July 17 - August 16
Ramayana Masam is an important observance in the state of Kerala. It is observed in the month of ‘Karkidakam’ of the Malayalam calendar while in the Gregorian calendar it corresponds to the months of July to August. This festival is also popularly known as ‘Karkadaka Masam’. During this time, there is a ritual to read ‘Ramayana’ on all the days of the month in almost all Hindu households. Hindu organizations perform this ritual in almost all temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Ramayana is one of the greatest Hindu epics that hold great religious significance. During the Ramayana Masam, the recitation of Ramayana starts from the first day of the Karkidakam Masam and continues till the last day.
Rituals during Ramayana Masam:
Starting from the first day, every day during the Karkidakam Masam, all the members of the house gather, after sunset. After lighting the evening lamp, they sit close to the ‘Nilavilakku’ or the traditional Kerala lamp and narrate the verses of ‘Adhyatma Ramayana’ (the Malayalam version of Ramayana). The reading of Ramayana is managed in a way that it ends on the last day of the Karkidakam Masam.
Besides the practice of reading Ramayana during the Ramayana Masam in the households (which is now a rarity), the recitation of this epic is done in Lord Vishnu temples. Several religious and spiritual organisations conduct plays, public discourses, recitals and quiz competition based on Ramayana during this month. Hindu devotees actively participate in these events with full enthusiasm.
The ‘Amavasya’ (no moon day) of the Karkidakam Masam is dedicated to ancestors. On this day Hindus perform special rituals close to water bodies for attainment of peace of their dead family members. This ritualistic homage is performed by the male member of the family.
Also during Ramayana Masam, Hindus also undertake pilgrimage to the four temples of Lord Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna, located in the Kottayam and Thrissur districts. This ritual is known as ‘Nalambalam Darshanam’.
Significance of Ramayana Masam:
The period of Ramayana Masam is held sacred for Hindus, especially in the southern parts of the country. Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic written by Saint Valmiki. It was translated in the Malayalam language by Thunchath Ezhuthachan and is known as ‘Adhyatma Ramayana Kilippattu’. It is this Malayalam version that is read during the Ramayana Masam. Karkidakam is the period of spirituality and devotion in Kerala. However as per the Malayalam Panchangam, auspicious functions and new business ventures are not initiated during this period.
In the Malayalam calendar, Karkidakam Masam is the last month and during this time monsoon is at its peak. Owing to the heavy rains, Karkidakam Masam is also known as ‘Panja Masam’ or the period of scarcity. With the fields flooded, people do not have much work to do and are solely dependent on the grains stores during the previous harvest season. Due to the heavy rains they cannot move out of their houses to earn a living. Therefore to ward off the fury of Nature, people began reading Ramayana.