Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THE HONEY FRUIT


In the State of Kerala  where ever you go, in  the areas of  mountains, hills,valleys,seashores- there is a common sight  of  so many coconut palm trees standing majestically up to  a height of 70-100 feet   holding as a crown  a group of 20-30 wide and  long green   leaves with  bunches  of coconuts in between the  base of leaves. The coconut trees add beauty to the greenery of this state.The people of Kerala are  very fond of this tree and tries to plant two or three of them near their house even if they own only a small plot of land. It is because  the single trunk coconut tree  needs only a small area to grow and generally it withstands wind currents of high velocity and so  safe also to grow near the house.
In Kerala  coconut tree is given the credit as 'Kalpa Vriksham' which means all parts of this tree are useful.An average tree provides about 150-200 coconut fruits every year.Without much care and maintenance the tree gives this average production and if fertilizers are given more yield can be expected.India is the 3rd  largest  coconut producing country in the world. First and  second positions goes to Philippines and Indonesia.In India Kerala produces the largest proportion which is  nearly half of of the total production and Tamil Nadu produces 26%,Karnataka 10.8% and in  the states of Goa,Maharashtra and Orissa also this trees are grown but not extensively.The climate of Kerala is best  suited to this tree in India  and Keralites need this tree for various purposes  in every day life.All families in Kerala uses at least one coconut a day for use in their dishes.The recipe of most of the curries in Kerala contains coconut as a main ingredient. Usually the consumption of coconut starts from  breakfast  itself with  common items  like Idli or Dosa with coconut chutney and  or 'Sambar'.The vegetable curry sambar prepared with bengal gram usually does not need coconut but in several parts of Kerala coconut is added in sambar also.The majority of families use coconut oil for cooking and frying even though several types and brands of  other oils are available in the market.The Keralites prefer the taste of coconut and coconut oil rather than any other substitute.
The tender coconut is available in important towns and cities of  India as a refreshing drink.The tender coconut contains more than 500ml  sweet water in it which gives a carbonated  drink feeling. The tender coconuts are called 'karikku' in Kerala.It is a natural energy drink which can be given to patients also.The flesh of tender coconut is very tasty and soft which contains much more protein than any other fruit.In Tamil Nadu coconut is called as 'Thenka' and in Kerala it is known as 'Thenga' both words means 'Honey fruit'.The energy giving sweet coconut water gave this fruit the name as "Honey Fruit'.The coconut tree is called 'thengu'.Usually  the life of a coconut tree is up to 70 years and fruit bearing starts around 10 years but some dwarf varieties are available which gives yield from 3rd year and will live up to 30-35 years only.An yellowish orange color variety is there known as 'gowri gathram' of which the bunches of coconuts are used for decoration purposes in marriage ceremony,festivals etc.
When the coconut ripens the flesh becomes hard and the quantity of water in the coconut then will be not more  than 250ml  and it  becomes less sweeter.The ripe coconut is used in dishes.The scraped coconut when pressed will give coconut milk which is used in making of certain sweets and ambrosia.The coconut milk if boiled becomes virgin coconut oil which has some medicinal properties.The dried coconut flesh is called 'copra' and coconut oil is extracted from it.The residue which we get after extracting oil is called 'coconut cake' which is used in cattle feeds.The kennel of coconut is used as fuel and for making charcoal.The wood of coconut  also has varied uses and can be used for even making furniture.From the husk of coconut coir,mats,brushes,mattresses etc are made.The stiff mid-ribs of the leaves are tied together to make brooms and such kind of brooms are commonly used in Kerala.
Coconut oil is also used as hair oil and for massaging the body.It has industrial usage  also and widely used for making soaps,cosmetics,lubricants,Ayurvedic medical  preparations etc.Toddy is also made from coconut tree which can be converted to vinegar and alcohol.
In olden days  woven coconut leaves were used to thatch the roofs of many small buildings but now a days such uses are restricted to temporary 'Pandal', 'shed' etc.
There are several religious uses for coconut,coconut leaves and coconut flowers.
For pooja rituals in temples coconut is commonly used in all parts of India as an auspicious item.In Kerala,Tamil Nadu etc Coconut is thrown and broken on a stone which is meant for that purpose in temples to remove our obstacles as a belief.
For several ceremonies like marriage coconut flower is inserted to a measuring barrel 'Para' filled with paddy, which is then known as 'Nirapara' and is displayed.The tender coconut leaves which are  yellow in color are  used for  decoration purposes  during festivals and in temples also.
The pilgrims of 'Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple' in Kerala where millions of devotees arrive every year from several states of India  carries  'Ney Thenga' which is coconut filled with ghee to submit there.Each and every pilgrim will be carrying at least one 'Ney Thenga' with them as a custom and tradition for unction of the deity.
It is believed that the name of Kerala is derived from  coconut.In Sanskrit 'Keram' means coconut and 'Alam' means place or 'Kingdom'.So Keralam means
Place of Coconuts or Kingdom of coconuts.Some historians say that up to the 12th century A.D,  Kerala was ruled by eminent 'Chera Dynasty' and so 'Cheralam' became Keralam.But the first argument that Keram+Alam became Keralam is widely accepted.The official tree of Kerala is obviously 'Coconut Tree'.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Snake Temples of Kerala

There are a few snake temples in Kerala and the main deities there are 'Naga Raja  and Naga Yakshi'.There is Saiva (related to Lord Siva) Naga Raja who is known as
'Vasuki'  and Vaishnava(related to Lord Vishnu) Naga Raja who is called 'Anantha'.
The description of Vasuki is that Lord who is having 108hoods  having sparkling color, adorned with jewels and precious jewelry, emitting bright rays, wearing copper colored silk dress, having beautiful red color eyes similar to lotus petals etc
Lord Anantha is described as having four hands, adorned with jewels and jewelry, having red color,wears gold crown,sits on lotus flower.
Keralites never used to kill or harm snakes but allowed a miniature jungle like grove(Kavu) in the compound of most of the Hindu families for snakes to live.Hindus  believes that by harming snakes we will get 'Sarpa Dosham'(Sins due to snakes) which can adversely affect us in many ways.More over every year the position of planets changes and if Planets Saturn and Rahu is not in favorable positions this will also reflect bad effects on us.In astrology the Planet 'Rahu' which is influenced by Serpent Gods has effect on our life for 18years consecutively.If the Serpent Gods are not propitiated there can be problems in several factors like
Skin and nervous diseases,disputes in family and work fields,obstacles in important matters like marriage,interfering in cheating etc.If the 'sins' are more vibrant  it can cause marital problems,infertility,poverty,skin diseases,eye ailments,accidents etc.Visiting Naga Raja temples and perform adequate pooja rituals are the remedy for these problems.
In the holy Book 'Bhagawat Gita' Lord Krishna is telling that " Sarpanamasmi Vasuki, Ananthachasmi Naganam".Lord Krishna is telling that both Vasuki and Anantha are Lord  himself.(Everything is contained in God.God is contained in everything).We need God's grace for a happy, prosperous and healthy life.God bless us in various forms  and in snake form also.
In 'Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple Thiruvananthapuram ' the deity is in the form  as reclining over 'Anantha', a huge serpent.By visiting this temple we will get blessing of Lord Vishnu and Serpent God 'Anantha'  there by our 'sins due to serpents' will also be removed.At Anantha puram temple, Kasargod also the deity is similar and for Anantha's  blessing devotees can visit there.At Poornathrayeesa temple Thripunithura, Lord Vishnu is in the form  as sitting on Anantha.Devotees can visit that temple also for relieve from 'Sarpa Dosham'.Like that visiting 'Kadampuzha' Devi Temple and 'Cherthala Devi temple also helps(Goddess in Kiratha form and Karthiyayani form).
Reciting 'Kalia Mardanam' part from 'Bhagavatham and Narayaneeyam' everyday or occasionally  will also please Serpent Gods.Organizing 'Kalia Mardanam' Krishnanattam at Guruvayoor temple will also bring good results.Just watching 'Kalia Mardanam' Krishnanattam  at temples will also  give the same result.
'Pambummekkattu  temple was given the prime position among snake temples by Lord Parasurama.This temple is very important in this category and offerings done there will bring good results.
Mannarasala temple near Harippad is very distinctive  and most important.Every month Ayilyam day is very sacred there.Ayilyam of Thulam month is celebrated as a gorgeous  festival.Sivarathri is also celebrated there.Ayilyam days of Kanni month and Kumbham are also festival days.Those who does not have children visit this temple and perform a ritual known as 'Uruli Kamazhthal'.The couple has to come and pray the serpent Gods and place a brass vessel known as 'Uruli' upside down in a place shown by the temple authorities.The lady will become pregnant very soon and after her delivery the couple again visit the temple and takes back the brass vessel. It is a fact that for several people medically treated and  who were not having children then also  because of 'Sarpa Doshams', by performing 'Uruli kamazhthal' their sins  were removed by Serpent Gods and blessed  them with a child.
There is another important Naga Raja temple  known as 'Vettikkodu  temple' which is near Mavelikkara and Kayamkulam where 'Ayilyam festival' in the month of Kanni is celebrated in a grand manner.Thousands of devotees visit this temple also and childless couples perform  'Uruli Kamazhthal'  in this temple also.'Uruli Kamazhthal' ritual can be done either at Mannarasala temple or Vettikkodu temple.
Thiru Naga Kulangara temple 5km from Cherthala is another temple in this category but there is no Nagaraja deity here but having only deity of  Nagayakshi .The main deity here is Lord Siva.For curing skin diseases people stay in this temple for many days and pray the Goddess and uses the oil given from the temple which cure their skin ailments.
In the 'Peralasseri Subramanya temple' 15km away from Kannur even though the main deity is Subramanya,  importance to Nagaraja  is also given and devotees visit for relieving 'Sins due to Serpents'(Sarpa Dosham).Ananthankadu temple near Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum is also a famous 'Anantha' temple.The snake temples dedicated mainly to Serpent Gods are Pambumekkattu temple,Mannarasala temple ,Vetticodu temple and Ananthankadu temple in Kerala.At Nagerkovil in Tamilnadu which is near to Trivandrum there is an important Serpent God temple.The place name 'Nagerkovil' is derived because of that temple.Large number of people from Kerala also visits Nagerkovil Nagaraja temple.
People visit these temples and make arrangements for Sarpa Bali,Sarpam Pattu,Noorum Palum, etc and Offerings of salt,turmeric,small idols of serpents and eggs,'Abhishekam'(unction) with tender coconut water,oil etc are also offered  for getting blessings from Serpent Gods.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Panachikkadu Saraswathidevi Temple

 The  most important Saraswathi Temple in India will be 'Mookambika Devi Temple' at Kollur near Uduppi in Karnataka State.The most important Saraswathi Temple in Kerala will be  Panachikkadu  Saraswathi Temple  near Chingavanam in Kottayam District.
The Deity Saraswathi Devi who is the Goddess of Arts and learning is blessing large number of devotees that visits  this temple everyday for more than  one thousand years.
Panachikkadu Saraswathi temple is 4 km from Chingavanam and 11 km from Kottayam town.
There is a story regarding the origin of this Saraswathi temple.1000 years ago a Nampoothiri Brahmin who hailed from a respected  Illam (House) which was known as 'Kizhupurathillam' was sad that he was not having a child.He wanted to go to Gaya(Kasi) to pray for this intention but on the way halted at Mookambika Temple for one year attending all the rituals there.All the time he was chanting prayers of Saraswathy Devi.One year passed and one day in his dream Goddess  Saraswathi Devi appeared and told him that he would not get a son of his own even if he go to Kasi and so adviced him to go back.
He was told that a pregnant woman at his native place hailing from the house  'Karunattillam' would give birth to twins and if he    requested she would   give him one baby.

So Nampoothiri returned back and visited that 'Karunattillam' and told them about the dream.They promised to give the Brahmin one child after  the woman's delivery .While going back happily  to his house he thought of visiting the Vishnu temple on the way.Old Brabmin  kept his palm leaf umbrella on the bank of the temple pond and took bath in the pond.After taking bath when he tried to take back his umbrella he found that it got fixed to the ground.He was not able to move it or take it up from there.Mean while a Sanyasi Saint came that way.He revealed the fact that Goddess Saraswathy's presence was  on the Umbrella which could be transferred to an idol which would bring prosperity to all.The saint himself  found   an old idol from  the nearby hillock.

The Devi's power on the umbrella was transferred to the idol.The Saint instructed not to do  pooja rituals on that idol but suggested to do those rituals on an  idol that he  kept opposite to it .This practice was followed in the temple which is continuing even now. 
Soon the original idol was covered with  peculiar creeper plants and for centuries it is remaining in that state.The original idol can not be seen.The leaves of the creeper plants cover it.Natural spring water flows from there and will not dries up even in summer.The water required for the temple purposes  is collected from there.
The main Deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu and other sub deities are also in the temple. Much importance is given to 'Yakshi Amma' here.Those who come to the temple for worship should visit her shrine also.


If a devotee  could participate in all the pooja rituals held in this temple continuously   for 12 days and repeat this process   for another two more years Devi would grant them blessings  to the fullest and make all  their desires fulfilled is a belief.
But only very few can complete  this process for three consecutive  years because of unforeseen obstacles
Navaratri festival is celebrated with much importance in this temple during which thousands of devotees will be arriving.Exponents as well as  students of various art forms come to perform their art forms in front of  Saraswathi Devi to get her blessings for more perfection.
'Vidyarambham' (Initiation of studies of small children) for very large number of children are carried out on Vijaya Dasami Day.Since this is a powerful Saraswathi Temple every day "Vidyarambham' can be done here except two days 'Durgashtami' and 'Mahanavami'  in an year.
'Saaraswatha Ghritham' which is ghee processed with several Ayurvedic herbs is
kept for pooja at the feet of Goddess Saraswathi Devi and distributed to the devotees for a small price.It nourishes the brain of children and  boost their intelligence and memory power.