Karkidaka month of the Malayalam calender is celebrated as the month of Ramayana by Keralites all over the world.
The famous Malayalam Version of the Ramayana titled Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu written by Thunchath Ezhuthachan is the one recited in the month. After lighting the evening lamp, people sit before nilavilakku (traditional Kerala lamp) and recite the Adhyatma Ramayanam. The reading of the epic is managed in such a way that the reading ends on the last day in the Karkidakam Month.
The Karkidakam month is the last month of the Malayalam calendar. The monsoon is at its peak in this month; during olden days majority of the people in Kerala depended on agriculture. Due to heavy rain, the Karkidakam month is referred as ‘panja masam’ or the month of scarcity.
With the paddy fields flooded, there used to be no work and the economy used to come to a stand still. People used to solely depend on what grains they had stored during the previous harvest season. There used to be such heavy rains that it was even hard to go outside the house or village and earn a living. To ward off nature’s fury people used to read the Ramayana. As per Malayalam Panchangam, new ventures and auspicious functions are not held during this month.
In Kerala, the temples, especially those dedicated to Maha Vishnu organise special poojas and communal Ramayana chanting. At homes, people light lamps (nilavilakku- the traditional lamp) at dusk and read the Adhyatma Ramayana. It is read in a way that it ends on the last day of the month.
This has been practised for a long time as the month of Karkidaka is plagued with heavy and torrential rains. In the olden days, this meant the scarcity of food and means. It also brought with it illnesses and chaos. This is why people are focused on spiritual pursuits. They spend the time praying to God to deliver them from all harm.
Other than reading the Ramayana, people also go on a pilgrimage to visit the four Temples (Naalambalam). The pilgrimage often begins from the Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple and then proceeds to the four temples. The four temples are- Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar, Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikkulam and Shathrughna Temple at Payammel. As evident from the names, the Temples are dedicated to Lord Sri Rama and his brothers.
In another legend, it is believed that it was during the month of Karkidaka that the sage Valmiki finished writing the epic Ramayana.
Also, the Amavasi or the no-moon day of Karkidaka sees people perform rituals for their dead ancestors. People visit riverbanks and seashores to perform the ritual which is called Vavu Bali.
Also during this month special care is given to one’s health as this month since it is plagued with rain could bring in many ailments.Hence, a special diet is followed during this month.
A special kind of gruel called Karkidaka Kanji is prepared and eaten during this month.Karkidaka Kanji is a spicy rice gruel made with many medicinal herbs. It is an age-old tradition to consume it during the month of Karkidakam. It benefits the immune system and helps keep the seasonal diseases at bay.