Velichappad is a term used in kerala - especially with Bhagawati temples. This actually denotes the traditional upasakas of the respective deities who are inspired and get the supereme power invoked within them.
During religious ceremonies and poojas these Velichappad(or Sthanika - as they are called in Brahmana Samoohams) gets himself into a trance and these Sthanikas are offered respect by the devotees and upacharas are done to them. They bless the devotees with prasadam and convey the deity's satisfaction and certain prophecies.
These words which come from their mouth are the words of the deity itself. The person who is seated as the Velichapad is considered as the God himself (during that time) and he can tell the past, present and future.
Even today many people - comment on this “Swami Thullal” and have a hesitation to believe this. This is beacuse most of us fail to undertand the real trance and the emotional outburst. I have seen 90% of the pujas people mistake an emotional person to be in trance and offer him respects and all other things -which is totally wrong. When really the Lord's arrival happens-the man gets himself immersed in trance, and the very sight is divine - he issues orders, gives blessings and prasadam to the devotees present. The total atmosphere is filled with divinity.
The Velichappad is a common phenominea in most of the Devi temples, but in case of Sastha- it was a very very rare incident - except only for the Kambankudi family who had the previlege of getting the trance of Dharma Sastha. Later on when the concept of Sastha Preethi started spreading to all Brahmana Samoohams, Swami chose few upasakas to be his representatives.
Paravoor Shankaralinga Iyer, Kambankudi Veeramani Iyer, Tharakad Rama Iyer, Kalpathy (Chaami Anna) CV Srinivasa Iyer(my grandfather), Sucheendram Meenakshi Sundaram Iyer, Trivandrum Anantharama Iyer, Parvathipuram Venkateeswra Iyer, were few stalwars and Veteren Stanikas of yester years.
Our records show the Dharma Sastha temple at Sabarimalai - had Velichappads or Sthanikas since 1874. Let me try to present the details or atleat a brief outline about the Velichappad of Sabarimala.
Kalarkad Appu Iyer:
"Even a Nasthika will become an Asthika after seeing Appu Iyer in trance" - was a famous quote during the years 1905/06. Even now, people at Kalarkode believe that Appu Iyer was the incarnation of the Lord Sastha Himself and even today, there are many stories told about his achievements. He is perhaps (recordically) the first and famous Velichappad of Sabarimalai. (This offical post on Sabarimala was usually termed as the “Valia Velichappad”.)
Appu Iyer was a dynamic and pleasing personality, backed with strict upasana and Bhakthi towards Lord Dharma Saastha. It is said that people from far off places come to see the Sastha Preethi at Kalarkode(near Alleppy) Brhamana Samooham to get the blessings of the Lord through Appu Iyer.
Appu Iyer's thejas and upasana earned him respect from all corners. Even the Maharaja of Travancore had a great regard for Appu Iyer and specially felicitated him. He tracked to Sabarimalai every year, and During the Sabarimalai season at Erumeli temple and at Sabarimalai Sannidhanam, Appu Iyer used to get into trance and would answer the queries of the devotees.
This was not taken in the right sense by few devotees there. A very sincere Nair devotee from Alangad had his own reservation in accepting Appu Iyer. He felt this scenario is disturbing the sacredness of the pilgrimage itself. He came to a conclusion and decided to test Appu Iyer's trance by an unique method. H used to receive Dakshina and donations from devotees - which he very secretly and saved the amount; this he did for three years. Then he very secretly employed a goldsmith and made a gold chain with bells for seven sovereigns. Nobody knew about it and the purpose for which it is made.
The next year's mandala kaalam started and he carried the chain in a velvet bag and went to sabarimala. His idea was - If Appu Iyer really had the powers, during his trance, should ask him about the chain. Since it so secretly made, if Appu Iyer could know this he will garland Appu Iyer or else throw him out of Sabarimalai immediately.
As usual everyone was at Sabarimalai and during the Deeparadhana, Appu Iyer, who was sitting on the Mandapam at Sannidhanam, got into a trance. He called for the Alangad devotee and casually explained all the details about the chain, including the amount the collected, thes ource of the money, the gold smith who made it, actual cost of the chain, number of bells it had and the exact weight of the chain and theplace where the devotee had safely kept the chain. The Nair was spellbound.
Appu Iyer also asked the devotee to come and garland him - since he had decided in his mind to garland him if his doubts are cleared. Alangad Nair stood speechless and astonished; he respectfully came forward abd prostrated before Appu Iyer. He was totally impressed with Appu Iyer that instead of presenting a floral Garland he garlanded Appu Iyer with the very same neck chain and seeked his blessings and felt sorrt for doubting him. All the devotees who stood there were were really amused and astonished to see this and jointly called aloud “Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa”.
There are many such anecdotes told even today about the powers and achievements of Appu Iyer the great. Similar incidents made Appu Iyer’s fame rise to the top, and he became very famous as the “Valia Velichappad of Sabarimalai”. Appu Iyer weared the chain gifted by the Alangad devotee till his end.
TO BE CONTINUED.................