Across the lush green fields, two kilometres from Chittur town on the banks of River Sokanashini (destroyer of sorrow), exists an old building where Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, regarded as the father of Malayalam language, lived in the 16th century spending his last years. People call it Gurumadom and it is here that he transcreated the two great Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, for the common people with the subtle and meaningful mingling of Sanskrit and Dravidian streams of the then prevailing language and literature. Ezhuthachan evolved an altogether new texture for the Malayalam language. As the story goes, Thunchath Ezhuthachan, on his way back from his sojourn in Tamil Nadu, had a stopover here with his disciples. The tranquillity of the place made him settle down here for the rest of his life. Occupied by Tamil Brahmins, who perhaps are the descendents of the disciples of the Acharya, the gramam still has an old look and on both sides of the building are temples of Sree Rama and Siva. The street with long arrays of Agraharams has all the charm of antiquity that we should love to preserve. At the Gurumadhom, a Srichakra, the Ezhuthani (stylus) he used for writing, the wooden slippers, a few old manuscripts and a few idols worshipped by him are kept as precious mementos.
It is on Vijayadasami day that the memorial gets the maximum number of visitors with hundreds of children brought here for a ritualistic initiation into learning. Thunchan madom on the banks of Sokanashini (destroyer of sorrow) Chittoorpuzha is even today blessed with the presence of literary men.
CHITTUR KAVU (CHITTUR BHAGAVATHY TEMPLE)
Chittur town (earlier a part of erstwhile Cochin), now in Palakkad District, is at a distance of about 11 kms from Palakkad town. A twenty-miles-across gap in the Western Ghats is the most striking feature of Palakkad district. I recall that over a hundred years ago an English Collector, William Logan, wrote to describe the area picturesquely and lyrically: “Here, by whatever natural agency the break occurred, the mountains appear thrown back and heaped up as if some overwhelming deluge had burst through, sweeping them to left and right. On either hand tower the giant Nilgiris and Anamalas, overtopping the chain of ghats by several thousand feet; while through the gap the southwest winds bring pleasant moist air and grateful showers to the thirsty plains of Coimbatore, and roads and railway link the Carnatic to Kerala. Through this the thousand streams of the higher mountains find their way to the sea, and the produce of the eastern and western provinces is exchanged. The unique character – as a point of physical geography – of this gap in an otherwise unbroken wall of high mountains, six hundred miles long, is only equalled by its great economic value to the countries lying on either hand of it.”
In 917 A.D. a large Ganga (Kongu) army consisting chiefly of cavalry invaded the territory of the Palghat Raja, but was driven back with great slaughter by Maharaja of Cochin, assisted by the Zamorin and the Rajas of Palghat and Walluvanad. For this service and to enable better protection, the Palghat Raja ceded to Cochin the territories known as Naludesam and Kodakaranad, which constitute the present Taluk of Chittur. Naludesam comprised of the four adjoining “Desams”, Chittur, Nalleppilly, Tattamangalam, and Pattancherri. Main idol at Chittur temple is Bhadrakali, A 6 ft tall ‘Daruvigraham’ facing East is installed there, and Nair priests perform the Poojas. In the normal course, the temple opens and poojas are performed only on Tuesdays and Fridays. But the temple remains open on all days in the Malyalam month of ‘Karkitakam’, nine consecutive days during ‘Navarathri’ and daily during the 41 days known as ‘Mandalam’(generally in Nov/Dec). Konganpada is a grand festival of historical significance celebrated in the Bhagavathy temple at Chittur.
Chittur Kongan Pada
Kerala, once a land of small kingdoms, had witnessed several pitched battles. Few in the state commemorate the war victories of their forefathers. However, people of Chittur had assimilated a story of triumph into their cultural veins and on the first Monday after the dark lunar in ‘Kumbham’, Malayalam calendar (February-March) they remember a war they had fought and won - Konganpada, the only war festival in the state. The annual festival of Konganpada is a continued celebration of the legendary victory over the Kongus and is a colourful interpretation of several assaults and victories that have entered the collective consciousness of the Chittur citizenry. It gives great importance to the mother goddess of Chittur. (You can see her in the iconic picture that I have posted in the Group’s Photo Album, a short stout matronly figure with bulging eyes, seated on a pedestal, with the several hands holding trident, sword, conch, discus, and swinging by its long hair, a decapitated male head sporting a moustache and beard. One hand rests atop a massive club and two hands show the signs of ‘fear not’ with an open palm, fingers pointing up, and ‘I grant a boon’ with an open palm fingers pointing down.).
The history of this festival is interwoven with myths. Konganpada recollects a war the Chittur Nairs fought against King Rajadhi Raja of Kong dynast from Coimbatore in which the former won. Chitturians believe that Goddess Bhagavathy saved them from the Chola King. According to historical version Kings of Kongu attacked Palakkad and the King of Kochin with the help of Zamorins defeated them. And Konganpada is being celebrated to keep alive that great victory.
The festival starts with 'Chilambu' on Sivarathri in Kumbham, which reminds Kongan's (Chola King’s) declaration of war and the frightened people worshipping Bhagavathy beseeching her help. On the second day a flag is hoisted to indicate their preparedness for war. In the evening, they set out for war. This is called 'Arippathattu". All the people assemble at the temple. After three popgun shots, the procession starts. Clad in silk, wearing gold ornaments and trinkets and with a shining sword in hand, the Velichappadu (oracle) goes in front while the people, full of exultation follow him with torches held aloft. At midnight the procession returns to the temple with elephants and chariots. Next day is the day of Konganpada. On this day, even the penniless will hold a grand feast. In the morning, popguns would fire 101 rounds. Of the festivities during the day, Kolam procession is significant. Children are made to wear 'kolam' in response to certain vows made by their parents to Bhagavathi. Girls are paraded in men's wear (kolam) on the ground that the Goddess encountered the Konganpada in man's robes. The procession starts from a nearby Vettakkorumakan Kavu, this time with colour and festivity. Cultural programmes are also staged in the pageant. There are various forms of entertainment like Ezhovela, Thattinmel Koothu, Sinki Nadakom etc. The Kolam procession would reach the temple by dusk. This is followed by a ritual called ‘Olavayana”, when the messenger of Kongan reads the declaration of war. About 10 O'clock that night, Kongan makes his appearance. At Poovathunkavu, people driving the horses hither and thither would enact a mock fight. This is followed by ‘Pothottam’ in which some people rush forward with the head of a buffalo reminding one of the head of the dead buffaloes of the Chola king. A few persons feign death whose bodies are taken back to their wailing relatives (Called ‘Kattil Savam’). Later the festival ends with an hour-long percussion. This may be one of the bizarre festivals in the state.
“Adima Kavu”, as the name suggests, is a pre-decided temple for a particular family, where we consider slaves (ADIMA means slave) to the deity of that particular temple. It is still debatable as to how Chittur Kavu was taken as the Adimakavu for my Thravad, Kunnath House, Kunisseri when we had a similar deity and temple right next to Kunnath House in Kunisseri, i.e. Pookkulangara Bhagavathi. One reason put forward is that Kunnath family originated at Nalleppilli, a constituent of the ‘Naaludesam’ mentioned earlier, and since Chittur temple was the family temple for Nalleppilli Kunnath, it continued to be our family temple even when another Kunnath ‘Tharavad’ came up in Kunisseri.
Whatever be the reason, I have known Chittur Kavu as our Adima Kavu ever since I could recollect and having settled down at Chittur now, I am happy that I get a chance to meet other members of the Kesava Vilas Branch whenever they visit Chittur basically to have a “darshan” of “Chittur Amma” (Chitur Bhagavathi is called Amma by all devotees) and offer their “Adimappanam” at the temple.
That brings me to another phrase, “Adimappanam” which may not be known to many of the younger generation. ‘Adimappanam’ was an offering given by all members to their family deity every year. While you notice that all kinds of offerings were listed and displayed at the temple, this particular offering called ‘Adimappanam’ was conspicuously absent in the list till recently. Even the present Devaswam Board office authorities in the temple could not clarify to me what it meant, how much it should be and at what frequency it is to be offered. Of late The Devaswom Board has included this in their list and has been collecting Rs.101/- as one “Adima Panam” and issuing receipts to those who approach them for this. (An after-effect of my persistent probe through them, I suppose!) Therefore, I had to seek clarifications from many a devotee who came to the temple with the same purpose. The general custom is that every member who considered Chittur Kavu as ‘Adima Kavu’ would visit the temple at least once a year, pay respects to Chittur Amma and place “21 Panam” (those days a quarter Rupee was considered one ‘Panam’ and this makes an offering of Rs. 5.25ps. now) at her feet. Alternatively they put this amount into the Hundi (A locked box kept in front of the temple). The ritual still continues. Devotees also offer “Pattu” (Pattu Charthu) to the Bhagavathi as a way of showing respect and devotion.
The other listed offerings and Poojas (Vazhivad) at Chittur Kavu (as of today) are:
Archana, Chandattam, Neyvilakku, Maala, Raktha Pushpanjali, Kadum Madhura Payasam, Special Neypayasam, Thaala Pooja, Niramala (Small), Niramala (Big), Chuttu Vilakku, One Day’s Pooja, Thatapooja, Udayasthamana Pooja** etc.
(**A devotee who offers this would have to perform 32 Poojas during the period Sunrise to Sunset).
Contact numbers for Chitur Kavu Office: 04923 221147 Cell: +91 9495040349
TO ALL THE THOSE WHO WERE BORN IN THE 50's and 60’s / early 70s
First, we survived with mothers who had no maids. They cooked /cleaned while taking care of us at the same time. They took Laddu, Jilebi, Ela full of payasams, yet no sugar problems.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. As children, we would ride with our parents on bicycles/ motorcycles or horse cart; richer ones in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
Riding in the back of a Anicodumokku taxi was a special treat.
We drank water from the well (also from perumkolam, bhagavathikolam) and NOT from a bottle.
We would spend hours on the Palluparambu, Girls school ground, Boy's school ground and Narankuzhi paadam playing under hot Kanni sunlight, without worrying about UV rays which never seem to affect us.
We go into the Walayar and Kanjikode jungles to catch spiders without worries of Aedes mosquitoes.
With mere 5 stones would be an endless game. With a ball (tennis ball best) we boys would run like crazy for hours.
We caught guppy in Thodu and Chittur Puzha and when it rained we swam there. We played "kolerukombu" at Townhall mango tree and ate raw kilimookan mangaos for snacks.
We shared one Nannari Sharbath from Sami's shop with four friends, from one glass and NO ONE actually worried about being unhygenic.
We ate salty, very sweet & oily food, candies, bread and real butter and drank very sweet soft drinks, sweet coffee/ tea, stolen "kotta thenga"; but we weren't overweight because..... . WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, till streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours repairing our old cycle tyres then ride upto "Kenampully Mala", and we learned the art of stopping the tyres while climbing down.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We did not have Play-stations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, multiple channels on cable TV, DVD movies, no surround sound, no phones, no personal computers, no Internet. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and we still continued the stunts.
We never had birthday parties.
We walked to a friend's house and just yelled for them!
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
Yet this generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!
The past 40 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!
And YOU may be one of them!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the government regulated our lives for our own good.