Nemmara, a small village in the Palakkad District of Kerala state, southern India is known far and wide for its ‘Vela’ festival known as Nemmara-Vallangi Vela. The Vela is a festival celebrated in the villages of the Palakkad and Thrissur (especially in Talappilly Taluk) districts in summer, after the harvest. The prominent crop in this area is rice. After the harvest, the fields are empty and dry, and this is the time for the Vela. The Nemmara Vela is celebrated on a grand scale, equalling the famous ‘Trissur Pooram‘. The festival is believed to be the birthday of the presiding deity of the village temple or the memory of a major event like the killing of a demon by the goddess.
The Vela falls on the 20th day of ‘Meenam‘, the month in the Malayalam era (2nd or 3rd of April). Two competing groups, Nemmara and Vallangi, have their own temples plus a common temple, the Nellikkulangara, where the two groups can mingle. The festivities start ten days earlier than the actual day of Vela, with the hoisting of a flag (Kodiyettam), in the respective temples. Natives are not supposed to leave the village once the flags have been raised.
The festival attracts a lot of people not only from nearby, but also from the neighbouring districts of Trissur, Malappuram and from Tamil Nadu. The Vela is also an occasion for family reunions. People of the villages settled elsewhere, make it a point to attend the festival. People celebrate this event as a whole without any discrimination of caste/religion. Another attraction of the festival is the Aana Pandal which is an arch-like structure, where the caparisoned elephants remain for some time. The ‘Pandal‘, fully decorated with coloured electric lamps, give out different light patterns when switched on. Both groups keep the design of the illuminations a secret. The switching on of the ‘Pandal‘ on the previous day of the festival is a grand occasion for the local people.
The finale of the festival is the fireworks display. It is a magnificent show, with both sides vying to get the upper hand. New techniques are tried every year to bring out the best performance. The quality and quantity of the fireworks are discussed by the people for many days after the event.