Karkidaka Vavu Bali or Vavubali Tharpanam is an important ritual observed by Hindus in Kerala in the month of Karkidakam (mid July to mid August). In 2016, the date of Karkidaka Vavu Bali is August 2. People offer ‘bali’ to the departed souls of ancestors on this day.
The ‘bali’ – a form of ritualistic homage – is offered on the first Amavasi of Dakshinayanam. This is the no moon day in the month of Karkidakam. On this day, thousands of people gather on the riverbanks and beaches to offer ‘bali.’ Temples and religious organizations make elaborate arrangements for the ritual. It is believed that the souls of dead ancestors attain ‘moksha’ when ‘Vavu Bali’ is offered.
The Vavu Bali is performed under the guidance of an elderly person or priest. Darbha (a type of long grass), pavithram (ring made of darbha grass), sesame (Ellu), cheroola (a special herb), ellu (sesame), cooked rice, water and banana leaves are the important accompaniments needed for performing bali ritual. A lot of flexibility is shown in the ritual and the items needed change locally.
The Vavu Bali ritual is offered by men, women and children. The men only wear a dhoti while performing the ritual. In some areas, people tie a red cloth on the waist.
The ‘bali’ ritual which is done on a banana leaf and it is finally taken to the river or sea and the person who offered the bali dips in the water along with the offering and leaves it in the water.
In northern part of Kerala, people believe that the dead ancestors pay visit to homes on the Karkidaka Vavu day. Therefore people prepare and offer Ada (a sweet made of rice) to the departed souls.
Some the important places and temples to offer Vavu Bali – Thirunelli, Varkala Papanasam, Thirunavaya, Sri Sundarekhsa Temple Kannur, Thrikunnapuzha, Thiruvillavumala, Shanghumukam Trivandrum, Aranamula, Thiruvallom, Kollam Thirumulavaram, Aluva.
Important temples on the river banks are ideally chosen for offering Vavu Bali.