Mangattu Bhattathiri is a name synonymous to Onam Celebration in Aranmula. Onam is an emotion for the people of Kerala. The emotions attached with the festival of Onam is immense. There are lot of traditions and history associated with Onam. Certain regional customs are highly important in celebrating Onam.
The Story of Mangattu Bhattathiri
History goes that the elder most member of Mangattu Illam called the Mangattu Bhattathiri used to prepare tasty for a needy Brahmin every day. This was part of the annadaanam (food offering) for Lord Krishna of Aranmula. On a Thiruvonam day, the Bhattathiri prepared food, just like on all other days. He made extra dishes to make it a proper Thiruvona Sadya (Onam Feast). The Bhattathiri awaited a Brahmin to turn up to offer the food. But, to his astonishment, no Brahmin came asking for food on that day. The Bhattathiri felt sad about the incident.
He broke into tears and prayed to Lord Krishna. Suddenly a Brahmin boy appeared in front of Mangattu Bhattathiri and asked for food. Hence, The Bhattathiri was happy and he served the boy a delicious Onasadya. Both of them were really happy about it. Before leaving the boy told Mangattu Bhattathiri that he enjoyed the dishes. He then asked the Bhattathiri to serve the same feast to the Lord Krishna of Aranmula from next year onward. The pious Bhattathiri understood that the young Brahmin boy was none other than the Lord Krishna of Aranmula himself.
The Origin of Thiruvona Thoni
From the next year onward, the Mangattu Bhattathiri traveled to Aranmula prior to Onam carrying provision to prepare Onasadya. The Onasadya was prepared and offered to the deity, Lord Krishna of Sree Partha Sarathi Temple of Aranmula. He used to travel from his native place Kattoor to Aranmula on a country boat called the Thiruvona Thoni. Later, Mangattu Bhattathiri became a common name for the senior member of the Mangattu family. Later, the family migrated to Kumaranalloor in Kottayam District. The Thiruvona Thoni travels from Kumaranalloor to Ambalappuzha, carrying items to prepare Onasadya for Lord Krishna at Aranmula.
The Route of Thiruvona Thoni
The boat travels for three days. The initial part of the journey is through Kidangara. The Thiruvona Thoni then travels through the Meenachil river and enters the Vembanadu Lake. From there, the boat travels to Kidangara which is located near Changanassery. And on the second day of his travel, the Mangattu Bhattathiri will stay overnight at the Moovadathu Mana near Thiruvalla.
The Mangattu family members also normally escort the Thiruvona Thoni. People from 18 prominent families of the Kara also accompanies the thiruvonathoni. The Thiruvona thoni is normally escorted by many snake boats (Palliyodams) as they travel from Kattor to Aranmula which is located on the banks of the Pampa river. The traditions of Onam are interesting and fascinating. There are numerous such regional stories about Onam that are interesting like the one of Mangattu Bhattathiri. One such story is about the Thrikkakkara Temple in Ernakulam.