Pulluvan Pattu- Indigenous folk songs of Kerala dedicated to the Snake God

Just like the rest of India, the cast system was very much prevalent in Kerala in ancient times. The people were divided to various castes based on their work and their role in the society. The Pulluva was a community of a lower caste, under the Hindu religion.

Majority of the art from of the people of the Pulluva community was ritualistic and had a sense of mysticism to it. They sang praise and worshipped different deities. There were sub-divisions within this cast as well. Majority of the Pulluva people are Nagampatikal (the people who worship and sing songs to the snake) and then there are Pretampatikal (the people who worship and sing songs to the ghost).

Pulluvan Pattu
Pulluvan Pattu

Nagampatikal people worship the snake gods and indulge in rituals that involve sacrifices and singing. Pulluvan Pattu is a song form, sung by the people of Pulluva, in praise of the snake gods who they believe are protectors of their land. The Pulluvan (male member of the community) and a Pulluvatti (female member of the community) sing these songs in the village houses and in snake temples. The ritual is usually conducted on days that are auspicious and considered sacred to snakes- like the Aayilyam day. As part of the worship Kalams (rangoli which is made from using rice and turmeric in addition to color powder) are drawn and Noorum Paalum
(a mixture of milk and lime) is made as an offering to the snake god. This is followed by the song performance of Pulluvan Pattu.

These songs are accompanied with certain indigenous musical instruments. The musical instruments used for Pulluvan Pattu by the Pulluva are the following-

Pulluvan Veena– It looks like a one- stringed violin. The Veena is made from a hollow bamboo stick. Its shell made from wood and a brass or vegetal wire. The stick used to play the Pulluvan Veena is made from Bamboo.

Pulluvan Kutam

Pulluvan Kutam– It looks like an earthenware pot having a string attached to it. The Kutam is a pot which has a hole at the bottom. This hole is covered with calf skin stretched over it. On the side of the pot where the skin is placed, one end of the sting is connected through two holes. The other end of the string is connected to a long stick which is elevated by a small splint. When this string is plucked on, music is created.

Thaalam – These are bell metal cymbals, known by a host of other names like Tala, Kafi Manjeera etc. in Indian classical music. This ancient instrument is usually made of brass or copper. It consists of two metal plates, tied together by a sting from the hole in the center of the plates. When one plate is hit against the other it produces a high pitched sound.

Today, the Pulluvan Pattu is performed in Kerala mainly in the temples where the serpent is worshipped like Maniyassery Gandharva Swamy Temple (Kottayam District), Ametamangalam (Ernakulam District), Ameda (Ernakulam District), Paambu Mekkaat (Trichur District), Trippara Temple (Kollam district), Perasseri Temple (Kannur District), Vetticode Nagaraja Temple (Alappuzha District), Mannarassaala Temple (Alappuzha District) etc.

Pulluvan Temple