Thrikkakara Temple is one of the few temples in India dedicated to Lord Vamana. It is situated in Thrikkakara, a village panchayat near Cochin in the state of Kerala, South India. It is located 10 km north east of Ernakulam close to the Cochin University of Science And Technology on the Thrissur-Ernakulam highway. The temple houses lithic records of historic significance, and it finds mention in many of the hymns sung by the Tamil Vaishnavite Alwars, particularly Nammalvar of the 7th-9th century CE. It is also one of the 108 Divya Desams (divine places).
The temple complex, which is enclosed in a large area in picturesque surroundings, holds the main sanctum dedicated to Lord Vamana. The sanctum sanctorum of the main shrine houses the idol of Maha Vishnu. The temple is under the administration of the Travancore Devaswom Board. The festivities of the temple arise twice a year, in February - March and in March - April. The most important event of the religious calendar here is Onam. The Onasadya or the Onam feast is held in a grand manner in the temple with a large number of people cutting across religious barriers participating in it. In earlier times the Onam festival was jointly organized by the 61 Naduvazhis (or local rulers) under the leadership of the Maharaja of Travancore. Communal harmony continues to be the hallmark of the celebrations, with people belonging to different faiths and religions turning out in large numbers for the Sadya in keeping with the spirit of the festival.
The celebration of the Onam festival is the main religious event in the temple. The festival is celebrated over a period of ten days in the Malayalam month of Chingam. The temple is considered to be the centre of Onam celebrations over the World, as Thrikkakara is considered to have been the abode of the King Mahabali. The temple houses the main deity Lord Vamana. During the Onam celebration period, a pyramidal statue symbolizing Lord Vamana is installed as a symbol of honour at all other sites of the celebration, and named Onathappan or Thrikkakara-appan. The temple is the site at which the king Mahabali is said to have been sent to the underworld Patala by Lord Vamana with his foot, hence marking the genesis of the Onam festival. The etymology of the name Thrikkakara ('place of the holy foot') is also derived this way.
During the period of 10 days, the temple showcases performances in several cultural arts such as Chakyar Koothu, Ottamthullal, Kathakali and Patakam as well as dance and musical performances such as Panchavadyam and Thayambaka. Each day also has its own ceremonial significance, and the temple authorities perform several ceremonial rites which involve the main deity and the other deities housed at the temple (namely Lord Ayyapa, Devi, Lord Krishna and Rakshassu). The Shiva temple located beside the main temple is also involved in these rites. The temple festival begins on the first day (Atham) with the Kodiyettu ceremony, which is a flag-hoisting ceremony common in festivals in temples in Kerala. Parallel to this, the festival is flagged off all over Kerala by a grand procession beginning at Thrippunithura near Kochi called Athachamayam.
In olden days, the Kochi Maharaja would head a grand military procession in full ceremonial robes from his palace to the Thrikkakara temple. The festival ends on the 10th and final day, which starts off with a symbolic welcome of the Asura king Mahabali. The closing of the festival is marked with the lowering of the flag and bathing of the idol, referred to as Aarattu. A main highlight of the festival is the grand banquet, or Sadya, held on the last two days of the festival at the temple campus. The feast has grown significantly in magnitude each year, and is currently attended by about 10000 people. People belonging to different faiths and religions turn out in large numbers for the sadya in keeping with the spirit of the festival.
The Chaarthu is a form of decoration of the Vamana idol using mainly sandalwood paste, ornaments and clothing. On each day, the idol is decorated in the form of one of the Ten Avatars of Vishnu, including the Matsya (fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narasimha (half-man half-lion), Vamana, Parashurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna, Kalki and Trivikrama (another form of Vamana). The Pakalpooram is a grand procession held on the penultimate (9th) day of the celebrations. A similar procession, called Seeveli, is also held on the final day. The procession involves leading the main deity Vamana on a ceremonial elephant around the temple campus, along with a group of about eight caparisoned elephants and accompanying Panchavadyam. The procession pauses at each of the gates of the temple (East, West, North and South), and proceeds to return the idol back to its inner sanctum. The procession is similar to the one held in festivities at the Guruvayur Temple.