nilavilakku kerala traditional lamp

Nilavilakku – The Kerala’s Traditional Oil Lamp

Nilavilakku is a special kind of Lamp used mainly Indian Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Malayalam and Tamil, Nilam means Ground and Vilakku means Lamp. Nilavilakku is a important part of Several Hindu ceremonies in Kerala. It is a special type of lamp, with oil and a piece of cotton wick in it with one or more steps or levels.

nilavilakku kerala traditional lamp
Nilavilakku. Photo: Devan /Flickr

History of Nilavilakku

Several types of Nilavilakku are used in Hindu Temples in Kerala like Kuthuvilakku and Thookkuvilakku. All of them are closely related to the culture and customs of Kerala. The lamp has been popular in Kerala since so ancient times. In the early years, the lamp was made by Bronze or Brass, but later people began to produce lamps using various metals. There are mainly three ways of lighting the Nilavilakku. The First one is, one wick is lit and is directed towards the sacred space and in the next,two wicks are lit in opposite directions. The last one is with the arrangement of five wicks in five directions.

A Hanging Nilavilakku in Kerala
A Hanging Nilavilakku in Kerala

Nilavilakku and Christianity in Kerala


Nilavilakku Syrian Christian Kerala.JPG
Syrian Christian Nilavilakku With Cross.

Lighting of the Nilavilakku in a an occasion is considered as auspicious in Kerala.It is also an integral part of several traditional art forms of Kerala. After the spread of Christianity in Kerala, Syrian Christians or St. Thomas Christians also started using Nilavilakku in their churches and houses. Today almost all Catholic churches have a Nilavilakku there. Traditional Art Forms of Syrian Christians like Margamkali and Parichamuttukali are performed around a lighted Nilavilakku. In the Christian churches of Kerala, the lamp’s top is sometimes moulded in the shape of the cross or in the shape of a dove. Centuries old lamps are present in many churches in Kreala. In many places in Kerala, Christians have a custom of lighting Nilavilakku in the occasion of marriage. The bride and Groom lights the Nilavilakku in the Marriage ceremony.

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