Photo story: Vel Vel Festival in Bandel

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Vel Vel: Mythology

In Hindu Mythology Gods have many incarnations. Kartikeya (son of Parbati) is one such deity. He is also known as Murugan and considered as the “War God” especially in southern India. Murugan is always depicted with a long spear in his hand which was gifted by Parbati. This is also known as “VEL” in the Tamil Language. There was once a fierce war between Murugan and the demon Soorapadman from the Asura clan. Murugan used his divine spear (vel) to stop Soorapadman from evading imminent defeat when he disguised himself as a mango tree.  He also used his spear to rip apart the mango tree in two halves. Each of the halves turned into a peacock and a rooster. Kartikeya thereafter started riding the peacock as his vahana and the rooster became the symbol of Murugan. As a war cry of many Tamil Rulers, they used the words “vetrivei! veeravei!”(velvel) which translates to “victorious vel, courageous vel.” Thus it’s common to hear this phrase “vel vel” during this festival.

Vel Vel in Bandel

Sri Sri Olaichandi Mata Thakurani Mandir (Olaichaniditala) is a famous temple in Bandel. All the activities of “velvel” take place around this temple. There are two large ponds near the temple where the devotees take a dip to purify themselves. After the dip, they are cleansed with turmeric paste and sacred ash on their bodies. Sacred threads are tied around their wrists and some wear neem leaves and lemons around their waist. This  is done to ward off any evil or negative forces. The devotees then proceed towards Olaichanditala where they are pierced with vel (spear). Some pierce their tongue, some pierce their cheeks and the more dramatic ones get their backs and chest pierced. People often bring offerings in the forms of fruits that are beautifully decorated and mounted on van Rickshaws or chariots. Some devotees can also be seen pulling such displays with the help of metal hooks pierced on their backs.

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