Tuesday, December 19, 2017

History of Kaviyoor - 5

 Part 5

Settlement of People Around Mahādéva Temple
Etymology of Place Names

The caste system prevalent in Travancore was different from the one in Malabar. Yet there was something common about the distribution of people in villages till the end of 19th century.

In the Kaviyoor Brahmin Grāmam, non-Hindus and ‘low-caste’ Hindus including ordinary Nairs at the lower end of the hierarchy of the Nair caste were never allowed to construct houses near illams and temples so long as the Brahmins ruled. The study here is confined to Kaviyoor Désham, not the ancient Kaviyoor Brahmin Grāmam. How cunning and exploitative the system was could be gauged from the following information.

The settlement of people was such that the preferred categories stayed within ¾ th of a km of the Mahādéva temple. Others were kept out of this zone.

List of castes which had residences within about 3/4th of a km of the Kaviyoor Mahādéva temple:
(Excluded here are the Pottis who stayed at any place of their choice provided there was no ‘polluting’ citizenry):

Temple Administrators (കൈസ്ഥാനികള്‍)
These low-rung Brahmins (referred to in an earlier paragraph) stayed very close to the Mahadeva temple. The Sharmas (Keezhchirakkal and Akkarakkal) and Moossaths (Chennéttu) belong to this group. Since they were functional assistants, their presence at the temple was needed and therefore, they were allowed to settle near the temple. (Note: The Sharmas mentioned here are also Moossaths, according to a member of Keezhchirakkal family).

Iyers (അയ്യര്‍)
These are immigrant Tamil Brahmins who were not considered on par with the local Brahmins of Kerala. They are generally called Pattars (പട്ടന്മാര്‍), slang for Bhaṭṭar (ഭട്ടര്‍). Collectively they were also grouped under paradéshi (പരദേശി, alien) Brahmins. Initially the Kerala Brahmins used them as cooks and temple assistants as well as readers/announcers of royal decrees and noticesIntellectually far advanced than their masters, they were later employed by kings in civil services. The Iyers were not granted the right to hold the post of priests. However, Uthralikavu temple in Vadakāncherry employs a Tamil Iyer as its priest.  Iyers have been the most educated community of Kerala. Their migration to Kaviyoor is believed to be after C.E. 1600. There were three Iyer families in Kaviyoor. Only one remains now, the Mechéril Madom (മേച്ചേരില്‍ മഠം, a corrupt form of Melcheriyil Madom, മേല്‍ച്ചേരിയില്‍ മഠം). A few years ago, a committee of Malayala Brahmins headed by Aẓvānchéri Thamprākkal (ആഴ് വാഞ്ചേരി തമ്പ്രാക്കള്‍), the supreme decision-maker of the community, decided to allow Tamil Brahmins to perform pujas in Kerala temples. This decision does not have any relevance now since any trained male Hindu can be a priest as per court decrees. There were no Iyengars or other paradeshi Brahmins in Kaviyoor.

Nambiars/Nampiyar (നമ്പ്യാരന്മാര്‍/നമ്പിയാരന്മാര്‍)
There has been only one Nambiar family, a caste of belonging to the Ambalavasi community (already discussed in Part 3). Males used to play Mizhav (മിഴാവ്), a percussion instrument that accompanied Nangyar-kooth, a form of dance once performed only in temples. For their services, the Nambiars of Kaviyoor were also given large area of land and ricefield by the ruling Brahmins. Caste-wise, the Nambiars were on par with Chākyārs, another category of performing artistes at Kerala temples. All of them wear the sacred thread (poonoolപൂണൂല്‍) like Brahmins. However, there were no native Chakyars or Theeyattu Nambiars (തീയാട്ടു നമ്പ്യാരന്മാര്‍, a sub-caste of Nambiars who performed a kind of ritual dance before the deity of Bhadrakali) in Kaviyoor Grāmam. Nor were there any Theeyattu Unnis (തീയാട്ടുണ്ണി, another sect of Ambalavasis who performed a dance ritual at Ayyappa temples). ‘Nampi’ means supreme being, elite, son of a Brahmin in a Kshtriya woman, a Vaishnavite, etc.

A section of the Nairof Malabar is also called Nambiars. They are not Ambalavasis. Landlords of vast properties, the Malabar Nambiars lived like Madambis (barons).

Also read: http://vermaNambiar.blogspot.in/

Elayath/Ilayath (ഇളയത്)
The Ilayaths are semi-Brahmins who attended the functions of non-Brahmin upper castes, especially Nairs. There is only one family left in Kaviyoor. The Elayaths wear Poonool. They are also regarded as Ambalavasis by a section of historians.

Unni (ഉണ്ണി)
The Unnis, said to be belonging to the Ambalavasi caste, are one of the Kazhakam functionaries (കഴകക്കാര്‍) mentioned earlier. One family of Unnis was brought to Kaviyoor from Mooliyaar, Kasaragod by the ruler-Brahmins. They helped the Brahmins manage the day to day affairs of the temple. Caste-wise they were placed above Variyars and Pisharodies. A branch of the family still resides in Kaviyoor. The Unnis too wear the sacred thread. They are different from Theeyattu Unnis.

Pisharody (പിഷാരടി)
Belonging to the Ambalavasi community, their job was similar to the Unnis’. The family became extinct around 1850 C.E. or so. Their home (Pishāramപിഷാരം) was behind the Mahādéva temple. Not much information is available about their roots.

Variyars (വാരിയന്മാര്‍)
This family of Ambalavasis was brought from Karappuzha, Kottayam after the Pisharody family became extinct. A member of the family continues in the traditional job at the Mahādéva temple. ‘Variyan’ (വാരിയന്‍) in ancient Malayāļam and Tamil means ‘supervisor’ and ‘Variyam’ means ‘supervision’. But the Brahmins used ‘Variyan’ as a label for creating a sub-caste.

Elite Nairs (ഇല്ലത്തു നായര്‍)
There were two types of elite Nairs, with Samanthars (സാമന്തര്) at the top and Illam Nairs next to them. There were only two families of Samanthars in Kaviyoor. They have now merged with the Illathu Nairs (ഇല്ലത്തു നായര്‍). The Illathu Nairs might have been rich because they owned vast tracts of land and rice field. All these properties could not have been the largesse of the Brahmins, as the inscriptions of C.E. 950 and 951 suggest. Brahmins gradually seized most of their properties for the temple. They provided a share of their income/produce to the temple. They also did administrative duties pertaining to the village. The Nair caste called Kiriyath (കിരിയത്ത്) found in Malabar never existed in Travancore.

The Samanthars (see Part 2, Administration of the village) of Kaviyoor belonging to the families of Chempakamangalm and Achamparampil were also called Ara-Poonool (അരപ്പൂണൂല്‍, semi-BrahminNairs. The former is believed to have been Adiyodis and the latter Nedungadis. They are believed to have been brought to Kaviyoor by the Pottis from Malabar. The last Ara-poonool Nair of the Chempakamangalam family died around 1870 or so. His descendants cannot be called Ara-Poonool Nairs as per the matrilineal system because his wife belonged to the illam Nair category from Edappally, Cochin. They were later known as Pillais (Pillai means ‘prince’, a title awarded by the Venad/Travancore kings to Nairs for meritorious service). Not much is known about the Samanthars of Achamparampil. According to Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, littérateur and Jnānpith winner, there were 14 Ara-Poonool families in Travancore, all Samanthars. These Nairs were placed immediately below Brahmins and Kshatriyas. The elite Karthās, Kaimals, Unnithān, Valiyathān etc. of Travancore – they were called Sthāni Nairs (സ്ഥാനി നായര്‍) -  were regarded as Kāl-Poonool Nairs (കാല്‍പ്പൂണൂല്‍Kāl = one-fourth). This ridiculous classification of Nairs was based on the powers and rights conferred on them. The Ara Poonools enjoyed half as much powers and rights of Brahmins whereas the Kaal Poonools had one-fourth of the powers and rights.

While the rich among the elite Nairs stayed closer to temples, the poor among them were kept away. (‘Elite’ does not mean such Nairs are a special species. Those who were available at the beck and call of Brahmins and kings were given titles like Pillai, Karthā, Panicker, Kaimal etc. in return of their spineless subservience. The affluent among them also bailed Brahmins and kings out of financial trouble. Genetically, the lower class Nairs alone can be deemed as ‘pure Nairs’ as most of them had not mixed with Brahminskings and the ‘upper caste’ Nairs). Each Désham like Kunnanthanam, Eraviperoor, Vallamkulam, Kallooppara etc. had only two or three illam Nair families which were not allowed to have marital alliance with other inferior Nairs. Even the Kiriyath Nairs of Malabar were considered inferior by Travancore illam Nairs. A good percentage of the Nairs found now in the village in Njalbhagam (Kaniyanpara to Thottbhagam) and Padinjattumcheri provinces belong to the Illam Nair group. The Nair communities of Kerala as a whole is blending in to one, with the integration of many subcastes and the elite Nairs. The elite Nairs of Kaviyoor were not allowed to marry from the areas between the rivers Manimala and Pampa (Vallamkulam to Maramon) and the areas west of Thrikodithanam up to Kidangara as it was believed that the Nair inhabitants of these regions belonged to the inferior Idacheri sub-caste.

Panikkars /Panickers (പണിക്കര്‍), who are traditionally servants/attendants of elite nairs, are absent here; other nairs used to fill the gap. 

Vattakkattu Nair (വട്ടയ്ക്കാട്ടു നായര്‍)
Nair subcaste called Vattakkattu Nairs used to extract till oil in some parts of Kerala. Although a family of Vattakkattu Nairs lived in Kaviyoor near the Mahādéva temple they have now merged with the elite Nairs of the village.  (See Vattakkattu Vaniyar below)

Chakkāla Nair (ചക്കാലത്തു നായര്‍)
There were only three families. They used to extract oil from dried coconut kernels (copra). None of them is engaged in the business now. They were named after the coconut oil-press Chakku (ചക്ക്) which was used for extracting oil. The man who managed the Chakku using a rotating stone with the help of a draught animal, usually a bullock, was called Chakkālan (ചക്കാലന്‍) and his wife, Chakkālathi (ചക്കാലത്തി). The phrase ‘Chakkalathil porāttam’ (ചക്കളത്തില്‍പ്പോരാട്ടം) derived from the Chakkāla Nair community. The place where the Chakku was fixed was called Chakkalam (ചക്കളംഅളം = പറമ്പ്/സ്ഥലംland). The descendants of Chakkāla(th) Nairs still live in the village but they have now mostly been absorbed in to the elite Nair group. There was another Chakkālathu Nair in Kottoor but they are believed to have embraced Christianity. A place called ‘Chakkālathu Padi’ (ചക്കാലത്തു പടി) near the Subrahmanya temple confirms the presence of these Nairs once upon a time.

Kandathil Nairs/Adichuthali Nairs (കണ്ടത്തില്‍ നായര്‍/അടിച്ചുതളിനായര്‍)
A sub-caste of Nairs, they were a very small community of Kerala. Only a few families lived in a Grāmam. ‘Kandathil’ men worked as sentries of temples. Adichu Thaļi (അടിച്ചുതളി, cleaning of temple yards and temple vessels, lamps etc.) was assigned to their women. They also worked as dometic helps in illams. Because of their profession, the community was also called adichu-thaļi Nairs.

The most beautiful women among non-Brahmins belonged to Kandathil Nairs. Though belonging to the lower rung of Nairs with medium complexion, their women were the most vulnerable victims of their masters – the amorous Brahmins. Men were also tall, well-built and handsome. Most of them had long narrow noses. The Kandathil Nairs who lived in or around Kaviyoor and Thiruvalla embraced Christianity long ago. Some of the converts continue to use the word ’Kandathil’ as their family name. However, many of them claim that their families were ‘established by Brahmins’. Partly true. The Brahmins did have ‘a role’. There are no Kandathil Nairs now among the Hindus of Kaviyoor. (Most of the Kandathil Nairs in other areas of Kerala have melded with elite Nairs).

Mārayāns/Mārāns (മാരയാന്‍/മാരാന്‍)
These are the drumbeaters of Kerala’s temples. Only two families live in the village. Their houses are still in the vicinity of the temple. The Maran sub-caste of Nairs is different from Marar or Mararu (മാരാര്‍/മാരാരു്) who are Ambalavasis of Malabar.

Eminent literary critic Kuttikrishna Marar (1900-1973), always insisted that his surname be spelt Mararu (മാരാര്/മാരാരു്) to distinguish him from Marans. This information is just for ‘clarification’; Kuttikrishna Marar was from Pattāmbi, north Kerala]. There were no ‘Ambalavasi-Marars’ in Kaviyoor.

There are Maaraans/Maarayaans with surname Panikkar/Panicker but they are not the Panickers/Panikkars mentioned earlier who acted as attendants of elite nairs.

Kalamezhuthu Kurup (കളമെഴുത്തുകുറുപ്പ്)
This is a subcaste of Marans. They stayed at ‘Nagathil’, a house near Koloth illam. It was these Kurups who were performing the ritual called ‘Kalamezhuthum Pāttum’ at the Yakshi temple. There is no family from this community at Kaviyoor now.

Kushavas or Kumbhars or Kulalas (Potters, കുശവന്‍/കുമ്മാരന്‍/കുലാലന്‍)
There was one family, but they seem to have merged with other Nairs.

Vattakkattu Vāniyans (വട്ടയ്ക്കാട്ടു വാണിയന്മാര്‍)
They were staying at Njalikandam. They supplied till oil for the temple. The Vaniyans left the village towards the end of the 19th century. It is difficult to find out how many families lived here. Many Vaniyars of Kerala have converted to Christianity. The word Vaniya still appears in their family names.

Artisans: The Ainkammāļar (അയ്‌ങ്കമ്മാളര്‍)
The artisan group comprised five types of communities, as the name suggests (ay/ai = anchu = five) - carpenters, braziers/coppersmiths, ironsmiths, goldsmiths, and masons. A few of them carry on with their traditional work; some are now traders while the educated among them have opted for other professions. (See note on Ainkammalar further down). Carpenters, goldsmiths and masons were the elites among the artisans. These elite artisans were not only fairer than other artisans but also more talented. They were good in drawing, painting, sculpture and performance arts.

Pandāram (പണ്ടാരം)
There was a family of pandarams who used to make a living by making papadam (പപ്പടം), a wafer made of black gram and bicarbonate of soda. They left Kaviyoor in the 1970’s.

Ganakas (ഗണകര്‍/കണിയാന്മാര്‍)
There might have been more than half-a-dozen families of ganakas in Kaviyoor. They were the traditional astrologers of Hindus. Descendants of two of them still live in the village. A few ganaka families in Mundiyapalli embraced Christianity. Some left the village. It is learnt that only one family stays at the village.

Velans (വേലന്മാര്‍)
Kaviyoor had only one family of Velans. They were makers of lime (ചുണ്ണാമ്പ്). They continue to live in the village but are no longer lime-makers.

Pāṇans (പാണന്മാര്‍)
There is one family of Panans in the village. Their forefathers were itinerant minstrels of ballads. They have since turned to other professions for better living. Panans, who eulogized Hindu gods and goddesses through tuneful renditions during their meanders, might have migrated from Tamilnadu to Kerala in the 3rd - 4th century C.E. to avoid persecution by the Jain kings of Madurai. They seemed to have settled in various villages of Kerala.

Those who were allowed beyond the upper catse zone:

Idachéri Nair (ഇടച്ചേരി നായര്‍)
The word idacheri must have derived from idaya-cheri (ഇടയച്ചേരിcolony of cowherds). They were allowed to stay only in distant provinces of the Kaviyoor Désham like Kottoor, Anjilithanam, Mundiyappalli and certain areas of Njalbhagam. The Brahmins and illam Nairs never mingled with them. Idacheri Nairs were entrusted with the supply of dairy products. Since they were low caste Nairs, the illam Nairs never had marital alliance with them. But this enabled the Idacheri Nairs to retain ethnic purity. They were regarded as the ‘original stock’ among Nairs because they are said to have retained the ‘genetic uniqueness’ of Nairs who migrated to Kerala over 2,000 years ago. It is no longer so because they and the Illam Nairs have now merged in to one category.

Veluthedathu Nair (വെളുത്തേടത്തു നായര്‍)
They are washermen. Three families live in Kaviyoor. They have left their traditional vocation for better options.

Vļlakkithala Nair (വിളക്കിത്തല നായര്‍)
Sri Chaṭṭampi Swamikal says they are not Nairs since the word ‘Nair’ was added to their caste name only because they were barbers of the Nair community. A few families of Vilakkithala Nairstill live in the village, but only a few among them continue with the traditional profession.

Ezhavas/Ilavas (ഈഴവര്‍/ഈളവര്‍)
Like in other parts of Kerala, the Ezhavas, traditional toddy tappers, were the largest Hindu group of Kaviyoor until a good number of them embraced Christianity during 1500-1850 C.E. Yet the community has a sizeable presence even now. Majority of them are well-educated and well-employed. In olden days a toddy tapper of coconut palms was called Ezhava and  a toddy-tapper of palmyra  (പന) was called Chaannaar (ചാന്നാര്‍). There were no Channaars in Kaviyoor since there were no toddy-yielding palmyras. 

Ezhavas were the largest community in Mundiyappalli, Kottoor and Anjilithanam. Many of them became Christians by 1850.

Viļakkithala Kuṛups (വിളക്കിത്തലക്കുറുപ്പ്)
These were the barbers of the Ezhava community. It is difficult to ascertain how many families were in the village. Only one is left now and they are no longer barbers.

Parayas (പറയര്‍)
These poor people at the lowest rung of the caste system of Kaviyoor were allowed to have hamlets in certain areas, away from the temples and residences of the upper castes. They worked as labourers. It is the permanent supply of these labourers that sustained the other communities. Though they remain economically weak, there are now educated and well-employed youth among the Parayas. An information that will surprise one is that, like the Brahmins of Tamilnadu, they maintain a ‘gothra’ (clan) system. Marriages within the same gothra are taboo.

Pulayas (പുലയര്‍)
They were on the same rung as the Parayas and their functions too were similar. Many youngsters of the Pulaya community are now well-educated and well-employed. There is still a dispute between the Pulayas and Parayas – each caste claims to be superior to the other. Marriages between the two are ferociously opposed by the hardcore traditionalists among both the communities. Parayas and Pulayas are believed to be the ‘original owners’ of Kerala because many historians consider them as the first immigrants to Kerala, till Nairs deposed them.

Except the families which ‘purified’ the coir and oil required by the temple, no other Christians were allowed to build houses anywhere within a kilometre of the temple. The entire community has now become an economic force and unlike the Hindus, newer generations of Christians prefer to settle in the village ensuring continuance of their lineage and heritage

Trading Community
There is not much information about the trading community of Kaviyoor. There was a Tamil Chettiyar family. The villagers depended also on the nomadic traders from Tamilnadu, but from the turn of 20th century, enterprising Christians have been dominating trade and commerce.

Slavery, ‘Oozhiyam’ (ഊഴിയം) and Viruthi (വിരുത്തി) in Kaviyoor

The Pulayas and Parayas of Kaviyoor are believed to have been slaves of the upper castes. Slave trade was legal. When a person sold his property, the slaves working on the property were also sold for a price to the buyer.

All supplies and services to the Mahādéva temple and the ruling Pottis were presumably under Oozhiyam (grant of land in lieu of free labour) and Viruthi (granting house plots, farmlands and tax benefits in lieu of free service/supplies). The labourers/suppliers would not be paid anything in cash or kind for their services/supplies. Christians of the village too came under the purview of this notorious system.

The rulers of Kerala and the upper castes enslaved Parayas, Pulayas and others below them. Most villages of Kerala had enslaved labourers from time immemorial until the British made it illegal. But it may be noted that even the British officials had exploited the system to get their personal jobs done. Slavery was abolished in 1792 in Malabar, in 1812 in Travancore and in 1814 in Cochin. It eventually ended only after it was included in the Indian Penal Code in 1862.

Nairs of Kerala also were bound by the bond of Viruthi.  The heads of the illustrious Mathur Panicker family of Nedumudy, Alappuzha, performed Velakali (വേലകളി) free of charge at the Sri Krishna Temple, Ambalappuzha because their elite Nair family was a beneficiary of Viruthi. In addition, the head of the family had to work as a military trainer and commander without remuneration, but the king of Amabalappuzha had adequately compensated them through generous Viruthi. Christians, or Muslims or the lower caste Hindus were not so lucky.

The temple festivities like utsavam throughout southern Kerala were conducted with free offerings and labour from people bound by Oozhiyam and Viruthi contracts.

In 1815, Christians of Travancore were exempted from Oozhiyam with respect to Hindu temples. Minor concessions were given in the next 70 years to others. Ultimately, the government of Travancore abolished Oozhiyam and Viruthi on August 7, 1893.

‘Purification’ by Christians

Two materials used in the Mahādéva temple were ‘purified’ by Christians – the oil for the temple and the rope which was used for hoisting the temple’s flag to denote the commencement of utsavam. Since the temple needed rice, vessels, coconuts etc. for its daily rituals, these also might have required ‘purification’. But only oil and coir are mentioned by elders.

The Brahmins believed these items for the temple were ‘polluted’ because the Ezhavas probably made the coir and till oil was made by Vattakkattu Vaniyar, both ‘untouchable’ communities. The Chakkala Nair’s produce of coconut oil and Vattakkaatu Nair’s till oil too might have required ‘purification’.

The strange rite of purification in southern Kerala was started only three or four centuries ago. The practice probably did not exist in ancient Kerala. The obsession of Brahmins with caste system and ‘pollution’ intensified only by C.E. 1500. Absolute power had corrupted them. They devised ways to cement their superiority and authoritarianism through illogical means. ‘Purification’ process was one such method. The reason for ‘purifying’ the oil and coir – and, perhaps, other materials required by temples - by non-Hindus is strange. These suppliers used low caste labourers at various stages - from procurement of inputs to the final stages of the output. Transporting the input and output also was done by the low caste labourers.  The Brahmins concluded that the materials ‘carried’ the sins of the people who made or transported them. Any Brahmin or other upper caste Hindu (Ambalavasis, Nairs etc.) touching the oil and coir would, therefore, be ‘polluted’. The result would be horrendous for them – ‘pollution’ would be carried throughout their lives, result in their excommunication and even desecrate the temple. To absorb the sins and purify the items, some non-Hindus were required! Since Christians were more easily available than Muslims, they were the ideal scapegoats, but, in return, they were regarded as ‘aristocratic’ Christians.  Before the materials were handed over to the temple, the ‘aristocratic’ Christians would touch them and absorb all the sins! Thus, these Christian families ‘accumulated’ throughout their lives the sins ‘transferred’ from the low caste Hindus! The deplorable practice that was followed throughout Kerala was stopped at the beginning of the 19th century probably under instructions from the British.

The Brahmins of Kaviyoor had, therefore, brought a few Jacobite Christian families from Kuravilangadu, a village near Kottayam, about three or four centuries ago. There were originally 2 families of ‘purifiers’ but three more are mentioned by the villagers. All of them were settled by the Brahmins by giving them land and certain rights. These Christian families retain the names of the land they were settled on. It was under a huge Banyan tree (അരയാല്‍) at what is now called Kāṇikka Maṇdapam that the Brahmins and Christians would organize the purification rite. (See Sivanaal below)

The Christian families brought from Kuravilangadu were:

Kizhakkineth (കിഴക്കിനേത്ത്): They are called Kiẓakkineth family because the land for settling them belonged to the Kiẓakkineth branch of Véngasséri Brahmins.

Vazhimangalam (വഴിമംഗലം): This Christian family has left the village. The land is now occupied by a Nair family. It is believed that it originally belonged to Thengumpaļļi Brahmins.
Angadikkal (അങ്ങാടിയ്ക്കല്‍): The family still lives in Kaviyoor. The land was provided by either Véngasséri or Kaviyoor Illam.

Chirathalakkal (ചിറത്തലയ്ക്കല്‍): The land for them was provided by the Moothedathu Pottis. It has become one of the largest Christian families of Kaviyoor.

Thoompungal (തൂമ്പുങ്ങല്‍): They had settled on the land provided by Moothedathu Pottis near the Kanikka Mandapam (കാണിയ്ക്കമണ്ഡപം), at the eastern end of the temple road. However, they sold the land to a Nair family and now live at Kammalathakidi, near the N.S.S. Higher Secondary School.

Nobody knows what special rights were given to these five Christian families, but there were some restrictions. They were treated as an aristocratic community among Christians and not allowed to marry from ordinary Christian families. They were also not allowed to marry from areas between the rivers Manimala and Pampa (between Vallamkulam and Maramon) or from the provinces of Mundiyapalli, Kottoor, Kallooppara and Kunnanthanam since there were no ‘aristocratic’ Christians in these areas. Marrying from areas between Thrikkodithanam and Kidangara was also interdicted. (You may note that these restrictions were imposed on the elite Nairs too).

During the visits of the kings of Edappally, a Christian family (Kochiyil, Padinjattumcherri) was given the task of providing various materials for them.  They used to hand over the materials to the Pisharodies and later to the Variyars when the pisharody family became extinct. This was to ensure that the materials received by the kings were ‘purified’.

Advantages of Group Settlement

It was based on requirement of human resources that certain types of people were allowed to stay near temples and illams. Egalitarians will definitely denounce the arrangement but the logic was perfect for the shrewd Brahmins. From the point of view of management, what the Brahmins did to manipulate everything is amazing in that the system ran well for over a thousand years unchallenged even by kings. On the other side, it was a millennium of misery for the downtrodden.

Some of the Nairs were used as administrators. The artisans, though a kind of untouchables, were kept close to the temple for ease of construction, repair and maintenance. For the daily chores at the temples, Ambalavasis and certain low-caste Nairs were required and hence they were allowed to stay within a reasonable distance. The extractors of coconut oil also were allowed within a reasonable distance despite their oil requiring ‘purification’. People who were not deemed important were filtered out to distant places. Whether the unfortunate low-caste Hindus were getting proper remuneration was immaterial to the Brahmins. They were treated so badly that it made them distraught and despondent. It is this cruel system that encouraged conversion to Christianity in Kaviyoor and elsewhere in Kerala. The new religion gave the low-caste people confidence and self-respect.

‘Simon’ Padmanabhan

The low-caste Hindus of Travancore were banned from entering Hindu temples and using even the roads around the temple until the proclamation of 1936 by the State of Travancore forbade such restrictions. However, the conservatives of Travancore villages cared two hoots for the law. There was an incident, which piqued the Ezhava community of Kaviyoor in the 1940’s.

Madathil Narayana Pillai, the Paarvathyakaar i.e, the head of administration of the village  appointed by the government, abused a certain Padmanabhan, belonging to a prominent Ezhava family, for using the temple road. The humiliation forced Padmanabhan to approach Father Kalayakkattil (കലയക്കാട്ടിലച്ചന്‍), a local Jacobite priest for conversion to Christianity. Seizing the opportunity, the priest baptized him as Simon. (Many Ezhavas of the village are said to have become Christians before 1800 C.E., though conversion was rare thereafter).  The news of conversion caused many ripples among Hindus. The S.N.D.P., a social organization founded by Sri Narayana Guru (1856-1928), a renowned Hindu sage, and the Hindu Mission, a Hindu organization now defunct, started efforts to get ‘Simon’ back in to Hinduism. The leaders of the Hindu communities who had arrived in the village included R. Shankar and Mannath Padmanabhan. Eventually, ‘Simon’ returned to the Hindu fold in the presence of a large gathering of the villagers. Mannath Padmanabhan personally led him in to the Kaviyoor Mahādéva temple along with many Ezhavas, brushing aside the objection of many hardliners.

The elite communities were, however, an anathema to Padmanabhan and the humiliating incident was always at the back of his mind. Many among his own clan taunted him, calling him ‘Simon Padmanabhan’. In disgust, he left the village for Chadayamangalam, near Kottarakkara. One of his daughters became a famous exponent of Carnatic music. She sung for a few Malayalam movies in the 1950’s and obtained a doctorate in music. She went on to become the principal of Women’s College, Trivandrum. The Kaviyoor temple was opened for all castes and creeds after the conversion and reconversion incident.

Etymology of the Provinces/Places of the Village
(in alphabetical order)

For finding out the meanings of various names of provinces in Kaviyoor village one has to depend on old Malayalam or pure Malayalam on which influence of Sanskrit was negligible. One should also examine old Tamil. Malayāļam and Tamil share a lot of words from the proto-south Indian language. My efforts may not be up to the standards of linguists, but all the same I will be happy if they spur at least a few persons of Kaviyoor in to launching further etymological investigation.

Aikkuzhi (ഐക്കുഴി)

Carved out of the old Mundiyappalli province, Aikkuzhi, a lowland, is regarded as ward no. 1 because it lies on the northern tip of Kaviyoor. The wards of the village are counted from north.

There are many place names in Kerala starting with ‘Ai’, ‘Ayi’, ‘Ayir’ or ‘Ayar’. E.g., Aikkaranadu, Aithala, Ayiroor and Ayarkunnam. ‘Ayam’ (അയം) is an old word meaning water/valley. It also means mire/mud. The correct name of the place is Ayakkara (അയക്കര), but since literacy was low, in the spoken language of the common man it became Aikkuzhi. Brahmins were only the literate citizenry in ancient Kerala along with a few public servants belonging to the upper caste.  Throughout Kerala people continue to use ‘Aya’ in place of ‘Ayi’.

Aikkuzhi means low marsh or lowland with availability of water.

A(y)irattil (അയിരാറ്റില്‍/ഐരാറ്റില്‍)

Ayarār (അയരാര്‍), wrongly written and pronounced as Ayirattil/Airattil (അയിരാറ്റില്‍/ഐരാറ്റില്‍), is a locality that lies between Thuruthel and Manakkal Chira. [See the explanation of ‘Ayam’ above]. Once an islet, the rice field surrounding it was reclaimed a few centuries ago to construct a small road through the islet.

Ayirattil -Thuruthel - Manakkal Chira (Courtesy: Google Earth)
Ayirar is a low terrain compared to Padinjattumcheri that lies close to it. It explains why there is ‘Ayir’ in the name of the place.

‘Aar’ (ആറ്) means river in modern Malayalam, but in olden days it also meant ‘way’ (വഴി). Ayarār could be ‘pathway to a water source (river Manimala). Probably, once upon a time Ayarār extended till the river - perhaps before the Nampoothirippads of Valiya Manakkal settled in Kaviyoor. But the topography indicates ‘Ayirar’ means ‘road to lowland’.

Ambalakkadavu (അമ്പലക്കടവ്) or Chattukam-Thalakkal (ചട്ടുകംതലയ്ക്കല്‍)

About a hundred years ago, the Polachira was smaller. The hills in the north, east and west of it brought rainwater and streams that sustained its water level even during summer. They still do. Its northern shore is called Pathaal (പതാല്‍, i.e. low-lying land in ancient Malayalam; even now the word is in use in Kaviyoor) but its other end reached only up to the rear side of the Mahādéva  temple where a ridge (വരമ്പ്) separated it from the rice field south(the red-line in the picture). When the rice cultivation ended, it became a small water body. That was how Muṛichira (മുറിച്ചിറ) was formed. Muṛi = fragment or fragmented (portion). The ridge effectively created two water bodies – the larger northern reservoir and the smaller southern reservoir. Since the ridge was almost behind the Mahādéva temple it enabled people, especially, the Brahmins, on the western shore of the reservoir to reach the temple.

The state fisheries department converted the Polachira in to a fish farm in the 1980’s, raising the water level and submerging the ridge. Thus, it is a large water body now.

Chattukathalakkal and Ambalakadavu (Courtesy: Google Earth)
(click to expand)
To the south of the Muichira, there was another ridge, which connected the temple with Padinjattumcherri, the western region of the village. The ridge originated from the roundish shore near the Variyam (see picture). It was called Chattuka-thalakkal (ചട്ടുകം, round-headed spatula with a long handle; തലthalais head/origin/beginning), marked in saffron circle in the picture. It was so called may be because the land’s end there was roundish like the head of Chattukam. The ridge was elevated and widened to make a motorable road in the 1950’s. The land there is no longer spatula-shaped. The reservoir is about 24 ft. above sea level, i.e., about 20 ft. higher than the rice field that lies to the west of Padinjattumcherri (Google Earth Map).

In Kaviyoor, the ancient settlers travelled mostly on foot. They used country boats, thanks to canals and the proximity to the Manimala River. There were many landing stages on the banks of the river. Travel was modernized later with bullock cart and villuvandi (വില്ലുവണ്ടി, modified bullock carts for passengers), but they were used only by the financially sound upper castes.  Buffaloes were not used as draught animals. The interior of western Kaviyoor was connected with the Manimala River through a natural stream at Kattodu. The canal was later widened and called Kattodu Kaithodu (കറ്റോടു കൈത്തോട്, the Kattodu Canal). The country boat jetty at Paipadu also was used by many. The ancient modes of transport continued until the 1940’s.

The landing stage (വള്ളക്കടവ്) at Chattuka(m)-thalakkal (the red square in the picture) was a prominent ‘gateway’ for the villagers. But the facility was limited to the upper castes! The country boats from here would travel to the Kattodu Kaithodu which would take them to the Manimala river – the journey would further take them to the western region of Thiruvalla. The waterways there took travelers to Kottayam, Alleppey, Kochi, Kollam and beyond. The landing stage was abandoned when modern roads were constructed and trucks and passenger buses made their appearance in the village by 1949-1950.

[The author’s grandfather got married in 1926 at Alappuzha. The groom and relatives set their journey to Alappuzha from the Ambalakkadavu].

The Ambalakadavu and the adjoining paddy field have been replaced by Fish Farm
[The author’s grandfather got married in 1926 at Alappuzha. The groom and relatives set their journey to Alappuzha from the Ambalakkadavu].

Anappara (ആനപ്പാറ)

Anappara (literally Elephant rock) is a tiny locality on the east of Nazhippara (see below). The Panayampala Thodu (Canal) here forms the border of Kaviyoor with Kalloopara Panachayat.

Panayampala Canal, Anappara

(Click to expand the map)

There were huge rocks here, one of them the size of an elephant, which is probably how the place got its name. All these rocks have disappeared in the last thirty years. The owners of the rocky land minted money by selling the extracted rock for construction, leaving huge, deep pits that have become dangerous water pools. The land is still somewhat densely wooded, making it an ideal place for an evening stroll.

Kammala Thakidi (കമ്മാളത്തകിടി)

This is a mound which is an extension of Mathimala (discussed in this section). It is thought to be where the Buddhist Vihaara was founded. Later, the Brahmins of the village allowed the village artisans to level almost 2/3rd of it for use as their shmashaana (cremation ground). Artisans are called Kammaalar (കമ്മാളര്‍) in Malayalam and Tamil. The mound then acquired the name Kammaala Thakidi (കമ്മാളത്തകിടി, ‘Thakidi’ means flat ground). The southern part of the mound became the cremation ground of the Iyers, the Tamil Brahmins.

There are 5 types of artisans and hence they are called ainkammaalar (ഐങ്കമ്മാളര്‍ =   അഞ്ചു തരത്തിലുള്ള കമ്മാളര്‍), i.e. carpenters, coppersmiths/braziers, ironsmiths, goldsmiths and masons (ആശാരി, മൂശാരി/ചെമ്പുകൊട്ടി, കൊല്ലന്‍, തട്ടാന്‍കല്ലന്‍ or കന്നാന്‍ or കാമാട്ടി. But some social historians exclude masons from this group of five. Instead, coppersmiths and braziers are categorized as separate ‘Kammaalar’).

The mound might have been used earlier for executing the condemned criminals of the village - perhaps, that was why it was allotted as a cremation ground by the Brahmin rulers.

The Kammaalar stopped using their portion of the ground for cremation in the early 1800’s. Settlements of Nairs and artisans sprung up around it. The cremation ground thus became a wasteland where the local Nairs constructed an elementary school in the 1920’s for the Nair Service Society (NSS), inspired by Mannath Padmanabhan, the Society’s founder. However, the Iyers continued to use the cremation ground. The mother of Mr. M.V. Sivarama Iyer of Mecheril Madam died in the early 1960’s and her mortal remains cremated here.  That was the last funeral at the cremation ground. The cremation ground of the Iyers was owned by an Iyer family of Kochumadathil (കൊച്ചുമഠത്തില്‍) which used to stay near the Kaviyoor temple. Later they shifted to a house constructed between their cremation ground and the N.S.S. Higher Secondary School. After the death of Mr. Subrahmanya Iyer of Kochumadathil who was the Head Master of a High School, the family sold all their properties and left the village in the 1980’s. Raju Narayana Swamy IAS, one of the few government officials known for their honesty and integrity, is the grandson of Mr. Subrahmanya Iyer. The cremation ground is a now a residential property.

The N.S.S. Higher Secondary School Junction is still known as Kammaala Thakidi. It was also called ‘Ezhaam Mile’ (ഏഴാം മൈല്‍), as mentioned under ‘Profile’ of Kaviyoor.

Kaniyan-Paara (കണിയാന്‍പാറ)

This too is a small locality. An astrologer-family (Kaniyān, കണിയാന്‍ belonging to the ganaka community) is said to have stayed here beside a small rock (പാറ). The rock was blasted off almost completely as the land became a prime property by the village’s standards due to its proximity to the Changanassery-Kaviyoor road. The Kaniyans left the place probably in the 19th century. Kaniyan Paara was in Mundiyapalli province till the mid-1800’s. There were more than one Kaniyan family in Mundiyapalli.

Kanjira-kunnu (കാഞ്ഞിരക്കുന്ന്)

Kanjirakunnu is a small hill near Kammaala-thakidi. It is sandwiched between the Thri-kal-kudi-pāra (തൃക്കല്‍ക്കുടിപ്പാറ) in the north and the Polachira in the south. Two hillocks also flank it - Mathimala on the east and Pulimala on the west. Except for three Kanjiram trees (കാഞ്ഞിരം, Snakewood tree, Strychnos nux-vomica), the hilock was almost barren, covered only by thickets and grass till the 1940’s.  It was near the Sankewood trees that the second school of Kaviyoor was founded by ‘Kaviyoor Swamikal’ (see the section of Education at the beginning of the article). The school having wound up in the 1940’s and a house (of the family of Koorimala) constructed there, the trees were felled. It seems that Kanjiiram is no longer found in the village. The last Kanjiiram that I had seen was at Pallipuram, behind the N.S.S. Higher Secondary School. It fell off due to senescence during the south-west monsoon of 1965, having lived, perhaps, for a few centuries.

The bus stop at Kanjira-kunnu was called Chumadu-thangi (ചുമടുതാങ്ങി) because an ancient porter’s rest was erected there for the benefit of travellers on foot. It was removed in the early 1950’s. A transformer now stands at the spot.

Kasturi-kunnu (കസ്തൂരിക്കുന്ന്)

Literally, Kastūri-kunnu means musk hill. Musk deers are found only above a height of about 8,000 ft in the alpine sub-Himalayan region, not anywhere in other parts of India, least of all near the Kuriyan-kavu temple, which is the traditional landmark closest to the hill. Out go musk deer and related claims. It never occurred to the locals to find out why the hill is called so, leaving us with one more entry in the list of mysteries.

Kodinattu-kunnu or Flag Hill (കൊടിനാട്ടുകുന്ന്), Kottoor

While hardly living person can tell the reason for naming the place so, we have to rely on the probable connection the hill had with the Mahādéva temple. The utsav (annual festival) ceremony I wrote about in an earlier paragraph included visits to the borders of the Brahmin village. Accompanied by the Brahmins and Nairs, the temple deity would go on a caparisoned elephant to the borders of the village to fix flags with the insignia of the village/main temple for the symbolical declaration for asserting the Brahmin village’s boundaries.

The Kodināṭṭu-kunnu or flag-hill, an elevated terrain at the border of the village about 3 km north of the Mahādéva temple, was one such location where the village flag used to be fixed every year. But at some point of time, the village was enlarged to include Kunnanthanam and Nedungadappally. The ceremony of fixing the flag also was shifted to Kunnanthanam. The change of place must have happened a few hundred years ago, but somehow, it did not affect the name of the hill.

Kuthiravattam (കുതിരവട്ടം) and Pulimala (പുളിമല)

Pulimala is the highest point on the western side of the village. The hillock might have been named by the ancient settlers probably after a tamarind tree (പുളി). The high terrain lies to the west of Kanjirakunnu. The western section of the hillock has a mound called Kuthiravattam that lies between Mākāttil Junction and Pazhampally. The long stretch of land here belonged to the Brahmins of Valiya Manakkal. There is no clue as to why this place was named Kuthiravaṭṭam (Kuthira= Horse, Vattam = surroundings or specific area). It was named so probably by the early settlers of Kaviyoor, perhaps even before the Brahmins had arrived. The Brahmin rulers never used horses for sure. Kuthiravattam must be a toponym. There are places bearing the same name near Chengannur, Kozhikode and Cherthala.

Makaṭṭil (മാകാട്ടില്‍)

Mākāṭṭil is a junction in Padinjattumcheri. This small region might have been uninhabited and thickly wooded. The best interpretation can be that ‘Maa’ (മാ) stands for Mango (tree) and Kadu (കാട്) for Jungle. The densely wooded area might have had a few mango trees. There are many places in Kerala that begin with Maa (Mango tree). Maakkal (മാക്കല്‍) is the most common among them which means where the mango tree stands (മാവുങ്കല്‍)

Manakkal Chiŗa (മനയ്ക്കല്‍ ചിറ)

The cause of naming the place near Thottabhagam on the Thiruvalla-Kozhenchery road has already been explained earlier. Before it was named ‘Manakkal Chira’, the area might have been part of what is now called as Airāttil (ഐരാറ്റില്‍/അയിരാറ്റില്‍/അയരാറ്റില്‍).

Mannath (മന്നത്ത്)

This is now a small plot of land near Makattil occupied by a Christian family. ‘Mannam’ (മന്നം) refers to an assembly headed by a prominent villager where disputes were redressed. The assembly used to be held under a huge tree – normally a pepul/banyan tree. Such çourts’were in existence throughout Kerala and Tamilnadu. They disappeared around 12th or 13th century C.E. But some believed they lasted in to 17th or 18th century.

Mathimala (മത്തിമല)

The name sounds bizarre. Mathimala is a hummock and one of the highest places of the village,  at nearly 55m above sea level.  Its southern part is occupied by the N.S.S. Higher Secondary School.  It was on this hillock that an object of worship now dubbed as Sivaling, said to have been brought by Hanūmān from the Himālayas, was ‘found’ (see under Hanūmān, Part-3). It is difficult to pinpoint the site from where this idol was retrieved. Therefore, the chances of finding out the remains of any shrine at Mathimala are remote. The huge cylindrical stone resembling a Sivaling might have been a tribal deity.

Mala is hill or mountain. The people of Kaviyoor, unaware of the meaning of the ancient Malayalam word ‘Mathi’, attributed interesting reasons for calling the place ‘Mathimala’. In modern Malayalam, Mathi means sardine, a sea fish, which one cannot link with a hilly village that lies far off the Arabian Sea. Another guess was that there were wild animals in ancient Kaviyoor (see Part – 1 under ‘Etymology’). Leopards, tigers, bears and monkeys are said to have been part of the ancient biota. Manthis (മന്തി, Macaques, a kind of common monkey) were ubiquitous in the area and hence it was called Manthi-mala - which came to be known as Mathimala over a period of time!

The real reason is – ‘Mathi’ (മത്തി), which is a tree. Nearly half a dozen trees (and a shrub) were called ‘Mathi’ in ancient Malayalam. The most widely distributed ‘Mathi’ tree in central Travancore was Karimaruthu (കരിമരുത്Terminalia elliptica). Our ancient ancestors named many places after trees. The hill with a Mathi (Karimaruthu) tree was called ‘Mathimala’.

Botanical texts give confusing information about ‘Mathi’. For instance, both Karimaruthu and Vellamaruthu (Arjun) are listed as Terminalia elliptica in certain books. Sometimes, you may find that the botanical names too differ. Vellamaruthu, listed as Terminalia cuneta or Terminalia arjuna in some books, was rare in southern Kerala. We could also see the shrub Mathippuli (മത്തിപ്പുളിalso called Narampuli/Kalapoo) throughout the village until the seventies. Since it had copious distribution, the shrub was certainly not the reason for the name ‘Mathimala’.

Mundiyapalli (മുണ്ടിയപ്പള്ളി) and Kottoor (കോട്ടൂര്‍)

I introduced Mundiyapalli in the discussion on the ‘Siva temple’ of Thirunelli (Part 1 and 3). The villagers believed that there was a clay fort protecting the Siva temple and the ‘palace’ adjoining it at Thirunelli. It is said that there were two idols – one of Siva and the other an unrecognized deity.

The villagers thought that Kottoor meant ‘place with a fort (കോട്ട)’. The place with a fort is grammatically Kottayoor or Kottakkal, not Kottoor. There was no vestige of any fort or Siva’s idol here. But a small shrine’s remains could be seen till a few decades ago. The unrecognized idol could have been a deity that was worshipped by the ancient settlers of pre-Jainism period. Subsequently, their descendants ignored it following their embracement of Jainism, Buddhism and finally Hinduism or Christianity. It is claimed that the Brahmins of the village had removed the Siva idol and deposited it in the pond inside the Kaviyoor Mahādéva temple about 300 or 400 hundred years ago when nobody cared for the temple for hundreds of years. This is also a story not backed by any proof. The tribal deity was given the name Malaya Daivam or Malaya Moorthy (മലയദൈവം/മലയമൂര്‍ത്തി) by the modern residents of the area most of whom are now Christians.

Malayapothi (മലയപ്പൊത്തി) was a deity of an ancient jungle tribe (Malayans, മലയന്മാര്‍) of Kerala. It was regarded as a protector of cattle. It may sound unlikely that a society of jungle tribes like Malayans ever resided in Kaviyoor, but nearby Muthoor is said to have been occupied by jungle tribes about 1500 years ago (Refer to the information on Padappadu Bhagavathi).

Whatever the name of the deity, it was transferred to Kuriyan Kavu temple a few decades ago when the locals started cultivation on the land. At the Kuriyan Kavu temple, it was simply called Moorthy. No puja is performed for the idol because it is not a divine entity of the Hindu pantheon. (The Kuriyan Kavu temple authorities claim that there was no idol at the site. They had merely harnessed the divinity and installed it in their temple. A lamp is lit daily where the deity is installed).

Mundiyan (മുണ്ടിയന്‍), my studies reveal, was an ancient male deity worshipped by the ancient tribals of Kerala for protection and prosperity of cattle. He was propitiated with sacrifice of fowls and goats. The annual festival (Vela-വേല) used to be performed with great fanfare in Medam (April) in northern Kerala. Though ‘Mundiyan’ shrines are rare in south Kerala, there are many such fanes in north Kerala. A few of them are:

Vennoor Munidyan Kavu Bhagavathi temple, Elanad, Thrissur
Manimala Mundiyan Kavu at Ottappalam, Palakkad
Mundiyan Kavuparambu at Olipram Kadavu, Kadalundi
Mundiyan Thara at Kottoor, Malappuram

These fanes are now Hindu shrines. Even in the 20th century, it was not uncommon to find males with the name Mundiyan in Palakkad-Wynad region. (Kulavan and Chāthan also were deities related to the Mundiyan worship, but there is no trace of any shrine dedicated to them in Kaviyoor). Mundiyan was not the patron of any caste. Even when Jainism and Buddhism were the main religions of the villagers a section of the society might have worshiped Mundiyan. The worship continued even after Hinduism imported its own gods and goddesses. Perhaps it is due to the same reason that Mundiyan figures in Thirayāṭṭam (തിറയാട്ടം), a dance-drama of north Kerala.

Thirunelli of Kaviyoor was actually ‘Mundiyan Kottam’ i.e. a fane dedicated to Mundiyan. The Buddhist monks had named the whole area ‘Mundiyapalli’ after the tribal deity.  The area around the fane was called ‘Kottoor’, i.e, Oor (place) with ‘Kōṭṭam’. Later, the adjoining areas of the fane too was called Kottoor. Eventually ‘Kottoor’ was separated from Mundiyapalli for convenience of administration circa 19th century. Thus, Kottoor and Mundiyapalli became separate entities.

The only other idol that might have been worshipped by the ancient settlers might have been at Mathimala where there is no sign of any shrine now.

The worship of Mundiyan, which was prevalent mainly in north Kerala, may lead to another inference. The forefathers of many people of modern Kaviyoor – except perhaps Brahmins and Nairs - who worshipped ‘Mundiyan’ might have migrated from northern Kerala. They ceased to worship it probably during 900-1200 C.E. i.e. till Vedic Hinduism took its roots in Kaviyoor.

Muttathu Para (മുട്ടത്തു പാറ)

Muttathu Para, northwest of Kaniyan Para, is where one of the early hamlets of the village came in to being. The only cremation ground of the village is at Muttathu Para. Although the cremation ground was modernized, it is in a state of neglect, mainly due to political squabbles.

Naa-kuzhi (നാക്കുഴി)

For over a hundred years, the greatest lie doing rounds in the village has been about Naa-kuzhi (നാക്കുഴി) which is located opposite the temple pond on the Devaswom road. Not being able to find out the meaning of Naa-kuzhi which is a word from the Proto-Dravidian language from which Malayāļam and Tamil were formed, the villagers mistook ‘Naa’ (നാ) for ‘Naay’ (നായ്dog). The pronunciation changed wrongly to Naay-kuzhi (നായ്ക്കുഴി). Kuzhi is pit. Generations were told the paralogism that this was the place where Pulayas and Parayas, people of the lowest caste, sold puppies during ustavam and Sivaratri.  ‘Naa’ (not Naay) in ancient Malayāļam means middle or centre, not dog or puppy. Simply put, Naa-kuzhi means Nadukkuzhi (നടുക്കുഴി), a trough between two elevated areas or place that protrudes in to a river/waterbody/bog/wet field. The southern end of ‘Naa-kuzhi’ touched the rice field of the village. The lower-caste was never allowed to come anywhere near the temple till the 1940’s. Naa-kuzhi was never used for festival trade. It was, however, used as a place for depositing trash but is now a residential area.

Njaalikandam (ഞാലിക്കണ്ടം)

This is the southern part of the Njaal-bhagam (ഞാല്‍ഭാഗം) province bound on the east and south by the river Manimala. Half of this area comprised rice field, sandwiched between human settlements.

The word ‘Njaali’ (ഞാലി) means ‘hanging’. Kandam is rice field. One will find that Njaalbhagam is actually Njaalam Bhagam/Njaala Bhagam (ഞാലംഭാഗം/ഞാലഭാഗം). Njaalam (ഞാലം) is ‘land’ (കര) in old Malayalam. Njaali and Njaal are colloquial forms derived from Njaalam/Njaala (ഞാലം/ഞാല). Njaalakandam simply means - part land, part rice field. The pronunciation changed to Njaalikandam (ഞാലിക്കണ്ടം) later. (There is a place called Njaalakam, ഞാലകം, in Kalamassery, near Eranakulam. This word too has its origin in ‘Njaalam’).

At the southern end of Njalikandam, on the bank of river Manimala, farmers had cultivated sugar cane for centuries, thanks to the proximity of the river. It was appropriately called Thottabhagom (തോട്ടഭാഗം; grammatically it should be തോട്ടബ്ഭാഗം). The unyielding cultivation and the greed to make quick money out of the sugarcane field (later reclaimed for constructing villas) lying close to the main road saw all the cultivated areas disappear in the last 50 years.

Naazhiparakkal (നാഴിപ്പാറയ്ക്കല്‍)

The meaning of the word is – ‘land with Naazhipara (നാഴിപ്പാറ)’. Pāra is rock. It is an area about 1 km behind the N.S.S. School. Neither old Malayalam nor any legend can give any clue as to why the rock was named Naazhipāra. Had somebody tried to write an article like this 50 years ago, he/she would have been able to get the etymology from the senior citizens of the village.

A view from Nazhippara. The distant hillocks belong to Kallooppara

Naazhi (നാഴി) is a vessel for measuring grains and liquids used by Keralites till modern metric system reached the state. To be content with the conclusion that the shape of the rock might have been similar to the measuring vessel naazhi is being too simplistic. In old Malayalam, naazhi also meant ‘tubular’. It can lead one to another conclusion: the rock was an elongated – if not fully tubular- structure. We cannot say with certainty that it is the peculiarity of the shape of the rock that resulted in it being called Naazhipara. We cannot verify the shape of the rock now because it had been levelled long ago to make metal and aggregate for use in construction of roads and buildings when environmentalists were an unknown species.

Nazhal (നാഴല്‍) in ancient Malayāļam means Silk-wood tree (ഇലവ്). Its presence might have been the reason for naming the area Nazhalpara (നാഴല്‍പ്പാറ) which might have changed to Nazhipara.

Whatever the reason, the etymology of the place is as elusive as the grave of Genghis Khan.

Padinjattumcheri (പടിഞ്ഞാറ്റുംചേരി)

It is the ‘western hamlet’ – because it lies at the western side of the reservoir PolachiraThe province extends up to Nāttu Kadavu (നാട്ടുകടവ്), where now a bridge links it to Kizhakkan Muthoor, the eastern end of Thiruvalla Municipality. Padinjattumcheri provides all the features of a typical pastoral life that makes it an ‘upmarket’ area of the village. Real estate prices are quite high here compared to other areas of Kaviyoor.

Pazhampalli (പഴമ്പള്ളി)

This is the western border of modern Kaviyoor, on the Changanassery road. But the old border of the Kaviyoor Brahmin Grāmam was still farther west, at Anjilithanam. Pazhampally might have had a Buddhist past. The place name means ‘old vihaara’. All the ancient settlements in the village had been on or near low-lying lands which facilitated cultivation of rice. Pazhampally too lies between two elevated terrains. But the rice fields have disappeared. The Christian church in the area has got nothing to do with the place name. A family here still uses Pazhampalli as their house name, suggesting that the Buddhist settlement could have been where the family stays now.

The first modern educational institution, the C.M.S.Lower Primary School, of the village was established here in 1850 – though this is  yet to be confirmed.

Punnilam (പുന്നിലം):

Punnilam, surrounded by tumps, lies in Kottoor, the northern province of modern Kaviyoor. The low level land made it ideal for rice cultivation for the ancient settlers. Punnilam means ‘barren land’ in ancient Malayalam, not ‘new land’ as some may argue. The early settlers of the village must have called the place barren because it was too tough to be tamed for agriculture. Though people began inhabiting it subsequently, the name indicates that its human settlement and agriculture are not as old as the ones in other parts of the ancient village. The topography is still unfriendly but Punnilam is fairly populated.

Sivanaal  (ശിവനാല്‍ )

This place is now called Kanikka Mandapam (കാണിയ്ക്കമണ്ഡപം). It was once known after a huge Peepul tree (അരയാല്‍) that was called Sivanaal (ശിവനാല്‍). It was perhaps the oldest tree of Kaviyoor. Devotees believed the tree was older than the Mahādéva temple. It was under this Peepul tree that the ‘elite’ Christians performed the ceremony of purifying the materials meant for temple’s rituals.

For centuries, Sivanaal had been a landmark associated with the temple and village; it offered shade to the visitors to the temple and local pedestrians alike. During the utsavam, a replica of the temple flag was tied to one of its high branches.

Yet, towards the middle of the 20th century, the villagers had even forgotten its original name given by their ancestors and the tree was being referred to as Kizhakke Aal (the Peepul on the east) because, on the west, there was another tree called the Pallivetta Aal (പള്ളിവേട്ടയാല്‍ - see Part 3) closer to the temple. Having served the village for hundreds of years, Sivanaal had begun its journey in to oblivion. By the end of the 1960’s, decay had set in so much so that many heavy branches of the tree had to be removed to reduce the burden on its weak trunk. It could only prolong Sivanaal’s ordeal. Eventually, it had to be felled in 1971.

The small junction graced by the tree had become crammed in the 1970’s. Planting another Peepul tree would have been a serious hazard to increasing traffic. It was after the fall of the giant tree that an arch and kāṇikka peṭṭy (cash chest) were built at the junction and the place named ‘Kanikka Mandapam’. The name ‘Sivanaal’ could have been retained.

Normally the penetrating roots of Banyan/Peepul trees pose a threat to nearby dwellings and structures, but the roots of Sivanaal did not damage any building. On the contrary, when new buildings were constructed within 100-200 meters of the tree, its major subterranean roots were cut off which affected the intake of nutrients from the soil, leading to its ‘death’.

Today, nobody remembers Sivanaal.

(The Pallivetta Aal too was felled later, but it was replaced by a new Banyan tree planted by the Devaswom Board).

Sivaratri-kandam (ശിവരാത്രിക്കണ്ടം)

The paddy field Sivaratri Kandam lies at Padinjaattumcheri. It must have been owned by one of the custodians of the temple once upon a time and the income from it used for the expenses of the temple including the bills footed during the Sivaratri celebrations. The large paddy field was owned by some families of Aranmula. This link between Aranmula and Kaviyoor cannot be found out because no living person in the village is able to  throw light on the matter. The property went to rank outsiders from Aranmula understandably against the wishes of the ruling Pottis of the Kaviyoor Brahmin Grāmam. You may recall the cold war between the Brahmins of Kaviyoor and Aranmula that I mentioned earlier. As of now, the rice field in the area belongs to the locals.

Thullalkalam (തുള്ളല്‍ക്കളം)

Thullalkaļam is near Ayarar or Ayirattil. Thuļļal refers to a pagan trance dance performed by a person ‘possessed’ by spirits. He moved briskly, yelling incoherently, within a small area (called Kaļam, the equivalent of a stage on ground) specifically prepared for the ritual. The dancer acted as a diviner and the pagan-worshippers would seek the blessings and advice of the spirits through him; they believed that this way the spirits could alleviate their sufferings. People were afraid of moving about in the area even during daytime for fear of being attacked by spirits. (Hinduism borrowed thuļļal from paganism and it is being performed at many temples or fanes in Kerala). The ritual at Thulļalkaļam stopped centuries ago.

It was believed that this was where persons condemned to death by the ‘judges’ (the Pottis of Neythalloor Illam) of the Brahmin Grāmam were executed. This could be another reason for the spooky stories doing rounds.

The villagers have long forgotten these stories. The place is now occupied by the eminent Christian family of Chirathalakkal.

Kaviyoor – After 1947

Having been formed in 1953, Kaviyoor Panchayat saw its first election in the same year. The village was divided in to wards and one representative was elected to the council of Panchayat from each ward. A president and vice-president were elected from these members of wards or ‘ward members’, as they came to be called. The people who got elected in the fifties did a commendable job of modernizing Kaviyoor. Most parts of the village were electrified in 1956. Schemes for preventing denudation of soil were implemented in the mid-sixties. Many villagers gave their land free for developing a road system. They were all typical rural roads and alleys, most of them being dirt roads or ones reinforced with gravel since use of asphalt had not yet been introduced in rural areas. Despite the financial and technical limitations, the members of the early councils could aptly be called the founding fathers of modern Kaviyoor.

Roads and Culverts

Another important work of the ‘founding fathers’ was the development of rain water drainage system. Being a hilly village, rapid flow of water denuding the roads was a permanent problem. Drains and culverts were constructed in the late fifties to make the flow of rain water unhindered to the Manimala river at the border of the village. The roads were asphalted in the 1970’s. The well-built drainage system protected it from torrential rains. I left the village in 1969 to a nearby town for higher studies and then was employed outside Kerala. During one of my visits to the village in the 1990’s I was shocked to find that the drainage system had disappeared. The dim-witted Public Works Department (PWD) of Kerala removed the system of drains and culverts that were pivotal to the flow of water, for widening the roads! The stupidity of the engineers of PWD was not questioned by the villagers. Nor did it bother the local politicians. Removal of the drains for widening the roads did not help motorists. The width could have been increased without destroying the drains. But the emergence of a new generation without imagination and foresight has been the bane of Kaviyoor. The result is catastrophic. The roads are now dotted with potholes, cracks and puddles especially after the usual rainy seasons.  The water from the higher planes flows over the asphalted roads causing displacement of the asphalt and metal.  While nearby villages like Paipad – and many other villages and towns of Kerala - are making laudable efforts to construct proper drainage systems, no effort has been made to reconstruct the drains and culverts of Kaviyoor. More worrisome is the tendency of the people to place flex boards and flag staff (of political parties) on the edges of the roads – at the very same place where the drains were built once upon a time. Growth of thickets alongside roads is also becoming dangerous to pedestrians and motorists alike. The thickets are not cleared off at regular intervals. The removal of the drains benefited only a few narrow-minded, self-serving villagers. The imaginative work of the elders is down the drain.

Disappearance of Streams

Three perennial streams that supplied water to the people and enabled the underwater table to remain stable have been lost forever.

*The stream that flowed from the southern side of the Thrikkalkudi Para for thousands or millions of years was destroyed. It had a few species of native fish.

*Another stream that started near Kaniyan Para and was a permanent source of water for the small reservoir called Polachira has also been destroyed to lay a motorable road for new settlers. (There was an effort to build a dyke in the stream in the 1960’s which could have helped a few hundred families tide over the water shortage in spring and summer. But internecine rivalries among Nairs in the Panchayat council shot the paradigm project down).

Panayampala Canal, a view from Anappara, Kaviyoor East

*The Panayampala canal on the east  that separates Kallooppara from Kaviyoor, is gradually disappearing because of encroachment that has blocked minor streams that supplied water to it.

There could be more such streams which might have been destroyed without the knowledge of the civic authorities.

Bus Service

Travel to the nearby towns and villages is easier now, or so does it appear. A number of buses ply through Kaviyoor but the hitch is that bus owners cancel many trips, especially at dawn, noon and late in the evening. At times the buses do not complete their licensed trips. So insensitive are the people of the village that the travails of those who depend on these buses do not seem to worry anybody. Now even petty political workers of Indian villages own two-wheelers and air-conditioned cars. Nobody gives a damn to the woes of the poor. This problem is faced by villagers throughout India. The state transport corporation had run buses once upon a time, but the influential private bus operators managed to get them withdrawn.

Wards and Panchayat Members

In the early days of the Panchayati Raj, the elected members used to visit their wards frequently to have a first-hand knowledge of the people’s problems and solve it. Not any longer. A villager who is a functionary of the local unit of a national political party told me: “They need not visit their wards. If you have any grievance, go to the Panchayat office and meet them. They are available once a week”. Shocking to say the least. The people’s representative need not visit the electorate! The modern Indian system has created a new set of political philosophy that distances elected representatives from the people who elect them. Unfortunately, political management and training at various tiers are two subjects not taken seriously by top political leaders of the state. I shall deal with this in a separate article.

Many villagers do not know the boundaries of modern Kaviyoor. At the borders of villages and towns (entry and exit points), the local administration normally keeps ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank You’ boards. These boards which were once in place in Kaviyoor at the borders have vanished! It doesn’t cost a fortune to keep these boards, yet….

Rice Cultivation

Rice cultivation is no longer viable since cost of manpower is intimidatingly high. Hundreds of acres of paddy field are lying uncultivated in Kaviyoor. The daily wage of a male agricultural hand is Rs 800 whereas, according to economists, it should have been Rs 300 as of 2017. A number of villages in Kerala are attempting to revive agriculture, through mechanized methods. They involve even school children who actively participate in the process - from readying the rice field to harvesting and even selling the output. Kaviyoor has not seen any such movements. There were reports of some initiatives for agricultural activities in 2016 by some politicians. Let us hope their efforts will trigger widespread resumption of rice cultivation.

Water Supply

It was in the 1950’s that a pump house was built in Kaviyoor to tap the water from the Manimala river. But that was for supplying water to the nearby Thiruvalla Municipality! About two decades ago, water pipes were laid in the village but water distribution is a farce. Taps are always dry. At times, water is released at night when the villagers are asleep! Tens of thousands of gallons of water is lost due to breakage of underground pipes which are scarcely repaired in time.

LSG Fumbles!

If you visit the official website hosted by the Local Self Government Department (LSG) of Kerala, you will find the following glaring lapses:

The population of Kaviyoor is based on 2001 census whereas the central government has published the census data of 2011. You have to be content with old data! Fortunately, there are ways to get data from elsewhere.

A fresh team for management (Panchayat Council) of the village came in to being following the elections in 2015. But the website talks of the team elected in the previous election of 2010!

The new members of the Kaviyoor Panchayat should ensure that the website gives the latest information.

Public Library

There was a public library and reading room, housed in a beautiful building constructedin typical Kerala tradition. It was probably established in the 1930’s and named after Sri Moolam Thirunāļ Rāma Varma (1857-1924), the king of Travancore who ruled between 1885 and 1924. Since the few educated people in the village did not patronize it, the library went in to a state of dysfunction in the 1950’s. Readers who borrowed books never returned them. Its veranda became a haven for tipplers who made merry at night. It could have been maintained as a heritage structure. The dilapidated building was ultimately demolished and whatever books left ‘safely’ kept in the Panchayat office. It appears that the villagers, especially the younger generation, love to hate books.

All political parties of Kaviyoor should take the blame for the tribulation of Kaviyoor described above. The new breed of neo-rich politicians need to a lot.



The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB)

One disadvantage of nationalization of temples is that the heritage, culture and procedures that are unique to a temple are not being respected by the staff employed at all levels by the Travancore Devaswom Board. Many of them do not have the necessary skills and knowledge to manage temples. A sound knowledge of general and local history as well as Hindu culture is a must and it should be reinforced with periodical training. A manager, who is sent to a temple for a brief period, does not learn the local history and the temple’s history; they do not make efforts to understand the peculiarity of deities, the unique rituals, the special oblations etc. This is evidenced by some of the features discussed below with reference to the Kaviyoor Mahādéva temple:

Nirmālya Pūja (നിര്‍മ്മാല്യപൂജ): Every temple in Kerala begins a day with an early morning ceremony called the Nirmālya Pūja at 3.00 AM – the first ritual of day after cleansing of previous day’s leftovers at the altar. The timing is crucial in that it is tāntrically auspicious for the priests and the worshippers. I had attended the Nirmālya Pūja of the temple at 3.00 AM in my childhood. The dumb skulls of the Devaswom Board changed it to 5.00 AM a couple of decades ago probably with the connivance of a group of employees! I do not know whether this was objected to by the locals and the tantri. The high-handedness of the Devaswom Board should have been vigorously opposed. Has the timing been changed in the other temples of the board? Can such change of timings of prayers to suit a few happen in a church or mosque? Who are the beneficiaries of the change of Nirmālyam? Temple staff cannot be equated with retail shop employees or office workers. The specific timings of duties must be in sync with the timings prescribed for various rituals.

The priest of the shrine of Hanūmān: The priest used to stay in the accommodation - provided by the temple close to the temple wall on the west since he had to lead a life of complete abstinence during the tenure of his appointment. The Melshanti also stayed here. The priest of the deity of Hanūmān was called Purappédā-Shānthi (പുറപ്പെടാശാന്തി). Ignorant of the Kaviyoor temple’s traditions and specific requirements of the Hanūmān shrine, the Devaswom Board employs priests giving scant regard to the centuries-old customs, thus hurting the feelings of devotees. The least the Board can do is to appoint purappédā-Shānthis for a tenure of six months or one year, following strictly the traditional rules – like the appointments at Sabarimala and Guruvayoor.

Date of Change of Hanumad Jayanti: As I have mentioned elsewhere, the temple celebrates Hanūmān’s birthday ‘thrice’. 

1. One is on Moolam day of Malayalam Era month Dhanu (Sagittarius, Dec-Jan) which is popularly known in Kaviyoor as Hanumad Jayanti.
2. The Devaswom Board celebrates another birthday on the Moolam day in Medam – thiswas started a ew years ago.
3. In 2016, a third Jayanti was celebrated on Chitra Pourņami day in the month of Chaitra (Medam/Mesha, April-May), per Sāka calendar of north India. 

However, south Indians generally regard Moolam as the birthday of Hanūmān. Yet, Ārdra (Āthira), Swāti (Chōthi) and Jyéshtha (Kéṭṭa) are also regarded as the birth stars of Hanūmān. You may read a critical analysis which gives weightage to Moolam. Dr. Chidambara Sastri in his Telugu work "SRI ANJANEYA MAHATMYAM", (translated by P.S.  Gopalakrishna) says that:

“Puranas differ on arriving at the birthday of Sri Hanūmān. They mention CHAITRA BAHULA CHATURDASI, CHAITRA SUDDHA EKADASI, VAISKHA BAHULA DASAMI or MARGASIRA BAHULA DASAMI as per different Puranas. While some say it is a Saturday, others feel that the day was either a Tuesday or a Wednesday. VAISAKHA BAHULA DASAMI is recognized as the birthday of Sri Hanūmān. VAISAKHA BAHULA DASAMI occurs in May. MARGASIRA SUDDHA TRAYODASI is observed as HANUMADVRATAM. It occurs in December. Some people observe the day as the birthday of Sri Hanūmān….. Sri Hanūmān’s birth star is PURVABHADRA. But his “Adhisthana” star is Swathi. The birth of the star of Sri Hanūmān occurs on VAISHAKHA BAHULA DASAMI and the day has to be observed as his birthday. It is appropriate to celebrate Sri Hanūmān’s birthday in May”.

There is no consensus on the issue. Dr. Sastri recommends celebration in May (10th day of Vaishakh, Apr-May). It appears that the local people of Kaviyoor were not consulted before making the change. If it is true, the decision of the Devaswom Board is ridiculous. They, like a good number of the villagers, think Moolam was selected to appease Mannath Padmanabhan, the Nair leader, but it is factually incorrect. 

There never was a festival for Hanūmān in Kaviyoor. It was Chingan Bhattathiri, the erstwhile tantri, who directed the villagers in or around 1909 to celebrate Hanumd Jayanti on Moolam day in Dhanu. The Nair Service Society was not even formed and Mannath Padmanabhan had not risen to prominence when the tantri suggested about the Jayanti. However, due to financial problems, it was delayed for a long while. Decades later, when they readied to start the festival, a triplet praising the Nair leader reached the local community of Nairs. It (given below) was written by an admirer of him. (It is also said that it was penned by a resident of Kaviyoor, probably a Sharma of Keezhchirakkal Illam).

Hanūmān piranna Moolam
Dhanuvil piranna Moolam
Kapinatha-kataaskhamathra nibidam

(ഹനൂമാന്‍ പിറന്ന മൂലം
ധനുവില്‍ പിറന്ന മൂലം
കപിനാഥകടാക്ഷമത്ര നിബിഡം)

The villagers decided to honour Mannath Padmanabhan by inviting him to be the chief guest every year. It is immaterial if there was an element of sycophancy in involving Mannath Padmanabhan, because the festival was planned after astrological deliberations based on south Indian beliefs and keeping in mind the tantri’s suggestion of 1909. The date cannot be changed per the whims and fancies of a few individuals working in the Devaswom Board. The north Indian Sāka calendar is not followed in Kerala either. The Board’s inanity and oligarchy are proving more reprehensible than the despotism of the Brahmin rulers of yore.

The Names of Deities: The main deities at the eastern sacrarium are Siva and Parvathi, but the sign board carries only the name ‘Siva’. It is said that the current tantri is vehemently opposed to changing it for reasons best known to him. Since the ‘mooladhyanamantra’ describes Siva and Parvathi, the objection of the tantri is nothing but overbearing. It is worth mentioning that the board reading  ‘Krishna’ kept at the entrance of the Keezh-thrikkovil temple was replaced with a new board ‘Mahavishnu’ which was done on the basis of dhyanamantra. But the dhyanmantra says the deity or rather the deities housed in the shrine are Mahavishnu, Lakshmi Devi and Bhoomi Devi. Why should the Devaswom Board give in to the tantri’s irrational logic? A tantri’s job is merely to ensure rituals are done per accepted norms.

Playing Instruments During Rituals: The temple artistes are supposed to play their instruments during the daily rituals. The convention in Kaviyoor is that they should play the instruments in the balikkal pura and in the northeast (Eeshaana) corner of namaskara mandapams. By and large, the convention is followed, but during the evening pooja (deepaaraadhana) the artistes do not enter the keezh-thrikkovil temple, but play their instruments standing outside the temple yard. This serious lapse must be sternly dealt with.

The Lattice: The removal of the lattice on the southern wall (explained earlier): The Devaswom Board officials removed the lattice, not knowing its historical significance. The window should have been retained near the southern gopuram to remind the modern generations how difficult life of the hapless low caste Hindus was under Brahmins. The Board can reinstall the lattice in its original location near the southern gopuram and thus rectify the howler.

Laying of Tiles: Sand is supposed to grace temple yards traditionally. It is ideal too for absorbing water which is essential to keep the water tables high and regulate the atmospheric temperature. The radiated heat from tiles increases atmospheric heat by around 70 C. Here again the Devaswom Board erred. Tiles have been laid on the entire yard of the Keeẓh-Thrikkōvil temple, Yakshi temple and at many places in the main temple yard depriving the famous temple of its unique beauty and spirituality hailed by a number of scholars of history and religion. Non-availability of sand is an issue and the cost is exorbitant, yet sponsor-devotees could have been found to solve the problem. The obsession of the Devaswom Board with tiles has resulted in the loss of spiritual ambience that the temple was famous for. The Board could have laid a 4-foot wide circumambulatory pathway instead of covering the entire precinct of the Mahavishnu and Yakshi shrines.

Ilanji Tree: The banyan tree that has taken the place of the ilanji tree should have been hewn off and a sapling of ilanji planted there. It is said that the tantri does not allow the removal of the banyan tree. The tantri should have been more concerned with the destruction of the ilanji tree which was worshipped by the devotees of Hanūmān for curing illnesses. If at all the tantri took a negative stand, the Devaswom Board should have overruled him. The discretion of the Devaswom Board in such matters should not be allowed to be encroached upon by priests.  Since the ilanji was regarded as a holy tree the Board’s passivity should be condemned by one and all. It should respect the feelings of devotees and the ilanji should be planted at the same place where it stood for centuries. (Walking around the ilanji seven/twelve times for 7/12 consecutive days was a ritual performed by devotees for curing illnesses including mental disorders. Recall the story of Kandathil Kurup).

The Sculptures: The masterly sculptures and artwork on the ceiling by the Thekkethil carpenters at the entrance and maņdapam of the main temple, which are extolled by art connoisseurs, cannot be seen because the ambience is rather dark. If the Devaswom Board fixes ‘focus bulbs’ at convenient places, the carvings can be viewed by devotees. There is no need to keep this away from the eyes of devotees. Doing so is another lapse of the Board. The Board should also form an archive, take steps to film all the prized carvings of all temples of Kerala and keep them in the archive. (For that matter, if – it is a big if - a creative team comes at the top of the Board, they can organize production of videos of major temples and sell them to devotees at reasonable rates).
The Ramayana Mandapam: The long pandal east of the namaskāra maņdapam of the sacrarium of Hanūmān was built about 75-80 years ago (around 1940) especially for the devotees to sit there and read Rāmāyana silently. Devotees used to read Ramayana on all the 365 days of a year. The elders of the village call it Rāmāyaņa Maņdapam. The place is now used for thulābhāram (for weighing devotees using bananas, sugar, grains etc. equivalent to their body weight). The pandal should be cleaned and devotees allowed to use it to read Rāmāyana. The facility for thulābhāram should be shifted to another convenient place.

Marriages: Even at the famous Guruvayoor temple, one of the busiest temples of Kerala, tying the knot and pudavakoda (പുടവകൊട/പുടവകൊടുക്കല്gifting of ceremonial dress to the bride by the groom) is held in the temple’s pandal, with the couple facing the main deity, lord Krishna. At Kaviyoor too these ceremonies used to be conducted in the pandal (ānakkottilആനക്കൊട്ടില്) facing the eastern nada. But now this privilege is no longer available to the couples during marriages. All marriage ceremonies have been shifted to a separate auditorium in the south east corner of the temple yard. This is objectionable in that the sacred rituals the knot should be done where it used to be in the past. However, the remaining procedures can be held in the auditorium. The Board should have been wiser. (Well, the Board should have been..what?)

Red Paint: The granite pillars of the pandal (ānakottil) have been painted in red and white. The greyish or jet black granites have its own unique beauty.  Why did the Board have to go for unnecessary cosmetic exercise? This kind of pseudo-beautification must be stopped.

Bronze Foils: The recent trend in Kerala to cover the base of Sri Kovils of temples with bronze/copper foils is deplorable. Devotees donating the foils do it more out of megalomania than sense of devotion. The Kaviyoor temple too is a victim of this kind of cosmetic absurdity. As mentioned above, craftsmen’s work on rock looks indescribably beautiful when left untouched. I pity the brilliant craftsmen whose toil has gone waste.

New Construction: It is believed that divine beings visit temples to pay respect to the deities after Athazha Pūja (അത്താഴപ്പൂജ), the last of the rituals in the evening around 8pm. At Kaviyoor, they are then believed to assemble at the temple yard till the wee hours of the following day. All construction activities in the temple yard were therefore banned. An attempt to construct some structures in the 1940’s was dropped after the then tantri and locals objected to it. These conventions are ignored now. An unnecessary structure for recital of bhajans and Rāmāyana was built near the pandal. The recital could have been arranged in the pandal itself.

The Balikkals of the Mahavishnu temple: The balikkals were removed during the laying of tiles. This is atrocious. The Devaswom Board should not be complacent and negligent about the tāntric requirements of temples. These sacred stones must be fixed where they were.
Flag-Hoisting (കൊടിയേറ്റ്): Choosing of the muhurtam should be left to the Kaviyoor illam Pottis. The tradition should be continued.

Inauguration of Programs: The festival (dance programs, religious discourse, musical concerts) being held during the utsav is now being inaugurated by celebrities. For believers, this is ridiculous and presumptuous because hoisting of the flag itself denotes the ‘inauguration’ of all rituals and accompanying festivities that last the following ten days. Why should there be a separate ‘inauguration’?

One can add to this the sound pollution during the festival season. During the annual utsavam the loudspeakers inside the Mahādéva temple blare out programs at deafening noise levels. One will be lucky if one escapes without rupturing one’s eardrum. The smaller temples of Kaviyoor also contribute their mite to increase the sound pollution by playing devotional songs daily at dawn and dusk at intolerable decibels. The recently established mosque also is not free from blame. The citizens do not seem to be aware of the 500-metre restriction imposed by the Supreme Court of India. (The court should have used ‘decibel’ instead of ‘metre’ to specify intensity limit). At least in the case of the Kaviyoor temple, the Devaswom Board can act. But it does not; that is, till somebody goes to a court of law. For the time being, the law is an ass here.

While criticizing the Board, one must also give credit to the managers who have made appreciable improvement after 2012 in the administration of the temple, despite a section of the employees who have been shaken out of their comfort zone resenting a number of steps taken in the right direction. The temple’s income has risen sharply. But the managers should not be autocratic. The Temple Advisory Committee consisting of the locals must garner public support for retaining the traditionalism and unique spirituality of the temple.


1.      Read articles on migrationhttps://www.quora.com/Is-Aryan-invasion-theory-correct-or-not


Ref. No & Links:
Kaviyoor Mahādéva Temple (link not working now)

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