Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Paradevatha-Remnants of an era by-gone

We have to go at least 4-5 generations back to start the story. Kunnath Achyuthan Pillai Vakkeel (who originally belongs to Edayaly family) is the doyen of the family at that time. He is having a series of very inauspicious happenings in the family. Kalyani,his daughter has died at the age of 32. Another daughter Meenakshy, who had lost a child earlier, had died in the later stages of her second pregnancy. Another daughter Ammu (Annaamma) had been having a series of miscarriages…4 to be precise. That too at the extreme later stages of her pregnancy.

You cannot even imagine the agony of removing the full grown fetuses, four times, by physically cutting them to pieces. Just remember we are talking about the 1910s when such words like keyhole, scanning etc. were unheard of. The strong man,though well ahead of his times, must have felt miserable. So he brings in the famous astrologer Nambiyath Karunakaran Pillai from Paravur for a detailed ritualistic investigation called ‘prasnam’. The elaborate rituals which took place in the adukkala thalam (the dining area attached to the kitchen)of our tharavad (ancestral home)revealed the presence of an agitated ‘brahma rakshass’(soul of an ancient brahmin) and other celestial beings. An elaborate ‘chakra homam’ was performed and a pilgrimage was undertaken by the muthassan(Achyuthan Pillai Vakkeel),muthassi (Kunnath Parvathy Amma) and Annaamma to Rameswaram. And also the ‘brahma rakshass’,'nagathans’ (sarppam or divine serpents) and the other sacred beings were venerated by inducting their presence in these foundations. (see picture above)

One generation passed without any problems. Annaamma who had had 4 miscarriages previously gave birth to our Gopi ammavan (K.P.Gopalakrishnan Nair, a renowned teacher who was the Principal of HMT High School), 7 years later Santha chechi (A.Saradamma,who was the Chief Controller of Stationeries, Govt of Kerala) and then Bhasi ammavan (K.P.Bhaskaran Nair, formerly of Wire roaps, Edathala). But later there were again some lesser problems. When everybody in Panki chitta’s family got a mysterious fever, the astrologers from Ottappalam who were around, were brought in and again a ‘prasnam’ was undertaken.

While conducting the prasnam, the astrologers have pointed out that there must have been a revelation of the ‘brahma rakshass’ to the elder lady in the house the previous night in a dream, which our Panki chitt readily recollected. She recollected seeing an elderly man wearing sage-like saffron clothes and carrying a kamandalu (a small jug used by sanyasins to carry holy water). They have also prophesized that, there must be a literally burning experience to some one in the ’sahodara bhavam’(some brotherly relations) right then. And alas,Sivammavan who was ironing clothes carrying Usha chechi (Unni ammavan’s daughter) 2 kms away had an electric shock!(yeah, we had electricity in our homes by the second quarter of the 20th century).

The rituals also revealed the presence of another wandering soul. The female consort of the ‘brahma rakshass’ was wandering without any abode. So she too was accommodated in the existing foundations on the southern part of Panki chitta’s property. Another sarppam (of nair classification) also was inducted on the western side anew. The women folk of the family realized that this was why they were not allowed to go or even look towards the southern portions after dusk, by muthassan, who might have had some sightings or apparitions!

And from the very first day onwards,every evening, whether its raining or shining, the oil lamps would be lit by a member of the family at these sites and those who choose to offer their prayers would accompany her. And even in the other houses nearby, the evening ritual lamps lit shall be shown to the paradevatha first in a closely felt reverence.

The only exception was when, every year a ritual called ‘neerum paalum kodukkal’ (offering of water and milk…in literal terms ) takes place. That day when the ritual is over, no one would go there even for litting the evening lamps. A tragedy which directly affected my generation took place on such a day in the mid 1950s. Revi ammavan, my mom’s younger brother ( S. Raveendranathan Nair, formerly Asst. Security Officer, HIL, Eloor )ventured going there for his prayers before going to the work place as usual. Ammoomma (his mom)reminded him of the ritual and warned him not to go. But he ignored the warning and proceeded to the place which is just across our property , in Panki chitta’s share of land.

There was a small wicket gate separating the lands and he tripped,fell down and went unconscious while crossing the same. That would be the last time he walked normally! Then on he would be limping his way. That too after a series of medical treatments! Some twenty years later when he had had to struggle too much to walk, he underwent an operation at the Medical college Hospital, Trivandrum (June,1974) and then on he was totally bedridden, until he breathed his last on the 13th of March 1993.

Another generation came around. It witnessed catastrophic changes in the social and political set-ups. Land reforms threatened the very foundations of the nair community. Many lost their agricultural fields. They were no more in a secure position and no more in control of the wast expanses of land and the fertility it offered. The joint-family system was nearing its historic end. Members of the family had to partition the little available land among themselves for starting their own nuclear family. So there were no comfortable place for the celestial beings, who protected their forefathers hitherto, to fit in. So it was time these celestial beings in our home too were rehabilitated! So on the 19th of march 1988, a Saturday, many of the family members joined for a ceremonial send off to the ’sarppam’ and other celestial beings who had patronized them so long with their blessings. Even today the elders still contemplate “ente paradevathey…….”(oh..my paradevatha…..)when ever in distress.

Today,when the yet next generation takes over with their lap-tops and jet-lags, the ‘paradevathas’ might be just another foolishness or superstition of their ignorant oldies. However, I shall put on record the where-abouts of the rehabilitated beings, here, for in the unending cycle of events, today's youngsters would be in my age, and would be wondering about their own forefathers, and their customs. May be these places too might vanish to accommodate the still oncoming future and even the computer languages and formats used here might be obsolete and long discarded.

Still , I find it my duty to record what I have gathered. Here’s the list of places where these beings were taken for their next tenure. 1.both the brahma rakshasses-Chelamattam,near Perumbavoor. 2.sarppam- Ameda, near Thrippoonithura. 3.paramasivan-cresent- Siva temple,Aluva (related to mahasivarathri festival). 4.ganapathy-Edappally madom. 5.durgadevi/bhagavathy-thali-Pallippattukavu, Desom, Aluva. 6.balakrishnan-gopi-kadungalloor, Aluva. 7 sastha-gold-Paratt temple, near Karothukuzhy hospital, Aluva.


Rakesh said...

Your thoughts make an intresting read. the events seems to be something similar to what is happneing now in my tharavadu. I would like to talk to you in person. Please let me know your contact details.

MY email id: br.rakesh@gmail.com

kind regards

Jayan said...

Dear Rakesh,

Sorry for the inordinate delay in replying. As you might have gathered, the trauma I have been passing through, consequent to the unexpected demise of my only son prevented me from replying earlier. You may contact me through my e-mail ID djmkunnath@gmail.com