“Bharathamenna perkettal abhimanapoorithamakanam antharangam,
Keralamennu kettalo, thilakkanam chora namukku njarambukalil.”
May I give an addendum to the aforementioned popular verse of our poet, for our sake?
Thiruvazhiyadennu kettal, udanunaranam nammal, nallapol pravarthikkuvanai.
Oru Desathinte Katha, written by one of my favorite writers and “Jnanpith Award” winner, late S.K. Pottekkad, is what came to my mind when I reminisced and took my pen to write something about my Desam. Of course, though I wish, don’t intend to narrate a story as such about my Desam; nevertheless, I can’t refrain from writing a little about her.
Whenever my Desam - the lovely bird comes to me by flying to perch up on my mind as same as my beloved mother, she also brings in a lot of nostalgic feelings as I, particularly, am a Marunadan Malayali since more than three and a half decades. Moreover, if it is at a leisure time, I clearly visualize the memories as if on a silver screen - The puzhampalam and the bank of river where, I feel, the souls of our beloved old people still exist, the Government Upper Primary School where I studied which was and is the only medium for basic education (but, produced and still produces a number of intellectuals!), the old Y.M.A. office, Mannam of Kozhikkad Bhagavathi, Ganapathiamkodam, the old Vayanasala (from where I could read a lot of books) managed by late Sreedharan Unni Kartha and its premises where we practised Idakkali of Kanyarkali alias Malamakkali, Narasimha Murthi Temple and the temple pond, Mariamman Kovil, Kozhikkad Kavu etc., etc.
Thiruvazhiyad - How beautiful my Desam’s name is and how beautiful my Desam’s look is! My Desam is blessed with Nature and its beauty of greenery. I am an ardent lover of Nature and natural nitty-gritty. That could be the background for my becoming a Naturopath ultimately. Being a humble writer in general and a writer of articles on Nature Cure methods in particular in the newspapers/periodicals (also since some time in the line of treatment), I am now glad to write down a few lines about my own Desam and I dedicate this write-up to her with lots of love.
When I talked about the Nature, I would also like to tell you about the poets who loved Nature – the great poets, William Wordsworth and Rabindranath Tagore, who is a Nobel Laureate as well. While the former wrote, “An Ode to a Skylark” and “The Solitary Reaper”, the later wrote, “Krishna Kali” (Black Bud). The skylark flies and flies up on the sky making us think about message that wants to convey to us. The Solitary Reaper has lot of comparisons with Krishna Kali or vice versa. The lonely girl reaps in the field of greenery and the black beautiful girl is always seen alone in the scenery. I know, by now at least some of you, the readers, must be wondering as to why I am mentioning all these here. Is n’t it? Because…………………… I just would like to ask you that haven’t you seen this lark, reaper girl and black beauty in the green-blanketed fields of our Desam??? Yes, dear – you have seen them. But, “Muttathe mullakyu manamilla” – Isn’t it?
In my school days, I was lucky to have good teachers most of whom were natives of Thiruvazhiyad Desam itself. When I was new to school in first standard, while taking bath at Thiruvazhiyad puzha, to the question of Baletta, my family member, as to who is my teacher, I replied seriously, “a fat master like my father”. He, my father and another master who were there could not control their laugh. Not finished; it reached to Veeran Master’s (Meerankutty Sahib) ears also through the master who was taking bath along with us. On the other hand, I heard, Veeran Master, who was with a typical gray moustache, did enjoy it thoroughly by laughing and laughing, shaking his potbelly! He knew my father, who was also a teacher in another school. My “slogan” not only did spread out very soon among the teachers and students but also some of the senior naughty boys started singing while passing through the road in front of my house, “Ache poloru manthan mash, Hai, Ache poloru manthan mash….” Though I was afraid of Veeran Master in the beginning, slowly I began to like him, as he was a very nice man, almost with my father’s nature – both physically and mentally.
There was a cultural association named Y.M.A. (Young Men’s Association) i.e. Yuva Jana Sangham in which the then young men like Velu Master, K. Ramachandran (our respected ex-Panchayat Members) etc. were involved. Every year or so, YMA used to celebrate with cultural programs including its main attraction, Drama. I noticed, though the religious background, custom etc. were not known very well, they had selected dramas that tell Christian stories written by C.L. Jose etc. (as if YMA stands for YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association!) It shows the members’ and art lovers’ open and secular mentality to accept anything that they like without any religion, cast and creed! Similarly, once, the schoolteachers also had acted, selecting a drama, “Vishakkattu” in which heroine was Elsy from Thrissur. If I am not mistaken, she is the same popular cine actress, Thrissur Elsy. Echu Master, the wit master of ours (Lakshmanan Unni) did do a role in this drama covering his baldhead with a wig to make us laugh more! YMA’s office was next to the then popular general merchant of Thiruvazhiyad, Ahmed Kabeer. By the way, while I mentioned in this para about Thiruvazhiyad people’s open mentality to accept anything without any discrimination as mentioned above, I can’t keep quiet without mentioning about my friend Abbas Ahmed Kabeer, who, though a Muslim, opted his first language in school days as Sanskrit reminding us the Arabic Teacher Gopalika Antharjanam, Kathakali Singer late Kalamandalam Hyderali etc. who had become a news for some time in the yester years.
While Malayalis are familiar with Thunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan’s Adhyatma Ramayanam (Kilippattu), Thiruvazhiyad preferred to hear the story of Kambar Ramayanam of Tamil poet Kambar by Pulavars in Pavakkoothu. Kooth Abhishekam is still misunderstood as Vela of other places and is being ridiculed by some illiterates while, naturally, it can’t compete with Vela. In fact, Kooth Abhishekam is the celebration of Pattabhishekam of King Sri Rama, the Lord and we always meet with expense of a considerable amount for conducting Kooth before ending the story in Abhishekam.
I feel, unfortunately, Thiruvazhiyad people have forgotten the good olden days when Kathakali, Ottanthullal, Kurathiattam and Mohiniattam were part of the festival at the “pride of Desam” –
. I have interest to see all these at any time. When I was a child, I always took permission from home to go and see Ottanthullal in the afternoons, which, in fact, was only for some time and then I spent time by playing with other naughty children that includes walking on the top of narrow half wall around the pond, like circus boys with valli trousers! Though during that period I was not knowing names of the Thullal stories which were told, from the elder ones’ talk we could know it – It is Rukmani Swayamvaram, it is Kalyana Saugandhikam, it is Damayanthi Swayamvaram and so on. And, that’s enough to tell with proud and pleasure, if home people ask! I am sure, this Narasimhamurthy temple and the attached Narasimha Murthy Temple will be there at all times in Thiruvazhiyad devotees’ mind wherever they go and settle. temple of Lord Siva
Kanyarkali alias Malamakkali, though participation is by Nair community, reminds an era when Thiruvazhiyad people had practically no discrimination by different communities in their day-to-day life! Because, Kanyarkali features in Malayalam and ancient Tamil/Tamil Malayalam humorously the wanted and also unwanted custom by all the communities but without making a room for complaints of whatsoever nature by them! Ask somebody, were there any unpleasant situation ever in this connection? A number of years have elapsed by now; but, still I recollect as if today - the Cherumi ladies used to wait on the road in front of my grandfather’s (Mannil) Tharavad’s Nalukettu just to see once the Cherumi Kuttikal (myself – Preman Malankot and Gopi Pathiyat at that time). That was before reaching the pandal at Mannam, to flash their smile of satisfaction and to give good comments on seeing the ones in the makeup of Kaali and Neeli respectively (literally making Kaali shy as if a real girl!), though they will be late in the early morning in their rushing to forest for livelihood! Alas! The great young saint Swami Vivekananda who called Kerala as a “madhouse” on the ground of cast discrimination could not get an opportunity to visit our place. Yes, let me tell boldly, “we have a separate identity” from the other places.
In continuation of Kanyarkali, let me also give examples of some veshams (only a few of them as the list will be very lengthy) in order to know about the above said indiscrimination – Malayar, Otta Mappila, Kunikka Muttu, Mannathi-Mannan, Kurathi-Kuravan, Kootta Chakkiliar, Vaishnavar, Mudukar, Thottichi Thottian, Pambatti-“Saaiv” (a Musalman character). The list, as mentioned, continues with many more. I was a regular participant when Kali Asan was late Mannil Padmanabhan Nair (popularly known as Appavettan), who can’t be forgotten for his great contribution in bringing up this ancient art. It was a golden age for Kanyarkali. The celebrated artist, Pallavoor Appu Marar never hesitated to come and attend to his role of playing idakka (for Niramala) and chenda (for Keli Kottu and Kali) as he took it as a privilege for Kozhikkad Bhagawati and Thiruvazhiyad people. Once, incidentally, he himself had told this to Thiruvazhiyad people. It may take a number of pages to detail this ancient art of Thiruvazhiyad and hence I stop it here just after referring to Kathir Kootta Kalam of Kozhikkad. Kootta Cheramakkal – another inevitable item of Kanyarkali played in front of Bhagawati is in connection with this Kathir Kootta Kalam. Please read (no, sing) further:
♫♫ A a r i n t e a a r i n t e k a t h i r u v a r a v a a n u,
K o z h i k k a d i n a l l a m m a n t e k a t h i r u v a r a v a a n u
K o o K o o i, K o o K o o i……………….♫♫
(I have observed with keen interest when recently a grandfather from our place staying in Mumbai made his one year old grandson play with a vattakkettu with thorthumundu on his head and by singing the abovementioned lines!)
Please see here. Naayanmaar become Cheramakkal in front of Kozhikkad Bhagawati, the Desam’s deity by dancing and singing with joy and full devotion! Didn’t Father of our Nation also tell that they are “harijans” (children of God)? Yes. But, dear Bapuji, sorry - you were late in conveying this message (to us), because, traditionally we (our predecessors in Thiruvazhiyad) have already been following all these much before your prophesy! We know, your soul will be happy to hear this. I should and, I feel, each and every one should say proudly, “I am a son of this Thiruvazhiyad Desam”, ‘I am a daughter of such a Desam” where practically all are children of Almighty, the God without any cast and creed! For those who don’t want to understand such things in this life, I am sorry to say, life is not a boon given by the Almighty, but a curse. Yes, “sapikkappetta jeevitham”. And, please don’t become owners of this; open the inner eye of your mind – for your sake and God sake, at least from now onwards, as it is “better late, than never.”
When I wrote Marunadan Malayali in the second para above, for a second there was a flashlight appeared into sight of my memory about which let me mention to you now. There is an old movie in the same name which, at the time of release, became Marunattil Oru Malayali. In this, there is Kumbakkali (Attakkumbam) and Kavadiattam that are familiar to Thiruvazhiyad people who have seen the same at Mannam. (In the film field, many of our people may not know, Devadas Master of Puthanthara had bagged a Medal for his sound recording in the gold medal (from President) winner film of the world-renowned film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, “Swayamvaram”.) The organizers of programmes including Pookkuzhichattam etc. at Mariamman Kovil, Puthanthara arrange these ancient arts, which are popular in our neighbor state, Tamil Nadu. When I talked about President’s medal, I can’t close this paragraph without (at least) mentioning the child star - the human encyclopedia, Monica Menon who is another recipient of award from the President of India a few years back.
Though I stated in the beginning that I don’t intend to write a story, when started writing, I really feel that I have more and more to pen. Perhaps, I may also write after some time, “Ente Desathinte Katha, Enteyum”. All that I mentioned in this article here are based on just my experience and remembrance. I believe, each and every one from Thiruvazhiyad will have something or the other to narrate. Certainly, our Desam had and also has given birth to some nice and eminent persons from all the communities, faces of a few of those are fast approaching to my mind. (As regards my mentioning of a few persons’ names in this article, it is just incidental only.) The fact is that the list of individuals as mentioned above will also be lengthy and even then it would become incomplete if I do and hence I don’t want to take that risky task! So, I apologize to my readers for the same.
The people of Thiruvazhiyad wish to unite and do something for their Desam and it’s a matter of great pleasure for me to participate in the developmental activities derive from the same. An elephant doesn’t know about its size but does realize about its strength. Similarly, while we know about our nature, we don’t realize about our actual capabilities. Let’s now start realizing it and making it fruitful.
I now really feel a self-satisfaction that I have written something about my Desam without any exaggeration and I would request the readers to take it in its real spirit in which it is written so as to enable us to keep up our years old traditional activities and thus to switch on to the developmental activities.
The readers are welcome to contact the writer if they need any clarifications or would like to forward their comments - whatsoever, if any.
PS: This has been published in the Website of Thiruvazhiyad Desam contributed by Padmakumar Koolangat and family members.