala where serpent is worshipped are Mannarassaala (Alappuzha District), Paambu Meykkaad (Trichur District), Trippara Temple (Kollam district) and Ametamangalam (Ernakulam District). A very ancient temple where serpent worship is performed is Perasseri temple (Kannur District).

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