Wednesday, December 22, 2010

PATHANAMTHITTA DISTRICT -PART 1

Foundation stone was laid for the fourth International Airport in Kerala at Kannur last week.India is having 15
Int'l Airports at present out of which three are in Kerala.The new proposed Airport at Kannur will be the
biggest in Kerala, when completed.Another Airport being constructed at Aranmula in Kerala in the private sector also if turns out to be an Int'l Airport this small state will have five International Airports in total which all Keralites would be proud about.Some may doubt what is the necessity of all these Airports here, but since many
 Keralites are working abroad and the number of tourists visiting Kerala also increases every year there will be  adequate traffic in all these Airports
Aranmula is in Pathanamthitta District.Out of the 14 districts of Kerala Pathanamthitta District is the youngest.It was formed in 1983 only.While Alappuzha District does not have any forest cover Pathanamthitta district  is having 50% of its land as forest.This reserve forest is part of the western ghats and all varieties of trees grow thickly and wild animals like Elephat,Tiger,Bison,Deer,Bear,Monkey etc dwells in this dense forest.River Achankovil(128kms) and Manimala(90kms) flows through this district.River pampa flows  through a large portion here and river Kallada a small part.
The significance of Aranmula is the conspicuous tradition of that place.The famous Aranmula temple is one of  the 108 abodes of Lord Vishnu in India.The snake boat race held here is world famous with 45 snake boats participating in the event.It attracts tourists from all pver India and abroad.Aranmula is also famous for 'Aramula Mirror' which is metallic.They are hand made master pieces made by artisans with special talents.They reveal that it is an alloy of  copper  and lead but the proportion and the way they polish it are kept as a secret.It is not made any where else in the world.They are very beautiful indeed.
Near Aranmula at Maraman there is a Christian Convention held every year on the bank basin of river Pampa.Millions of devotees take part in that convention in which delegates from abroad also participate.
In the last census of 2001 it was found that in India there are 24.1million Christians out of which a large portion are from Kerala.A large sector of Kerala Christians are proud that they have the hereditary of Christianity from the initial stage since they are descendants of the people baptized by the great St.THOMAS Apostle itself.St.Thomas came to Kerala to preach Christianity and he had a very good reception here.He established seven churches in Kerala out of which two are in Pathanamthitta District.They are in Niranam and Nilackal.Both these Churches attracts devotees in large numbers.
Malayalapuzha Bhadrakali temple,Kadammanitta devi temple which is famous for Padayani,Ranni Saleeswaram Mahadeva temple are famous.Pathanamthitta town which is the district head quarters,Thiruvalla and Adoor are bustling business centres.Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Swamy temple which is one of the 108 abodes of Lord Vishnu in India is also very famous.This temple compound is very large.Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is very famous because of the Deity Hanuman Swamy there.Even the place name derived from that Deity.It is  the most famous and sacred Hanuman Swamy Temple in Kerala.The offering 'Aval Panthanazhi' in this temple to Hanuman Swamy is the speciality.
Konni is a place  near Pathanamthitta town where tourists can do trekking to the forest, ride on Elephants
 conduct wild life safari etc.There is an Elephant training center here.Elephants are not captured now but if
young elephants fall in some pits they are rescued and may be accepted by forest department after training.
Earlier square shaped ditches were dug in the forests where elephants usually move on.Elephants are having the habit of moving in heards with young ones in the front,females behind that and mature males at the back.The pit made will be covered with dry logs and dry leaves.One of the young calf may fall in the pit from which it can not come out itself and the other elephants will be helpless too to rescue it.Later the young elephant will be taken out   by using two three well trained elephants by elephant trainers  and the training session starts in a strong wooden cage.Konni was famous  for this elephant training
Tail piece
Once the Organizers of Nehru Trophy Boat race at Alappuzha decided to invite four snake boats of Aranmula group to participate in their event to add a divine element also.I have described that the snake boats used at Aranmula slightly differs from the boats used at Alleppey.The Stern of Aranmula snake boats are higher and bigger and these boats are well decorated and adorned with colourful umbrellas.They use traditional songs on them while rowing.Mundancavu snake boat was one among those selected.While the other three boats were towed to Alleppey by motor boats and their people went by bus to Alapuzha we decided to go by rowing our boat.I was also on the boat which reached some where near Alleppey at mid night.We had already left Pampa river and were rowing in a lake.It was raining heavily and wind was blowing hard.The helm's men had a hard time to keep the stern steady other wise the snake boat might over turn.Then came news by whimpering each other that we lost the way.The direction to Alleppey boat jetty could not be judged by anybody.Still  we were rowing assuming that we were on the right course.No other boats or canoes were found in the visinity.Suddenly we heard a blare and so singing and rowing was stopped and with curiosity we listened to the direction of that voice. When we asked the direction to Alapuzha we were told that we almost reached the estuary.Fear aroused in our mind and we looked ahead and then could see the high rising boomers and could hear the roar of the sea.We were just near the confluence of the backwater and sea.A snake boat could not be controlled in the waves.
While coming back from Alapuzha after participating in the boat race, we also hired a motor boat for towing our snake boat  but instead of  going  by bus half of the 120 people who were in total, sat  in the motor boat which was used for towing while the other half sat on the snake boat.I still believe that it was God only who saved the sacred Aranmula Snake boat from that incident with out causing an accident.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kerala-Some Facts

Kerala State came in to existence on 1st November 1956.Its capital is Thiruvananthapuram.It has 14 districts the smallest being Alappuzha with 1414 sq.km and largest Palghat with 4480 sq.kmsPopulation according to 2001 census is 3 crore 18 lakhs and literacy 90.92% which is the highest than other states in India.Kerala has 44 rivers and many back waters.The largest back water lake is Vembanad and largest fresh water lake is Sasthamcotta.Its official animal is Elephant,Official tree is coconut tree Official bird is Great Indian Hornbill official flower is Indian Laburnum.(Kanikkonna)
Climate-South west monsoon season (June to Sept)
              Noth east  monsoon season(Oct to Nov)
               Winter season                    (Dec to Feb)
                Summer season                 (Mar to May)
A slight variation in timings of the climate some times happen.For example it is still raining even though it is almost mid December.The continuous rain on 7th and 8th Dec caused Karamana river and Killi river of Trivandrum district to over flow and caused heavy flood in the district.Both rural and urban areas were affected.All the low areas of the City of Trivandrum was under water on 7th night itself and rescue workers had a tough time.Several buildings were collapsed,more than 1500 buildings were damaged, 2 people died,so many people were injured,house hold goods damaged in plenty,thousands of plantain and other crops were uprooted,cattle and pet animals died and so on....The total losses may be millions and the total estimation is not yet available.Experts say that the untimely rain is due to a pressure change that happened above Arabian sea.We have sympathy for the happenings.Much more effective measures has to be taken by the Government  to control the flood in the future.
The positive side is that Kerala state gets ample rain every year to keep it green and lovely.Some parts of north India gets  little rain after 4 or 5 years only.We should thank  God for giving us water in abundance.This year rainfall was more than usual.We consider our summer season from March to May but during March and April it will rain occasionally.The temperature will be more and humidity will be more during those months.  The rain in March and April will be accompanied with lightning, thunder and wind also.The Schools  will be closed for summer vacation in Mid March and the children used to play under big mango trees during my child hood days..They will play all sort of games but in between they get mangoes which scatter in the summer wind that blows hard.Just before rain also there will be strong wind and several cluster of mangoes will shower lavishly for the children's content.To collect more mangoes was also a game and fun.But after collecting all the mangoes  children used to share it equally among them.Each and every compound had mango trees of different varieties.Many of them had appealing smell and taste.Jack fruit trees were also in plenty, the season being  the same as that of the mangoes.
It is a pity that most of the mango trees in Kerala which were planted by our ancestors are cut down and destroyed..Nobody bothered to plant new mango trees instead of the cut down trees.When new buildings  were built large number of trees were cut for mango planks to make windows and doors.Many of them were cut for the pyre of Hindus to burn the dead bodies.For the pyre mango logs are used as a custom.The new generation now buys mangoes from the market which comes from other states.
This is the case with paddy cultivation also.There were more than 40 varieties of paddy seeds which was used in Kerala.'Vaikkatharan,Thavalakkannan' etc are examples.Those rice had better taste than the any type of rice available in the market now.All traditional type of paddy seeds are not available now.In most parts of Kerala paddy cultivation is also not done at present.The green paddy fields was a spectacular sight earlier.The golden colour of the ripen paddy fields was also marvelous.
Sugarcane is another crop which was widely cultivated in Kerala.There were two sugar factories near Chengannur which were at Pulikkkezhu and Pandalam.Sugarcane bundles loaded  for Pulikkezhu factory on big canoes plying through Pampa river was a common sight during those days.Fully loaded sugarcane trucks transported it to Mannam sugar mill at Pandalam.Bullock carts carried sugarcane bundles to local manufacturers who made jaggery.Children got one or two sugarcane daily from these carriers for chewing.
Sugarcane cultivation also ceased  and sugar factories are closed.
Farmers kept ducks in large numbers.These ducks were guided to nearby harvested paddy fields and canals.Flocks of ducks walking briskly oscillating their body  through village roads was a pleasant sight.Most families kept five or six hen of their own.Cows and goats were also kept by many and so getting fresh eggs, milk and milk products was easy and cheap.Insecticides were not used widely and  that may be the reason there was more fish available in rivers,ponds and canals.The new trends has caused vast changes we can agree, but the sweet smell and taste of Village life has lost for ever.The love and care  for each other is also a nightmare now.
Even though Alappuzha district is the smallest, the largest back water lake Vembanad is in  this district.Kayamkulam,Mavelikkara,Chethala,Chengannur,and Alleppey are the Municipal towns in this district.Kayamkulam was an eminent Kingdom which was defeated by Marthanda Verma Maharaja and it was merged to Travancore.The double edged Kayamkulam sword is famous.There is a palace at krishnapuram near Kayamkulam town with beautiful old mural paintings which attracts tourists in large numbers.Cherthala Devi temple, Mavelikkara krishna temple attracts large number of devotees.Harippad subramanya temple is very ancient and beautiful.10 days festival thrice a year is unique. .Ambalappuzha Krishna temple is visited by thousands of devotees every year.The milk ambrosia(sweet gruel in milk) is very famous here  and keep the same standard for centuries.Arthungal Church at Alleppey attracts thousands of devotees.Mannarasala and Vetticottu snake temples where snakes are worshipped are in this district..
The Central Cabinet Ministers Sri.A.K.Antony.Sri.Vayalar Ravi,Kerala Chief Minister Sri.Achuthanandan,K.P.C.C. President Sri.Ramesh Chennithala.Ex. Minister and leader Smt.Gowri Amma etc
are from this district.
Tail Piece:-
There is a story that,  during the time of British rule one British  Resident officer liked the taste of tender mango pickle which was served to him   in a feast by Maharaja.He took recipe of that item with him.Again before visiting the Palace next time he sent a note to the palace regarding the program of his visit  and mentioned in that note  to arrange 100 Nos. good mangoes  to take with him while going back.The Officials at the palace read 'Moongas' instead of Mangoes.Moongas means 'Owl' in malayalam.Gun men were arranged immediately to arrange 100 owls dead or alive which was carried out soon and packed in a sack.When the British Resident Officer  arrived,  the sack containing dead owls was handed over to him with due respect describing the difficulties suffered  to collect 100 owls.The Officer was astonished about the  foolishness of the palace officials and explained that he wanted mangoes for preparing pickle.The ashamed officers packed good quality pickle that was ready in the palace and handed over to him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PADAYANI AND PALLIYODAMS

Swan Kolam


Neelamperoor Padayani

Lord Shiva created Goddess Bhadra Kali and mighty Veera Bhadra to take revenge upon his Father in law King Daksha when Sati Devi, daughter of Daksha and beloved wife of him jumped in to the sacred fire of Yagna at Daksha's palace.Sati Devi killed herself when it was difficult for her to withstand the harassment of her father towards her.When Lord Shiva understood the happenings   at Daksha's palace  he created Bhadrakali and Veerabhadran to do destruction at Daksha's Palace.
Bhadra Kali later fought against an evil Demon Darika who had enormous powers.They fought on land and in the sky and the fight extended for three days.At last Bhadra Kali Devi killed Darika.All the human and Celestial beings were happy on this occasion and they played and danced in joy.Some put on masks and performed folk dances which subsided Devi's anger.Padayani  festival is performed in Bhadra Kali temples in southern Kerala to commemorate this incident. This ritualistic ancient art form is performed mostly in Devi temples of Alleppey,Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts.During the months of Dec,Jan, February,March and April some where in a temple in this part of Kerala we can enjoy this art form live.Some of the famous Bhadra Kali temples where Padayani is seen are Kadammanitta Devi temple.Pathanamthitta,Neelamperoor Devi temple Kottayam,Kurampala Devi temple Pandalam,Vadasserikkavu Devi temple Chengannur,Azhakiya kavu Devi temple Othara near Chengannur etc.
In many of these temples the festivals will be for 8 or ten days and  from 9P.M till  dawn all varieties of
Kolams  are performed to the tune of the customary and ritualistic songs and special drum called 'Thappu'  in midst of a large crowd.'Kolams' are divine and semi divine impersonations wearing masks.These masks are made on the sheaths of areca trees.The songs and the model of masks vary according to the apparitions performed.Some Kolams need 1000 sheaths which when finished with the frame weighs very heavy and size so large as they are pulled on a cart around the temple.These are called 'Chattakkolam'.Bharavi kolams are also heavy but they are carried on head and dancers will dance with them.These masks are painted on green fresh sheaths with much care and concentration since no mistakes should happen while painting it and so Craftsmen make it precise and
perfect with according to the custom using only natural colours.Some popular kolams are Kalan Kolam,Bharavi,Pakshi,Yakshi,Madan,Marutha Pisachu.Anthara Yakshi,Sundara Yakshi,AmbaraYakshi,Bhadrakali,etc.The devotees of Bhadrakali Devi bear the expenses of these kolams as an offering to the Devi.Kadammanitta Bhagavathi temple Pathanamthitta has earned much fame in Padayani and almost all kinds of kolams can be enjoyed during the festival days there.At Vadasserikkavu Bhagavathi temple at Chengannur also for 8 days prior to Meena Bharani in March'  Padayani festival is celebrated with perfection and pageantry.At Neelamperoor Palliyara Bhagavathi temple near Kottayam, a special type of Kolam is also
seen which is 'Swan' and draws large crowd of spectators since it is a magnificent and colourful sight and   not seen in other Bhadra Kali temples.
PALLIYODAMS
The snake boats used at Aranmula differs from the snake boats used at Alleppey and surrounding areas.
All these snake boats are generally called 'Chundanvallam' in malayalam.The name has no reference to snake or serpent in malayalam but refers to the beak of a bird since they have the big stern which resembles a beak.
The snake boats used at Aranmula for Uthrittathi boat race are affiliated to the temple at Aranmula and considered as sacred.That is why they are called Palliyodams.The term 'Palli' denotes 'sacred' and 'Odam' means a passenger water vessel.There are 45 snake boats under the Aranmula Snake boat society which are owned by villages on either banks of river Pampa  from Ranni to Chennithala.These palliyodams can accommodate 100 oarsmen and  5 helsmen with long oar and Nilakkar(who sing songs) etc.These vessels are meant for purely entertainment purposes and for religious purposes only and not for racing.The stern of
Aranmula Snake boats are much bigger and higher and so 5 helsmen are required to control it for a steady cruise without tilting to both sides.The snake boats used at Alleppey are steady and can go fast.
They might had been used as navy of the local rulers earlier as a flotilla.The snake boats at Aranmula  are designed for a flaunt of  exquisitely decorated array of boats concurrently rowing with the rhythm of customary songs to the acclamation of the crowd gathered on both banks of the river.The snake boats at Alleppey uses  fast drum beats and go faster.There was no race at Aranmula up to 1972 but race was introduced  there after to boost the enthusiasm of the paddlers  and spectators.Now the oarsmen can display their prowess and win Trophies also.There are several boat races in Kerala during Onam season which attracts tourists in large numbers.