Towards the evening, thunder rumbles in the distance, almost as if Lord Indra is responding to the call of the 18 Vedic priests. And it rains. The priests have been chanting round-the-clock for the last three days to build up the energy level.
Panjal, 30 km from Thrissur town, was teeming with humanity on the 11th day of the ritual Thursday evening. For most tourists, it was a cultural and spiritual pilgrimage covering the Kerala Kala Mandalam, near the venue of the ritual, and the Guruvayoor temple in Thrissur district.
The village of 32,000 people has drawn nearly 300,000 visitors in the last 10 days. The footfall is likely to touch 500,000 Friday when the sprawling 380-square metre venue is set afire to mark the end of the 12-day fire ritual for peace, purification, fertility, health and rain.
It has been organised by a local non-profit group Varthathe Trust to revive dying Vedic traditions in the country.
Panjal is one of the key bastions of the 'Samavedis' and 'Rigvedis' - practitioners of the ancient Hindu scriptures Sama Veda and the Rig Veda - who have kept the two living traditions of Vedic chants and 'yagnya' (worship of elements) alive for nearly 4,000 years.
Five families each of Rig Veda practitioners and Sama Veda practitioners preserve the tradition.
Text and Images: IANS
Image: Vedic priests pressing stalk for the juice which is offered to Agni and Indra at Athirathram.