The venue was the spacious recess of the Villuamangalam palace. The ascetic great, Villuamangalam Swami sat in meditation in his ‘pooja’ room. The man was picture perfect in respect of spirituality: tonsured head, a punool that ran across his chest and a halo that brightened his face. The scene was not different either: an oil lamp with seven flames, a basket full of motley flowers and the burning incenses that perfumed the air.
At the acme of performance of rites, a divine boy appeared in the mind’s eye of the Swami. The boy sat in front of the Swami. Slowly, he started indulging in pranks. He scattered the flowers around, threw the fruits and cereals to the birds and the animals, put out the lamp, ate the pooja materials and yelled in satiety how tasty the latter were. The Swami kept his cool.
The boy took advantage of the Swami’s indifference and heightened his antics. The boy continued the following days his pranks, which finally upset the equanimity of the Swami. As the boy’s behaviour reached atrocious levels, Villuamangalam asked him to stop the nonsense and to get away. Swami’s sudden rebuke saddened the boy. Tears began rolling down his cheeks. He whimpered, “ I leave Swami. I thought you were really interested in the indulgences of the children. But you are insincere. The rituals and ceremonies are mere pretensions. However, if you want see me again, come to Anantan forest. I prefer the calm of the forests to the glitter and noise of the cities. The chirps of the birds are sweeter and more pacifying to me than the pretentious orations and chanting during the rituals. The natural fragrance of the wild flowers is more enchanting than the assailing odour of joss sticks and camphour. It is the solitude in forests, not the chanting of mantra, that imparts solace to the soul.” After these vehement averments the boy disappeared. Villuamangalam thought that the lad would not fail to appear again. However, it was never to happen.
As days passed, Swami lost his composure. His intonation failed. The ‘eternal flame’ kept during the pooja started fading. The flowers turned scentless. The insects, which flit around, kept vanishing. The pooja materials soured. Gloom and desolation descended the scene. The boy’s image ceased to appear before Swami’s mind. He was obsessed with the thought to trace the boy.
Villuamangalam hurried to the Ananthan forest leaving his hearth and kin. But he had no idea of its location. He sought the help of many a people but failed to get any clue. He suffered a lot during his search. He renounced food and water. He slept in the open. He forgot his mantras. He was fully preoccupied with the thought about Ananthan forest. Days passed by. Villuamangalam was once sitting under a tree. He heard a child’s cry from a hut nearby. The child was teasing his mother. Driven to her wit’s end, the hapless woman threatened the child that she would throw him to the Anathan forest. Suddenly, the child fell into silence. Villuamangalam darted to the hut and found a tribal woman singing lullaby to her baby, in a fabric cradle. He asked the woman where the Ananthan forest is. In a cavalier manner, she pointed to the forest and cautioned him that it is infested with wild animals. Like a mad man, the Swami rushed into the thick forest where darkness reigned even during the mid-day. Swami felt that the forest wore a tangible quietude. Then he heard the voice of a lilting flute emanating from the core of the forest. Guided by an unknown power, Swami moved towards the source of the voice. He found there lying in a cradle, formed by creepers, a boy assuming the posture akin to that of Lord Vishnu in Ananthasayanam. Swami fell on his feet, tears suffusing his eyes. He begged his pardon for being rude to the Him. The Lord told Swami that the latter had been rid of ignorance and that he loved him. He apprised the Swami of his wish to reside in the area and asked him to make arrangements for it. In a wink, Villuamangalam secured the idol of Anantapadmanabha and installed it there. He constructed a temple and consecrated the deity using mangoes procured from the woman in the hut. Thus goes the legend about the origin of the name of the city, Thiruvananthapuram.
The royal lineage of Venad used to conduct a Veda contest. The Brahmins versed in Vedas were invited to superintend it. Shri Padmanabha temple became the arena for the contest that would last for fifty-six days. In the early nineteenth century the ambition of any Nair youth was to secure an enrollment in the Nair Brigade formed in 1818. Many gathered to try their luck in the recruitment center in Kothu ground in Palayam. Only a few managed to succeed. Still, the others were not disappointed, as their kin or friend managed to get selected. The natives of Thiruvananthapuram were simpletons those days unlike at present.
A sizable population from Central and North Kerala migrated to Thiruvananthapuram. They have spread a canard about the city. After vanquishing Ravana, Sri Rama was returning in the Pushpakavimanam to Ayodhya, Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman accompanying him. Lakshmana was sitting at the feet of Rama. Suddenly, he sprang up and asked the Lord to descend from the seat and sit below. A surprised Sri Rama looked around and observed they were flying over Thiruvananthapuram. He surmised that the change in the mindset of Lakshmana was due to the environmental influence of the city. As they passed the city limits, the uneasiness in Lakshmana vanished and he apologized before Rama for his misdemeanour. The name Anathapadmanabha signifies that Sri Padmanabha reclines on Anantha, the legendary serpent. Adding the particle ‘Thiru’ to Anatha and omitting the more prominent one, namely Padmanbha, formed the name Thiruvananthapuram. This is a logical aberration. The earliest recorded evidence of the name of Thiruvananthapuram is a granite edict available in Thiruvmpadi temple. The name indicated in it is Thiru Ananthapuram. Ananthan implies Lord Mahavishnu as the classic treatise Leelathilakam mentions. In course of time, the name changed into Thiruvananthapuram and remains so.
He was a boy of eight years. He heard one day that his uncle would go to Thiruvanantapuram to see the annual arattu celebrations. He had never expressed his wish to accompany his uncle for the festival before fearing severe caning by the latter. However this time his uncle agreed to take him to the city. He was dressed in a half trouser and a shirt to go along with his uncle for the festival.
Arattu is a spectacular festival in which the idol of Ananthapadmanabha is taken in procession. The Travancore Maharaja, Sri Chithira Thirunal accompanies the procession in his official raiment. The ceremonial dress was stitched from the silk fabric at Balaramapuram, renowned for the weaving industries. Later, the divans of Travancore emulated the king in using this fabric during the festival. And in course of time, wearing the silk attires weaved at Balaramapuram became a passion of the Travancoreans. Divan Rajagpalachari was notorious in donning the transparent Balaramapuram silk that made him appear clownish at cultural programmes. The people were fed up with his indiscreet gesture. The renowned journalist, Swdesabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai, reprimanded in his daily the divan. People attribute this as one of the reasons the latter was extradited from the State.
Balaramapuram is located a little away south of Thiruvananthapuram. Balarama Varma of the Travancore dynasty brought some expert weavers to this place and settled them there. Their progeny constitutes the present skilled weavers. With the growth of the industry, the town acquired acclaim and renown. As the town was founded and nurtured by Balarama Varma, it assumed the name Balaramapuram. Puram in Malayalam means town.
Our historians unhelpfully differ often on the location of historical landmarks. There existed long ago in Southern Kerala a university, named Kanthalur. Historians differ in its location. Valiyasala and Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram district figure in this connection. However, there is at present in Vizhinjam a place by name Kanthalur. To know about Kovalam or Vizhinjam, one has to know about a kingdom that flourished in the yester years. It extended from Thiruvalla to Kanyakumari. Its name had been Aiy. The capital of this kingdom is believed to be located at Kutralam and later shifted to Vizhinjam. This translocation increased the importance of Vizhinjam, a natural harbour. Kovalam is a part of this city, which finds a place in the descriptions of the foreign tourists. Vzhinjam maintained its status up to the tenth century under the rule of Aiy. The Pandyas and the Cholas made a vain attempt to conquer this city. However, Vizhinjam was added to Venad after the tenth century. The Dutch and the English contributed to its growth by constructing trade complexes. The relics of these constructions are still available here.
Near the lighthouse at Kovalam, there is a place called Avvadu thura. Some call it as Vavadu thura, the sacred place where vavu bali (tharpanam) is made. Later, the foreigners changed it as Havva (eve) beach. The natives meekly acceded to the change to promote tourism. Ayya pillai asan, a famous poet, who lived here in the 14th century, composed the Rama katha pattu (The story of Sri Rama). His descendants used to render these rhymes in the Sri Padmanabha swami temple. Kovalam is no more remembered in the name of Ayya pillai asan.
Kovalam is a popular attraction today in the tourism map. Foreigners crowd here and the tourist hub presents an alien look during the tourist season. Sunbath, body massage, ayurveda, and yoga… the treats are many for the visitors who are attracted like moths to this tourist paradise. The ‘huts’ here particularly enjoy a reputation. Though the name suggests thatched accommodation, it is equipped with the luxuries that rival those in the Mughal palaces.
Kovalam means the land of ‘koka’ rajas, the Aiy kings. The land piece is calm, peaceful quay having a bent (valavu) in Malayalam, which bequeathed it the name. Nevertheless, Kovalam today is an international tourist haven lending heavenly bliss to the foreign tourists.
Immense wealth is believed to be the cause of undesirable thoughts and actions. Lord Indra the controversial figure amongst the gods exemplifies this truism. He has been the richest in the celestial community. He had done things unbecoming of the gods. He lost his self-control seeing the sun god camouflaged as Mohini. He gave in to the call of flesh just when he saw Ahalya, the chaste wife of the saint Gauthama. He excelled in scheming things to spoil yaga and other noble ceremonies.
However, there seems to be occasional expressions of noble thoughts and actions from him as illustrated by the following episode. In the assembly of gods, a decision was taken to conduct a yajnja in Arsha Bharat. Unexpectedly, the gods were divided in the selection of the venue. Each group proposed a place each, like Kasi, Rameswaram, a location in the Himalayan valley and the like. They strengthened the reason for their choice by adducing the importance of the place. When the situation went out of control, Indra along with Narada intervened. They advised not to fight on a noble venture. We would drop a tree bark and select the place where it falls. The bark has fallen in the precincts of a Parasurama temple near the beach and the place came to be known as Varkala- the place where the vatkalam (tree bark) has fallen. Thus goes the legend about the origin of the name of Varkala.
The factors that influence the naming of a place are geographical features, historical importance and the proximity of venerable temples. Amidst these, the geographical features have been more significant. Generally, there is a tendency to fashion places’ name from myths and epics and popularise such name. Such naming does not stand to reason. So, we will examine the name Varkala in the light of geographical factors.
The land piece (vak) bordering seashore (ala) has been named Varkala. This syntax is not admissible in Malayalam where in the adjective always precedes the word it qualifies. The examples are many: attutheeram (river shore), puzhkara (land near rivulet), kattana (wild elephant) and the like. Moreover, the letter ‘r’ does not find a place in the name Vakala. We have to seek some other theory in solving the riddle of the naming. In the old literary works we find the term uvar or uvari, which signifies sea. The land (kara) near sea (uvar) became ‘Uvarkara’. In course of time, the letter ‘u’ was dropped and for effortless pronunciation the particle ‘ra’ was replaced by ‘la’ securing the name Varkala.
Proverbs are pregnant with import. An adage on Kollaam showcases its ancient prosperity: ‘Kollam kandavanu illam venda’. It translates as he who has seen Kollam forgets his abode. Kollam finds its glorious place in many ancient literary works. Unnuneeli sandhesam devotes to Kollam about twenty stanzas. The place is described in it as the kingdom of Kupaka dynasty. The poets of Manipravalam (a blend of Malayalam and Sanskrit) out of their love for Sanskrit rendered Kollam as Kolambam.
The kings of Venad domiciled in Kollam in the 14th century. They established here a temple of their clan’s goddess. The Dutch destroyed the temple in 1661 as recorded by the historian New Hoff. Perhaps, the Dutch might have destroyed the palace also along with the brass-roofed temple.
Kollam, besides being the capital of Venad, was a reputed natural harbour where the Arabs and the Chinese traded extensively. Their cargo ships, in large numbers, used to wait in queue in this harbour. Famous foreigners mention in their travelogues the name of the city. It finds a place in Koka Sandesh also.
The earliest reference to Kollam can be traced to the edicts of Thresia church. This edict, originated during the reign of Stanu emperor, mentions about Ayyanadikal, the king of Venad. Thapirai built the Thresia church. The patronage proffered for the construction of this church illustrates the secular outlook of ancient Kollam.
It is believed that Malabar Era (Kolla varsham) had its inception at Kollam. The city was the mute witness to a slew of historical incidents. The first capital of Venad was Kollam.Though this was, later, shifted to Padmanabhapuram and subsequently to Thiruvananthapuram, the historic glory of the city never declined. Important government offices continue to remain here, though the capital was shifted. The Rameswaram temple here is ancient. Thresia church mentioned earlier submerged in the ocean but the edicts in copper foils are still preserved.
Kollam excelled in trade with foreigners like the Persians, the Arabs, the Chinese, the Dutch and the French. This helped it attain enviable levels of economic growth and glory. The presence of the Arabian sea and its extension, the Ashtamudi lake catalysed the growth.
In Thresiapalli edicts, this place is named ‘Kurakeni Kollam’. The naming was intended to avoid confusion with the name Pantalayani Kollam, another place in Kozhikode. Kurakeni means a zigzag water body. Ashtamudi lake is such a one. However, in course of time the prefix Kurakeni has been dropped and the name now remains as Kollam.
Another theory is also in currency. The place was reputed as koka’s (king’s) illum (house) or koyillam. By the passage of time, it transformed into Kollam. There is no inappropriateness in the name, as Kollam accommodated the residential palaces of the kings of Venad.
Kollam has burgeoned into a corporation now. It comprises five taluks: Kollam, Karunagapalli, Kottarakara, Pathanapuram and Kunnathur. Kollam is a flourishing center of trade. The cashew industry recently suffered a setback due to the translocation of the cashew factories. Kerala owes immensely to Kollam for the inflow of foreign money through NRIs.
Kottarakara reminds one of ‘Ramanattam’, the forerunner of ‘Kathakali’. Legend has it that the ruler of Kottarakara, a tiny kingdom, had a desire to see ‘Krishnanattam’, a performing art staged in the famous temple in Guruvayoor. But he felt it below his prestige to go to Gurvayoor, another kingdom, to see it. So, he sent a messenger to the temple asking the authorities to direct the troupe to Kottarakara for a performance. However, his invitation was rejected stating that he had not mentally matured to appreciate the art form. The insult provoked the king of Kottarakara. He lost no time to organize and inaugurate in his place ‘Ramanattam’, a rival performance. Wooden crown, tender leaves of the coconut palm, mask etc., were used in the performing art, organized impromptu.
Kottarakara was a place for temporary rest to the travelers to Thiruvananthapuram from North Kerala. There were hotels and fuelling points for vehicles. The ubiquitous cashew groves helped to nurse many cashew industries. The cashew industry has not totally vanished from the present town, though the cashew groves have given way to rubber plantations. The corrosive, pungent odour of smoke emanating from the huge ovens of the cashew factories lingers in the air.
The Kottarakara palace has outlived the vagaries of time. It still retains its ancestral beauty. The famous Ganapati temple is not far from the palace. There is an episode about the temple’s offering, called unni appam (roasted rice cakes), noted for its rich flavour and taste. The king of Travancore had a desire to make this famous Ganapati appam in Thiruvananthapuram. He brought to his palace the Brahmins who possessed the expertise to prepare the cakes and arranged all the ingredients as requisitioned. The preparation lacked the taste of the original cakes. The cuisine experts were questioned about it. They replied that things were not arranged as per the list they submitted. Hearing this the king flew into a rage. The cooks said that they mentioned in the end of the list that the kitchen in the Ganapati temple as the venue of preparation but it was not arranged. The Kollam- Schenkottai railway, the first rail line in Travancore passes through Kottarakara. Built by the Britishers, the Ghat Section segment of the rail line excels modern constructions in its unique features and record of safety. The Indian Railways’ broad gauge track replaces the meter gauge. However, the M.G. line had been the symbol of the sincerity of rail workers of the bygone era and the ingenuity of the British engineers.
Kottarakara has acquired the name by blending the words kottaram (palace) and ‘kara’ (place): the place where the palace (of Kottarakara ruler) is situated. During his reign king Marthanda varma annexed to his kingdom this independent princely state. The earliest settlers here are believed to have migrated from Tamil Nadu.
A harijan woman one day went to the fields to collect grass for her cow. While sharpening the sickle she used to cut the grass on a granite stone she noticed, to her horror, that blood exuding from the stone. The woman screamed, “Blood gushing from the stone”! None bothered to heed to her shouts and wails. But she kept screaming. The folks thought that some thing was amiss. Slowly people started gathering. Among the mob there was a dhobi with well-built body. He dared slap some mud on the bleeding spot of the stone. They came to the local ruler to report the matter. They pondered over the matter. Suddenly, the dhobi burst into a violent dance (thullal). He made an oracle that a goddess dwelt there. The mass ignored the man’s claim. Soon he climbed, in an instant, a promontory to prove his claim. The folks accepted the dhobi’s claim. They made a temple there and made him kampithan (a human whom an alien spirit is inducted in). Whoever proved his physical prowess was appointed the successor to kampithan. The appointment irritated the kingdom’s head of the defense, Mangalathu Panicker. He conspired with his followers and killed a kampithan. The embalmed body of the kampithan was buried in the temple precincts. This brought to an end the lineage of kampithan.
There is a well in Mannadi. The well water is reddish in colour. Legend has it that Mangalathu Panicker and his younger brother used to conduct ‘mudiyattu’, a cultural programme. The brothers played the part of Darikan and Kali. Kali, played by the elder brother, would chase Darikan, played by the younger. In one such performance, Darikan fell into the abandoned well. Kali jumped into it and chopped off the head of Darika, turning the water blood red.
The name of Velu Thampi, the renowned divan of erstwhile Travancore is intimately associated with Mannadi. He locked horns with the British resident ruler, Macaulay. When the Travancore king disowned him, he concluded it is not wiser to stay in Thiruvananthapuram. He went to the king of Kilimanoor, adjacent to the Travancore kingdom. He surrendered his legendary sword to the ruler and informed him that the British had set a price for his head. “ I will leave before someone endangers my life for pelf”, he said to the king. Then he left towards the North. After a while, the son of the king rushed to the latter and informed him that he had seen the Divan. He suggested that if Velu Thampi was caught and offered to the British, the cash award would come to them. The father congratulated the son! He asked the son to bring the martial sword from the arsenal. When the sword was brought, the father grabbed it and rushed to the kitchen where his wife was doing the household chores. Catching the woman by the hair, he screamed, “ Is your son born to me?” Fearing for her dear life, the woman instantly confessed to the truth that he was born to the menial. He let her off, as she told the truth. The enraged father soon turned to her son and asked him to flee. He then sent for Thampi and facilitated him. Velu Tampi proceeded to Mannadi. The enemies scented his presence at Mannadi and reached there. Thampi was too brave to surrender to the enemy. He killed himself and attained martyrdom. This is part of Travancore history now.
Mannadi attained its name from the legend narrated elsewhere. As the dhobi slapped (adichu) the earth (mannu) on the wound in the granite stone to arrest the bleeding, the place was christened Mannadi. Geographically, the place is a delta brought forth by the rivulet that flows through the area.
An aged widow at Nellimoodu thraravad in Adoor was sweeping early in the morning the front of her house, as it is the custom in Kerala. She noticed a young soldier approaching her house. She was rather concerned, as burglary and theft were wide spread in that region. Seeing the woman frightened, the visitor said that he is just a passerby and that he is very hungry. He asked her something to eat. She invited him inside and brought some hot porridge and mango pickle, the popular breakfast in the villages those days. The hasty soldier plunged his fingers right in the middle of the porridge and scalded them. His foolish act made the woman laugh. “You are like our Marthanda Varma Maharajah”, she said. “He will simply jump into a war with the enemy sans any forethought or planning and suffer set back. He survives their strategic attempts by the grace of God only. You must help yourself with the hot porridge with patience and perseverance”, she added. The young man felt as if he was a child in her arms, suckling her. He finished the breakfast that was sumptuous to him. He bid her farewell and said that he would come to her again. The commiserated man said that his fate was to loiter. Years rolled by. Adoor was annexed to Travancore. The renowned Marthanda Varma sent his men to Nellimoodu house. They brought the old woman to the palace in a palanquin in a royal procession. The woman was astonished to recognize the Maharajah standing at the podium in front of the palace as the young soldier who came to her house and ate the porridge. He came down and received her and informed her that she would be accorded wealth, without tax, for a prosperous life. The Nellimoodu house has become famous in this manner. The local baron who ridiculed the Maharajah when the latter approached him was relieved of all his properties. An edict was released in A.D. 343 at Kilimanoor. It mentions in it Chenkazhuneer land. Adoor was part of this region, which later merged with Kottarakara princely state. During the reign of Marthanda Varma, Adoor became the part of Travancore, which in course of time transformed into Kerala. Adoor attained a prominent status in the cultural milieu of the State.
There is a monastery located by the side of the river Pampa at Chengannur. There was another one here by name Vakuvanchi puzha. A historical edict recovered from this monastery mentions about Adoor. ‘Adu’ in Malayalam translates to gift and ‘oor’ means region. Because the place was received as a gift by the monastery, it was christened Adoor.
Adoor made rich contributions to Malayalam cinema. The internationally acclaimed film director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, hails from the place. E.V.Krishna Pillai, who enriched the humour segment of Malayalam literature, belonged to Adoor.Adoor ensconces the only temple of Duryodhana in the State.
Koduman is a remote village near Adoor. Here lived Saktibhadran, a member of the Chenneerkara family of the chieftains. He once wrote a drama ‘Ascharya chudamani’. Those days, literary works have to be prefaced by scholars to attain approval. Sakti bhadran had been ruing how to accomplish the task, when he heard that Sri Sankara was camping at Chengannur. He hastened with his work to the Acharya. He found the latter sitting on a podium in meditation. The Acharya welcomed him with a scant smile. When Saktibhadran informed the Acharya the intention of his visit, the latter smiled again. Without waiting further, Saktibhadran started reading his work. He observed amidst reading, the fleeting expressions appearing on the Acharya’s countenance. After finishing, he intently looked at the Acharya who slid into meditation. Saktibhadran was disappointed. He hurried home and set fire to his endearing work. After the incident, he never touched his narayam (the rod shaped writing instrument made of iron) and the palm leaves.
After many years, the Acharya has revisited Chengannur. He enquired his disciples of Saktibhdran. They soon brought him. The Acharya asked him about his work. Saktibhadran narrated what had happened. Swamiji opined that Saktibhadran’s work was excellent. As he was observing ‘silence’, he could not comment on it when Saktibhadran rendered it before the Acharya. The Acharya asked him why he could not recite it from memory. The author replied that he could not remember it in its entirety. Swamiji asked Saktibhadran to take down the work as he dictated it. Thus ‘Acharya chudamani’ took a rebirth through Sri Sankaracharya. The cultural legacy of Koduman commences from the time of Saktibhadran.
It is strange to know that there is a spider’s temple at Koduman. Its origin is related to one Veerabhadran. After his demise, his family was bereft of any male member. There were two young ladies, Savitri and Sridevi, in the family. The lord of the village Vakku Vanchipuzha was concerned about the safety of the women. They were brought to Vanchipuzha and rehabilitated there. The lord frequently enquired the welfare of the women. One day, when he visited them, the women were not traceable. The room they stayed in was full of cobweb. Strangely enough, two spiders were spotted in the web. Folks believed that the duo might have attained the feet of the lord. And their dwelling was soon converted to a temple. Named as the Spider’s temple, it is still well maintained. Perhaps, some of those who visit the temple may remember the hapless women who were found missing from their house.
‘Kuvadi’ in Malayalam means hillock. ‘Kuvadu mannu’ connotes the land of forest. Kuvadu mannu in course of time has become Koduman.
Many of the cities of Kerala are the gift of rivers. Chokiram, Paniyoor, Kodungallur, Thruppunithura, Thiruvalla, Thirunavaya, Aranmula, Chengannur and Pantalam- the list goes on endless. Punalur is no exception to this fact. It flourished on the banks of the river, Kallada. The industrious people converted into a prosperous city Punalur, renowned for its fertile soil and agricultural produce. Rubber, pepper and other forest products are a few to mention. Punalur can be called a forest city.
In ancient Kerala, each place was famed for a rare product or a curio: the mirror of Aranmula, the brassware of Mannar, the pappad of Vettathu, the knife of Vallapuzha, the jaggery of Alangad, the jack fruit of Vakathanam, the catapult of Kottari, the betel leaves of Venmani, the lumber logs of Cherthala, the halva of Kozhikode, the hand-pound rice of Nanchinad, the tunnel in Varkala, the ‘big ben’ at Thiruvananthapuram and the palpayasam of Ambalapuzha are all unrivalled for their uniqueness. On similar lines, Punalur is renowned for its ‘hanging bridge’. The Kallda River here is bedded with round shaped granite. This posed a technical challenge to construct a conventional bridge across the river. This has led to the design of the ‘hanging bridge’, the first one in Kerala. It is still used by the pedestrians though the railways constructed a firm bridge on account of the gauge conversion. Though historically Punalur does not claim much importance, it had been a flourishing trade center in forest produces. The earliest paper mill in Kerala was located here. It has now become extinct.
Let us now examine the origin of the name Punalur. ‘Punal’ in Malayalam translates to water and ‘ur’ means place. We come across in Ramayana a description of Sri Sita sitting under the Simsipa tree. She appears a picture of sorrow following the separation from Sri Rama and tears (punal) flow copiously down her cheeks. However, Punalur situated on a hillock, is well served by the river Kallada. There was no objection from any corner in naming the place Punalur.
However, the scenario today has changed. The Water Authority has come into existence. It serves the people by breaching the supply of water! The river Kallada is horribly polluted. It is referred to as modern Kalindi, the fabled river where the serpent Kaliyan was residing. The name Punalur smacks of a Tamil flavour, perhaps by dint of the proximity of the place to the State.
Ranni brings home a legendary name Kartha. Legend has it that a tiger carried away Kartha into the forest. Nevertheless, the people of Ranni refuse to believe the story. The story runs as under. Kartha virtually ruled Ranni. He dedicated himself to look after the welfare of the people. And his avocation consisted of capturing the pachyderms from the Ranni forest. Anyone else who captured the elephants from the forest was bound to pay a tax to Kartha. As the elephant trade flourished, Kartha rose to unchallenged prominence. As years passed, things went upside down. The elephant traps dug in the forest turned to go dry. Kartha tried his luck at different locations, but of no avail. He was much worried about his fast depleting finances. One day he heard about a famous man by name Thevalakara Nambi endowed with divine powers had come to Ranni to perform some rites in a house there. Kartha lost no time to approach the ‘tantri’ (one who performs divine rite) to ask the latter the reason for Kartha’s bad time. Nambi went into meditation. After a few moments, he consoled Kartha and told him that he would not worry and assured him that next morning Kartha would find a wild elephant each in all the pits set up. Nambi’s prophecy had come true. However, Kartha found in all the traps only the female of the species. Kartha never wanted them. He preferred only the tuskers. He set free the female elephants. Another day, Kartha found Nambi who smiled at Kartha and said, “ So, they are all of weaker sex”. “ Don’t lose heart. Tomorrow, you will find a tusker in the trap. Go and sleep peacefully”, he added. Nambi had that night a dream in which a stranger came to him and assured him that tuskers had fallen in all the trap pits he made. However, the stranger warned him that he should go to the forest and should be wary about bringing home the tusker in the fifth pit. Early morning, Kartha hurried to the forest. He could not believe his eyes. He found nine tuskers one each in the nine pits! The fifth trap nestled a baby tusker who was the darling of sight! Kartha totally forgot about the dream and the admonition the stranger administered to him. He ordered to bring the sibling out first. The trained elephants slowly towed him out with the help of ropes. As soon as the tiny tusker emerged from the pit, a tiger from nowhere surged towards Kartha and carried him way into the forest. In the mêlée that followed, the baby elephant also vanished from the site. The bewildered onlookers went to Nambi and to their dismay they learnt that he had already left the place. The people arranged on a grand scale the obsequies of Kartha. Poor man, he was caught by the leopard. Condoling so his death, they left the place.
After the month long ‘tantrik’ rituals in Shencottah, Tevalakara Nambi returned to Ranni through thick forests. When he reached the Achan kovil hills, a dwarf objected to his further journey stating that it is dangerous to proceed alone through the wild forest. Nambi asked the dwarf to follow him. Bhairavan Pillai, the dwarf, accompanied Nambi as though some one dragged him by means of an invisible rope. “Please let me free”, wailed Bhairavan Pillai. “I am not holding you. Be off”, replied Nambi. “Well, I will let you off, if you bring Kartha”, added Nambi. When Bhairavan Pillai made a gesticulation, the tiger was found bringing Kartha, believed to be killed by it. Kartha requested Nambi that Bhairavan Pillai would be let free as the latter looked after him well in the forest. Nambi agreed but warned him to avoid Bhairavan’s stratagems once again. The crowd was watching spellbound the dramatic events. They felt ashamed at the thought that they had performed the obsequies of Kartha and they left the place. The legend raises amusing response in every one who hears it. Perhaps, that would have been the purport of the author. Ranni was once a forest region. The Tamils came here to gather forest produce. The landless migrants surged to this region to be settlers. They cleared the forest and built shops and trading centers. And Ranni grew into a flourishing town. The Kartha community became in Ranni the chieftains, levying land lease. Enamored by the natural beauty of the place, the immigrant Tamils called it Rani (queen). In course of time, Rani corrupted as Ranni. Tamils still retain the name Rani for this town.
Another anecdote is in currency about the origin of Ranni’s name. Irranni was the name given to this place in early days, as given in the edicts. ‘Ira’ translates to lease or tax as given in the edicts. The Pandyan kings would have imposed abnormal tax on their subjects. Or, perhaps, the Kartha landlords might have resorted to heavy lease. Further, the Tamils who engaged in trade here might have paid a toll. However, the place where at the people had to pay a tax, toll or lease had come to be known as Iranni. In course of time, it might have changed to Ranni, the present name.
Erumeli maintains an in alien nexus with Sabarimala. Possibly, few people remain ignorant of this place, which forms a temporary camp for the pilgrims to the renowned shrine of Swami Aiyappa. Sabarimala harbours many a tale of the Swami’s adventures. Legend has it that a murder spree by the cruel monster, Mahishi, made the inhabitants flee the place. This mass exodus rendered the place a wilderness. Lord Aiyappa who came to know this hastened to Erumeli and killed the demon. Regaining their confidence, the emigrants returned to Erumeli to resume living there. Lord Siva came on his ox from the Himalayas to Erumeli to congratulate Aiyappa. While going to meet Aiyappa, Lord Siva tied (in Malayalam ‘ketti’) his ox (‘kala’) to a tree with a rope. This place is known as Kalaketti, the place where the ox was tied to a tree. Pilgrims perform a rite called ‘pettakettu’ at Erumeli en route to the shrine. Certain miracles take place when the devotees from Alapuzha and Alangad undertake this rite. A kite in the sky encircling the area is one of these. There is an old house where the Lord stayed when he came to do away with the demon. An old sword believed to be used by Aiyappa is preserved here. The devotees who visit the shrine make ‘pooja’ before it. Erumeli is reputed for its secular status. A Hindu temple and a Muslim mosque co-exist here. A rivulet flows in front of the temple.
The origin of Erumeli dates back to centuries. Erumeli is no more a hilly track. It has grown today into a full-fledged township. ‘Mahishi’ translates to Eruma. As Lord Aiyappa killed ‘Mahishi’ here, the place was known as Erumakolli. As time passed it has changed to Erumeli.
The geographical evolution of the name dominates the legendary claims. ‘Eru’ means hillock and ‘mali’ the plain. The place consisting of ‘eru’ and ‘mali’ was called Erumali that transitioned to Erumeli as centuries rolled by.
There is a saying in Malayalam which runs as ensues. Pada pedichu Panthalathu chennapol avide pantham koluthipada. This translates to when someone fled the army to Panthalam there was a fiercer army there. However, the saying contravenes the reality. No intruders can violate Panthalam, the place where Lord Aiyappa spent his happy boyhood. The saying was the invention of someone who loved the rhyming lines. One reaches the New Bridge in Panthalam descending a slope from Kulanada. There was an old bridge here, which was washed off, along with some experts who procured uprooted trees in floods, in a monsoon. The river originates from the Achankovil hills. It flows around Panthalam before it goes to its destination displaying its reverence to Lord Aiyappa, also known as Putharachan. The river is also named Achankovil. It thins in summer and assumes frightful dimensions during the monsoon manifesting a murderous appetite to devour every thing on its banks. People of the yore say that the river would bring a creeper which, if secured would bring a fortune to the preservers. They say it is highly evasive. Experts opine this is only a fable. The famous Panthalam palace is near the New Bridge. The royal lineage belonged to the Pandya dynasty. ‘Ettukettu’ (eight distinct structures enclosing an open space) and other palacious buildings are nestled in the palace precincts. Lord Aiyappa had a glorious childhood in this place till he migrated up hills in his youth. His gold ornaments, known as ‘Thiruvabharanam’ are kept in the strong room of the palace. During the celebrated Makaravilakku or Jyothi it is taken every year in procession with pomp and pageantry to ‘Sannidhanam’ (the sanctum of the Sabari shrine). As years go by, its fame and relevance grow. These days the festival has become an event of national importance. The devotion to Panthalam palace continues sans any diminution. In the early days the entire area around the palace including the surrounding forests belonged to the royal family.
Panthalam town developed around the palace. It burgeoned southward along the National Highway. Today, it is a fully developed city incorporating the Mission hospital, the college and other Government offices. The new RTC bus stand is a kilometer away from the old one. But the latter near the palace continues to be the people’s preference. However, the new bus stand enables the wanderlust to enjoy the copious natural beauty of the town.
Panthalam attained the status of a Municipality. Strangely, it was again demoted as a special grade panchayath. There is a temple here nestled by thick foliage. A yekshi (female demon) is feared to dwell on a banyan tree here. Speculation is that this place was a center of Buddhism?
There are a few versions about the origin of the name of the place. ‘Pontha’ in Malayalam means marshy area and ‘alam’ place. A place that abounds in ‘pontha’ has become Ponthalam, which corrupted to Panthalam. ‘Panthala’ translates to level area. The central area of Panthalam is planar. Pantha alam shrunk to Panthalam later. The place had nexus with the Pandya dynasty. So Pandya alam has become Pandyalam, which shortened to Pantalam in course of time. However, in the absence of any historical evidence or the finding of any edicts, the first theory gained currency in the origin of the name of this place.
Interesting folklores about Chengannur are in currency. The entire clan of gods thronged Kailasam in the Himalayas to celebrate the wedding of Lord Paramasiva with goddess Parvathy. The gods’ congregation caused at the spot an exceptional gravitation, which tilted the earth towards the North. Soon, Lord Brahma summoned Agastya, the rishi and requested him to proceed to Sonadri, a hilltop in the south and remain there till the celestial gang returned after the marriage. Agastya turned down the request stating that he would not be able to witness the great event. Brahma accorded him with an enabling divine faculty to witness the function. Then, Agastya complied with the request. Nonetheless, the deprivation left him disgruntled. To compensate this, the divine honeymoon was celebrated at Sonadri and it left Agastya happy.
A Harijan woman set out to gather grass for the heads of cattle. She sharpened her sickle on granite stone. Soon blood spurted from the stone. The news reached the chieftain in Vanchi puzha. He then consulted the astrologer who asserted the presence of a goddess there. With out delay, a temple was constructed here under the supervision of the famous Perunthachan for the goddess and Lord Siva. Siva has darshan to the East and the goddess, Parvathy to the West. The ‘thrupputharat’ here is famous.
The British chief Munroe once quizzed the validity of the festival here and he declared a ban on the festival. His wife soon fell ill. The symptoms defied the integrated treatment modes: ayurveda, allopathic and unani. Munroe then withdrew his prohibitive orders on the celebration of the festival and his spouse soon attained wellness. The temple of ‘kooth’ (a form of performing art) still remains an oddity. It symbolized the sculptural dexterity of Perunthachan. Egg shaped, its uniqueness lay in the engineering subtlety that it cast no shadow around. One could see the performance on the stage irrespective of the place one occupied. In course of time, tragedy struck it. A fire devastated it. The egg shape still survives to showcase its architectural excellence. Modern architects did not dare reconstruct it. The successors of Perunthachan are renowned sculptors. They render granite lumps into showpieces of sculptural rhapsody.
Reference to Chengannur can be traced to Chilapathykaram, a Tamil poem, composed by Ilankavadikal. It is mentioned in the poem as Kuntram. In Manipravalam composition a place by name, Changaniyoor is mentioned. But these names are reckoned as conjecture.
The temple here is situated on a molehill, which is reddish in colour. This has fetched the place its name. ‘Chem’ translates to red. This place abounds in laterites, reddish in colour. Chenkuntur has transformed to Chengannur, as time passed. In the Mampalli edict of A.D. 973, this place is referred to as Chenkuthoor. Chem + kunt + oor (respectively meaning as red +hill + place) integrate to Chenkuntoor. Certain Sanskrit enthusiasts tried to christen the place ‘Sonadri (Red hill) which did not stand the test of time.
Proliferating cockroaches all of a sudden plagued the inhabitants of Nilakkal village in North Kerala. Measures to control them, infesting the living spaces, proved of no avail. The villagers felt that life at Nilakkal is no more advisable. The entire villagers with their presiding deity made an exodus in search of “fresh woods and pastures new.” They reached the banks of the river Pumpa. They wanted to cross the river. As they were thinking of the means to do so, they noticed bamboos growing near by. The villagers collected some six choicest bamboo logs and made a raft out of them. They placed the deity on the raft. Then all of them boarded the raft and resumed the journey. The villagers reached a place called Idayaranmula. They rested the deity there. Since they found the place not conducive for settling, they retraced in their boat a bit and landed at that place. They found the area ideal for their rehabilitation. The villagers installed the deity on the banks of Pumpa. Since they reached the place on a raft made of six bamboo logs, the place was named Aranmula (six bamboo pieces).
This is the legend about the origin of the name Aranmula. Aranmula is reputed for many curios. The loftiest among them is the famed speculum with a handle (‘valkannadi’). This is made of bronze. Those days, it was made only in Aranmula. Legend has it that a newly wedded couple was fabricating bronze wear in their smithy. The husband died of a sudden. The wife could not contain her sorrow. She lay on the ground grieving over her irreparable loss. Meanwhile, the vessel containing the molten alloy tumbled and the latter spread on the ground. After some time, it solidified into a lump. Later, the lady rose up and was surprised to see her perfect reflection on the lump of the alloy. A new idea dawned on her. She thought of making mirrors out of the alloy. She knew the correct proportion of the ingredients. It was only a matter of time the new artistry, that made Aranmula renowned, took birth.
Another anecdote about the mirror is also in currency. The bronze wear workers turned lazy. Their king did not relish this. The workers then made a mirror of bronze and gifted it to the king. The ferry service using the boats, in Aranmula, is also famous.
Aranmula is a delta on the banks of the river Pampa. The fertile soil fetched it immense prosperity. The place does not lag in cultural renown also. The temple here is a splendid gift. The presiding deity is Lord Krishna, believed to be installed by Arjuna, one of the Pandavas. As per linguistics, relating the name to the six bamboos logs, as floated in the legend is not acceptable.
Reference to the place appears in old Tamil literature and in Thirunizhalmala, folklore. The name of the place given in it is Arinvila. A temple is situated here at a substantial height. A high basement was erected using the sand from the riverbed to construct the temple. Even floodwaters would not reach this level. The villagers used to seek refuge in the temple precincts during floods. Huge quantities of sand were mined from the river Pumpa to construct the temple complex. The remainder from the baskets, used to carry the sand, was deposited at a spot in the river. It led to the formation of an islet, named ‘kottathattimali’. Since the temple complex was built using the sand from the river, it was called Arinvila, a product of the river. Aru here refers not to the numeral six but to the river, Pumpa. Therefore, the legend-floated name is discarded.
In the evolution of the names of places, legends play a role albeit unrealistic. Folklore adds rich imagery to it. Nevertheless, there may be grains of historical and linguistic truth in them. Therefore, one shall accept the name as such.
The name of the place Kaviyoor has a Ramayana connection. Sri Rama went in exile to the forests as per the directions by Kaikeyi, one of the wives of Dasaratha. While living in exile, Rama’s wife Sita was abducted by Ravana, an asura. Rama and his brother, Lakshmana encountered numerous difficulties while tracing Sita. On their way, in search of Sita, they reached Pumpa and found nearby a beautiful lake. The variety of birds and the lotus flowers in the lake beefed up the sagging spirits of the brothers. The scenic beauty there enabled the duo to temporarily forget their miseries and anguish. Sugriva and Hanuman perching on a hilltop espied the divine brothers. Sugriva instructed Hanuman to go and find out whether they were enemies or friends. He asked Hanuman to bring them to him, if they were friends and to be wary if otherwise. Hanuman assumed the figure of a saint and approached Rama and Lakshmana. Sensing they were friends, Hanuman escorted the brothers to Sugriva, who entered into a pact with Rama. If Rama eliminated Sugrivas’ brother Bali, and helped Sugriva reclaim his kingdom, Sugriva would send his monkey brigade to locate Sita. The story runs up to this point in consonance with the one narrated by Valmiki. There after it takes a deviation and it may be attributed to the imagination of the author of the legend who named the place. Rama and Lakshmana along with the primate army, headed by Hanuman set out in search of Sita. They reached a place where the divinity of Lord Siva was perceptible. Rama wished to install an idol of Lord Siva there. He asked Hanuman to proceed and fetch the idol of Siva available in a molehill nearby. But Hanuman failed to locate the idol. However, Dasarathi made an idol of sand and installed it in order to keep with the propitious moment. Meanwhile, Hanuman succeeded in tracing the idol. He returned with it to learn that the ceremony was all over. Outraged at this, Hanuman threw away the idol. Noticing the change in Hanuman’s composure, Rama consoled him saying that he had adhered to the auspicious instant in consecrating the idol. He told Hanuman, if he so desired, he could replace the installed idol with the one he brought. Soon, Hanuman coiled his long tail round the idol and tried to uproot it. But he failed miserably to make any impact on the idol. A surprised Maruthy repeated his attempts only to disturb the surroundings. Seeing Hanuman sitting nearby and gaping for breath, the Lord told him that he would not be able to wrench the sandy idol. He advised Hanuman to erect nearby the idol he brought. This temple would be for Siva, Brahma and me. This Siva temple nestles Hanuman’s space also. The aval (made of fried paddy) ‘prasadam’ of this temple is famous. ‘Kapi’ in Malayalam translates to primate. The place that ensconces the temple of ‘Kapi’ has come to be known as Kapiyoor, that later transformed to Kaviyoor.
An edict procured here in A.D. 951, mentions the name of the place as Kaviyoor. Near Kaviyoor temple there is a cave temple named ’Trukakudi’. This temple is believed to be built in a night by devils. It was left unfinished. Legend has it that Hanuman never relished near his temple the presence of another, tending to outclass it. So, during the night the devils were busy constructing their temple, Hanuman assumed the form of a chanticleer and blew his clarion. Apprehending it was going to be dawn, the devils fled the construction scene, leaving the shrine unfinished. The temple, even today, wears a deserted look. No one conducts any consecration there. However, it is a treasure trove of historical facts. It offers a glimpse into the bygone era. The temple, the old timers consider, is steeped in speculations. Some think it had been a Buddhist pagoda. Others believe it had been a Jains’ vihar. The road from this temple precincts dips towards the West and reaches a marshy region, where a lake is located. It is named the ‘Velichenna’ (coconut oil) lake. A film of oil covers the water in it. There is many folklores about the lake. One day, in the dusk, a damsel stepped in to the lake, perhaps to take bath. She slowly started ‘dissolving’ into the water. Another story is that, in one unguarded moment, Hanuman with his primate proclivity uprooted the temple flag mast and flung it into the lake. It is believed to be still in it. Those who are plagued by poverty can make an explorative attempt to retrieve the mast to gain wealth. In the rear of the Siva shrine, there is a temple of Mahavishnu on the banks of the lake. The Siva temple outclasses the Vishnu temple. The presence of the other temples seems to be an attempt by some vested interests to rival the shrine Lord Siva. It can be surmised that there was an intrinsic faction fight between the Sivites and the Vishnavites to establish supremacy. The prominent Siva shrine seems to enunciate that the Sivites won the war. So the outclassed (kavinja) place (oor) has been named Kavinjaoor, which in course of time transformed to Kaviyoor. If any one is not convinced of this mode of naming, he can take recourse to the legend that fetched it its name.
Perunna is renowned for a devotional song on Velayudhan, Lord Subrahmanyam. The erstwhile elders of Kaipathur had a bizarre dream in one night. They were informed in the dream that the idol of Sri Muruga was lying deep in the river Kaipathur and that the interested, if visited the site, can locate it below a vortex where in flowers would be whirling. They reached the site and identified the said spot. The elders retrieved the idol and erected it at Perunna. Since then the village witnessed rapid progress and prosperity, which were attributed to Muruga. Perunna is a venerable town. People here are gracious, noble and god-fearing. They have exemplified that serving one community is not being antagonistic to another. Renowned leaders like, Mannathu Padmanabhan, Kalathil Velyadhan and the Kainikara brothers were born here, making Perunna a blessed place. The Head Quarters of Nair Service Society (NSS), founded by Mannathu Padmanabhan, is located here.
The miracles in the name of Murugan are aplenty. The princess Subhadra was not fortunate to be blessed with wedlock. She came to Perunna to perform shushty- a rite performed to get a bridegroom. She got the benefit soon. This seems to be the reason the girls throng the temple to perform this rite. Murugan never abandons, as experience proves, these devotees. It is necessary to learn ancient script to decipher the age-old edicts and writing on the palm leaves. This holy source of data helps unveil the name of places. The passage of time and the invasion of modernity have changed the name of many places. In this context searching the name of the place Perunna meets no results. An edict dating back to A.D. 1079, describes in ancient prose the nomenclature. It is mentioned as Perum neythal, which translates as seashore or large marshy land. The ancient people say that there was sea on the western side of Perunna. Perum neythal shortened in course of time into Perunna.
He was low caste wanderlust in Vazhapalli village. Veeradiyan, as he was known there, endlessly roamed the village to eke out a living. He was attired clownish: a rag sack on his back, a bamboo stick in the right hand, a palm-leaf umbrella in the in the left, an iron rod for writing on palm leaves stuck on his waist and a silk scarf wrapped around his head. He visited the landlords rollicking in their residences and the farmers striving in the field. He entertained the class and the mass, the rich and the poor alike with his appealing folksongs. One day a native of his place returned after visiting Kodungallur. He advised Veeradiyan to abandon the clownish wanderings and to go to Kodungallur. He spoke to Veeradiyan at length. “A handsome foreigner has arrived at Kodungallur. He meets people and makes amazing discourses. In his talks, he refers to cross, Christ and the like. He consecrates the water and sprays it in the air. The water particles stay in the air, twinkling like the stars. He is very kind to the poor. He performs magic, cures the sick and offers food to the hungry. They say that he is a disciple of a holy man in the foreign country. They mention his name as St. Thomas. If you are lucky, a visit to him may fetch you fortunes.” After leaving his friend, Veeradiyan pondered over what he narrated and decided to go to Kodungallur. When he reached the destination, he asked a passerby about the pastor. The latter replied that the pastor had already left for Malankara that morning. Veeradiyan proceeded to Malankara. There he saw the holy man conducting a discourse before a huge gathering. As he listened to the pastor, Veeradiyan felt that he was getting transformed. The great teachings, such as “ Love thy neighbour as thyself ”, “Do not nurse revenge against thy enemy” and the like had a telling effect on Veeradiyan. He felt that he was a new man. He darted to the pastor and fell on his feet. The prelate said, “ Rise, my son. You’re the servant of God. Go and propagate his messages. You’re authenticated for the job.” Veeradiyan kept spreading the great deeds and ideals of Christ. Veeradiyan’s descendants inhabited Vazhapalli till half a century ago. However, at present they are not traceable there.
Reference to Vazhapalli is traced to an edict of A.D. 830.It was one of the oldest cities. The edict was procured from an ashram called Thalamana. During the reign of the Kulasekhara dynasty, the king presided over the meeting convened to plan for the conduct of the obsequies. The eminent citizens of the region participated in the meeting. Vazhapalli had been a flourishing city those days, as mentioned in the cited edict. There was a high school named, Koyippuram here. An ancient wheel also procured from here. All these point to the antiquity of the Vazhapalli.
When Marthanda varma, the king of Venad, during his heydays, made a victory march, the chieftain of Venad dared prevent the march. He pulled down a wooden bridge, named Kannan Peroor, at the northern side of the city. His foolish act helped him only incur the eternal enmity of Venad. The Vishnu (Mahadevar) temple and the Kalkulathukavil Devi temple, renowned for the tonsuring ceremony, are the main attractions here.
Legend has it that a treasure trove used to come up in a vessel in a narrow well in the backyard of Chengazhimattam, the residence of a Brahmin. The festival of the village temple was conducted by collecting gold coins from the vessel. One day, the greedy villagers tried to pull out from the well the vessel employing an elephant and using a fat rope. As the pachyderm pulled out the vessel, its ‘ear’ came off and the treasure trove vanished into the abyss of the well. A cooking implement was made out of the ‘ear’ and it is used in the temple. In the edict, the name of the village is given as Vazhaipalli. Vazhai translates to plantain and ‘palli’ to village. The place that abounds in plantains came to be known as Vazhapalli. When Mannathu Padmanabhan organized the Nair Service Society (NSS) on October 31, 1914, it comprised fourteen members, three among whom hailing from Vazhapalli. Today, two leaders at the helm of the NSS are from Vazhapalli.
Changanasseri takes after a peninsula. The known history of the place commences with the rule of the Kulasekhara dynasty. It constituted part of a kingdom named Nantuzhi, a colony of the Kulasekharas. In the 12th century it was annexed to Thekkumkur. Later, when the latter became part of Travancore, Changanasseri also became so. Changanasseri is cited in the edicts of Vazhapalli, Thrukkodithanam and Perunna.
The name Changanasseri has different interpretations. Changa means water. One camp believes the name of the place has emerged from this word. Another attributes it to Sankara (Lord Siva). Yet another version is that it has come off from ‘sankanairseri’, the headquarters of the NSS. Belief is also in currency that certain ‘Sangham’ migrants from Magatha came and settled here. Consequently, the place acquired the name, Sanganthusseri, which, in course of time, changed to Changanasseri. The head of the settlers, Chenganan ruled the place for some time fetching it, some believe, the name.
The edicts do not mention this name. So it is assumed that the name is comparatively new. Some missionaries from the West corrupted the name as Changanagiri, perhaps out of their phonetic hassles. The native people name the place Changanari. The Chieftain of Thekkumkur donated a small piece of land (changazhi nazhiyuri – a paltry measure) for the construction of a church. The ‘changazhi nazhiyuri’ later shortened as Changanari. The old timers refer to the shrine as Changanari church. Later, the folks changed it as Changanasseri.
Divan Veluthampi established warehouses here. There is a boat-jetty nearby. Pandyakadavu, Vattapalli and Vazhzpalli are places nearby. An idol for the temple of a goddess was brought from Kalkulam, now in Tamil Nadu. The goddess, accordingly, acquired the name Kalkulam bhagavathi and the holy woodland came to be known as Kalkulathu kavu. Now the place is renamed Chakkulathu, the consonant ‘k’ was replaced by ‘ch’. In Malayalam, these consonants are interchangeable, for instance, keera (an edible plant) is also called cheera.
Marthanda Varma, the king of Venad, had been had a bizarre reception at Thiruvalla by its ruler. Only the ordinary workers of the ruler accorded the king a reception. The citizenry was conspicuous by its absence. The ruler himself never bothered to rise from his swing and welcome the king. Undeterred, Marthanda Varma, closely followed by his divan Ramayyan, stalked with his drawn sword like a lion. The lined up workers flanking the king appeared like lamps. However, the belittled king felt outraged at the gross violation of the protocol and tended to show his wrath. But the Divan pacified the king by his wise counsels. They were led to the dining room. The arrangements there for the feast simply baffled them. The food was served on a platter made of high carat gold. The arrangements were so designed as to display the pomp and pelf of the ruler. The king finished his meals haphazardly, distaste and reluctance writ large on his face. As the visiting dignitaries were leaving the hall, they heard the servants asking their chieftain what to do with the platter. The latter instructed the servants to throw it away. “ The rulers of Thiruvalla have no tradition of conserving defiled remains,” remarked the chieftain. Marthanda Varma could no more relish this remark. While leaving, the inmates were heard laughing at the duo. The king was at his wits’ end and he gave the Divan the green signal to finish the fiefdom using force to any extent except indulging in killing of Brahmins. The rest of the episode constituted rapid action. The palacious mansions were razed to the ground. All the wealth of the ruler was siphoned to the Tavancore palace and his fiefdom was annexed to the State. The ruler and his folks were just spared by the king because of his reverence to the Brahmins.
Thiruvalla abounds in legends. A young, pretty woman used to the temple in the village. It was not out of devotion but out of certain attraction that she visited regularly the shrine. One day, standing before the idol, she thought that a woman who gets a bridegroom as handsome as the lord should be a lucky one. As she stood there and peered into the idol, the latter lost its prettiness. The lost glory of the idol could be restored only after the performance of many temple rites. The incident triggered a temporary ban on entry of women to the temple. The river Manimala here is renowned for its crystal clear water. The Thiruvalla edict is believed to be the first prose text in Malayalam. Karunattu Kavu was a famous trade center that flourished here. The princely women here were notoriously haughty. King Kulasekhara had once convened a conference to discuss the conduct of the obsequies rites in the Thiruvalla temple. These historical facts are found in various works, like Unnuneeli sndhesam, Chandrotsavam and edicts of copper foils. The oldest reference to Onam, Kerala’s national festival is traced to the Thiruvalla edicts. The fortunes of Thiruvalla were safe in the hands of the rulers belonging to the dynasties of Kulasekhara, Thekkumkur and Venad.
Today, Thiruvalla is one of the most literate states of Kerala. It is prosperous and progressive. The name of the town is a phonetic transcription of the Malayalam words: ‘Sree Vallbha’. In an edict dating back to the 12th century, the place is named Thiruvalla vazha. In the poetic treatise Unnuneeli sandhesam of the14th century, we find the name as Vallavay. In the same work, the temple complex is named Mathilakam. We find this name Chandrotsavam also, which is in Manipravalam (a mix of Tamil and Malayalam). The name, Mathilakam, suggests the imposing, the sprawling temple walls. For example, the temple literature depicting the Padmanabha swami temple is called mathilakam treatise. So the term refers to the compound wall complex. The presiding deity in Thiruvalla temple is described as Vallavayikoilkollintappan. The old timers used to refer to him as Thiruvallzhappan. These names enshrine two syllables: valla+vay. The latter means shore or bank. The particle valla, some conjecture, signifies the river Manimala. However, no historical evidence is available to assume that valla means the river Manimala. The terms ‘vallam’ and ‘vallapattu’ signify irrigation canal. A close scrutiny of revenue records unveils the fact that such canals existed on the North side of the temple complex. Nevertheless, they were built in the ancient time. Probably, the syllable ‘valla’ refers to the canal system. The particle ‘thiru’ was prefixed to it to obtain the name Thiruvalla vay. The passage of time rid it of the last syllable to arrive at the current name of the place as Thiruvalla.
Parumala had been once renowned for noble deeds. But, of late, the place has become notorious for its misdeeds. These days ignoble acts attract repute. In Parumala, an imp (yakshi) was believed to be harming the people who loitered the streets in the night. However, the ‘yakshi’ that ruins modern Perumala is dirty politics that seduces the youth including the students. The conventional ‘yakshi’ was selective about her victims. She drank the blood of only the dreaded and those who tread the wrong path. But the modern one is indiscriminate in respect of her victims.
However, the ‘yakshi’ the central figure of the folklore came from the South. She started making life of the masses miserable. The pastor of the Kadamattam diocese tamed the imp and circumscribed her on a palm tree here. Kadamattathachan’s warning was so severe that even after his demise, the imp never dared display her atrocious behaviour.
Panayanar kavu is an important landmark here. The tall palms, the dense flora and the marsh create a fearsome ambience around it. As a matter of fact, the poetic description of Panayanar kavu in the treatise, Unnuneelisandhesam, evokes horror. The presiding deity in the temple is Bhadrakali in anger profile after killing Darikan, a legendary demon. The idols of gods around constituting the entourage of the presiding deity also present an angry mood. The surroundings change at the dusk. Pitch darkness that envelops the area evokes terror. Strange, fearful, ghoulish noises enhance the horror about the place. The inhabitants around tried to propitiate the Mother Goddess. She agreed to bring calm in the area on certain conditions that involved crude rites including human and animal sacrifice. The thirst for blood of the gods increased and the gruesome rites kept proliferating. The devotees dared not offer their prayers standing before the sanctum sanctorum. Finally, the entrance on the eastern side was closed and the practice of human sacrifice was abolished. A clan by name ‘Adisar’ was in authority of the temple. The head of the clan conducted the rites. The old-timers go eloquent when they narrate the grandiose of the temple.
In the Ambalapuzha temple, one day, an elephant died. The people were concerned about the disposal of the carcass and it was not that easy. The issue was debated in a gathering but no solution was in sight. Meanwhile, some enthusiasts instituted a collection spree and disappeared with the fund raised. The decaying carcass remained in the precincts of the shrine. Some suggested to consult the Panayanar temple to find a way out. So, messengers were sent to Panayanar the temple where from the velichapad ( a rites performer who subsumes the holy spirit ) has come. He got into his usual rituals, stormed towards the carcass, collected some vibhuti and cast the same on it. He then shouted, “Get up!” In an instant, the pachyderm stood there! “Now, come on, walk,” thundered the velichapad. The animal started walking instantly. After it reached a uninhabited place, the velichapad announced to bury it. In honour of the miraculous relief rendered by the velichapad, the Ambalapuzha temple authorities gifted gold ornaments to the deity in the Panayanar temple. The ruler from Chiravay palace in Kdapra had gone to Panayanoor and served the goddess in the temple. Pleased with his devotion, she became a fireball and streaked to the palm near a Siva temple in Parumala. Amazed at this divine phenomenon, the ruler constructed a temple there and installed the idol of the goddess there in. The goddess who migrated to Parumala from Panayanoor came to be known as Panayanar kavilamma.
Parumala is near Mannar. Rivers encircle it. A church here has made the place a famous pilgrim center for the Christians. The Devaswom board runs a college at Perumala. There is a small hillock here. Some believe that the name Paru mala (small hillock) has evolved from the presence of the hillock. But experts opine that ‘paru’ does not translate to tiny or small. In fact, it means big. In that case, the name may have to mean ‘Big hill’. But it actually is small one. So, this nomenclature is void. Paru translates to sugarcane, which is ubiquitous here. Therefore, the name implies a place characterized by cane sugar and hill. This way the naming sounds quite sound.
The fear of poisonous snakes is common. This reptile fright, in fact, constitutes the cultural backdrop of Kerala’s history. The ancient houses in Kerala were unique in design and construction. The four-sided structure, the spacious sprawl in the front, the space for thulsi- a holy plant, the pond with bathing ghats and the tiny thicket for the serpents characterized these houses. The thicket for the serpents was mandatory to every house. The modern environmentalists praise in this aspect the wisdom of the ancient Keralites, who maintained a healthy ecological balance with the nature by providing a space for the snakes. Nature comprises all: humans, animals, reptiles, birds, shrubs and forests. The destruction of one species will be at the cost of others. A wholesome balance between the flora and the fauna is inevitable for the survival of life. However, the deadly poisonous cobras cannot be perpetually accommodated in the human company. So, a separate habitation was provided for them in a corner of the precincts of the houses. The thickets sustain the moisture of the soil. The defilement of thickets leads to the evaporation of the water mass. The old timers originally sounded this admonition. Modern environmentalists only echo it. The fecundity of snakes, probably, led to the worship of them in Kerala. This may be the reason that there are many serpent shrines in the State. The Nagaraja temple in Vettikot occupies the foremost place amongst these shrines. The ailyam (the ninth zodiac day in the Malayalam calendar) celebration is famous here. Vettikot is a remote village that lies east to Kyamkulam in Kerala. Modernity gradually keeps creeping into this village. The temple has an organic nexus with the name of the place. That Parasuraman reclaimed Kerala from the ocean by throwing his axe into the latter is a famed legend. The sea over the portion demarcated by the falloff the axe retrieved throwing up the landmass. The land was sullied by salinity and the people declined to settle there. Parasuraman hastened to Lord Siva to fetch a solution. Siva suggested cultivating through out the land thickets for the snakes. The gases the reptiles expire would neutralise the alkalinity, the Lord advised. At that time, Anananthan, the king of serpents, was doing penance in the mount Gandhamadana. Parasuraman hurried to the mountain and propitiated him. Ananthan was pleased with Parasuraman who narrated his woes to the former. Ananthan agreed to help Parasuraman and, with his entire entourage, came along with the latter to Vettikot. As suggested by Siva, the serpents’ habitation brought about the result. The duo was happy. The rationale of the legend is of course, speculative or debatable. However, crystal clear streams are aplenty in thickets. Perhaps, the legends hint the nexus between thickets and pure water. The land Parasuraman reclaimed was predominantly marshy. So, he had to heap (vetti koot in Malayalam) the soil to raise a plateau to install the idol of Nagaraja. As the temple came up after heaping up the soil, the land acquired the name Vetti kooti, which, in course of time, rendered itself to Vettikot.
Another theory about the origin of the name is that the thickets abound in chiefly a plant called Vetti and its plentitude gifted the place its name Vettikot.
Perhaps, one may be surprised to learn that Kayamkulam was originally known as Kayamkollam. This rhymes with many places in Kerala: Kurakennikollam, Panthalayanikollam, Kollamkode, Kollakadavu and the like. The fragment ‘kollam’ adds as a prefix or suffix. The earliest reference can be traced to the treatise unnuneeli sandhesam. Kollam was a flourishing trade center. The Tamils brought textiles to sell here and in turn they bought pepper and took it with them. The Portuguese who had already set their foot here by then were piqued at the enterprising Tamils. They conspired with the native Nairs who were promised a price of Rs. 50 per Tamil head. They Nairs went on a spree of decapitation spree of the Tamils who abandoned the trade to save their heads. The monopoly of the pepper trade slid into the Portuguese hands. Of course, the subsequent migrants, the Dutch, and the English usurped the trade rights from the Portuguese.
Kayamkulam was reputed for its (coconut palm groves. Even today, the palm trees grow there in abundance. A coconut research center is located in Kayamkulam, which sells quality saplings to popularize coconut farms. The inhabitants resort to this even by reclaiming the lake.
One of the kings of Kayamkulam had been a powerful ruler in central Travancore. He had, in fact, been a nightmare to the rulers of Venad. When attack threatened, the rulers of Thekkumkur, Vadkkumkur and Champakasseri sought the help of Kayamkulam. The sword of the ruler of Kayamkulam is reputed for its double edge cleaving, leading to its name becoming an adage in Malayalam. Kantiyoor matam, the first capital of Kayamkulam, was later shifted to Eruve. During this period, the kingdom came under frequent attacks by Travancore but remained unaffected. Ramiaha, the diwan of Travancore, attributed the invincibility of the Kayamkulam kingdom to the divine wheel (chakra) possessed by the ruler. So, Ramiaha schemed to steal the wheel. But, As long as Variyar of Eruva remained alive, the task was impossible. However, Ramaiah had a reputation for military stratagems and treachery. He impersonated himself and robbed the divine wheel. The acquisition of the divine wheel triggered in its wake a succession of victories in favour of Travncore. When defeat became, in a battle with Travancore, certain for Kayamkulam, its ruler sent his family and properties including diamonds and gold to Trichur. The personal effects were sunk in the Ashtamudi Lake. Lastly, the ruler also escaped. When the army of Travancore stormed the Kayamkulam palace, they encountered only the junk left by the inmates. However, Kayamkulam acceded to Travancore. Some suspect that Kayamkulam had been the capital of Odanad. The legendary Kayamkulam Kochunni has become a hero in celluloid and the small screen. He helped his accomplices by sharing with them the booty they plundered from the rich. But the heap of praise on him is unwarranted as his lauded generosity is debatable. Nevertheless, he figures as an eternal hero in the folklore.
The author of Sabdataravli (dictionary), in his work, claims that Kayamkulam had an alternative name Kayamkollam. Kayam refers to lake. Kollam, in Tulu dialect, means town. So, the town on the banks of the lake has come to be known as Kyalkollam. There is phonetic similarity between the terms kollam and kulam. Thus Kayalkollam has finally transformed to Kayamkulam. Kayal in Malayalam translates to bamboo thicket. The raisin of bamboo was a pastime of the ruler. This would have led to the emergence of the name Kayalkulam that would have metamorphosed to Kayamkulam.
The venue was the temple of Kantiyoor matam in Mavelikara. The time was Medam 8, 393 (Malabar Era). A mat was spread on the ground in front of the temple. Three thrones were set at one end. The pundits, the military personnel, the prominent citizens and others had assembled there. The ruler of Venad, Iravi Kerala Varma occupied one throne. Iraman Kothavarma and the notorious femme of Kantiyoor flanked him.
The plenary session was convened to discuss the modalities relating to the renovation of the Siva shrine founded in A.D. 823. The femme appeared to be the prima donna. Her instructions were never disputed or refuted. The rulers readily conceded to her orders. The woman had a profound influence on the citizenry. What transpired in the conference was a clear evidence of the fact. The edicts in the Kantiyoor temple portray this incident, which uncovers that the whores occupied a respectable position in society those days.
The term theviddissi, which translates as wench evolved from ‘devadasi’, the courtesan of the god. The word had no bad connotations those days. Even the social code accepted the m as mistresses. Cherukara kuttathi and Unniyadi were reputed courtesans of Kontiyoor. Subsequently, these women fell from fame. And the term acquired illicit sense. Kantiyoor is located between Mavelikara and Thattrambalam. Once, it was the capital of Odanad. The Sanskrit compositions mention this. There is a Siva temple located centrally in the town. Kantiyoor Siva shrine, one of the ancient mega temples, was constructed in A.D. 823. It witnessed the rise and ruin of Odanad. The temple is known for its historical associations. The illustrious Damodara Chakkiyar wrote his magnum opus ‘Unniyadi charitham’ sitting on the pylon of this temple. It was a treatise on chakkiyar kooth (a performing art of Kerala).
Kantiyoor was a flourishing trade center. The Sree parvatham market was near this place. A description on this market finds a place in the Unniyadi charitham also. The place was blessed by the presence of the goddess Lakshmi, as recounted in Unnuleelisandhesam. The poetic composition mentions Cherukara Kuttathi, Cherukara Unniyadi, Muthoot Elayachi, Kurungad Unnineeli, Kurungad Unnichakki, Chiruthevi- all courtesans of Kantiyoor shrine.
There are two locations in Kantiyoor viz., Thekke matam and Vdake matam. The latter is also known as Kantiyoor matam. Narayingamannur, the palace of the ruler of Odanad, was located at Kantiyoor matam. There is lack of historical credentials to know how long Kantiyoor matam remained the capital of Odanad. The Sandhesa kavyam narrates that it remained so in the 14th century. Odanad was alternatively known as Kayamkulam. At sometime, the capital had been shifted to Eruva. The reason for the capital shift is not clear. Probably, it would have been prompted by the emergence of the powerful kingdoms, Venad and Chempakasseri. In ancient days, the enemy kingdoms preferred the water routes. Situated on the bank of a river, Eruva was ideal to thwart possible incursions of the enemy. However, the capital shift from Kantiyoor reduced the importance of the place. Later, a royal family migrated from Kolathunadu to Mavelikara changing the fortune of the latter and consigning the name of Kantiyoor to the dustbin of history. Today, the place is known only for the Siva shrine.
Probably, the name Kantiyoor has nexus with Neelakantan, Lord Siva, by dint of the temple. In North Kerala, ‘kanti’ in Malayalam means residential site or region. Perhaps, the name would have emerged from this meaning. But, in Southern Kerala, the term connotes thick algae. Lagoons and ponds abound in Southern Kerala. The stagnant water bodies are suffused with thick algae. This ecological fact might have endowed Kantiyoor with its name. And it remains unchanged.
There is a small hamlet on the Western side of Kuttnad. It is located a couple of kilometers away on the East of Ambalapuzha. Abounding in rivulets, canals, paddy fields and ryot families, this tiny village does not claim any other importance. It never constituted the capital of a kingdom or the headquarters of a taluk. Still it attained fame and glory, by dint of the presence of ‘Karumadi kuttan’. When the Tibetan ruler Dalai Lama visited Kerala, he did not fail to have a darshan of Karumadi kuttan. For the natives, the latter is a deity but for Lama he has been the god in visible form. Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, the poet of the populace of Kerala rendered the name, Karumadi kuttan, eternal through his poetry. He described the Harijan kid as ‘karumadi kuttan’. However, Karumadi kuttan of Karumadi remains anonymous. Nobody knows where he came from, whether he belongs to Karumadi or whether he migrated from elsewhere. ‘Kuttan’ is a mere pet name. Sankara, Varkey or Ramachandran are called ‘kuttan’.
Folklores abound about Karumadi kuttan. The child (unni) of Chempakasseri house (mana) had grown up and became the ruler of Ambalapuzha. His rise to the status of the ruler created envy in some of the people. They wanted to wreak revenge on the ruler. They created a monster through black magic and sent him to Karumadi to do away with the king. As the fiend proceeded to Amblapuzha, the goddess stopped him at Kamapuram, as the place was then known. The goddess cursed him to be granite statue. It came to be known as Karumadi kuttan. Another anecdote narrates that Krumadi kuttan was none other than Chenkuttuvan, the ruler of Kuttand. Another episode that gained currency was that a low caste man once inadvertently touched the Vilvamangalam swami and the enraged swami turned him to a statue. The statue was christened Kuttan. Yet another version is that Kuttan is a presiding deity of the village, protecting the crops. That the farmers commence cultivation only after paying obeisance to Kuttan supports this belief. Still another episode unveils that an engineer of the Travancore PWD retrieved the idol from a water body near Thottapalli. He installed it in a pillared hall at Karumadi. Some people adduce an explanation to establish this theory. Thottapalii, Karumadi and the contiguous regions constituted a flourishing Budhist center in ancient days. The famous Budhist center, Sreemoolavasam was believed to be located near Thottapalli. One fo the idols here fell in the canal and the good natured engineer happened to recover it and install it. The idol exhibits the characteristics of Budhist sculpture.
The deity’s left hand is missing. It is said that one of the elephants of the Amblapuzha temple had run amuck. On its way, the pachyderm found Karumadi kuttan ‘resting calm and composed’. Enraged further, the hysteric runner tusked the deity leading to the loss of its arm.
The Sankaranarayana shrine in Kamapuram is a venerable temple. The granite lamp there is believed to move imperceptibly to the abode of the ‘yakshi’ (imp). The lamp had originally been in front of the abode of the imp. When Tipu Sultan made a military show, the frightened villagers uprooted the ‘dhwajam’ (flag mast) and flung it into the canal. In its place, the stone lamp was set up. But the latter failed to stick to its site. Devotees believe that it keeps moving to its original location. Once the lamp reaches its place of original location, the flag mast, it is predicted, may be located in the water. Some people believe that the earlier name of Karumadi had been Kamapuram. But, there is no rationale in this belief, which is prompted by the presence the name in the Sankaranarayan temple. ‘Karu’ connotes black. Kuttanad is reputed for black soil. Kari means, apart from black, place. The name of places in Kuttanad like Ramankari, Urkari, Kumarankari and Kainakari fortify this construction. Ancient edicts corroborate this deduction. Kari is interchangeable with karu. Adi translates to place. Place where teak trees abound is known as Thekkadi. Place located near kalil (shore) is called Kaladi. Place suffused with black soil is named Kariyadi, which underwent changes to become names like Karimadi and Karumadi. Regions reclaimed by filling with black soil are also called Karumadi. And such places are not rare in Karumadi.
The Sri Krisna temple in Ambalapuzha is reputed for its palpayasam (a kind of rice pudding prepared with milk and jaggery). The fabled origin of palpayasam runs as follows. The ruler of the kingdom failed to pay his debts in terms of paddy. He had to hang his head in shame before the Brahmin whom the king was indebted to. The sad plight of the king piqued the diwan. He made a few rounds in the village, which triggered a flow of paddy into his residence. Heaps of the grain cropped up in front of the house. The diwan ordered the Brahmin to complete consumption of the paddy before the poojah that was in progress. The Brahmin was caught on the horns of a dilemma. No one offered himself to carry off the paddy. The Brahmin knew that if he transgressed the diwan’s order, his head would roll. An idea dawned on him. He declared that the grain was meant for the deity of Ambalapuzha. The entire grain should be immediately moved to the temple to prepare palpayasam.many poets and artistes flocked at Alapuzha to indulge in their vocation. They include Melpathur Bhatathiri, Thunchath Ezhuthachan, Kunjan Nambiar and the like. During the incursions of Tipu Sultan, the presiding deity of Guruvayoor temple also is believed to have come here. The ruler of Ambalapuzha, Devanarayanan, had been a patron of great port of Kerala.
Devanarayanan was fond of listening to the error-free recital of the epic, Mahabharatham. One day, the regular recitalist failed to turn up. The king’s servants made frantic efforts to fetch one. They located a Brahmin sitting on a podium and reading the epic. They brought him to Devanarayanan. “Do you read well?” Devanarayanan asked the visitor. Grabbing the import of the query, the latter replied, “ cursively.”
The visitor sat on a mat and started reading the holy book. His reading exuded exquisite clarity, which surprised the ruler. While reading the portion describing the crushing defeat of the Kaurava army, the reader inserted into the text a couplet of his own. He read that fearing the club of Bheema sena, the Kauravas fell at the back of the ear instead of on the feet of Karna. This had implication of a baldhead. Being a baldhead, the ruler took cognizance of the dig at him by the reader. “Is it in the text?” asked the ruler. “ No, it’s my addendum”, replied the reader. Growing skeptical, Devanarayanan enquired of him whether he was Melpathur Bhatathiri. As he received a positive answer, the ruler embraced the great poet and pleaded with him to stay in his palace. During his stay at Ambalapuzha, the poet crafted many of his works: a treatise on grammar, champukkal and the like. There is a popular episode about Kunjan Nambiar. While residing at Kidangur, he accompanied to Ambalapuzha the Chakkiyar who staged ‘kooth’, a performing art in Kerala. During the stage performance, Nambiar played a percussion instrument called ‘mizhazvu’. The repetitive task bored Nambiar to the core. One day during the stage action, Nambiar was caught in a nap. Chakkiyar fully utilized the opportunity to lambaste Nambiar. Though annoyed at this, Nambiar kept his cool, as Chakkiyar was free to give a dressing down to any one if it lies with in the armpit of contextual relevance in respect of the instance of the performing art. Next day Nambiar decided to seek revenge on Chakkiyar. He attired himself funnily by tying a string of napkins around his waist, and wearing a crown and anklets made of tender leaves of the coconut palm. When Chakkiyar started performing ‘kooth’, Nambiar started his novel performing art, called ‘ottam thullal’, which involved vigorous body movements, rapid runs and small jumps. The folk immensely liked the new art form. Vexed with ‘kooth’, they gathered around Nambiar’s solo performance and applauded him profusely. The themes were culled from epics only. The language was awfully simple. Humour suffused his script. The ruler of Chembakasseri, his retinue and the folks rejected ‘kooth’ and accepted readily ‘ottam thullal’. Later, when the ruler of Venad annexed to it Ambalapuzha, Nambiar shifted his arena to Anathapuri. However, Dharmaraja, the ruler of Venad was more interested in Kathakali. So, Nambiar had to return to Ambalapuzha. Finally, he succumbed to rabbis allegedly breaking the regimen in diet. Kunjan Nambiar was the first popular poet in Malayalam. These anecdotes do not bear credence to rationale. It is assumed that Nambiar would have absorbed the salient features of ‘kooth’ and devised the performing art ‘ottam thullal’.
Ambalapuzha claims a remarkable tradition. Ezhuthachan is believed to have written the Malayalam version of Ramayanam while he strayed here. Sahithya Panchanan and his successors belonged to this place.
Legend says that a saint installed the deity in the temple here after spitting the residue of chewed betel. This led to the naming of the place as Thamboolapuzha, which later changed to Ambalapuzha.The argument is not plausible. The name has a nexus to the presence of the famous Sri Krishna shrine. ‘Ambalam’ in Malayalm translates to temple and ‘puzha’ to place. The place where the shrine exists is christened Amblapuzha.
The Christins of Edathva were a deprived lot. They did not have a shrine to worship. They had to proceed for the purpose to the Kallurkattu church in Chambakulam. Their counterparts in Chambakulam spoke ill of this liability of the Christians in Edathva. The hapless people of this place had not even a passable road t reach Chambakulam. They had to encounter lagoons and rivulets on their way. Often, they happened to be late for the assemblage. They made to the lord a de profundis to end their woes. The Lord seemed to acknowledge their plea. The faithful of Edathva decided to build a church in their diocese. With their collective involvement and cooperative efforts, they succeeded to erect the church in no time. The believers heaved a sigh of relief. They no more required struggling their way to Chambkulam to say their prayers.
The Edathva church is famous now and is a flourishing space for various religious rites. The betel is ubiquitous object of veneration in Kerala. In auspicious rituals, like wedding and oblation its leaves are widely used. The faithful fling the leaves at the deity when the latter is brought in procession to the sanctum. Also, they use string line of the leaves to garland the deity. They perambulate on knees the sanctum. This symbolic ritual reminds one of the collective efforts and labour the inhabitants evinced in the construction of the church. The construction activity was a great leveler. No one assumed himself as an overseer. All contributed their might and mite in the building activity. Some carried the sand and granite; some dug the ground; others fetched the bricks. The way to heaven is paved with difficulties. The pilgrims to Sabarimala carry the ‘irumudi kettu’ (the two pronged head load of offerings) that symbolizes this truth.
A flourishing teak tree in the precincts of the church affords abundance of shade to it. During pilgrimage season, the tree turns burly as the devotees pluck its leaves, which are believed to possess medicinal properties.
Edathva is located on the Western side of Thiruvalla, beyond Podiatric, Neerethupuram and Thalavadi. All these places constitute a delta. These names bear n nexus to water in the form of rivers, lagoons and the like. Nedumudi (place near rivulet) and Ashtamudi (branched octal) are examples. Edathva had another name, Pacha, meaning green. Many places in Kerala are named after colour, like Kari (black) mala, Manja (yellow) pra, Neelam (blue) peroor, Chenga (red) nnur and the like. Edathva comprises two syllables: Edath (left) va (bank, shore). The place located on the left side bank of the river is named Edathva. Think of Aluva!
A trader in Alapuzhza (his bio-data is irrelevant, as this is a folklore) has come to know that C.P.Ramaswami Iyer, the controversial diwan of Travancore, was proposing to widen the public roads in Alapuzha. The trader foresaw that the proposal would adversely affect his business centers. He pondered over a plan to forestall the imminent action. The finest way, He thought, was to win the favours of C.P, as the diwan was popularly known. The trader procured some fine canes from the Nilampur forest and a costly fabric to fashion an umbrella. Expert artisans were summoned to accomplish the task. When finished, the umbrella appeared a collector’s piece. Trader soon reached Bhaktivilasom, the residence of C.P. and offered his gift on a platter. The perfect gift gladdened C.P. The trader was also happy as C.P. dropped his proposed road widening. The anecdote showcases the business tact of the traders in Alapuzha.
Alapuzha was a reputed trade center in central Travancore. The history of Alapuzha begins from the date Rajakesavadasan assumed the governance as diwan of Travancore. Its history beyond that period is shrouded in darkness. However, it had been a neglected marshy space. Rajakesavadasan helped the formers to reclaim it by dumping huge quantities of earth and convert it to a coconut palm grove. Alapuzha has now emerged as a town. The presence of the Vembanad Lake and the natural canals in Alapuzha paved suitable for water transport linking it to places like Kottayam and Changanasseri. Soon the town emerged as a natural harbour exporting coir, copra and other forest produces to foreign countries.
Rajakesavadasan excelled diwan Velu Thampi in foresight and business acumen. He perceived the potential of the town as a harbour. Rajakesavadasan was a clerk working under a merchant, Pokumoosa. The patriot visualized that, if the harbour materialized, central Travancore would prosper. The importance of the ports at Kollam and Vizhinjam was dwindling those days. So, a new harbour was a felt need. And the diwan felt that its location at Alapuzha between the deep sea and the Vembanad Lake would be ideal.
The bridge built over the sea facilitated to load the consignments into the ship. A lighthouse was erected to help the voyagers. These facilities have become a fascination to the posterity.
For about two decades, Alapuzha remained at the height of fame and prosperity. Then, with the development of Fort Cochin, the former fell from grace.
On August 17, 1957 Alapuzha district was formed. The first planned town in the State, it comprises six taluk: Cherthala, Kuttanad, Ambalapuzha, Karthikapalli, Mavelikkara and Chengannur. The paddy cultivation in Kuttanad, once renowned as the rice bowl of Kerala is now in a shambles. The ushering in of the network of roads and the spree of conversion of paddy fields to residential areas have rendered the fertile farmland into concrete jungles.
Pathiramanal in Alapuzh is a renowned tourist resort. The isle in Vembanad Lake is believed to be the creation of Vilvamangalam Swami. The Swami was one day traversing the lake. He felt suddenly to pass urine. He never liked to sully the water. So he picked up a handful of mud, muttered certain mantra and placed it on the water surface. Soon, the area transformed into an isle. The city with its splendid constructions and its natural beauty acquired the sobriquet: ‘ The Venice of the East’.
Ancient records on the origin of the name of the place are scarce. The name evolved from the Malayalam terms ‘alam’ which means water or ocean and ‘puzha’, which, inter alia, means outlet. The outlet to the ocean was christened Alapuzha. Another construction also prevails. ‘Alam’ means broad and ‘puzha’ river. The presence of a broad river fetched the place the name. The presence of Pallithuruthi river fortifies the claim.
He was an ascetic with divine powers. He was capable of seeing the invisible gods and goddesses. No body knew his name. Once, while walking along the banks of a lake, he noticed an angel, bathing in the lake. Seeing the Swami, she ran away in shyness and jumped in to another lake. Swami tracked her. She repeated the task till finally she landed up in a slushy lake. The enraged Swami grabbed her luxuriant locks and made her sit at a place. This place is named Cherthala- the place where the goddess with mud (cher) spattered head (thala) is sitting.
The fact that the ascetic kept muttering epithets while consecrating the idol had led to the ritual of a reciting, called poorappattu (slang and abusive verses) a la Bharani pattu. The Kokasandhesam treatise mentions these rites as an imitation of horror stories. Divotion is a sort of intoxication. Different people manifest it in different modes. Poorappattu and Bharanipattu are such manifestations. Cherthala has a reputation for an offering to God (nivedyam), called ‘Cherthal thadi’. It is prepared in an odd way. Rice and jaggery are mixed. The mix, in small quantities, is then wrapped in areca nut leaf butt and buried in sand. It is then roasted as such with fire over the sand. It is said that the baked sweet tastes excellent.
A foreigner who compiled a zoological treatise entitled “Hortus Malabariccus’ was posted with data by the natives. Cherthala became a center of native physicians because of its alleged connectivity with the Buddhist faith.
In early days, Cherthala remained the headquarters of district in Travancore. Ancient Cherthala had another name: Karappuram meaning the landmass between the sea and the lake. Those days a sort of a ‘cold war’ prevailed between Travancore and Kochi because of their unexpressed intention to annex Karappuram. Kochi has a sentimental nexus with Cherthala. A royal family one of the kings of Kochi had been in Karappuram. By dint of this connection, the royal members of Kochi were known as serfs. However, Cherthala remained part of Travancore for long. Those days, the village officer of Thannermukkam in Cherthala looked after the affairs of the famous temple in Vaikom. The officer acquired those days a sobriquet on this score. The fable author says that Cherthala has originated from ‘cher’ (mud) and ‘thala’ (head) as explained elsewhere. In antediluvian times, Alapuzha remained submerged in the Arabian Sea. Later the sea retrieved and the landmass emerged. The new land was named Cherthalamwhich translates in Malayalam to merged land. The contention that the name meant a place full of slush and marsh (cher) also hold water.
Vechur is a beautiful hamlet located seven kilometers from the historical city of Vaikom. It is an ecologically vibrant village bordered by canals, rivulets, lakes and paddy fields. Serenity and plentitude are its hallmark. Long ago, the village was reputed for its celebrated bovine breed. Lengthy tail and stubby horns were the characteristics of these cows. The cows were comely, cute, and docile and took after calves. Even the children could manage them easily. They did not eat voraciously and, hence, were economical for domestication. They used to sell like hot cakes those days. However, the crossbreed genre that has spread widely these days diminished their popularity. Lately, the authorities are reported to have been conducting research on this breed.
A famous ‘Kathakali artist by name Vechur Raman Pillai belongs to this place. When he raised cries of rage on the stage, they sounded like the furious sea roar. His stentorian voice spread amongst his stage compeers the phrase Asante ‘erappu’ (roar).
A church in Vechur is an important landmark here. It attracts many devotes. The deity here is Virgin Mary and is known as ‘murthy’. The shrine is believed to be built in the 14th century with the consent of the Vadakkumkur state. A beautiful portrait of Virgin Mary, believed to be a true copy of the one painted by St. Luke adorns the sanctum of the church. A fable about the portrait is in currency. The Christians in Kerala gave an order through the Portugese for seven copies of Virgin Mary. The artist could complete only six of them and the outline of the seventh one at the agreed deadline. When the clients pressed for the portraits, the portraitist packed the lot, including the unfinished one, and arranged the delivery through the Portugese. When the parcel was opened at the church, the receiver found all the portraits complete in all respects. The seventh one adorns the shrine. The painting became a big draw in Vechur church. During this time Tipu Sultan of Mysore was indulging in the conquest spree towards the South. The faithful were concerned about the safety of the portrait facing a threat of theft. So they made over it for its safe custody to the Portuguese in Kochi. Subsequently, it passed on to Idakkochi. When the clouds of conquest cleared, the Vechur citizens went to Kochi to fetch the painting. To their dismay, they found it missing. Gathering some clues, the citizens straight away went to Idakkochi. They located the portrait in some hide out and forcibly took it away to their place. Though the people of Idakkochi pursued them to take back the painting, they had to abandon their attempt thanks to the sudden fury of the Nature.
There is a place Kudavechur in Vechur. The name is said to have emanated from ‘olakkuda’ meaning the umbrella made of palm leaves. The place where olakkuda was ceremonially placed was called Kudavechur. This construction does not carry conviction. A more plausible explanation for the name of the place comes from the fact that the sea gifted it. Vechur comprises places as Kudavechur and Idayazham, names that imply the nexus to the sea. The people here are mainly farmers. Paddy and coconuts are the prime produces. Some eke out their living from fishing. The Vembanattu Lake and the rivers pave suitable for them to pursue their mode of living.
Once, the Arabian Sea had been extending farther eastward. The names such as Cherthala and Viacom suggest that the landmass emerged when the sea retrieved. The relatively higher areas became land and the lower ones still remain as water bodies like the Vembanattu Lake. These geophysical changes might have occurred, perhaps, thousnd years ago. Like Kudavechur, Vechur also might have been a gift of the sea. There is a phrase in Malayalam ‘puthu vaipu’ which translates as ‘newly placed’ or ‘newly emerged’. The name of the place Vipin bears testimony to this fact. However, the name Vechur signifies that the name has originated from the geographical fact that the pace emerged as the sea retrieved- a quirk of nature.
A life-size portrait of deceased Vikom Padmanabha Pillai adorns the portico of his old residence. A headdress, vibhooti, smeared on forehead and breast, a large moustache, a sword in hand, the painting displays a streak of regal grandeur and divine solemnity.
Legend has it that the soul of Pillai used to manifest by entering into the body of the head of the family on certain days. And the ‘beneficiary’ received a royal treat when this happened. Flanked by two maids, one fanning him with a fan made of herbal roots and the other tendering him prepared betel, the family head sat in the portico. The audience before him maintained absolute silence. The ‘possessed man’ recounted the fateful days of the reign of Dharma rajah. Pillai never prostrated before anyone except the Maha rajah. He kept narrating the palace intrigues. “Rjakesavadasan, known for his unswerving loyalty and integrity, was poisoned to death by the unscrupulous elements of the palace. What followed the demise of Dharma rajah was sheer chaos. His successor Balarama varma was a weakling and could not manage the miscreants in the palace. The king became a puppet in their hands. It was at this time the great diwan, Velu Thambi appeared on the scene. He proved his worth. He ruled with an iron hand. He put an end to the misdeeds of the palace intrigants and the British. And Pillai boasted the family head, helped Thambi, as the latter’s right hand. Pillai accounted for the killing of many a British by drowning them in Pallathuruthi lake. The British avenged Pillai by hanging his body in the open for the prey birds. However they could desecrate my physical remains only; could never sully my soul. My soul will roam the length and breadth of Thiruvananthapuram, Alapuzha and Vaikom to avenge the British”. After making these averments, the possessed soul would take coconut water and would return to normality. Padmanabha Pillai was a native of Vaikom and hence the reference to places includes the name of Vaikom also.
Historical evidence is available about the renovation in the 14th century of the façade of the Vaikom temple by the king of Venad, Adithya Varma. Vaikom was a prominent town in the northern border of Travancore. The ruler of Travancore made his rendezvous with Ramapurathu Variyar the author of Vanchi pattu, the renowned literary treatise in Malayalam. In fact, their meeting paved the way for its composition. Pachammuthathu, the first historian of Travancore belongs to Vaikom. He was a versatile personality: a physician, a portraitist and an astrologer. He spent most of his life in Schindram and in Thiruvananthapuram. He also had the distinction of a revered status in Vellapalli.
The presiding deity of the Vaikom temple is reputed as a benevolent provider. His morning repast is famous. The rich conduct it as a vow. The deity himself is believed to participate in its preparation. Legend has it that Vilvamangalam swami, one day, came to the temple. He could not find the idol in the sanctum. When the anxious ascetic searched around, he could locate the deity in the kitchen preparing the food. A baffled Vilvamangalam, gazed in astonishment at the Lord. The latter soon entrusted the cook with the work and hastened to the sanctum.
Vaikom ‘sathyagraham’ (non-violent agitation) is a glorious chapter in the history of Kerala. Vaikom witnessed many historical events like that.
The author of ‘stala puranam’ (fables on the name of places) depicts a parable that links the name of the place with that of an ascetic by name Vyaghra padam. Such a construction is not plausible, as the name has to emerge from ‘Vyaghra’ (tiger) only. The name has originated from the geographical features of the place. The geologists testify to the fact that, long ago, the ocean extended to the eastern end of the Vembanad lake. Vaikom is the gift of the sea like other places namely, Vechur and Kudavechur. When the fragments Kadal (sea), Vecha (placed) and Akam (place) are conjoined, it evolves as Kadalakam. In course of time, the first fragment ‘kadal’ had been dropped and the latter, ‘vechakam’, had changed to Vychakam. Finally, it transformed to Vaikom, a name connoting the place formed at the retrieval of the sea.
Kharan went to Chidambaram, in Tamilnadu, to undertake penance before Chidambaranathan for acquiring the blessings of Lord Siva. The latter gave him three idols (sivalingam) against Kharan’s expectation of a maximum of two. Now, Kharan was caught on the horns of a dilemma. He could carry two of them in his hands, what about the third one? If he renounced it he cold incur the curse of the Lord. Nevertheless, he found a way out: clutch it with his teeth and carry. He, then, thought of the public reaction. The people would accuse him of sullying the venerable idol. The installation by a mad ascetic of the idol of Lord Krishna, which brought about glory and prosperity reminded him that what mattered is absolute devotion. Kharan had enough of that. He walked along carrying two idols in his two hands and the third one in his mouth. When he reached Kaduthuruthi, he noticed that the place is ideal for the installation of the idols. The lake on the Northwest side proved to be another ideal location. He installed at Vaikom on the banks of the lake the idol he carried in his right hand and the one he did in the other hand at Ettumanoor. He installed at Kaduthuruthi the icon he carried between his teeth. This folklore on the origin of the name of Kaduthuruthi does not carry conviction. However, Kaduthuruthi lies between Ettumanoor and Vikom. All the three idols were consecrated at the same auspicious moment. If one pays to these temples obeisance on the same day, the act is considered to be the holiest. The author of Unnuneeli Uandesham describes a terrible atrocity an imp perpetrated in the 14th century. She was a sadist and reveled in separating the couple who lived in harmony and happiness. She used to loiter the streets in the night. One day she reached Kaduthuruthi. There lived in Mundakal house in the village a reputed courtesan by name Unnuneeli. Though black in complexion, she was exquisitely beautiful. She was sleeping is in a swing bed with her paramour. The imp abducted the lover while he had been in deep sleep. The latter woke up when he reached Thirvananthapuram and realized the trap he was caught in. He slowly uttered a mantra purported to burn the imp. Sensing this, the imp threw him off. The wind god kept him from hitting the ground and helped him soft land in a garden adjacent to the Padmanabha swami temple. The imp had vanished from the scene by that time. Later developments involved the ruler Adityavarma who sent the message as depicted in the in the treatise, which gives a consummate description of the place.
The heroine of the treatise is Unnuneeli. She was alleged to have had intimacy with the ruler of Vdakkumkur. The composition depicts Unnuneeli, her associations and her ways of life. Recently, researches were conducted on the complexion, apparels, and bath of the heroine.
The road in front of the Ettumanur temple goes straight to Muvattupuzha. After a while from the temple, the road takes a turn to the left and it leads to Kaduthuruthi and Vikom. Kaduthuruthi is a semi-urban township.
In the 12th century, Vempalanada kingdom, under the rule of the Mahodayapura dynasty, bifurcated into- Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur. Kaduthuruthi had been the capital of the latter. It was a celebrated trade center for ‘black gold’. Pepper and other forest produces from Kaduthuruthi were ferried in boats to waiting freightliners reaching the Arabian Sea from foreign countries. The place was a flourishing trade center.
The authors of Manipravalam, a poetical mix of Malayalam and Sanskrit, name this place Sindhu ‘dweep’ (an isle). The lands mass shaped like a horseshoe projects into the sea. Such a place is called ‘thuruthu’, which means an island. A thuruthu near the see( kadal) has come to be known as ‘Kadalthuruthu’ that transformed, later, into Kadalthuruthi.
Thirunakkara has earned an adage by dint of a funny anecdote, which runs as follows. Proceedings of proposal progressed for a bridegroom belonging to Thirunakkara and a bride to Alapuzha or, perhaps, Kavalam. The groom’s father decided to go for fixing the alliance. He asked his cousin brother at Kuravilangad to accompany him. They were meeting each other after a long break. So a dinner was arranged. Toddy and arrack were served liberally. It was late night when the dinner came to a close. The cousins, fully inebriated, set out to the boat jetty, unaware of the fact it was late in the night. The rowers were not available in the jetty. The stewed cousins entered the boat and started rowing vigorously. At the daybreak, the cousins came to their normal senses and realized in stunning disbelief that they were at Thirunakkara only. They looked at each other, burst in to laugher and roared in unison, “Dear cousin, the boat is at Thirunakkara only”. This humorous adage became an adage in the village. Thirunakkara is situated in the heart of Kottayam. It nestles the Mahadevar temple, constructed by the ruler of Thekkumkur. The name has other editions, such as Thirunalkara and Thiruvanakara. The pachyderms of Thekkumkur rulers were stabled here. And the place acquired the name Thiruanakara (a place where elephant was sheltered). In course of time, Thiruanakara transformed to Thirunakara.
Those days untouchability prevailed in Kerala. A Harijan couple was replanting saplings. They sullied a Brahmin touching him. He cursed them and turned them to stones, which stand in front of the Mahadeva temple.
Kottayam has a slew of reputations: the missionary activities, the cemetery that preserves the edicts of the St. Theresa church, the first printing press in the State, the first college, journalistic glory, Vayaskara Mooses’ gambols and the adventures of the famous tusker of Thirunakkara.
The environs of Kottayam is saturated with the aroma of rubber trees, elachi and tea. It comprises five taluks, viz. Meenachal, Vaikom, Kottayam, Kanjirapalli and Changanasseri. It has the unique distinction of the first complete literate district of the country. There are three places in the State by the name Kottayam. The north Kottayam is in Kannannur. It is FAMOUS FOR Kathakali-the exclusive performing art of Kerala and the anti-British battles waged by the great patriot Pazhassi Rajah. It nestles Purali hills, the fort of Harschandra and the shrine of the Porkkali goddess. In the South in Pathanamthitta district there is place by the name (Vllakkodu) Kottayam. The most celebrated one is what is described here and is situated in Travancore. In the 14th century, Thalikkota in Kottayam was the capital of Thekkumkur province. Kottayam translates to the inner space of a fort (kotta). Early days, the name confined to Thalikkota and the suburbs. Now the name signifies the whole district.
However, the geophysical features of a place influence its naming. Kottayam abounds in hillocks and valleys. This unique combination helps it remain a neat city. The rubbish and the filth keep flushed into the lake by the flooding water. The name Kottayam is a blend of ‘kode’ (hillock) and ‘ayavu’ (valley or slope) and this definition fits into the nomenclature of Kottayam in Travancore unlike the same name of other places.
Thiruvathirapattu, a reputed musical performance by the fair sex, glorifies Ettumanoor a venerable town in Kerala. It enunciates the unique features of the temple here, such as the eternal flame, the stored paddy with medicinal qualities, the cluster of gold nuts, the retinue of seven and a half golden idols of elephants and the huge pylon.
Sukapuram, also known as Chokiram, in ancient Kerala was in the forefront of villages. The people here were, as per historians, followers of Sivaism. Later the villagers decapitated to different parts of Kerala. The migrants constructed in the new places temples that take after the one in Sukapuram. Those who settled at Ettumanoor constructed a temple in the same template there also. All these temples resemble one another in architecture and construction formalities (vastu).
Unnuneeli Sandhesam, composed in the 14th century describes in a single stanza concisely the place. That the village did not form the headquarters of any place would have restrained the author from an elaborate description.
There is no conclusive evidence to surmise whether Ettumanoor belonged to Thekkumkur or Vadakkumkur until the time of the expansion spree king, Marthandvarma, indulged in. The find of a fort that had extended eastward through the heart of Ettumanoor has led to conclude the latter would have constituted the boundary between the two kingdoms cited elsewhere. These kingdoms were later annexed to Travancore by the king. The village was plundered and it wrought a curse on the dynasty. To stem the ill effects of the curse, the ruler placed ex vote before the shrine the idols of seven and a half (calf) elephants. They were sculpted out of the wood of jack tree and blanketed in gold plates. These idols are taken in procession during the temple festival; the seven adults in a palanquin and the calf on head.
Legend has it that Ettumanoor village belonged to the Brahmins of eight families. The place of Ettu (eight) Mana (houses) was christened Ettumanoor. Another theory of the naming is as follows. ‘Eru’ means ox, the vehicle of Lord Siva. ‘Man’ (deer) is his pet animal. Eru and man blends to form Ettumanoor.
When the fight broke out between the goddess, Kali and the devil, Darikan the wife of the latter had been in Kailas. She had gone there to save her husband from Kali who was hell-bent to finish him. She was pleading with the Lord to urge Kali to spare the asura. But the Lord did not relent to the pleas. However, Parvathy, the wife of the Lord, sympathized with the hapless woman, Manodari. The goddess divined the sweat of Lord Siva and gave it to Manodari with the instructions to sprinkle it on her enemies. It would obliterate their tribe the goddess assured Manodari. But, by that time, Kali finished her job and was returning with the severed head of Darikan to Kailasam. On seeing her with the blood-spattered head, the exasperated Manodari sprinkled the sweat on the goddess and soon the latter fell on the ground, infected with the pox. Nevertheless, the Lord was espying all these developments. He sent his servant to rescue Kali. The servant licked off the affliction appeared on the body of Kali in the form of tiny juts. Soon, an enraged Kali chopped of the limbs of Manodari and flung them away. She, further gouged out the widow’s eyes and drove her away with the eyes hung around her neck, naming it ‘the garland of pox. When Kali returned to Kailasam, she saw the Lord in nakedness performing the cosmic dance. Her rage gave way to shame. She perambulated the mountain range, the head of Darikan in hand. What the Lord intended was also the same from Kali. Later, both settled down in peace and Kali narrated the incidents that led to the killing of Darikan. In the heart of Puthupalli panchayath, there is a knoll called Ammakkunnu. On its west side is the Karalikkal temple. The festival celebrated in this temple is called ‘Theeyattu’. The incidents leading to the killing of Darikan as described above forms its story line. The name ‘theeyattu’ which means fire play might have derived from the fact that lighted torches are used to avert natural calamities drought or deluge. Another version is that ‘theyyam’, a popular performing art in temples of Central Kerala, might have metamorphosed to ‘theyyattam. The goddess of Kalarikkal temple was the presiding deity of Mazhavancheri Panicker, the military head of Thekkumkur dynasty. The goddess’ influence is felt in Ammakkunnu also. There is an earmarked space here, called ‘Kalithara’. People dread to tread this area even during daytime fearing the wrath of the goddess and getting afflicted with pox. As one descends Ammakunnu, one reaches a level expanse where a school, a shrine and shops are located. It constitutes the nerve center of Puthupalli. After passing the plane area one spots another hillock. Below it flows a rivulet and it is named Keezhattumkunnu. The place has now been converted into an excellent rubber plantation.
At the eastern border of Puthupalli is situated Vennimala, the ancient capital of Thekkumkur. On the hill top a shrine of Lord Subrahmanyam is located. This is the temple of the presiding deity of Thekkumkur. Once, this temple precinct was the flourishing ground for the performing arts like, koothu and koodiyattam. The lords of Vennimala used to descend the mound early times in palanquin. Later, they switched to cabriolet. Vennimala was an ancient township in Puthupalli. Vennimala in Malayalam translates to a mound where from a spring originates. After descending the hill, one reaches Payyapadi: the village of the boy (boy here means Lord Subrahmanyam). Amuruga temple, believed to have existed here long ago, would have been the reason of the origin of the name. Places of interesting names abound here: an old pond where ‘arattu’ (the act according of a bath to the deity at the end of festivities) ceremony was named Arattu chira. The elders opine that the sea extended to Mukkomkudi in Vennila. This suffers from geographical inaccuracy. However, Mukkomkudi is derived from Mukkuvan (fisherman) kudi (settlement). Fishermen settled here fish not in sea but in ponds and rivulets. Akkamkunnu, a derivative of Makamkunnu, was a hillock inhabited by the tree-climbing dogs (makan in Malayalam). Velu in Malayalam means farm. A place of farm and mud fort has been named Vellkotta that changed to Vellakoottu. Naram signifies water. A place surrounded by water has come to be known Narakathodu. Kumaramkode is plateau. Achurch situated here is called Kumaramkotupalli. Puthupalli abounds in churches: Arattuchirapalli, Nilakalpalli, Valiyapalli, Poomattampalli and the like. Out of these, the St. George church in Puthupalli is renowned for its venerability. There are a few temples and a few worship centers here. Puthupalli is a flourishing agricultural center also.
There are a few places in Kerala under the name Puthupalli. What is described here is the one in Kottayam district. The growth of this place as a township can be traced to the 15th century. Unnuneeli sandhesam composed in the 14th century does not mention it. But Manikantapuram and Thiruvanchur find a place in the treatise. A traverse between these two places is possible only through Puthupalli. Albeit, the place does not find a place in the composition and this may be due to the fact that Puthupalli, probably, might have been then an uninhabited forest entity. The migrated farmers might have developed the place as a new farming village- Puthu (new) palli (village). Gradually, the town might have grown into a town and the name suits the newly developed town.
There developed a stand off between the army and the ruler of the land for an unknown reason. The estranged army proceeded to the south. Their journey was strenuous and tedious. The sun was blazing mercilessly. They were exposed to heavy atmospheric dirt and dust. They had to depend on the lagoons for drinking water. When they reached the temple at Kumaranallur, they were damn tired. The temple committee members were playing chess after a sumptuous lunch. They asked the army what the latter wanted. The army men replied that they were coming from the north and it had been days since they had anything to eat. They requested some gruel to quench their thirst and hunger. The members were irritated at the break in the game they were playing. They ridiculed the army saying that the committee hall is not a dining hall and asked them to go away. When they persisted with a fair amount of optimism, they were directed to a barely dressed boy. When the army approached the boy, he asked them whether the chieftain directed them. When they answered positively, the boy fell into rumination. Soon he asked the army to follow him.
The boy walked woozily. The army, armed fully, followed him. They reached a dilapidated house. The army was too nonplussed to reckon it a house of wealthy people. The boy went inside the house to apprise his mother of what had happened. She had been a widow since long. The duo was living in penury. The hapless woman wept for a while and then asked the boy to remove from his neck the chain, set with a tiger’s nail as talisman. She urged the boy to go to the town, dispose of the chain and bring with the money obtained provisions for the army personnel. Our dignity is dearer to us than our ornament and we have to defend it at any cost, she added. The corrupt chieftain had been indulging in shameful deeds, she shouted.
The boy ran to the town and returned with adequate provisions for a sumptuous lunch. The army was given a splendid feast. The pleased army chief drew his sword and made it over to the boy. Proceed to capture as much land as you can in a day”, he asked the boy. The boy expressed concern at inviting the wrath of and counter attack by the ruler. The captain assured him of requisite support and reassured him that those who counter him would be finished off and their heads would be severed and flung into the Vembanad Lake.
The boy obeyed the army. Escorted by the army men, he went on a spree of conquest. The Thekkumkur army was defeated in a matter of hours. The land won over by waging a battle with the sword worn on waist (‘udavaal’) was christened Udavaalur, which later changed to Kudamalur. This is the folklore describing the origin of the name of Kudamalur. It is impossible to adjudge the age of the place name. The name Kudamalur had been in currency before that of Chempakasseri.
Kudamalur is a fairly planar region. Nevertheless, there is a mound in the eastern region. Mound in Malayalam signifies pot (kudam). The place where a mound (kudam) exists is called Kudamalur. Kudamalur came into existence before Udavalur. The boy named his kingdom won by waging war with sword Chempakasseri. So it can safely be assumed that the name Kudamalur has evolved from geographical features and what the legend vocalises does not hold water.
An edict was recovered from the Vishnu temple in Thrikkodithanam. It belonged to the period of the Chera king, Bhaskara Ravivarma. It mentions the importance Vishu, a prime festival in Vishnu temples. ‘Kani’ (seeing first the offerings to god as soon as one gets up from one’s bed) would precede or follow the annual festivals in these temples. In the Srikrishna shrine in Thiruvarp, vishu precedes the hoisting of the festival flag. On the sixth day of the fast, there is a spectacular celebration here. Young girls attired in designer dress, weaved at Balaramapuram, and hairs florally decked receive ‘Kannan’ arriving on tusker. It is called the ‘fifth exodus’. It relives the return of Lord Krishna after the killing of Kamsa, the uncle of the former. Another festival linked ceremony celebrated here is the race of pachyderms. The ‘prasadam’ given in the morning in the temple is very famous. As one proceeds from Kottayam via the Illical bridge and Kilirur, one reaches Thiruvarp, hemmed in by rivulets, canals and the Vembanad Lake. The place abounds in water bodies. Lon ago, when Vilwamangalam was traveling in a boat through the Vembanad Lake, the boatman’s rowing stick stuck the bottom. Soon, blood was found spreading on the surface of water. The Swami dived into the water and came up with an idol of Lord Krishna. As he stood there with the idol, he felt to relieve himself. But answering the call of nature, while holding the idol, is tantamount to desecrating it. Vilwamangalam placed the idol in a large bronze vessel (varp). After relieving himself, he returned and tried to lift it, but in vain. Swami, with the help of the ruler of Thekkumkur, built a temple and installed the idol there. This legend unveils a historical truth. Even before the construction of the temple, a monastery was in existence there. The ancient spiritual significance of the Swamiyar monastery in Thiruvarp is well known. The emergence of the Krishna temple enhanced the venerability of the place. There is a scarcity of records to explore the history of the place. It formed part of Venpala or Munja during the reign of King Kulasekhara. Around 13th century it came into the fold of Thekkumkur. However, the supremacy of the Swamiyar monastery continued. This has led to a number of parochial and factional feuds. A chieftain by name Thekkethala Panicker once invited for a feast in the temple a Swami. This used to be termed a gift (bhiksha). The items of food served in the feast, an unwritten law warns, should not be refused. However, the chefs had no respect for the Swami invited for the function. They prepared a dish with a baleful root that would leave an itch in the mouth once eaten. They repeatedly served it to the Swami. The latter, nevertheless, finished the dish enduring the ‘torture’. Later, he cursed that the aberrant plant should not thrive in the area!
The Thekkumkur Swamiyar monastery, Kunnamkeri Menon and Thekkethu Panicker, promoted the greatness of Thiruvarp. The temple reforms were planned and executed by them. Thiruvarp occupies a place of no mean importance amidst Vaikom, Kaduthuruthi, Athirampuzha Kudamaloor that sprawl on the Eastern shore of Vembanad Lake. The congenial ambience favours the flourish of coconut palms here. Areca nut and paddy also constitute the agricultural produce in the area. Fishing forms the occupation of many. As the deity was installed in the large bronze vessel (varp), the place acquired the name Thiruvarp, which the place, later, inherited. Though the legend looks plausible, the origin of the place’s name may be traced to the geographical features. The name is related to the presence of water bodies, which abound in the form of rivulets, channels and lake. ‘Arp’ refers to water. When prefixed with the particle ‘thiru’ (holy) it renders to Thiruvarp (thiru+varp). The syllable ‘va’ is a displacement in consequence of grammatical fusion (sandhi) of particles. It does not refer to ‘varp’. The place abounding in water resource has come to be known as Thiruvarp.
“Jonahs, y’re the prophet”, said the god. “I entrust you with a duty’, god continued. “You apprise the inhabitants of Ninavey city my way. They are sinners. They lie and rob; indulge in prostitution and drunkenness. They dislike my way. At the outset, you enlighten them of my path. If they continue to be sinners, you make propaganda that they are sinners and work against god. Association with them will bring upon the errant the wrath of god. With your oratory skill, you must turn the mass against the sinners. Let the people stone them to death. Be a good prophet. My blessings will always be with you.” To the prolonged oration of god, John replied that he would adhere to the word of god, who gave him his daily bread and pleaded for the Lord’s mercy on him.
Jonahs descended on Ninavey city as per the directives of god. He was taken aback at the carefree life of the ‘Ninaveians’ were leading. He sought the excuse of the Lord soliloquizing that He along with the whole population of the nation cannot wean the miscreants from sin. He prayed for his exoneration by God for his having infringed the latter’s word. Jonahs waited at the harbour for the next ship to return. The fury of the Provider fell on Jonahs. Meanwhile, the liner to Tharsis arrived there. Jonahs sneaked into it. God took cognizance of his clandestine act! As the ship reached the interior of the ocean, the latter turned violent on a sudden. Huge waves threatened to break the liner. Lightning and heavy down pour frightened the crew. They pondered over the cause of the instant turn of events and believed that it would be the manifestation of the wrath of the Almighty. Some violator of the word of God might have accessed the ship, they thought. But who could it be? They decided to go for a draw of the lot. And in the draw, Jonahs was found to be the culprit. The enraged crew tied and threw him into the sea. Jonahs was caught in a whirlpool and was gradually sinking. The crew kept watching. A huge whale, roaming in search of prey, espied Jonahs. It devoured him as he wailed and prayed. Soon, the sea turned calm. The ship started sailing smoothly. The mercy of god spread as a refreshing breeze. Jonahs who slid into the whale’s stomach continued to pray. He lay recumbent in the enclosed dark space for three days, entreating God’s clemency. He averred that even God himself could not reform the people of Ninave. He concentrated on a streak of light that emerged in his mind’s eye. The whale could not stomach Jonahs any more. It swarmed to the shore and vomited him. The annual festival of St. Mary church include a ‘ship race’ to commemorate this Biblical episode. The model of the ship kept in the shrine ceremonially carried around the temple during the ‘ship race’. People from different regions throng the shrine to witness it. It is organized under the aegis of the descendants of the crew who navigated the sea liner, mentioned in the biblical episode. Located between Kottayam and Movattupuzha, Kuravalangad is famed for facilities and farming. The name comprises three syllables: Kura (small), vilangal (knoll) and kad (vegetation). The place abounds in flora and mounds. Perhaps, the place would have attained its nomenclature while it remained an undeveloped area succeeded to sustain the name.
About half a century ago, securing a government job to earn the money of “Sri Padmanabha” was considered to be the dream any youth in Travancore. He materialized that dream when he got the job in Koothattukulam four decades ago. The township then was a small one. There were only a couple of schools, a registrar office, a police station, an electrical office, a primary health center, a panchayath office and a pos office, which constituted the public institutions there. A thatched theatre screened occasionally Malayalam movies. No lodging facilities were available. A few shops occupied limited space. After Koothattukulam, the road takes curves and turns and is difficult to negotiate. On the wayside in level ground, the inhabitants obtain the extract of medicinal grass by distillation. It is lovely to watch the experts perform the task of distillation indigenously. The vessels and equipments are kept in thatched huts. Irrigation is accomplished by pumping water by mechanical means. The hillocks that dot the plane had been wasteland previously. Now, they are converted into rubber plantations. The slew of lagoons helps immensely the cultivation of paddy and plantains. The on set of summer dries up the rivulets that swell during the monsoon. Muvattupuzha is miles away from Koothattukulam. A stone’s throw from Koothattukulam is Karimpanakavala (palm fringed road). The kutcha road (now tarred) leads to Thodupuzha. People are wary about treading the road as imps were feared to dwell on the palms.
There is a temple of a goddess on the prime hillock, known as Sravanam hill. Long ago, Arjuna had come this way. He sat on a mound here and made penance to placate Lord Siva. A tribal girl appeared to distract him by her body language. An enraged Arjuna cursed her to a stone. Arjuna consummated his penance and left the place, now christened Arjuna hill. There are other folklores also about this mound.
In ancient times, Koothattukulam belonged to Vadakkumkur. Once part of Kottayam district, it now forms part of Eranakulam district. The place has assumed the status of a township now. There is a presumption that this township had some nexus with Kuravaikom that flourished during the Buddha era. The name has derived from koozh (crop), thattu (plane) and kulam (irrigation tank)-Koozhthattukulam, which got modified to Koothattukulam in course of time.
Thomman was a legendary figure and he lived in Thodupuzha. Only conjectures help compute the time he lived. A waterfall in Thodupuzha has acquired the name ‘Thomman kuthu’. It means he lived before the name became popular. He worked as a coolie. To fortify his income, he resorted to petty thefts, not of chattel or money but of the produce from nearby forests. Forest is a perennial provider. There would be no harassment for robbing the forest from the police or the public. Huge teak logs, tusks and honey were the forest produces Thomman was adept at robbing. One day, Thomman was roaming the forest expanse. He saw on a huge tree, near the waterfall, a large honeycomb. It held the prospect of a few bottles of honey. He lost no time to reach the comb, perched on a tree branch. While removing the honeycomb, Thomman lost the grip on the tree branch and fell into the surging waters. No one ever saw in the area Thomman after the accident. But the grateful folks perpetuated his memory by naming the waterfalls Thomman kuthu (kuthu in Malayalam means waterfall), which is near Thodupuzha. Nature here is ideal for a weekend resort.
Thodupuzha with its hills and vales, toughs and planes presents a spectacle of overall natural beauty. The region is lush green. Thodupuzha, a valley Sahyan nestles, is a fertile agricultural strip.
Thodupuzha has a golden past that extends to the 9th century. King Kulasekhara, who then ruled Kerala with Mahodayapuram as the administrative nerve center, divided the kingdom into eighteen regions. One of them was Keezhmzlanad and Thodupuzha had been its capital.
With the invasion by the Cholas, Kulasekhara kingdom broke into independent regions. A region named Nantuzhi merged with another by name, Keezhmalanad to form Venpalanad. Thodupuzha remained part the latter but it lost its capital status. Still, it was renowned as a prosperous township
Later, Venpalanad split into two again as Thekkumkur and Vadakkumkur. The capital of Vadakkumkur was Kaduthuruthi. Foreign freighters used to anchor in Vembanad Lake in Kaduthuruthi. The export materials, which comprised forest produce, areca nut and pepper were reached from Todupuzha in boats. The foreigners used to compete for the produces. Unnuneeli Sandhesam, the treatise of the 14th century, depicts these episodes. The road that extends from Thodupuzha to Vaikom via Manakkad, Palakkuzha and Koothattukulam has an ancient history. The road would have come into existence to transport the agricultural and forest produce. Marthanda Varma annexed Thodupuzha, which remained part of Vadakkumkur, to Travancore. The Travancore rulers constructed here the Arakkuzha warehouse, probably to mop up and store the forest produce from Thodupuzha.
The rulers of Travancore fortified the economy of Thodupuzha by capturing the wild elephants and auctioning them. Later, the British developed here tea and rubber plantations to reap rich revenues. When the country awoke to freedom at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the aliens fled Thodupuzha, selling away at throwaway prices the plantations and other immovable properties. The plantation supervisors and the scribes became owners overnight. The place derived its name from the rivulet, Thodupuzha, a tributary of Muvattupuzhayaru.
As per the directive of their father, Rama and Lakshman along with Sita went in exile to the forest, as narrated in the epic, Ramayana by Valmiki. Ramayana was rendered to other tongues by different authors. But on one mentioned about the Ayodhya brothers stay in Idukki forest and their curse turning to two huge rocks a tribal couple. However, such a mutation has crept into the Ramayana story according to certain natives of Idukki. They adduce as evidence the colossal granite growth that sprawl into acres of land.
Ramayana episodes date back to thretha Yuga. Mahavishnu took birth as Sri Rama then. Rama spent his boyhood eventfully with his brothers learning and indulging in pranks. When he attained youth hood, he married Sita, the noble and beautiful daughter of king Janaka. Troubles started brewing when Dasaratha, the father of Sri Rama decided to crown the latter as the prince of Ayodhya. Kaikeyi, one of the consorts of Dasaratha, sabotaged the king’s idea and coronation ceremony was abruptly abandoned. Rama was exiled to the forest. Lakshmana accompanied to assist him and Sita did to nurse him. This script is too popular to elaborate here.
Sri Rama with his escort reached the Western Ghats. They selected Idukki to settle in. The rich flora preferred plenty of fruits. Periyar River provided for potable water. The princes constructed ‘asram’ there. One summer noon, Sita and Srirama were whiling away the time enjoying a cool bath in the river. While they were preparing themselves to leave, Sita saw yonder a tribal duo, a couple or lovers, ogle the indulgence of the royal couple in water games. Srirama was enraged at the duo’s atrocious act. He cursed them to rocks. While returning, Sita turned back and saw, to her dismay, two huge rocks in the place of the ill-fated couple. Between the rocks, Periyar forced her way through. Mead of a melodious tear from Sita’s eyes fell on the water. Srirama once set his foot on a rock and restored Ahalya to her beautiful human form. Now, he has turned two innocent souls to granite. She felt remorse at her own unpremeditated act. But it was too late to be of any avail.
Idukki district, carved out not long ago, comprises for taluks: Devikulam, Perumedu, Udumpan chola and Thodupuzha. The biggest hydroelectric project is located in Idukki. The project provides for substantial power needs of Kerala. The storage tanks consist of three dams: Idukki, Cheruthoni and Kulamavu, the first one being an arch dam. Located 2300 feet above MSL, the water body sprawls over 36 square yards. Idukki dam has the distinction of being the earliest arch dam in Asia. The legendary rocks are immensely conducive in electricity generation. Perhaps, the ill-fated duo of the folklore may not be aware of this aspect. We may put aside the Ramayana episode. Nevertheless, the huge rocks, the gift of Nature, can be rated as a part of the dam, uniquely set by Nature.
It is pleasurable to watch the beautiful river forcing through the strait between the rocks that fetched to the place the name Idukki, which in Malayalam means strait.
In Nalacharitham, the author Unnai variar proves a point. Nalan, the hero of the piece, when possessed by ‘kali’ (an imp), illustrated that life in the forest or the city is not at variance. Each has its own rulers. Kharan, Hidumban, Thadaka and the like were notorious rulers of forests. Later, the mantle fell on Muthuvan, Mannan, Kurichiyan and the like. After becoming a spent force, many had taken refuge in forests. Another category belonged to those who were exiled to forests. Sri Rama, the Pandavas and Nalan belonged to the last group. Life in exile in forests fetched them some advantages. However, we accord only a secondary status for life in forest, for life in forest cannot excel that in cities.
The kings and monarchs turned to forest for hunting and bleeding its rich produce. Teakwood was required to build and furnish the palaces. Cane was used to whack the recalcitrant. They captured the pachyderms to maintain pomp and pageantry. Tusks were extracted to fashion the thrones. Spices like forest honey and elachi became the integral cuisine ingredients to stimulate their taste buds. These collective benefits from the forest brought recognition to its status. However, the native kings indulged in the exploitation of the forests. Nevertheless, the foreign rulers recognized the immense potentialities of the forests and the thickets.
The British established the Madras presidency and ruled it during the years of colonization. They explored the possibilities of building resorts in the forests in the border areas of the presidency. They were keen observers and when they toured beyond Schenkottai, the rich flora and fauna of Western Ghats impressed them. They saw Mullaperiyar. If they dammed the river, they assed, it would enrich the tourist potential of Madurai, Gudallore, Kampam and Theni. They understood that a wildlife reserve would immensely add to the tourist attraction and conserve the ecology. Armed with the blue print of a project, the British rulers hastened to Thiruvananthapuram to meet the ruler of Venad and his consent for the project. The king was astonished as the white man unravelled the new vistas and acquiesced his plan. The dam work started in 1885with a flourish and the dam was completed in 1895. The Maharaja went to the site to see the construction activities. As he sat in the open, he was overwhelmed by hunger and thirst. The river water was not potable for the ruler. The errands ran hither and thither to fetch some beverages. They asked boy grazing the cowherd for some source. He soon milked a cow and offered the warm milk for the king. The king quenched his thirst and was immensely pleased. He, at once, gifted 999 acres of land to the shepherd to rear cattle. The cowherd turned a lord overnight and acquired the name, Ankur Rauthar. Rauthar had gone into legend. The pasture now is an estate. Mullaprriyar dam has brought into existence a 26 square kilometer storage tank. Newly laid canals irrigated the dry land in Madurai and Theni in Tamil Nadu. These arid places have become arable. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are at loggerheads of late on sharing of water of Mullaperiyar.
The growth of Thekkadi subsequently was rapid and tremendous. In 1934, Nellikampetti game reserve came into existence. The Travancore government declared as game reserve the land around the dam. Boating service was introduced to observe the wildlife at close quarters. Boarding facilities were incepted for tourists. Periyar tiger sanctuary comprising 777 square kilometers of land was built. Sabari and Mangaladevi forests come with in its limits. The government created the game centers to conduct research study on wildlife. Watchtowers were erected here to observe wildlife. In 1925, Sethu Lakshmi Bai, the queen of Travancore, constructed here a palace. A moderate accommodation, it is now christened Lake Palace. It was originally meant for the royal family. Now, it has turned the holiday camp for the VIPs, who speed through the Kumili- Thekkadi road in their limousines. They surf the lake in boats observing the spontaneous indulgences of the wild animals. There is a picnic spot in Thekkadi for tourists. These interventions tend to disturb the bionomic vibrancy of the region. Aranya nivas, Periar house and the like constitute tourist centers for corporate barons. Canteens are affordable for the common men. The region is blanketed with wild growth of teak thickets which fetched it the name Thekkadi- the place (adi) that abounds in teak (theku).
The Westerners never like to elect cities to make their habitats because of the limited space available in cities. They always eye for the beautiful thickets or the coastal line that are virtually unpopulated. Evidence is available in Thiruvananthapuram. The British envoy ignored the nerve center of the city- Kizhakkekota or Thampamnnur- to build his residence. He preferred a distant hillock as the site for his palace. Natural beauty and peace ruled the area. Huge trees, bamboo thicket and other shrubs fortified the bio vibrancy of the location. There were no thoroughfares around. The ambience of the bungalow was peaceful, harmonious and amiable. They maintain this rapport with Nature to locate the site for the construction of their shrines also. The British resident Munroe opted the mount in Kannmmula to raise the church. The British national Baker acquired the marshy expanse adjoining the Vembanad Lake to build his house. Once they locate themselves in an area, they will develop it sans any damage to the ecology. The Travancore rulers learned lessons from the wisdom and foresight of the British and emulated the foreigners. The outcome has been the emergence of the palaces in places like Kanakakkunnu, Kaudiar, Peerumedu, Thekkadi and Aluva. These royal residences have weathered the vagaries of time, acquiring venerability.
What is intended to stress here is that there was a benign facet to the British rule in our country. That does not mean that what ever they did was acceptable to us. Love of Nature, industry and the like were attribute in the British we could have emulated. Development of Munnar by the British showcases their finer qualities.
The forest space has today has emerged as a lovable tourist resort. The British have shown that the forest can be fruitfully exploited without endangering its eco vibrancy. Their pragmatic approach left the forest with its wild beauty not ravished. The plantations in the hill tracts are conspicuous examples of the pragmatism of the British. The golden era of Munnarcan is traced to 1877. V.J.D. Munroe and A.W. Turner, both British nationals, had been scaling the mount on horseback, puffing cigars. As they rode the 6000 feet high hillock, enjoying the pristine, fabulous beauty of Nature, ideas kept brewing in their minds. They hit upon the idea of setting up a plantation in Munnar. It would serve as a weekend resort and a perennial source of income, they surmised.
The land there then belonged to the Poonjar rulers. The king’s permission was required to set up the plantation there. They approached the king to seek his permission. The king’s manager, Kannan Thevan, who was, in effect the, uncrowned king of Munnar, assisted them. A progressive thinker, the king was all in favour of the plan of the English. He surmised that instead of wasting in the forest life marred, by disease and harmful creatures, it would be better to develop the area by incepting the plantation. It would also give a fillip to the employment potential in the region. The king was further interested in the project as it would hike the land value of the place. He soon endorsed his consent. The foreigners developed the plantation forthwith. Initially, they tried coffee which end up in a fiasco. Then they switched to tea and it proved to be a roaring success. Tea processing factories and bungalows came up. The workers’ quarters, schools and churches followed in quick succession. The new venture transformed Munnar into a fine township. The tea factories were named after the Manger, Kanna Devan. The produce was in high demand. The brand name continues even today, though the aliens had vanished from the scene long ago.
Anamudi, the second highest mountain range after the Himalayas, is in Munnar. Marayur, the cradle of an ancient civilization, near by is renowned for sandalwood. Munnar, which means three rivers, is a space of confluence of the rivers, Muthirapuzha, Kundala and Nallathanni. The conflux, which constitutes marvelous spectacle, fetched Munnar its name.
The name Perumpavur reminds one of the Kallil temple though the latter is not within the bounds of the place. There was a kutcha road north of Muvattupuzha from Pezhakka church junction to Kallil temple. The village road, flanked by thickets of bamboo would remain most of the time deserted. Kerala Varma raja who took refuge in the forests of Wayanad likened the eerie sound emanating from the thickets to the flute voice of Keechaka, a character in the epic, Mahabharata. After negotiating the hilly track, one reaches the cave temple, Kallil, which is believed to be built by the Jains. Later, the deity of the Jains, ‘Padmavathy’ was changed to ‘Bhagavathi’. The temple pitched in a huge rock. There is a mural painting in the temple of Mahaveera seated on a throne. His figure appears to be grimacing at the wild transformation. Two idols of ‘gandharva’ stand asunder to fan the king. A statue of lion stands guard at the entrance. Another idol sculpted sideway is suspected to be that of the consort. However, the identity is not clear, opines T.A.Gopinatha Rao, an archaeological expert. As the shrine was carved out of rock (kallu), it was named Kallil and the place also acquired the same name. For centuries, Pisharakam owned the temple. The term refers to Pisharadi, derived from Bhattaraka thiruvadi, which has nexus with Buddha and Jain faith.
Another temple ‘Iringol kavu’ is also located at Perumpavur. This thicket (kavu) is renowned for rare shrubs and herbs. The temple flourishes as no one dares clear the forest for fear of the goddess’ wrath. Perumpavur is in Kunnathunadu taluk, which is famous for rubber plantations. Perumpavur has eclipsed the fame of Kunnathunadu. The irrigation canals from Periyar access every nook and corner of Perumpavur, a prosperous agricultural zone, thanks to the industriousness of the farmers.
In ancient times, the foreigners were handicapped by the absence of a road to ship the cargo. The inception of the Aluva-Munnar road solved the problem. This road passes through Perumpavur. Later, the M.C. road has come into being. A bridge was constructed across Periyar. These changes spurred the envious growth of Perumpavur. Originally in Travancore, the town was included in Kottayam when Kerala was formed. Later, it was merged to Eranakulam district.
The term ‘pava’ translates to doll. It has another significant connotation: beautiful deity or goddess. The Malayalam lexicon confirms this. Granite, clay and wood were used to sculpt the deities and worship them, leading to the meaning- goddess. From this term only, Perumpavur has evolved. Perum (big)+ pava (doll)+ ur (place) blends to give Perumpavur. The deity is that of Kallil temple.
Once, a gang of imps had a crazy idea of damming the crystalline water of Periyar. They had to finish the task in a single night, lest it should lead to troubles. They started the work in a hurry to meet the deadline. If the work were allowed to be completed, it would lead to the submergence of the Thrikkariyur temple. The servant of Lord Siva realized the gravity of the situation. He assumed the form of a Chanticleer and raised its clarion. The devils mistook it had been daybreak, stopped the work and fled the scene.
The promontory near the river evokes the sight of an unfinished dam. The river continues to flow underneath. The place is called Bhuthathankettu. Professor Joseph Mundasseri referred in one of his works to the discovery of an ancient civilization in the precincts of Thrikkariyur and Bhuthathankettu.
The King of Kodungallur, Kunjikuttan adverts to a test, termed ‘phanikumbham’ (the snake in a pot). Long ago, Pallibana Perumal ruled Kerala. He is believed to be a Buddhist. The native Brahmins did not like this conjecture. They made penance in Thrikkariyur temple to acquire strength to defeat the Buddhist ruler. Another story is also in currency. Pallibana Perumal devised a test to determine the superiority of the contenders: the Brahmins versus the Buddhists. He crafted a granite pot, put a snake in it and sealed it. Then he asked the contestants to tell the contents of the pot. The Buddhists secretly mentioned that it was a snake. The skeptic Brahmins asked for time. They hurried to Thrikkariyur to seek the help of the temple deity. The oracle directed them to say that the pot contained a lotus flower. The Brahins followed the divine instructions. When Perumal opened the plot, the spectators found a lotus flower in it. Though surprised, Perumal did not wince. He alleged that the Brahmins metamorphosed the snake to the flower through their divine powers. So, he declared the Buddhists the winners. This incident is known as the celebrated ‘phanikumbha’ test.
Speculations are afloat reckoning Thrikkariyur as the place of origin of Buddhist Sangha songs. A song of tribute makes a description of the trenches that circumscribe the area. The presence thee of the trenches indicates that the place would have been an erstwhile capital. The capital city, Vanchi, of the first Chera kingdom is believed to have been located here. But this theory is disputed. Vanchi had another name: Karuvur. Perhaps, Karuvur would have changed to Thrikkarur. As time passed, it further transformed to Thrikkariyur. The name originated after the temple came into being.
Though it claims historical venerability, Moozhikkulam is not a famous place. It is located on the banks of the Chalakkudi River, about ten kilometers from Ankamali town. Not far from Mahodayapuram, the capital of the Chera kingdom, Moozhikkulam had an organic nexus with the former. Perhaps, the connectivity had been instrumental in the growth of Moozhikkulam that flourished from the 8th to the 14th century A.D. The Lakshmana swami temple here is one of the frontline temples in Kerala. Temples where Lord Lakshmana is the deity are rare in the State. The Lakshmana temple in Vennimala bears similarity to this shrine. Though shrouded in uncertainty, construction of these temples is attributed to Cheraman Perumal. Nammazhvar and Thirumangai azhvar have recorded the glorious past of the Moozhikkulam shrine. Many edicts that illumine the dark conduit of Kerala history had been recovered from Moozhikkulam temple precincts. They also depict the temple regulations in general. These edicts speak about an integrated body of the norms for temple development, which began in the 8th century in Kerala. As the temple wealth burgeoned enormously, its plunder and misappropriation also increased manifold. The rulers and the ruled together sat for compiling a manifesto on temple wealth and procedures. These are the first ever-integrated Devaswom rules in the State.
These written prescripts are referred to in other edicts belonging to Thrikkakara, Thiruvanvandur and Kozhikode. The law had universal application in temples in the entire State. Violations of its provisions attracted stringent punishments that included huge fines and excommunication. The temple bylaws were purported to prevent the unbridled squandering of temple wealth.
The origin of Moozhikkulam Devaswom statues is traced to the 10th century.
Moozhi in Malayalam means irrigation channel. The term changed to Moozhikkalam-place (kalam) near water channels. Later, it transformed into Moozhikkulam.
It was the Sivaratri day. The celebration statement of Kerala was going on, on the sandy expanse at Aluva. A venerable man uniquely attired was spotted amongst the crowd. Clad in a loincloth, he smirched his forehead and chest with vibhudi. He was walking, a collection of books kept in his armpit. He kept thulsi leaves behind his ears and was escorted by a youth. His sparkling eyes and his grave looks indicated that he was an intellectual. The duo appeared to be the mentor and the disciple. However, they maintained a sort of mutual exclusiveness as they walked on.
The elder man peaked at the young man. Then he kicked at the latter’s foot intentionally. The youth became angry, but the aged man asked him to reckon the latter as his mentor and excuse him. However, the young man told the other that he should accept whatever he offered him as the mentor’s reward. This incident led to the revelation to each other of their identity- the young man Thunjath Ezhuthachan and the other Kannassa Panicker. They then ambled away from the mob. Panicker sat down on the renowned Aluva sand bed. As Ezhuthachan kept standing evincing reverence, Panicker asked him to sit down. Ezhuthachan did not relent. He expressed his indebtedness to Panicker especially in composing the Adhyatma Ramayana. Panicker told him both owed much to Valmiki in composing each one’s version. Panicker praised Ramanujan for his having imparted a native complexion to his composition that helped liberate the Keralites from their moral erosion. He told Ezhuthachan that he succeeded remarkably in cleansing the decaying Kerala milieu. Your house name Thunjath (apex) suggests your caliber. You are at the acme of creative genius. He wished Ezhuthachan good and departed.
The rendezvous of these great poets at the sand bed of Aluva on Sivaratri day is heard from the old timers. When we hear the name Aluva, we are reminded of the Mahasivaratri. Aluva is a renowned arena in North Kerala. Travancore royal family raised a summer resort here. Alam translates to water and va means shore. Al(am) and va blended to form Alva , which phonetically changed to Aluva. The landscape ashore Periyar got the nomenclature as Aluva.
The pretty little landmass, Airanikulam is a gift of the Chalakkudi River. The old timers of Vennimala near Kottayam frequented the place because of the similarity of the temples in both these two towns. The founder of Vennimala shrine belonged to the Perumal dynasty. Edicts of Kulasekhara kings were recovered from the temple at Airanikulam. It unveiled the nexus of these kings with the temple at Airanikulam. This shrine takes after the one at Vennimala. It is believed that to conduct the Chakkiar kooth, a performing art, at the Vennimala temple, chakkiars (performing artistes) were brought from Airanikulam. A famous Chakkiar family known as Manganathuwas believed to have been settled by the ruler. The famous treatise Unniyadi charitham is believed to have been compiled by Damodara Chakkiar, a member of this family.
The legend has it that in ‘Thretha yuga’, Parasurama observed penance in Airanikulam, abounding in kadali, a plantain used in auspicious ceremonies. As his penance reached the zenith, Parasurama experienced the presence of Lord Siva everywhere. The triggered power of kundalini (the dormant power centre in the mortals) raised through the vertebral column of Parasurama to the network of nerves in the cerebrum, he fell into a trance of bliss. Lord Siva felt that he could no more ignore to answer the penance of the devotee. The Lord left Kailasom, his abode and reached Airanikulam. Parasurama discerned the presence of Siva by hearing the sound of his percussion instrument and the hiss of the snake, ‘a permanent dweller on his neck’! Parasurama opened his eyes and saw the Lord performing the cosmic dance before him. The devotee prostrated at the Lord’s feet. And the latter exhorted him to get up. Siva regretted that he had been a bit late. He explained that he suspected the credentials of Parasurama as he had slain a ‘kshtriya’, the member of a warrior clan. The pleased Lord urged the devotee to ask any boon. Parasurama just asked for an opportunity to see him every day. Expressing impossibility of residing in the vicinity, the Lord offered him his idol and then vanished. Parasurama, accordingly, installed the deity on the banks of the Chalakkudi River and started worshipping it. As time passed, Parasurama passed into history and the idol vanished under Aluva sand bed. It remained there undetected well over a thousand years. Some children were one day playing on the sandy expanse. While digging furrows in the sand, they almost stumbled on the idol, shedding exotic brilliance. They urged the children to pray for consecration. They, later, constructed a shrine for the deity and consecrated it duly observing all the norms. The temple came to be known as Thekkambalam. It is renowned as a paradigm of the architectural excellence of Kerala. The huge, monolithic circular mandapam exhibits the skill of the sculptors. The mural reliefs the adjacent zoo is said to have been built in a single night by the work force of Lord Siva. It is really incredibly beautiful. Later, there arose a fight between two factions of the people in the town. A group constructed another temple in the compound. They named it Vadakkambalam. The presiding deity there is Parvathi, flanked by Lord Siva and Muruga. The installation of three deities on a single podium is a rare spectacle in temples. The idols were brought in a boat. The granite molehill they placed the idols before consecration was called Vanchipara. The rare trinity is revered as one of the local wonders, the others being turmeric on leaves, flower in flower, pond in pond and well in well.
One of the stories relating to the origin of the name of the place is based on the goddess, Parvathi, who is also known as Airani. Kulam means pond. The place where Airani and Kulam were available was called Airanikulam. This nomenclature does not appear plausible. Kadali, the plantain is also called Airani. The place abounds in these plants. The presence of the Chalakkudi River implies kulam. And the blend of these terms resulted in the name: Airanikulam.
The legend on the origin of the name of Eranakulam is amusing. One Nagarshi reveled in killing the snakes of all kinds- from king cobras to water snakes. His mentor tried to dissuade him from this undesirable prank. As his persuasion went unheeded, the mentor became enraged and cursed the disciple. For exoneration, Nagarshi went to the Mandara forest and commenced serious penance. In the course of the penance, a voice directed him to the Bahula forest. When he reached the forest as per the directive, he could gain an idol of Kiratha murthy, which Arjuna, on of the Pandavas, used to worship. Nagarshi set out with the idol to install it at a holy place and reached Eranakulam. He set up the idol there. A pleased Lord Siva exonerated Nagarshi from the curse. The scene of action was a bathing ghat and it came to be known as Rishinagakulam. In course of time, the name changed to Eranakulam. Nagarshi was elevated as Rishinaga and the particle kulam (tank) was added to the name obtaining the place name.
As we retrace the place name, we come across the fact that the ancient name of Eranakulam had been Anchikaimal. It had originated thanks to the rule of the land by five famous Kaimals (chieftains) from Cheranellur, Kunnathunad, Kulakkad, Kurumankur and Vadakkur. They were independent rulers. Initially, they took side with Kochi and later with the Samuthiri rehabilitated of Kozhikode. In 1756, when the latter invaded Kochi, they supported him. In a treaty signed in 1762 with Travancore, Dalava of Kochi, Koyiachan, reined in the chieftains. However, the district court still retain the its name Anchikaimal district court indicating the fact that the five rulers are still remembered.
In olden days, though the capital of Kochi had been Thruppunithura, the principal offices like the court, college and the revenue offices were in Eranakulam. The king used to come from his palace in Thruppunithura to Eranakulam to decide on administrative issues. These days the king stayed in Krishnavilasom palace located opposite to the Eranakulam Lake. It houses the Durbar hall, which witnessed many a historic meeting. It showcases many relics. Lack of maintenance has ruined the palace. The old military bases surround the palace. Many of them are in a dilapidated condition. In the lake view park, the statues of the Kochi rulers still survive the vagaries of Nature. The statues are attired in robes that blend primitivism and modernity.
In ancient days, a Diwan by name Shunmugham Chetty enforced many a civilian reform in Eranakulam. He intended to bring about a uniform character to the buildings that flanked the road by painting them yellow. Eranakulam in ancient days had been a village dotted with lakes, canals, isles and hillocks. In an epistle in verses, Naduvathachari Namboothiri wrote to Kottarathil Sankunni, the author of Eithihyamala, Diwan Rajagopalachari is mentioned as the architect of the modern town. The King of Kochi was instrumental in extending the railway line from Shornur to Kochi. He funded the project by disposing of the gold caparisons. Now, Eranakulam is the biggest city in Central Kerala. It is well connected by rail and road with other parts of the country. Kochi has become its part. The members of the royal family of Kochi are also known as lords of ‘madabhumi’. Madabhumi and Goshri are alternative names of Kochi. Folklore unravels the origin of these names. One of the ancestral families of the kings was located north of Alapuzha. It was known as Madathukara. Long ago, Kochi extended up to Madathukara. The name evolved out of its nexus with Mad Perumal. Out of its relationship with Madathukara royalty, Kochi got the name Madabhumi. The name Goshri emanated from Govashri. The syllable mada in Madabhumi means cattle. ‘Era’ is its synonym. The new landscape that came into the control of Madabhupan was named Eranadu. The water body in the place was called Eranadu kulam, the latter meaning pond. It later transformed into Eranakulam.
Kochi constituted the capital of Kochi kingdom in ancient times. However, the residential palaces of the rulers were located in Thrupunithura. Accordingly, it was lauded as a city of palaces. The Poornathrayeesan temple is a hoary landmark here. The city that encompasses the temple abounds in palaces and stables, many of which have slid into ruin. The Archaeological Survey of India had acquired one of the palaces, the Hill Palace. The ASI now maintains it as a museum. Perhaps, its inner recesses may be reverberating with the majestic voices of the valiant kings of a bygone era. A slew of the royal relics are preserve in these palaces. These relics include the crown that would never have been worn, the throne, the gallows, the weapons of various designs and the like. A mere panchayat, Thrupunithara has now metamorphosed to a Municipal town. However, what one sees around is not the obtrusive glitter a city but the imperious decorum of the regal reign. It is said that the Kochi rulers had incepted ‘Athachamayam’, an official ceremony now. One fears whether its original splendor is lost now. Thruppunithura blend uniquely history and legends.
The extension of the railway line to Eranakulam from Shornurhad had been a glorious achievement of the then ruler of Kochi. He had to dispose of the caparison of the temple to finance the project. The king witnessed the maiden run of the service with moistened eyes and the folks were ecstatic with joy and enthusiasm.
It was the time of unification of the states and the kingdoms. As the last Maharajah of Kochi to the palace after the deity, Poornathrayeesan, he mourned the loss. The representative of the Union Government asked the king after he relinquished the office what he wanted. The reply was soon and surprising- a regular supply of the Panchangam (the astrological colander), printed in the Government printing press. An astonished official might have said aside, “ A foolish king who does not know to make hay while the sun shines”.
The king had a sudden desire to dig a canal in his kingdom. He entrusted the work with a contractor with the direction that the canal should resemble the movement of a snake. The contractor finished the work and then invited the king to examine the canal. The latter was shocked to find the canal dug in a zigzag manner. The contractor released a snake he brought in a basket and asked the king to see how the reptile crept off. He took the agreed work cost and walked away. Many a festival is celebrated in Poornathrayeesan temple. Legend has it that Arjuna took an idol from his quiver (pooni) and installed it at the place and it fetched it the name Thruppunithura. The folks do not relish the questioning of folklores and so the legend may be accepted as such.
Nevertheless, we will examine the geographical factors to trace the origin of the name. Thruppunithura has a nexus with the river Periyar. The river has many names. In the Buddhist records, it is referred to as Poruni. In Sanskrit literature, the river is called Choornni. It is also known as Chulli. Ye another name is Poorna. This river is renowned for its change of course of flow. Centuries ago, Periyar or its tributaries are believed to have coursed through Truppunithura. The geographical evidences here endorse this view. The course of a river dried long ago is available here. In some flood season, river Poorna would have altered its course. The name Truppunithura had been prevalent before this occurrence. The harbor near Poorna (near Periyar or its tributaries) was known as Poornathura. After emergence of the temple, the syllable ‘thru’ as a mark of reverence would have been prefixed to Poornathura ushering in ultimately the name Thruppunithura.
Kannaki and Kovilan fled the Kaveripuram town to avoid the insult of the native folks. They reached Madurapuri. The only possessions they had were the anklets Kannaki wore. Kovilan set out to sell the ornaments. He approached the goldsmith of the palace who was a cheat. The latter pilfered the anklets of the queen and was waiting for an unsuspicious replacement to escape the crime. Finding the ornaments brought by Kovilan suited the purpose, the goldsmith felt happy. He did not express his joy. He brought Kovilan before the king telling him that the king would fix the just price for the ornaments. The goldsmith then informed the king that he had recovered the anklets from a fellow and handed over them to the king. The queen examined the anklets and she found them to be the lost ones. “ Where is the thief?” roared the ruler. Kovilan was soon escorted before the king, who ordered to behead him. The execution was instantaneous.
Meanwhile, Kannaki’s long wait for her husband proved of no avail. She then set out in search of him. She almost stumbled on the severed body of her husband in front of the palace. She did not burst into hysterics. She kept observing the body for a while without winking and then she shed the mead of a melodious tear. The world appeared to tremble. Kannaki the walked into the palace in steady steps and cried at the king, “ Unprincipled king, why do you kill my husband?” The palace life came to a shattering halt. The Pandian king whispered that Kovilan had pilfered the queen’s anklets. He answered in the affirmative when she asked the king whether the latter was sure of the deed. On demand the anklets of the queen were handed over Kannaki, who flung them to the podium. She shouted that she was going to crack the anklets before the sentinels of the ‘eight directions’, the earth and the sky. The contained the nine gems and not the pearls as were the case with the queen’s ornaments. She then hit the nuggets hard on the ground. The gems scattered around. Kannaki assumed an enraged disposition: her temples curved, eyes turned blood-shot, the tresses flowed down and the molars transformed to tusks. “Kali (the goddess Durga)!” fumbled the folks. “ Is my husband a thief?” shouted again Kannaki at the king. “ Never”, whimpered the king and he fell down. Kannaki chopped off his breast and threw it away. “ Let the kingdom burn”, she roared. Leaping, devouring flames enveloped the kingdom. Wails and cries arose from everywhere. The gods entreated upon her to have mercy on the people. Her wrath gave way to cosmic dance. She mourned over her dead husband and left the town, pledging not to ever return. She consoled herself that she would meet him in the other world. She then ambled westwards along the banks of the Vaigai River. The township was totally destroyed by the fanning flames.
Kannaki climbed over the Kuntam hillocks. She reposed herself under a vaka tree, in full bloom. As she stood there grieving, Kovilan arrived in a pushpakavimanam and took her off to the heavens. The tribal women with their tresses decked with kurunji flowers were celebrating the ‘kuravakkuth’, a celebration for the goddess. Witnessing the miracle, the informed the herdsman about it. He soon apprised the Cheran king, Chenkuttuvan, who was holidaying on the banks of Periyar, of it.
The king arranged for granite stone from the Himalayas, sculpted a deity out of it and installed it Kodungallur. This synopsis is from the treatise, Chilapathykaram by Ilamkovadikkal.
The depiction of this story here is relevant, for there is an organic nexus between Kannaki, the deity, and the place, Kodungallur. The place name has come up to commemorate the deity. Long ago, Kodungallur had different names: Musirus, Muyirakode and Murachi pattanam. These names imply that Kodungallur was a center of pepper trade. Around eighth century, the name Mahodayapuram was attributed to Kodungallur. In the 13th and the 14th centuries also this name had been popular, as certain literary compositions unveil. It had been the capital of the Kulasekhara dynasty, as averred by the historians. Another contention is that it had been the capital of Perumpadap, the kingdom of Kochi. It is believed that the name Mahodayapuram would have descended from Mahodayapuram. Sweeping aside these guess works, one can examine an edict of 1225. The name mentioned there in is Mahothiyar that transformed into Mahathevar pattanam. Someone modernized it later as Mahodayapuram.
Mahothiyar is linked to Maha kotha. Kotha means the goddess, Durga. It is a derivative of ‘kottavai’, the goddess of war in the Buddhist era.
Some Sanskrit lovers might have coined the name Mahodayapuram and later someone translated it as Kodumkalioor that got abridged into Kodungallur, all alluding to the goddess, Durga.
Samba is an epic character few are familiar with. He was born to Lord Krishna in Jambavathi. He was a prodigal son. Even in his adolescence, his misdeeds were countless. A libertine, he had amorous affinity with 16008 courtesans of the Lord. He fell a prey to leprosy. However, the Sun god rid him of the disease.
Samba and his friends were, in their heydays, straying around indulging in atrocious pranks, as saint Bhrugu reached Dwaraka to meet Lord Krishna. Samba and his gang did not like the venerable saint. They schemed to play a trick on the Rishi. The friends of Samba masqueraded him as a pregnant lady and asked Bhrugu whether the child being delivered was male or female. The outraged saint prophesied that ‘she’ would be delivered of not a baby but a ramrod, which would be instrumental in the destruction of their clan.
The prognosis of the saint proved true. Samba was delivered of an iron rod. The Yadava youth turned crest-fallen. They informed Krishna of the bizarre occurrence. With out losing his composure Krishna told the young that there could be no escape from the curse. Nevertheless, he advised them to pulverize the rod and sprinkle it in the sea, warning the youth that its retention as such would destroy their kind.
The Yadav youth followed the Lord’s advice. But a residual portion survived their attempts to file it completely and they threw it into the sea. Years rolled by. The filings and the remainder of the rod were cast ashore by the sea waves. A tribal hunter recovered the piece of the rod. He made an arrow of it and kept using it for hunting. The iron filings on the seashore emerged as a sort of grass. One day, the frolicking Yadav gang plucked the grass blades and threw those among themselves. The grass blades turned to divine arrows, which targeted the Yadav and destroyed them. And Dwaraka also submerged under the sea.
Lord Krishna, who had a foreknowledge of these things, set out on a long journey. He reached a dense forest. He saw a rostrum around a banyan tree. He sat on the rostrum, legs one above the other. Soon, he lost in thoughts. The tribal hunter mentioned earlier had been hunting around. As he looked through the dense vegetation of the forest, he got an isolated view of the Lord’s heel. He mistook it to be the neck of a peacock and shot the arrow, made of the iron rod he secured from the seashore. It did not miss the target. The hunter heard the wailing of the victim. He rushed to the spot. Realising his mistake, he fell on the feet of the Lord and begged foe his pardon. Consoling the hunter that it was destiny, lord Krishna left his mortal frame.
The only thing that survived the ruin of Dwaraka had been the idol of Lord Mahavishnu. It floated in the floods. Meanwhile, the mentor of gods, Bruhspathy and the wind god had accidentally come across the idol and were enamored by it.
They then heard a voice announcing that the idol should be carried southwards to the valley of the Western Ghats and installed between a lake, laden with swans and lotus and the temple of a goddess, already in existence. The ordained spot was in Kerala. Bruhspathy and the wind god complied with the oracle. Since Guru (Bruhspathy) and wind (vayu) installed the idol at the place, the latter was christened Guruvayur.
This is the fabled source of the origin of the place name. However, the name, as per recorded evidence, did not occur at least up to 4th century. The treatise, Koka sandhesam (Chakravaka sandhesam) gives a lively description of Guruvayur. It depicts soulfully the beautiful lake, the renowned temple, the tall mast, the flag, the peel of bells and the fragrance emanating from the joss sticks and camphor. It describes the huge compound walls that protect the shrine like a fort, the temple tuskers that indulge in pranks and the people who mob the precincts to have a darsan of the deity and get prsadam from the priest. Nevertheless, the name is given as Kuruvayur. Is it a corrupt form of Guruvayur? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Koka sandhesam, the Sanskrit composition belongs to the 14th century. The Manipravalam (Sanskrit) poets used to ‘sanskritise’ the Dravidian terms in it. However, the author of Koka sandhesam did not translate the Dravidian name Kuruvayur that had evolved from the geographical features of the place. Kuru in Dravidian sense implies kunnu (mount). Vay connotes border. So Kuruvayur means the border of hillock. The declivity from Kunnamkulam ends at Guruvayur and the place is adjacent to the mount where the Sri Krishna College is perched. Sanskrit poet Melpathur Bhattathiri was averse to pure Malayalam terms. He changed Kuruvayur to Gurupavanapuram. Some Malayalam lover rehabilitated it to the language as Guruvayur. And he fortified the rationale of his action by adducing the folklore elaborated elsewhere. Thus the name Kuruvayur mentioned in Kokasndhesam of the 14th century had finally transformed to the present name, Guruvayur.
Villwamangalam swami spent most of his life visiting temples. During his long pilgrimage, he visited the Vadakkumnatha temple in Thrissur also. He came to the sanctum to pay his homage to the Lord. Surprisingly, he found the deity missing. He looked around. To his astonishment, he found the Lord perched on the south sidewall and enjoying himself some amusing scene yonder. The swami also witnessed that colourful spectacle. The goddess Karthyayini in full decoration was being taken on procession. The Karthika procession in zodiac sign Virgo in Malayalam calendar is annually celebrated in Kumaranallur. Lord Siva and the devotee kept watching the gorgeous procession in gaiety and pageantry till it entered the temple. When the Lord looked back, he saw the swami. In an instant, he fled the scene. The Swami returned to the sanctum and found the Lord comfortably sitting in the sanctum sanctorum. He paid his homage to the Lord and went away. This folklore depiction unveils the historical link between Kumaranallur and Thrissur.
Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala, had been known as Edavakunnu in ancient times. The syllable ‘edava’ (eru) signifies domestic oxen. The name would have originated in ancient time, as the place had been a grazing field for the cattle. Thrissur has developed as a township subsequent to the emergence of the Vadakkumnathan temple. The deity, Nathan (Lord Siva), installed at Edavakku came to be known as Vadakkumnathan. This name is not cognate with ‘north’ direction.
The history of Thrissur can be traced to a thousand years back. Sri Sankara is believed to be born out of the blessings of Vadakkumnathan. That implies that the name had been there before Villwamangalam times. The growth of the city can be attributed to the temple.
The royal dynasty of Kochi had with Thrissur a sort of emotional tie, which reached its acme during the tenure of Saktan Thampuran. He was instrumental in developing Thekkinkad into a beautiful public space. Thrissur suffered many a historical infliction, the chief among the being the invasion of Tippu, the King of Mysore (now, Karnataka). The prominent landmarks in the city are the temple and the Thekkinkad ground. King Saken took keen interest in their maintenance. The administrative order he released had been a testimony to this fact. He banned activities like chewing betel, spitting, cleaning and drying under garments in the precincts of these landmarks. Violation of the orders attracted severe penal action. However, the Brahmins enjoyed certain relaxation in respect of the severity of punishment.
The reference to Thrissur is never complete sans a mention on pooram, the annual festival of the temple. In ancient times, the celebration was known as arattupuzha pooram, in which the citizens of Thrissur participated punctually. Once, due to heavy rain, they could not attend the festival. They were disappointed and sorrowful. Saktan consoled them and commenced as an alternative the Thrissur pooram. The venue selected for the celebration was Thekkinkad ground, for the protection of which, the king arranged a special task force, under the stewardship of a coconut tree climber. In course of time, the festival metamorphosed to a national festival.
The name of the place in a record of the 13th century, recovered from the Thrissur temple reads as Thiruchiva peroor. This ancient name later got polished as Thrissiva peroor. This nomenclature implies that the place had been the renowned seat of Lord Siva. Even now, the old timers here mention the name as Thrissiva peroor and not as Thrissur.
It had been an enigma. How did Chimmukutty entice the mighty ruler of Kochi, Saktan Thampuran- with her charm or her expertise in kaikotty kali, a woman centric play? The answer could be that it was a combination of both. A couple of times the king witnessed her performance. She had adopted these times the theme, ‘tripping of gopikas (playmates of Lord Krishna)’. Her elegance and dynamism enthralled the king. He drafted her as the royal consort. That had been just the beginning. The king then brought the palace the famous songster, Machat Ilayath, who had composed a slew of songs for the purpose and Chimmukutty performed her immaculate feats. The king compensated him immensely in terms of money and tax-free land. Thus Ilayath rose from his frugal existence to a life of luxury and grandeur.
However, kaikotty kali and thiruvathira kali, both performing arts, existed long before the time of Saktan Thampuran and Machat Ilayath. Thiruvathira kali was in vogue in Tamil Nadu also as per the Buddhist writings. Nevertheless, the passage of time had wiped off this performing art in Tamil Nadu. It is now confined to Kerala.
Unnuneeli sndhesam, the famous composition of the 14th century, mentions about young belles performing this art form in front of their homes. Anyhow, Ilayath had restructured kaikotty kali. Besides this, he composed other works also, but they did not attain as much fame as Kaikotty kali songs. Whether Saktan Thampuran lent any influence in the creation of these works is debatable. However, they throb with erotic subtleties and feminine sensibilities.
Machat Ilayath was a versatile genius. He excelled in astronomy, logic and grammar. Saktan Thampuran, the Samoothiri of Kozhikode and even Tipu sultan had recorded their tributes to this multifaceted genius. His residence was about three kilometers from Vadakkancheri railway station.
Father Mangad was a renowned minister of the kingdom of the Samoothiri of Kozhikode. He belonged to the place, Mangad near Vadakkancheri, located about 20 kilometers north of Thrissur. Even the foreigners in their writings refer to Vadakkancheri. They were interested in the forest range 1000 feet high. Vadakkancheri is a unique geographical entity comprising hillocks and plains. It is also a fine agricultural tract. The laterite terrain is conducive to the growth of cashew trees, the groves of which abound here fetching rich dividends to the growers. With ample irrigation facilities, paddy cultivation is popular in the plains. The pastoral place abounds in vast, fenced domestic compounds enclosing double storey buildings of a different sort. The precinct in front of every house is specially laid for stacking the harvested paddy stalks. Paddy heaps during harvest season had been a ubiquitous spectacle in front of almost all houses in olden days. Nevertheless, modernity progressively penetrates the rustic citadel as evidenced by the emergence of concrete constructions. Cheri connotes town, specific space, space for particular purpose and the like. Vadak means north. The place north of Thrissur or Kochi is called Vadakkancheri.
Rayiranellur brings home the name of Narayanathu bhranthan, a fabled crank. A resident of Chethallur Narayanathumangalam, he reveled in rolling lumps of rock to the 500 feet high hillock, Rayiranellur, and then let them roll down. The precincts of Narayanathumangalam used to come alive in the early morning hours with the vocalizations of holy mantras from the Vedas. After ablutions and prayer, Narayanathu bhranthan would set out to the hillock. After locating a suitable granite piece, he would perch on it and commence chewing betel, areca nuts and other ingredients. After obtaining in the mouth a rich brew and spitting it, he would get down his job. The chewing would infuse in him adequate stamina to perform his hobby, he believed. Chewing was held in esteem in this place. In Ambalapuzha temple, the idol is said to have been installed after ‘consecrating’ the spot with betel spit. Narayanathu bhranthan would erupt into joy as the rock started rolling down. Once he became tired, he would sit down and look at the heavens as though he were looking for his late mother. The onlookers presumed this to be madness. But, his action was pregnant with philosophical implications.
For that matter, is the world free of eccentricity? There is lengthy list of human eccentricity. Man becomes mad in the name of religion, caste, power, money, factions, faith, eruditeness, art, literature philosophy, pride and what not! We have heard of a man who used to count in his evening stroll the lampposts and corrected the number, if he had gone wrong, by repeating the task! We have heard of a great philosopher who received the reprimands and beatings of his wife for devoting himself to the cause of human good! Do we not remember the man who walked the streets during daytime with a lit candle in search oh humans? Are we not cranky when we amuse at the misery of others? How can we categorize others as mad when we are ambitious to overwhelm the whole universe? So, there is a bit of madness in every one of us. When it transcends the forbidden limits, we would be taken to the clinic or asylum. Narayanathu bhranthan by his bizarre act of rolling the rock up the hilltop and letting it roll down unveiled the element of lunacy in us. We struggle to grab power and pelf, but to what effect? However we try, we may not succeed in retaining what we acquire. In an unguarded moment, they leave us like the granite piece that roll down from the hilltop. Only geniuses like Poonthanam and Ezhuthachan gained the philosophical insight into the apparently foolish acts of Narayanathu bhranthan. Worldly pleasures are ephemeral. Ezhuthachan is perfectly right when he said so.
Narayanathu bhranthan belonged to the fabled pariah family of twelve. He had a link to the civilization that flourished on the banks of the Nila River. He was born in the forest. He grew up in the Chethallur natayanath residence. His father was a landlord and his mother a pariah woman. He never claimed any share from his father’s wealth. Growing with the sundry, he studied in Thiruvegapura. He spent his nights in the thickets and indulged in his hobbies in Thirunellur forest. He one day espied the goddess on the tree and when he rushed to her she tried to evade him. However, he succeeded in installing her idol in the forest. The nine footprints of the goddess are said to have been preserved in the forest and the deity consecrated on the ninth footprint. Narayanathu bhranthan cooked his food, with logs collected from the thicket, in the hearth he made in the forest.
Kali, the goddess who tried to bless him was chased away. An enraged goddess swapped his elephantiasis affected left leg as the right one. Every one used to exclaim what a man he had been. His apparent follies concealed his mystic ideas.
Rayinellur is near Thiruvegapura, between Vadakkancheri and Koppam. The deity at the hilltop and the rivulet that meanders the valley are the attraction here.
Rayiranellur had been the cradle of a bygone civilization. It had been the center of Vedic studies. Five of the renowned ‘band of eighteen and a half poets’, which adorned the court of the Kozhikode Samoothiri, was from Thiruvegapura. The granite piece that Narayanathu bhranthan used to roll up the hill is preserved in Narayanmangalam. The name Rayiranellur connotes the land (oor) of Rayira- an abbreviated form of Rajasekhara, Lord Siva.
Thathrikutty was a beautiful Brahmin woman. She hailed from Kalpakasseri mansion house. An extrovert. She fell in love with the renowned Kathakali artiste, Kavungal Sankara Panicker. When the news of their romance broke out, Thathrikutty was house arrested and persecuted on charges of alleged prostitution. The victim was condemned to a sheer commodity. The hapless woman resolved to take vengeance on the so-called leaders. Now the day of ‘prosecution’ arrived. A large gathering assembled to witness the open-air procedure under the aegis of the ruler. Thathrikutty remained cool and collected. She started announcing her clients’ names that included those who wore the mask of social respectability. Soon, many amongst the spectators started withdrawing themselves from the venue. Thathrikutty grinned with a sort of sadistic joy. The list of names lengthened to sixty-three and finally threatened to include that of the ruler himself. Instantaneously, the latter prevented her from going further. He drank a jar of water and ordered to excommunicate Ththrikutty and the 63 Brahmins.Thathrikutty contritely blame herself for announcing names of persons who were actually innocent. She felt that she could never get exonerated from the sin of name them.
Thathrikutty moved to Palakkad and settled there, embracing Islam. Many of the accused Brahmins crossed the river Bharathapuzha and settled at Ottapalam.
Ottapalam, the capital of Valluvanad, comprises Chinakkathur, Palappuram, Vaniyankulam and the like. Bharathapuzha attains here full stature. Chinakkathur thicket is famous for the pooram festival. People throng here to witness the bull race and the stuffed horse draw. Performing artistes masquerading as imps and devils make rounds about the place. The similarity of apparels and ornaments of the characters in Ottam Thullal and those of the masked artistes led to the speculation that Kunchan Nambiar had borrowed from this performing art. Pulavan from Palappuram had devised a shadow play adopting the story of Kamba Ramayanam. It is still being staged in this place. It is the legacy of Valluvanad. The scars of Tipu’s invasion are still visible here. The site of present N.S.S.College, Palappuram had been the location of the cantonment of Tipu’s and subsequently the British army.
The growth of Ottapalam can be traced to the arrival of the British. The inception of important offices and the court in the town had changed it as the nerve center of Valluvanad. The railway line running parallel to the river and the Palakkad road had imparted a momentum to the development of Ottapalam. The phonetic distortion the foreigners made while reading the name board at Ottapalam railway station bemused the natives. They used to pronounce the name as Ottapalam (holed bridge).
Some hold, it seems, the opinion that many episodes depicted in the epics had occurred in Kerala. In their perspective Ottapalam was what had been described in Mahabharata as Ekachakra. Some believe that Arakillam (wax house) mentioned in the epic was near Thrukkakara. Yet some others believe that Panchali, the wife of Pandas secured the akshaya patra (the magic bowl that provided food perpetually) at Thiruvanvandur. Jadayu, the fabled bird that intercepted and battled with Ravana while abducting Sita in the Pushpakavimanam) was felled by the asura at Chadayamangalam, according to some.
The name, Palakkad is believed to have originated from a single-log bridge that had been set across the rivulet here. The name is comparatively recent. The old timers say that there had been a monolithic bridge near a mosque here.
The following is a folk story. Nambi of Alathur initially did not heed it. He dismissed it as the chirp of the birds, koruk. But its repetition by the words perching on the banyan trees made him curious. He tried to analyse the sound: ka aruk (who is disease free)? Known in the place as ashta vaidya prdhani (principal doctor), Nambi felt he should have answered it. Thus, he defined the disease free person as one who took good food moderately, walked a while after the meal, did not interrupt bowel movements and excretion, slept lying by the left side, and above all, was amenable to self control and gentleness. The birds that appeared to be listening to this definition soon stopped chirping and flew away.
After this incident two days passed. On the third day two boas came to Nambi’s house. The kids were extremely lovely. Mischievous, they had about them a sort of divine appearance. They asked Nambi curtly if he would teach them medicine. He answered them positively. The boys indulged in all sorts of pranks. When Nambi explained the subject, the boys would ask a horde of questions, all logical and relevant. They one day set fire to the entrance of the house. Another day, they gave away to a tribal hunter the materials gathered for the annual ceremony of shradham. Nambi endured the atrocities.
One day a person suffering from severe headache came to Nambi’s. He was then not available there. The boys accosted to the patient. They escorted him to the clinic. They applied an herbal medicine on the visitors’ head. The ‘doctors’ lifted off the skull of the patient, rubbed off some disease germs and then restored the skull. The patient gained instant relief. A perplexed Nambi asked the ‘doctors’ their identity. But their reply was again a curt retort. However, the boys explained that whatever they did was for the benefit of Nambi. They set fire to the entrance of the house to save the main house, which would have been guttered, by fire. The tribal hunters to whom they distributed the shradham materials were departed souls.
Anyhow, it was time for them to leave. They made over a treatise to Nambi, assuring him it would serve him in times of doubt. They vanished. They were aswini devas. With their divine blessings and with his own industry, Nambi became a renowned physician. The Unnineeli sndhesam of the 14th century refers to Nambi as the physician of Alathur. The poet characterizes the practice of charlatans of Kaduthurithi to contrast the expertise of Nambi and his descendants.
Manipravala lakshanam, a literary composition of the 14th century mentions Alathur manipravalam. This is a compendium on processes and procedures of native medicine. The author of Leelathilakam also opines that even though it does not appear to be manipravalam (composition blending Sanskrit and Malayalam), Alathur manipravalam is composed in the mould of manipravalam. It documents the preparation and the application of many a herbal medicine. However, the text could be retrieved only in parts.
Alathur in Thrukkantiyur belongs to the Ponnani taluk of old British Malabar. The name has evolved from the syllables alam (water), aath (where water is available) and oor (place). The particles coalesce to mean the place where water is available. Perhaps, the logic of naming a place in terms of water may be questioned, as water bodies are no more found in Alathur. It may be countered that the water sources in Alathur would have drained off in the passage of time.
Palakkad has a Ramayanam connection. During the search for Sita, abducted by Ravana, Sri Rama and Lakshmana reached the banks of the Kerayar River. The dank the crystal clear water from the river and then bathed themselves in it. Rid of thirst and fatigue, the resumed their search. After walking a while, they realized that they had forgotten their upper garments on the banks of the river. Sri Rama asked Lakshmana to fetch them. But Lakshmana refused to obey and asked Rama to do so. The Lord was stunned at the discourtesy of his brother and was at a loss to reckon the reason. Soon, a voice announced that Lakshmana’s mind had been corrupted when he reached the sinful land. He can be freed of it by bathing him in the Ganges. Lord Rama was in a fix. Lakshmana could not be directed alone to the holy river. He could not accompany Lakshmana for want of time. Finally, an idea dawned on him. He pulled out an arrow from his quiver and shot it on the forest ground. It penetrated through to the Ganges and fetched a stream of Ganges water right there. Having taken his bath in the river water so fetched, Lakshmana changed to his old self. Rama was elated at getting back his loving brother. The duo then resumed their search for Sita. This is the folk story about the origin of the Thenari water spring in Palakkad. The perennial spring is at the center of the vast paddy fields in Elappulli panchayath. There is an ancient temple also here. The spring is located in the temple pond and its flow is said to be steady whether it is summer or monsoon. Its origin is not traced even now. Old timers say that its source is the Ganges. Thenari translates as ‘stream fetched by Rama’s arrow’. Pilgrims from the State and Tamil Nadu throng here to have a dip in the holy waters it would redeem them, they believe, form all sins. The footprint of Rama can be discerned in the rocky hillocks.
The Western Ghats get an abscission at Palakkad creating a natural passageway, named after the place. The foreigners, who include Tipu Sultan and the British, set foot in Kerala trough Palakkad corridor. There is a fort here, built as a monument to Tipu. Kalpathy, a place here, through which the river flows, is considered to be a holy space. The car festival here is very famous.
In A.D. 918, the Kongan army invaded Palakkad and Chittur. The king of Palakkad parried the attack with the help of the king of Kochi. The victory over the Kongan army is still celebrated every year. Palakkad district comprises five taluks: Palakkad, Ottapalam, Alathur, Chittur and Mannarkad. Palakkad is endowed with Nature’s beauty and a rich cultural legacy. The Nelliampathy range about 1500 metres high from sea level, the Malampuzha dam and the adjoining gardens make the district an ideal tourist resort. Once renowned as the granary of Kerala, Palakkad is only a shadow of what it had been in respect of agriculture. People progressively have abandoned paddy cultivation as it is not fetching and the farming conditions have turned hostile. There is no reason to hazard a guess that Palakkad obtained its name from the banyan tree (pala). However, in the Buddhist writings, we find the division of geographical plains in to five segments namely, kurunji, mulla, marutham, neythal and pala. Pala signifies regions where rain is rare. This is the meaning of the word ‘pala’ in the name Palakkad.
Compared to other regions of Kerala, Palakkad suffers from dearth of rain. The split in the Western Ghats is cause for the scarcity of rain here as the clouds escape through the gap. Even though full-grown forests are not found, Palakkad abounds in motley hillocks and thickets. The density of population would have been flimsy when Palakkad got its name. In fine, Palakkad would have been a sparsely populated geophysical entity where rain was frugal, when it gained its nomenclature.
It was time when Pava Nambi of Varakkal was ruling Malappuram. He resided in Kollapadipara bungalow. A great flood unexpectedly in Malappuram. Pava Nambi set out with pomp in a decked boat to inspect the extent of ruin the floods had caused. However, Nambi did not forget to secure the bunch of his bungalow keys in his loincloth. He never parted with his key bunch whatever venture he embarked on. Strengthened by the monsoon rains, the Kadalundi river in which Nambi was coursing through, was in full fury. Nambi’s boat was suddenly caught in a whirlpool and was swirling uncontrollably. In the chaos that followed the key bunch fell in the river and sunk deep. As Nambi was in agony on the loss of the keys, the Muslim priest of the place offered to retrieve the lost keys on condition that the latter should be adequately compensated. He jumped into the river and came up with the key bunch. When asked what he wanted as his reward, the priest demanded the transfer of ownership of a nearby temple to his name. Nambi was transfixed at the unexpected demand of the Hajiar. However, he soon recovered from his inertia and announce in firm voice that his demand was granted. This was how the Hajiar mosque emerged replacing the temple. The mosque flourishes on the banks of the river Kadalundi, near the big bazaar in Malappuram. Pava Nambi had been a contemporary of the chieftain of Eranad and the chancellor of exchequer of the Samoothiripad of Kozhikode. The bungalow of Nambi is located near a vast playground at the foot of the Malappuram hill. The playground is said to have been the training ground for the military. Later, the British took over it when Nambi refused permission to bury there the British soldiers killed in action.
The Big Mosque in Big Bazaar is famous. The mosque compound walls enclose a sepulcher measuring 25 feet by 15 feet that nestle 41 tombs, known as jarams. The tombs are said to be those of the Muslims who fought their ruler for their survival. The martyrs are remembered by conducting with pomp and devotion an annual ceremony called Malappuram nercha (oblation). Palacious buildings and thatched huts flaunt the roads. Malappuram had been once the head quarters of Malabar Special Police (MSP), instrumental in curbing the frequent civil mutinies. Once a part of British Malabar, Malappuram now is a separate district comprising six taluks namely, Nilambur, Thiroorangadi, Eranad, Tirur, Ponnani and Peruntalmanna. Eranad is famed as the largest taluk in Kerala. The new distinct scaled great heights of growth and prosperity. The dynasty of ‘Azhavanchari lords which had the right to install the rulers of Kerala, belonged to Adavanad in Malappuram district. South Malabar that includes Malappuram had been once known as Eranad, which figures in ancient works. But Malabar does not find any mention ion these works.
The name Malappuram has engendered from geographical features. It implies the place that abounds in hills. Mala in Malayalam means mount and puram means place.
Thiruvananthapuram acquired its capital status of Kerala with the unification of the three entities and formation of the new State. The State rarely had a regular capital for a long time. However, in the ancient time it had such a one and it had been Thirunava.
The river, Bharatapuzha is at her broadest in Thirunava. It was here that the kings were installed as rulers. When the democratic rule failed, the public coronated a benevolent king (perumal). The ceremony was conducted at Thirunava.
Once in twelve years, a large number of people comprising lord, prominent citizens and artistes assembled at Thirunava. It happened on the day of Makam zodiac sign in the month of Magha. Therefore, the plenum was christened ‘Mamankam’. The chairing function of Mamankam was known as ‘Nilapad’. The first chairperson was the Perumal. Later, the status was transferred to Valluva Konathiri. The Samoothiri of Kozhikode annexed the title to him from Konathiri. Konathiri made repeated attempts to retrieve his lost title. He even employed one deathly army for the purpose but of no avail. After each battle, the bodies of the soldiers were dumped in a well. The well was said to be in the compound of a Mission hospital here. Nevertheless, the archaeological researchers who conducted excavations could not trace even a fragment of a skeleton unveiling the falsity of the allegation. Even if the well existed it would have been elsewhere. However, Nilapad and Mamankam had vanished before the fall of Samoothiri. The emergence of many tiny rulers was the reason for this, and thus Thirunava lost its capital status also.
The Nava Mukuntha temple is situated on the riverbank. The relics here hint that this has been a Siva shrine. The compound wall built of laterite takes after the figure of an elephant or a peacock. The wall bears resemblance to the one around the Thrukkodithanam temple in Changanasseri. The pylons on the west side of the temple bear the scars of attack of the temple by Tipu. The deity was believed to be witnessing Mamankam from a podium, available here now also. It is called ‘pazhukka’. The temple claims venerability of centuries. There are separate sanctums for Siva and Brahma in Thirunava.
The renowned Azhavancheri lords and the famous pundits of Vedas had their base here. The members of the local administrative body were believed to be versed in Rig Veda. The placed was graced by the birth of Melpatur Bhattathiri.
Legend has it that Perunthachan constructed a bridge across the Bharatapuzha. When a pedestrian entered the bridge, a doll at the far end would dip itself in the water and as the unwary pedestrian made his exit, the doll would come up and spit the water it drew into its mouth from the river on the hapless pedestrian. Later, Perunthachan’s son installed another doll on the bridge that would slap on the face of his father’s creation, causing the spit water to fall into the river! ‘Navay’ in Malayalam means boat or ship. In ancient times, The Chinese and the Arabs reached the hinterland in Kerala for trade. They would have loaded the native produce at Thirunava in their vessels. Boat service was introduced to connect the ships anchored in the middle of the river. The spectators for Mamankam also reached here by boats. The network of transport bestowed on Thirunava the status of a port (nava). And addition of the reverential particle ‘thiru’ helped to form the name Thirunava that simply signified jetty or port.
Cherman Perumal once ruled Kerala. His inefficient followers propelled the downward slide of the kingdom. His relatives including his sons and nephews were indulging in wasteful life. No one looked after the administrative affairs earnestly. The management of temples and related affairs fell into disarray. They were oblivious of their responsibility and were whiling away their time in gambling, eating and luxurious indulgences. Chaos and anarchy descended on the State. When the Cholas invaded the kingdom, none were available to parry the enemy’s attack. They occupied Palakkad. However, two ‘Sudras’ (men in lower hierarchy of caste system), Manan and Vikraman of Eranad put up a brave fight. These defendants were not acceptable to the royal family. Vexed by such an unhealthy scenario, Perumal decided to proselytize and to migrate to Mecca along with the Arab to spend peacefully the rest his life there.
The news of Perumal’s resolve to migrate to the Arab country spread like a wild fire. The sons and nephews rushed to the ruler. Kerala was apportioned among them. Nevertheless, the Eranad ruler, Eralppad, came there late, as he had been late to gather the news. Perumal consoled him and handed over to him a broken sword and a cracked conch. A limited area of the marshy land near the seashore was also gifted to him. Perumal advised him annex land to his portion by waging war. Thus he settled at the seashore. The gifted land was confined to an area that the clarion blow of a cock (kozhi) could be heard. So the place acquired the name Kozhikode. Eralppad, there after, never looked back. He constructed splendid palaces on the banks of the river, Kallaipuzha. The marshy land was transformed to a city. He installed the dynastic deity at Tali. He developed an efficient naval force. He eliminated the vain, warring landlords indulging in pomp, arrogance and eve teasing. In fine, Eralppad scaled the heights of name and fame even in foreign climes.
In this fable there would be grains of historical truth. However, our historians dispute or belittle the role of legends in tracing historical truth. But we would take into reckon the fact that once the foundation, on which the edifice of legends were built broke down, the legends would not sustain themselves. We could delineate the historical backdrop in the legends as ensued. The Chola invasion had led to the downfall of the Kulasekhara kingdom that dissipated into sovereign states numbering eighteen. A man of vision and wisdom, Eralppad, who confined himself to the hilly tract, Eranad foresaw the strategic importance of the marshy expanse, Kozhikode adjacent to the seacoast and annexed it to his land. Deemed as wasteland its annexation caused no serious resistance or external intervention. In fact, the creation of Kozhikode could be attributed to Eralppad, who was also known as Samoothiripad.
Kozhikode was a mute witness to many a historical events and incidents. It witnessed the flourish of the ‘eighteen and a half’ erudite poets and the Krishnanattam of Manava vedan. The renowned author, Punam Namboothiri, who composed Champu, the prose-verse version of Ramayana lived here. It was here Kunjali Marakar, the historical figure, nurtured an efficient navy. It was here Vascoda Gama, the Portuguese navigator, landed during his world voyage. In ancient times, Kozhikode was renowned for timber trade. Many foreigners sought refuge here. The land was famed for freedom fighters. It endured the military invasion of Tipu and witnessed the erudition of Logan. Many a foreign civil administrators had their flamboyant life here. The alien travelogue writers documented the glory of Kozhikode city. Mittai theruvu (the street of sweet meat) is a reputed trading cetre here. S.K.Pottakad, the great Malayalam travelogue writer has immortalized this street in his literary composition “The story of a street”. Few visitors leave Kozhikode without making a purchase at Mittai theruvu. In early days, the litterateurs used to congregate in Kozhikode. The office of the Mathrubhumi daily and that of All India Radio served as the venue for the purpose.
The link between the ‘cock’ story and the place in the origin of its name, Kozhikode, is only speculative. The argument that someone from the alien clime gave it the name, Calicut, is also not tenable. However, the theory that Kozhikode had transformed to Calicut due to the corrupt phonetic expression by a foreigner holds water.
In fact, the name has nexus with the residence of Samoothiripad. Konte (ruler’s) illam (residence) is called Koil (the residence of ruler). The place where Koil was situated became Koilkode. By a phonetic variation, the particle ‘yil’ had transformed to ‘zhil’ and thus the name Kozhikode had emerged.
That wayside scene would have transfixed some one who had been trekking the lush green mountains of Wayanad. The rusting iron chain hanging on the branch of an old tree triggered his curiosity. Evidence strewn over the place suggested that the passers by lit candles and holy lamps there. A native of the forest would have helped the puzzled onlooker to sort out the mystery.
The chain mutely announced a story of ingratitude. During the regime of the Europeans, a westerner had a desire to lay a road to the hills of Wayanad. However, he was not conversant with the topography of the place. So he sought the help of a local lad, well built and black in complexion. He had an amazing grasp of the geophysical details of the forest. The duo set out into the thicket, the local lad leading the way. The westerner then conceived a plan for the prospective road. The ungrateful foreigner, sans an iota of compunction, shot the lad dead to be the discoverer. People believe that the ghost of the boy attacked those who scaled the mountain. So the believers tried to overwhelm the ghost by chaining it to the tree and the chain represented his folklore. The visitors offer their respects by lighting the lamps and candles to ward off evil effects. Contrary to the southern region of Wayanad that abounds in deep gorges, the northern region is a plain and is favourable for habitation. Wayanad is famous for its forest produces. The unique Wayanad turmeric finds a mention in the renowned folksong, Vadakkan Pattkal. The foreigners fought among themselves to the precious resources of Wayanad. The original occupants of Wayanad were tribal people, who were the descendants of Banasurs. A hillock here is named after him.
The ruler of Kumbalam came to Wayanad to bathe in the auspicious tank, Papanasini to gain purity of birth. The chieftain of the veda clan had seen him. He longed to get him as the groom of his daughter. The chieftain sent his entourage to he princeling to secure a matrimonial alliance. The princeling of Kumbalam was caught between the devil and the deep sea. If the offer was turned down he would enrage the chieftain and his life would be in peril. If he wedded the veda princess, who rivaled Surpanaka, the character in Ramayana, his people would not welcome him to their fold. The prince decided to act diplomatic. He conveyed his consent to the chieftain. As the wedding arrangements proceeded, the crafty prince sought clandestinely the help of other princes. The rulers of Kurumpura nad, Kottayam and Kolathiri rushed to the rescue of the Kumbalam prince. The veda chieftain was astonished at seeing the countless soldiers at the venue of wedding and the conspicuous absence of the bridegroom. The veda princess seated on the special podium of wedding in the midst of her maids came to tears at the turn of events. Her mother started beating her breast and crying at the sad plight of her daughter.
In the fierce battle that followed, the veda king was killed. The gathering was moved by the cruel destiny of the princess. They gained the consent of a reputed Nambiar and arranged the princess’s marriage with him. And Nambiar became the prince of Wayanad. The Jains generally are fond of beautiful natural spots. This would have been the reason they migrated to Wayanad. Relics of Jain temples are conspicuous in Wayanad. Hindu shrines are also not few. The Tirunelli and the Thrisileri temples with in the campus of Wayanad are worth mentioning. Wayanad remained neglected for many years. When the rulers of Purakizhanad and Kottayam annexed the land, it came into the main stream. Tipu Sultan and the Brits eyed it for colonization, as it had been a repository of riches and resources. Tipu Sultan established arsenals at different parts of Wayanad. The one at Sultan Batteri was instrumental in the place gaining its name. In 1980, the Malappuram district was carved out of Wayanad. The present Wayanad district comprises three taluks: Sultan Batteri, Vythiri and Mananthody.
The name Wayanad was evolved from vayal (farm) and nadu (place). Wayanad nestles a lot of farming fields, though it is replete with thickets and mounts. However, Wayanad in native jargon implies the land outside or external. The Prince, Eradi, Valluva konathiri and Samoothiri ruled. Wayanad was outside their jurisdiction and remained ignored. However, as per the Tirunelli edict, the king of Purakizhanad ruled the land. As he ruled the land that was external, he got his name so. Wayanad borders the Karnataka State and was given a sort of remote status. The old timers gave it the name as it was outside the main land. Pura (external) and nad (land) combine to form Puranad that transformed in course of time into Wayanad.
The pretty, young sisters of the Ezhimala palace went to the near by stream to bathe themselves. At the prime of their youth, the enterprising duo spent hours in the rivulet indulging in unbridled antics. They were totally oblivious of the passage of time. Finally, the elder sister, overcome by fatigue, was swept away by the current. The younger on did not notice it.
A Muslim youth, a member of the Kolathiri army, who had been taking bath at another part of the rivulet, saw the hapless princess being carried by the tide. He soon swam to her rescue and brought her to safety. Nevertheless, she hesitated to climb to the shore. She stood in waist-deep water, making with her hands a cross mark on her chest. After a while, the reason of her action dawned on the young soldier. How can she all naked come to the bank when a stranger stares at her in close range? He soon flung his dhoti at her. Clad in wet clothes, she struggled her way to the riverbank. Her flowing hairs dripping water, she appeared picture perfect. After reaching the banks, she turned her slender, beautiful neck toward the transfixed youth to cast a flirting look at him. Both of them smiled at each other. And it was the beginning of love divine.
The news reached the ruler, Kolathiri, who tried in vain to distract the girl. Finally, he left her to go on her own way. Kolathiri gifted the couple a splendid residence and tax-free land for a living. Thus the princess of Kolathiri palace transformed to Arakkal Beevi.
The dynasty of Arakkal Beevi flourished for centuries, as Logan in his manual documented her glowing storyline.
Meanwhile, a Nair of Arayankulangara family embraced Islam and became Mohammed Ali. A servant of Kolathiri, Mohammed had a desire to establish a matrimonial link with the family of Arakkal Beevi. He married a beevi of Arakkal and trans-located to Kannur. That marked the inception of the Ali dynasty. They turned out to be the tutelary sentinels of Kolathiri. They conquered many islands of the Arabian sea and presented them to Kolathiri. The King in turn gifted them Kannur and the adjoining areas. Here from began the known history of Kannur that maintained a nexus with that of Arakkal Beevi and Ali dynasty.
Kannur had a slew of historical episodes. The foreigners colonized it. The Ali dynasty conquered it and became it rulers. Hyder Ali, the king of Mysore, invaded Kannur. Arakkal Beevi switched her allegiance to him. The legendary feats of Tipu Sultan, the conquest by the East India Company who came here as traders and finally the tragic fall of the kingdom of Kolathiri- all add to the historical magnificence of Kannur.
Now, let us trace the origin of the name Kannur. In the ancient records Kannur is named as Kanathur. The foreigners corrupted it as Canannore. The English version was till recently popular. So the evolution was from the English name, which transliterated to Kannur. The old version of the name was Kanthur. Some explanation is warranted on it. Kananam in Malayalam means forest. The great poet, Ulloor S.Parameswara Iyer, in his work Bhakti Deepika used the term ‘kanam’ to mean forest. Perhaps, kanam would have been an abridged form of ‘kananam’. The places by name Kanam and Manganam in Kottayam district supports this construction. Ulloor conjunctures that author of Unniyadee charitham, would have belonged to Manganam.
Oh, we had beat about the bush, dwelling on the names Kanam and Manganam. Now, let us revert to Kannur from Manganam. ‘Kanath’ combines with ‘oor’ to give Kanathoor, meaning the place in the midst of or near the forest. Later, it was Angicised to Canannore and again the Malayalam version Kannur was restored.
V (B) ellalar, in Malabar phonetics, of Padumala set out for hunting. In the course of hunting, a poisonous thorn stuck to his foot. He started wailing, complaining that he was unable to bear the pain. He was brought to his house. His wife burst into tears and shouted at her servants to bring the native physician, Deyi. The servants soon ran for the physician. The physician was in advanced state of pregnancy. However, she started for the victim’s house, as Vellalar was a prominent figure in the village. But the physician was unable to sit down and examine the sufferer’s foot thanks to her bulging belly. So Vellalar was shifted to the surface of a storage box and in an instant she extracted the thorn from Vellalar’s flesh. She applied some herbal medicines to the wound. Vellalar soon had a sumptuous sleep. When he woke up, he asked Deyi what she wanted as her reward. She was asked to be free to demand any thing she desired. But the physician declined to accept any fee or reward. However, she was assured that she could approach him any time for any help.
Deyi on her way back felt uneasy and took refuge under a tree. Then the Minister of Vellalar accosted to her. He was piqued at Vellalar showering praise on her. He gave her a dressing down and left in a huff. The physician felt very bad. She vowed that her sons to be born would avenge her disgrace. True to her prediction, she was delivered of male twins. They were trained to become renowned warriors. We are, however, left clueless whether the duo took revenge on the Minister or not. Nevertheless, the duo is believed to be the pioneers of the Tulu martial arts. Today, such martial centers here have nearly vanished.
The river Thalappadi runs as a borderline between Kerala on the south and Karnataka on the north. Mancheswaram in the Kasarkode distinct is renowned for areca farms and coconut palms. The Mancheswaram River and the Uppala River merge with the sea at Mancheswaram. The forest and the seacoast exist rather close to each other. The railway station here is small but busy with commuters crowding all the while. Mancheswaram is the seat of a composite culture. On the valley, there is a cave temple housing the idol of Lord Siva. The temple is richly embellished with beautiful sculptures.
A pilgrim by name Ranga sarma was on his way to Rameswaram. He inadvertently went to sleep as he reached Mancheswaram. In his slumber, he dreamt that Lord Siva accosted to him and asked him to install the Lord’s idol in the dilapidated temple near by. The Lord also desired that he renovated the temple and posited there the idol of Anantha, the fabled serpent. Ranga sarma complied with the dream revelations, leading to the emergence of the Anatheswaram temple at Mancheswaram.
The car festival at the temple is famous. It is celebrated with pomp and gaiety. The temple was partially destroyed by a hurricane. The Ali dynasty of Kannur was said to have attacked and plundered the temple. The temple is also known as Srimadananteswara, signifying the coexistence of Lord Siva and Ananta. There is a speculation that the name, Srimadananteswara, has transformed to Mancheswaram. However, a deeper construction of the term is warranted. Sri Parvathy is known as the daughter of Mancher hill. Eswar (the husband) of the daughter of Mancher hill (Parvathy) is Lord Siva. And the deity of Mancheswaram is Lord Siva only. The terms ‘Mancher’ and ‘Eswar’ coalesce to form Manchereswaram. In the beginning, the name was given to the Siva shrine. Later, it was extended to the place also.