A Malayalam TV actress and social media influencer Nimisha Bijo and her friend Unni were arrested on September 10 by Pathanamthitta district police in Kerala for violating the sanctity of the temple and violating the tradition by stepping into ’Palliyodam’ (a ceremonial snake boat) at Aranmula temple wearing footwear. These boats are kept in special sheds named Palliyoda Pura where entry of outsiders is restricted.
However, Nimisha Bijo and Unni were released from the police station after furnishing personal bonds. The actress who is a native of Chalakudy of Thrissur pleaded that she was not aware of the custom of the boat. They were arrested after an FIR was lodged against them by the Puthukulangara Palliyoda Seva Samithi at Thiruvalla police under Section 153 (offence committed at the place of worship) of the Indian Penal Code for defiling the sanctity of the boat. The Samithi owns the Palliyodam.
In the complaint, the Samithi said that one can enter the Palliyodam only after undertaking certain penance. The actress stepped in the boat while wearing boots which has hurt the sentiment of devotees, the complaint said. The Samiti further explained that as per the rule, a particular dress is assigned, a white towel, for those who step inside the boat. Shirt, pants or any other clothing is not allowed in a Palliyodam. Apparently, women are not allowed to enter Palliyodams.
The images soon became viral after she shared these pictures on her Instagram page. She was severely criticized by netizens for showing disrespect to the religion and the tradition. She claimed that she even got a number of threat calls. However, in the face of criticism, she deleted the pictures but she had already landed in the problem.
A Palliyodam is used at Aranmula temple for a famous water procession in river Pamba. As per the legends, these boats with a snake prow were designed by Lord Krishna. These were made to look like Lord Vishnu resting on serpents. These boats are made from the wood of a kind of jackfruit tree as per the methods instructed in the Vedic scriptures. There are 52 such boats that take part in the procession as part of the temple festival at Aranmula.