Friday, April 27, 2012

Edathua St.George's Ferone Church

TOI: Edathua church in Alappuzha gears up for annual festival

Edathua is a place in Kuttanad, Alappuzha district, Kerala, India.
Situated 12 km from Thiruvalla Town, Edathua is famous for the St. George Catholic Church known as 'Edathua Palli' situated here. The Church celebrates its major feast during the month of May. It is an important destination for the Christian and non Christian Pilgrims. People from throughout the state as well as from the neighboring states visit the town and the church. St. Aloysius college which is under Mahatma Gandhi University built and managed by the Church parish is located here.

This town is in the beautiful Kuttanad region. It lies below the sea level. Agricultural land [rice farms] in this region are separated from big and small rivers, that run like the highways, streets and avenues of New York around the blocks of farms, by high mud levees [bunds called 'Puravaramp']. Farmers and agricultural workers built and build their habitat and houses on reclaimed land by expanding upon these levees around these paddy fields known as 'Padam'. These levees are also often planted with coconut trees which is a major commercial crop in the region. The area attracts a lot of international tourists. Houseboat trips through the backwaters and river systems of this spectacular evergreen region is available from near Edathua.
Situated on the banks of a branch of the Pamba river, the massive shrine at Edathua - 23 km South-East of Alappuzha, and 12 km South West of Thiruvalla Town, built more than 200 years ago resembles the churches of medieval Europe. The very ancient Niranam Orthodox Church believed to be originally established by St Thomas himself, the disciple of Jesus Christ, in the 1st century AD, is just a few KM south east of Edathua. There are a number of ancient Hindu temples with interesting legends and history in the surrounding villages of Edathua such as Changankary, Pandankary, Mithrakkary, Kozhimukk, Anapparampal and Veeyapuram. Veeyapuram also has a Muslem mosque. The Chakkulathukavu temple which has become very famous for the ponkala celebration in recent decades is less than 5 km east of Edathua. The Mannarsala Snake Temple believed to be more than 3000 years old is just a few km south of Edathua. It is said that Edathua got its name because in ancient times it was a 'resting spot' ('edathavalam'), for the king's men and traders traveling by the river. Edathua was derived from 'edathavalam'.

St.George Forane Church, Edathua
The annual feast of the above mentioned massive catholic church, starts on the 27th of April with the hoisting of the flag and concludes on the 7th of May. During the feast, the statue of St. George, decked in gold regalia, is carried out and placed on the dais at the center of the basilica. St George is known as Geevarghese Punyavalan among Nasrani, St Thomas Christians of Kerela [also known as Syrian Christians because they used a Syrian dielect of Hebrew, instead of the Latin used by some western Christians, in special church prayers] How St George came to be known as Geevarghese and became one of the most popular saints among the Syrian Christians of Kerala is still a topic of interest for researchers to investigate adequatly.

Devotees from other States are the main contributors to this Church feast and they spread themselves in vast area around, even staying in the private properties of the local residents. In fact, the feast, known as "Edathua Perunnal" helped Edathua to develop as one of the most important commercial centers for the rice farmers and agricultural workers in Kuttanad region. During the feast most relatives and family members from outside Edathua come and visit their houses and thus it is an occasion for family get together for the people of Edathua like the Thanksgiving Day and Christmas in the US and Europe. Participating in the feast is a very important pilgrimage for the people especially those from the southern Kollum, Trivandrum side of Kerala and Kanyakumari District of Tamilnad. During the 10 day feast, many of these devotees stay and cook food in the church premises and take part in a kind of ritual bathing in the river in front of the church. The colorful illumination of the church and traditional fireworks during the feast indeed attract huge crowd of devotees and non devotees.

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