A young Kerala woman, who is a serial actor and social media influencer and her friend was arrested and left on station bail by the police on September 10 for a photoshoot on a 'Palliyodam' or a snake boat wearing footwear. A case was taken against social media influencer Nimisha Bijo and her friend Unni, based on a complaint filed by Puthukulangara Palliyoda Seva Samithi, who owned the Palliyodam. It was after she posted the photos in her social media page that she faced severe criticism. Nimisha now faces a case for provoking to cause a riot as the Thiruvalla police have registered a case against her under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code. (Wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riotâ€”if rioting be committedâ€”if not committed). So what is a Palliyodam and why has the case been filed?
A Palliyodam is a snake boat used by Aranmula temple in Pathanamthitta district for a famous water procession in river Pamba. According to a local legend, these boats with a prow that looks like a snake were designed by Lord Krishna and were made to look like the serpent Lord Vishnu rests on. According to this write up, these boats made from anjili or a kind of jackfruit tree are carved according to instructions in a Vedic text and are considered divine. There are 52 Palliyodams that take part in the procession (Uthrattathi Jalamela and Valla Sadhya) in Aranmula of Pathanamthitta district. The procession is a part of the temple festival at Aranmula Parthasarathy temple. They are constructed by spending about Rs 75 lakhs to Rs 1 crore. 64 rowers in the Palliyodam represent 64 art forms, the nine golden shapes at the end represent the planets and the four rowers at the end represent four vedas. Usually these boats are kept in special sheds named Palliyoda Pura, where outsiders are not allowed to enter.
The complaint was filed against Nimisha, who hails from Chalakudy of Thrissur, as the Seva Samithi alleged that one should enter Palliyodam only after undertaking certain penance. They alleged that by entering a Palliyodam wearing boots. Nimisha hurt the sentiments of the devotees. According to the Samithiâ€™s complaint, there is a rule that those who enter the Palliyodam, should wear only a mundu and a thorthu (a white towel). Wearing a shirt, pants or any other clothes except the mundu is not allowed in a Palliyodam, the Samithi claims. There are also reports that women are not allowed to enter Palliyodams.
Nimisha has repeatedly said that she did know about Palliyodams and the beliefs attached to them. Though she deleted the photos from her Instagram page, Nimisha faced severe trolling and harassment as her photos went viral. Nimisha also told various media houses that she has been getting threat calls.
There is criticism against people who complained and unleashed cyber attacks on Nimisha. "When she was doing the photoshoot, there were many people around watching her. None of them knew that it was an issue. That means that even people who lived around did not know that the boat was so holy. Maybe a person with extreme viewpoints started the issue, and others mimicked him. In this situation, peaceful living is a challenge in our state," Jaiby Joseph, a Youtuber, says in one of his videos.
He also said that if there was a warning sign or board at those places or things that people consider holy, it would be better for visitors.
There are also comments in social media from people living nearby places that they had no clue that Palliyodams were so holy. While some support the arrest, many have questioned it too.