The Chandanakudam festival will not begin until December of this year, but I am heading to the small town of Changanacherry because it is site of this unique event. The festival is the only known event where Hindus, Muslims and Christians celebrate and perform the festival rituals together, and explicitly take offerings to and receiving blessings from the caretakers of a mosque, a church and a temple.
The famous and unique Puthurpalli mosque is located here – one of the finest examples of Malabar architecture. The mosque sits in a trinity of religious sites that include the St. Mary Church and the Bhagavati temple.
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The festival, begun in 1749, begins at St Mary’s where people of all faiths gather. From there they proceed to the Bhagavati temple and eventually everyone moves to the mosque where the celebrations begin. The Muslim caretakers receive the devotees, handing to the Hindu priests a pot of sandalwood paste and vermilion. The priests use this to apply a tilak on the forehead of the Muslim representatives before being blessed in return.
Many have tried to stop the ritual of the tilak. The local community has refused, arguing that in its generosity and sharing it a symbol of tolerance and mutual respect. And that it is less a religious act and more a human, social and communitarian one.
Next December I will be here to receive my tilak, but in the mean time I am heading to this town to explore the culture and space that gave rise to this beautiful event.