Nimisha Bijo, the Malayalam television serial actor and social media influencer, was arrested and released on bail on Sunday in the case filed against her for violating the customs of a temple in Othera village in Pathanamthitta district, Onmanorama reported.

Nimisha, the native of Chalakudy Thrissur in Kerala has been facing a probe for stepping into the temple’s palliyodam (Snake Boat) while wearing footwear for a photoshoot.

Following the incident, she has also complained that she has been at the receiving end of verbal abuse and threats from unknown people. Silverscreen India breaks down the case and throws light on the palliyodam for a better understanding of this issue.

Nimisha’s photoshoot

A few days before the Onam festivity, Nimisha had gone to the Puthukulangara Temple premise along with her husband and friends for a photo shoot. They had travelled to the temple located in the Othera village in Pathanamthitta district near the banks of the Pamba river.

A few days later, along with the photos taken outside the temple and with an elephant, the actor had posted photos atop the palliyodam on the riverbank.

In the photo, she was seen wearing a western outfit and boots while standing on the holy snake boat. These are the photos which ended up stirring a major controversy.

What is a Palliyodam?

Palliyodams are large snake boats used by the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple in Pathanamthitta district for the famous annual temple processions of their deity. The snake boat is paddled through the Pamba River. Each snake boat is owned by people referred to as palliyodakaras.

In Hindu mythology, it is believed that the snake boat was designed by Lord Krishna. It is said to resembles the serpent Sheshanaga upon whom Lord Vishnu rests. 

Palliyodams are made of wood from the jackfruit tree. And they are parked inside sheds called palliyoda pura. According to traditions established by the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple, only men wearing a mundu (garment worn around the waist) and thorth (towel) would be allowed to enter the palliyoda pura

How did the issue flare up?

According to the Puthukulangara Palliyoda Seva Samiti, an association which manages the boats and the rituals associated to the temple, Nimisha had flouted the customs of the temple. She had entered the palliyoda pura and stepped on the palliyodam which is considered holy while wearing footwear.

The association chose to address the issue by lodging a complaint with the Thiruvalla police. 

On September 6, a case was registered against Nimisha and her friend, Unni who accompanied her for the shoot, under IPC section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot).

According a report by the New Indian Express, Palliyoda Seva Sangham President KS Rajan said that entering palliyodam and palliyoda pura wearing footwear is prohibited. “She entered palliyodam wearing footwear without the permission of the authorities concerned. We sent a letter to Puthukulangara Palliyoda Seva Samithi. After this, they lodged a complaint with the police on Monday,” he added.

Nimisha’s Response

Addressing the media on September 8, Nimisha said that she had been facing abuse and threats on social media as well as through phone calls and texts following the incident.

In an interview with Marudan Exclusive, the actor said that she did not know that stepping into a palliyodam was wrong and that it was dedicated to temple rituals.  “There were no signboards near the boat which read that women were prohibited. Even people around the place did not warn me from stepping onto the boat. As soon as my photographer told me about the concern, I removed the photo taken on the boat from my social media handles. But my photos were shared on random groups and many unknown people verbally abused me on social media and via phone call,” she said. She added that those making threats were not even sparing her family members. 

According to the report, the police officials noted that the statements of Nimisha and her photographer friend Unni were recorded on Sunday after which the duo was released on bail.