Solitude of a Black Buddha: Karumady Kuttan and Kerala

// October 21st, 2012 // Culture and Ecology

Cultural legacies of Kerala: Pagoda erected by Dalai Lama above the 7/8th century black granite buddha at Karumady in Alapuzha district of Kerala. This idol was recovered from muddy paddy fields. It was mutilated and buried deep in mud by the violent Hindu henchmen in the 8th cntury. 20 Oct 2012

The black buddha at Karumady is called Karumady Kuttan. The place name Karumady itself is related to Karu or idol as in Karunagapally in the south. Kuttan is a colloquial form of Puthan/Buddhan. place names like Kuttankulangara, Kuttanellur etc. are other buddhist sites spread all over Kerala. Kuttanad itself is named after Kuttan or Buddhan as the land of Buddha.

The idol faces west and the Alapuzha – Kollam canal. It was recovered from muddy fields nearby in early 20th century and became a local deity ever since. Kuttan Kuthu is a pest affecting the paddy. People offer flowers and oil to Kuttan/Buddhan and pray before the idol for getting rid of minor diseases and pest attacks on crops.

Half undone by Brahmanic henchmen: clear marks of mutilation on the partially demolished sculpture in black granite. Historians have dated it to 7/8th century AD. Experts like P C Alexander and S N Sadasivan who have written the history of Buddhism in Kerala, argue that it retains the Anuradhapura style of Srilanka. The exquisite handwork of stone-sculptors from the Eelam is tangible says some cultural observers. Anyway it is the foundation of figurative stone-sculpture in Kerala. Its human figuration and animate pose are highly stylized and evocative.

The peaceful and solemn face retains its grace and smile even after a millennium of violent mutilations and obliteration. The open scars of mutilation are visible all over the sculpture. Half of it is still missing. Local Avarna people offer it  flowers and they decorate the missing Jwala on the head with Ixora blossoms in a sensitive way. The idol retains remarkable similarities to that of Mavelikara, Kayamkulam, Pallikal and Thyagannur in Tamil Nadu.

As a new Amana/Chamana: Artist Anirudh Raman before the Karumady Kuttan shrine. 20 Oct 2012

The lambs of buddha appeared out of the blue. buddha saved the lambs by showing his own throat to the executioner at a brahmanical yaga ritual. That was the beginning of his critique of the Yaga-yajna ritualism and obscurantism of Brahmanism. Karumady 20 Oct 2012.  Photo: Anirudh Raman

Before the buddha at Karumady. 20 Oct 2012. Photo: Anirudh Raman

 

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