Petta Thullal is the ritualistic sacred dance to celebrate the victory of good over evil. It is believed that this dance is a celebration of the killing of demon princess Mahishi by Swami Ayyappan.
The most important day in Petta Thullal is on 27th Dhanu (around January 10) when the Petta dance by Ambalapuzha and Alangadu (Paravur) groups (yogams) are staged.
The thullal by Ambalapuzha commences only after seeing the Krishan parunthu (kite) above the small Kochambalam in Erumely Petta situated opposite the Muslim Mosque named after Vavar. The assumption being that Lord Sree Krishana of Ambalapuzha arrives in his Garuda vahana to witness the celebration.
Similarly the petta thullal of Alangadu yogam start only after they have seen a bright star at noon,which is a very strange phenomenon. It is note worthy that all the participants except the Alangadu group worship the nearby Muslim Vavar mosque.
On 26th Dhanu there is Chandanakutam festival by the Muslims of Erumely to receive the groups from Ambalapuzha and Alangadu. The Alangadu group, which comes last, does not worship in Vavar mosque. Devotees believe that Vavar Swamy in Vavar Mosque accompany the first group to Sabarimala.
There are number of views about the origin of Petta Thullal. The most accepted one is that it is to commemorate the preparation of the army by Ayyappan and his comrade and disciple Vavar. In ancient times there was a Sastha temple in Sabarimala. A Marava chieftain Udayanan destroyed the temple. With the help of Vavar and forces from Purakkadu in Ambalapuzha and Alangadu in Parvur, Ayyappan, army chief of King of Pandalam killed Udayanan and reconstructed the Sabarimala temple. The army started its march from Erumely.
Another view is that Ayyappa killed a fierce beast (Eruma) in Erumely and people danced enthralled when it was killed and the thullal is to commemorate that dance. They say that name Erumely means the place where the eruma was killed.
The Royal family of Pandalam belonged to old Thamizhagam (Madras State) and according to records available with the Royal family they came to Pandalam 700 years back. So petta thullal also has a history of 700 years. Each year the number of participants is increasing. Erumely Petta Thullal is the world’s largest dance festivals.
It is also an icon of Hindu-Muslim amity.