Preparations are on for the Jubilee Perunnal, jointly celebrated by the three parishes of Palai. The Perunnal will start on Dec 1 with a procession from Lalam St Mary's church. As always, the main perunnal days are Dec 7th and 8th. The pandal was being erected in front of the Jubilee shrine last Saturday when I was visiting Palai. A football tournament has also started in the Municipal Stadium in connection with the festival. Also on the anvil are a professional drama troupe competition and a tableau display. There will also be a two wheeler fancy dress competition. Not much change has happened to the programme calendar all through these years. The only new event I could notice in the schedule was a cinematic dance.
It's a long time since I last participated in the feast. Last year I was in Palai only after the festival was over. I could see the entire Main Road from Government Hospital Junction to Maharani Theatre junction decorated with silvery laces. Friends say the vigour has not in anyway come down what with the rubber prices ruling high.
I have fond memories of the festival from childhood days. Everyday during these days we used to watch the status of the pandal and the decorations being attached as we walked our way to school. On the main festival days, the highlight was the procession covering the entire town. Traffic used to be diverted through the Kottavazhy, which was near to our house. My little sister and I had the simple pleasure of counting all the vehicles that went by this alternate route.
The students of the St Thomas School participated in a candle-light procession on 7th evening, an event that has been discontinued now for some unknown reason. Since our father was a teacher in the school, he used to be part of the procession. The rest of us watched the procession from a convenient location in front of the Town Hall. Even though the main festival is on the 8th, for us 7th night was the real feast day. After father came back from the candle light procession, we had a walk around the town to see the illumination. The illumination was one of the highlights of the perunnal. Once when there was a severe power cut, the entire town was illuminated with oil wick lamps made out of marotti shells. We called it a day by purchasing some uzhunnada and eethappazham from the roadside vendor. We were never allotted much pocket money for buying something; all the purchases happened from the "central budget".
On the 8th we had another procession by the lasses of St Mary's school and many lads from St Vincent made it a point not to miss this event. I never recollect any spiritual event being conducted except for the Mass and sermons by the bishops. Contrast it with the Novena perunnal Lalam pally where we don't have anything that is related to entertainment. Primarily the Jubilee perunnal for the people of Palai is an occasion to make merry. There is talk of the Jubilee Chapel being converted to an air conditioned chapel for Perpetual Adoration. Having seen people from all walks of life pray in front of the chapel by the side of the road, one cannot but wonder how times have changed!
I don't know how the people of Palai have responded to Major Archbishop Vithayathil's edict banning processions and fiestas on wayside Chapels. If it were to be implemented, it would wipe out a defining feature of Palai. However I can imagine the plight of people travelling to distant places. One incident I can recall is that when an accident had happened in Idukki the police had a tough time controlling crowds to facilitate the transport of the injured to the Kottayam Medical College.
In those days, with limited opportunities for entertainment, the Jubilee feast was an occasion for the people to break out of routine activities. In these days, with various avenues of entertainment, does the Jubilee perunnal still mean the same to all?
Tailpiece: The festival season in Palai starts with the perunnal at Lalam Puthen pally, which just concluded last Sunday. With the new church building about to come up soon, Puthen pally will truly become a new church from next year.
This blog attempts to capture the life and times of the people of Palai പാലാ and Meenachil മീനച്ചില്.