Archive for February, 2013

Ponnani: Eco-cultural Legacies and Minor Histories

// February 21st, 2013 // No Comments » // Culture and Ecology

Ponnani estuary: The sun, sea and the river meet in a spectacular ensemble, a view towards north west from Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 Feb 2013.

Ponnani estuary at noon: The sun, the  sea and the river meet in a spectacular ensemble, a view towards north west from Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 Feb 2013.

Big gulls including Heuglin and Yellow-legged Gulls (first and second wintering) at Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013.

Migrants from distant shores: Big gulls including Heuglin’s and Yellow-legged Gulls (first and second wintering) at Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013.

 

Public Office or colonial court complex at Ponnani 1838.

The British legacy: Public Office or colonial court complex at Ponnani 1838.

A group of Sand Plovers in Ponnani shore.  16 feb 2013

A group of Sand Plovers in Ponnani shore line. 16 feb 2013

Thottunkal Pally, Ponnani one of the ancient mosques in Kerala founded in 8th century.  Ponnani houses around 50 Pallys and is known as the Mecca of the south east.  It also hosted the Al-azhar University of Islamic and Arabic studies in the early middle ages.

Tottunkal Pally (the Pally by the river Perar) in Ponnani; one of the ancient mosques in Kerala founded in the 8th century. Ponnani houses around 50 Pallys and is known as the Mecca of the south east. It also hosted the Al-azhar University of Islamic and Arabic studies in the early middle ages.

 

Green Shanks and big gulls at Ponnani beach.  The colonial light house in the back ground.  Ponnani was also one of the important ports after Muziris.  The Zamorins of Calicut made it their second capital as their naval chiefs Marakars were originally from here.

Green Shanks and big gulls at Ponnani beach. The colonial light house in the back ground. Ponnani was also one of the important ports after Muziris. The Zamorins of Calicut made it their second capital as their naval chiefs Kunjali Marakars were originally from here.  It is also the home of Sheikh Zainudin Makhdum who wrote the first anti colonial history from Kerala soil, The Tufatul Mujahidin (Tributes to the Holy Warriors who resisted the Portuguese) in the 16th century.

 

The little Mecca of the south east.  Ponnani was the seat of Islamic learning from AD 8th century onwards.  The congregation of mosques and minarets at the southern bank of the mouth of the Perar.  A view from the shore to south east. 16 feb 2013

Paravais and Pallys: The little Mecca of the south east,  Ponnani was the seat of Islamic learning from AD 8th century onwards. The congregation of birds, mosques and minarets at the southern bank of the mouth of the Perar is remarkable. A view from the seashore to south east. 16 feb 2013

Wintering big gulls on Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013

A view in itself: Wintering big gulls on Ponnani beach. 16 feb 2013

 

Kutikad temple in Ezhava Thuruthy, Ponnani.  The place name Kutikad clearly signify a Sramana past.  Words Kuti, Kottam and Vattam originally refer to a Buddhist or Jain Pally.

Kutikad temple in Ezhava Thuruthy, Ponnani. The place name Kutikad clearly signify a Sramana past. Words Kuti, Kottam and Vattam originally refer to a Buddhist or Jain Pally as in Ganapati Vattam/Sultan Batery or Kutipuram.

Turning the pot and tilling the land:  Potter's wheel and kiln in a Kumbhara alley in Ezhava Thuruthy by the Perar near Ponnani.

Turning the pot and tilling the land: Potter’s wheel and kiln/Chula in a Kumbhara alley in Ezhava Thuruthy by the Perar  on the southern bank near Ponnani.  As the Kumbhara or Kosava potters made black and red ware the Ezhava or Uzhava clans tilled and cultivated the land and nurtured the earth with paddy and coconut that desalinated the region and made it fertile and livable.

 

A Heuglin's Gull first wintering in Ponnani coast in Kerala, 16 feb 2013.

A Heuglin’s Gull first wintering in Ponnani coast in Kerala, 16 feb 2013.

A humble coconut leaf thatched tea shop in Ezhava Thuruthy.  Mr Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist before the humane hut amidst astonishing coconut groves by the Perar.

A humble coconut leaf thatched tea shop in Ezhava Thuruthy. Mr Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist before the humane hut amidst astonishing coconut groves by the Perar. 16 feb 2013

 

The renovated fish landing in Ponnani, a view from sea shore.  Due to extensive dredging in the estuary the migratory birds and fish have abandoned this river mouth of Perar.

The renovated fish landing in Ponnani, a view from sea shore. Due to extensive dredging in the estuary the migratory birds and fish have abandoned this river mouth of Perar.

Big gulls in flight along the Ponnani coast.

Big gulls in flight along the Ponnani coast.

 

Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist by the Perar in his nativity of Ezhava Thuruthy, 16 feb 2013. Premdas helped me to get out of the mud by the river where my bike was stranded and gave me a sumptuous lunch in his home and an aesthetic treat with his poems and paintings, thanks to Prem and his mama.

Premdas Ponnani a local poet and artist living by the Perar in his nativity of Ezhava Thuruthy (literally the islet of Ezhava people), 16 feb 2013.   Premdas helped me to get out of the mud by the river where my bike was stranded and gave me a sumptuous lunch in his home and an aesthetic treat with his poems and paintings, thanks to Prem and his mama.

A visual composition with the river, the tree and the sky by artist and photographer Premdas Ponnani, 16 feb 2013.

A visual composition with the river, the tree and the sky by artist and photographer Premdas Ponnani, 16 feb 2013.

 

Ponnani Valiya Jaram or the big Makham of Ponnani, some 400 years old by the NH 17. An Islamic missionary from Arabia is laid to rest here who directly belong to the lineage of the Prophet.

Ponnani Valiya Jaram or the big Makham of Ponnani, some 400 years old by the NH 17. An Islamic missionary from Arabia is laid to rest here who directly belong to the lineage of the Prophet according to legend.

A migrant group of Sand Plovers landing on Ponnani coast, 16 feb 2013.

A migrant group of Sand Plovers landing on Ponnani coast, 16 feb 2013.

 

A Western Reef Egret at Ponnani beach, 16 feb 2013.

A Western Reef Egret at Ponnani beach, 16 feb 2013.

Madman’s Rock: Bhranthan Kallu or Bhranthachala in Tiruvegapura

// February 16th, 2013 // 4 Comments » // Culture and Ecology

Rock cut vestige at Bhranthan Kallu east of Tiruvegapura in Palakad district.  Exactly like the Buddhist vestiges identified at Kattilapara in Kulatupuzha.

Rock cut vestige at Bhranthan Kallu east of Tiruvegapura in Palakad district. Exactly like the Buddhist vestiges identified at Kattilapara in Kulatupuzha.

kaviyur.mulur.eraviperur 058

Kaviyur rock cut temple

The ancient rock temple east of Tiruvegapura is in Palakad district of Kerala on the southern bank of river Thutha.  It is a huge granite boulder around 40m high and three acres in expansion.  There is a flight of steps that lead you to the top exactly like the ones in Karkala or Sravanbelgola but much recent having Malayalam scripts engraved on it.  On the eastern side there is a Chaitya carved into the rock.  It has three openings and two cut pillars.  The left opening is incomplete.  The vestige shows marks and techniques of stone cutting used in early common era by Amana monks or their local patrons that is found throughout the peninsular India.

Ox mascots in Ara Kavu near Tiruvegapura.  Kala Vela or Pooram and Kettukazhcha originated in the pre-Brahmanical era in central north Kerala.

Ox mascots in Ara Kavu near Tiruvegapura. Kala Vela or Pooram and Kettukazhcha originated in the pre-Brahmanical era in central north Kerala in relation with Buddhist harvest festivals.

Tirunandikarai rock cut vestige

Tirunandikarai rock cut vestige

The vestige looks exactly like the ones at Kallupacha and Kattilapara in Kulatupuzha forests identified as Buddhist vestiges by archeological experts like Dr Rajendran. The foot mark on top of the rock also substantiates the Amana connection as in Kaviyur or Tirunandikara rock cut vestiges.  The Jains and Buddhists worshiped the foot imprints of their gurus  the practice that eventually gave birth to place names like Kaladi.  There are Kaladis in Trivandrum, Ernakulam and Malapuram districts of Kerala.  It could be inferred that before the 8th century AD they were pivotal shrines  or Chaityas related to Buddhism and Jainism in Kerala.

The flight of steps leading to the top of rock from southern side.  Looks like the steps at Karkala or Sravanabelgola but a lot recent with Malayalam scripts on it.  Bhranthan Kallu 15 feb 2013

The flight of steps leading to the top of Bhranthan (madman) rock from southern side. Looks like the steps at Karkala or Sravanabelgola in south Karnataka  but a lot recent with Malayalam scripts on it. Bhranthan Kallu, 15 feb 2013.

Rock cut vestige at Kallupacha in Kulatupuzha estate identified as a Buddhist vestige by Dr Rajendran.

Rock cut vestige at Kallupacha in Kulatupuzha estate identified as a Buddhist vestige by Dr Rajendran.

Now this ancient rock-cut vestige is known as Bhranthan Kallu among local people. The word Kallu or stone is an important Jain marker as in Kallil near Perumbavur.  It is now being connected to Naranathu Bhranthan of Panthirukulam and is called Bhranthachala Kshetram in elite parlance. It stands 500 m north of the Pattambi-Valanchery road just east of Tiruvegapura.  Chinavati Kavu (Jina connection?) and Arakavu are just south of this rock temple. The word Ara is a semantic relic of Pally Ara the ancient Amana shrines including Stupas, Chaityas and Pagodas.  This ancient Tamil word can also be related to the word Aram or Dhamma itself.  As the abode of Aram it became Ara.  The ancient Buddhist ritual relics of Kalakettu or Kettukazhcha are still performed as Kala Vela and Pooram in these ancient shrines, now in a Hinduized fashion.

Current shrines of Siva, Muruga etc. on top of Bhranthan Kallu.  The Kanjiram tree is in the back. 15 Feb 2013.

Current shrines of Siva, Muruga etc. on top of Bhranthan Kallu. The Kanjiram tree said to have chained the madman is in the back. 15 Feb 2013.

Local people believe that it was made by some super natural forces who abandoned it as the goddess residing on the eastern hillock made an early morning call in the  voice of a rooster.  Similar stories of abandoning construction at day break by ghosts or demons are plenty all over Kerala. In Ernakulam district people believe that Bhutathan  Kettu dam was built by demons in a single night.  Local people near the Tirunathapuram temple that is in ruin now near Aluva  also believe that it was made by the demons overnight.

Water pools on top of Bhranthan Kallu near Tiruvegapura

Water pools on top of Bhranthan Kallu near Tiruvegapura, 15 feb 2013.

The people still call it the temple of Bhutathans or the temple of demons relating it to the demonization discourse used against the Buddhists originally by Brahmanism.  Moreover place names nearby like Marampally and Payyapally (now being changed to Pilly) confirm the Amana past of the place by the Periyar. The Bhutas or Buddhas or demons disappeared at sunrise abandoning their stones amidst nearby fields say local people.

Kala or Ox mascot in Are Kavu near Tiruvegapura.  Oxen are images of agricultural prosperity and fertility.  They originated in the Buddhist harvest festivals.  The Ketukazcha in Kerala has remarkable semblance to the Buddhist chariot festivals narrated by Chinise Buddhist travelers who visited Patna and north India in the 5th to 8th centuries.

Kala or Ox mascot in Are Kavu near Tiruvegapura. Oxen are images of agricultural prosperity and fertility. They originated in the Buddhist harvest festivals. The Ketukazcha in Kerala has remarkable semblance to the Buddhist chariot festivals narrated by Chinese Buddhist travelers who visited Patna and north India in the 5th to 8th centuries.

It is an allegorical narration of the banishment of the Amanas from the region.  The rise of the sun centered cosmology of Brahmanism and the fall by material and symbolic violence of the moon centered cosmology of Buddhism in Kerala are articulated obliquely by this folk tale existing in orature and the collective unconscious of people especially the former untouchables in the Hindu fold now called the Avarna.

The point of the foot mark towards the east right above the Chaitya vestige on top.  Now modified into an alter where foot dummies are offered in wood.  15 Feb 2013.

The point of the foot mark towards the east right above the Chaitya vestige on top. Now modified into an alter where foot dummies are offered in wood. 15 Feb 2013.

All these places and structures are related to the demonized Amana monks who did extensive work in no time through their dedication and selfless service and the use of simple but humane technology.  Place names Tirunathapuram near Tiruairanikulam and Aluva; and Tiruvegapura near Valanchery also echo Chamana antiquity and early Buddhist sacred towns or Pura/Puram as in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.

Fire dances in Are Kavu another ancient shrine of Amana antiquity near Tiruvegapura.

Fire dance in Are Kavu another ancient shrine of Amana antiquity near Tiruvegapura.

Tiru is the common affix that signifies the pre-Sanskritic or Hindu civilization and sacred Viharas or Pallys.  After 10th century the Sanskrit affix Sri came in place of the Tiru along with place names like Sri Kantapuram or Sri Kakulam etc.  The Tiru prefix testifies the pre-Hindu or pre-Vedic or pre-Brahmanic cultural existence and antiquity of the place.

The iron chain believed to be of Naranathu Bhranthan merged into the Kanjiram tree on top of the Branthan Kallu.  Foot replicas in clay and wood are offered here as well.  It looks a lot recent, only a few centuries old, probably used to transform the foot marks and the legends by hegemonic forces for the Hinduization of the shrine.

The iron chain believed to be of Naranathu Bhranthan merged into the Kanjiram tree on top of the Bhranthan Kallu. Foot replicas in clay and wood are offered here as well. It looks a lot recent, only a few centuries old, probably used to transform the foot marks and the legends by hegemonic forces for the Hinduization of the shrine.  Bhranthan could be just another term like Bhutathan used for demonizing the Buddhists and Jains as in Bhutathan Kettu or Bhutathan Ambalam in Ernakulam district. Bhranthan could be a term of abuse like Nastika, Sunya and Hina used specifically against the Amana who contested god and the other worldly.

In Sanskritized parlance it is called Bhranthachalam temple, which is a clear Sanskrit rendition of Bhranthan Kallu after the middle ages.  But the near by households have the term Kunnathu Kavu (shrine on the hillock) in their house names which could be the old name of the rock shrine complex.  For example the Savarna household just east of the rock is called Kunnathu Kavil Padikal (at the gate way of the hill shrine). It is not surprising that the family owns the land on which the rock is founded.

There are a few recent pagoda shrines of Siva, Muruga etc on top now. Plenty of water resources and a Kanjiram tree are on the top of the rock.  Local residents told me that there was a foot mark on the top of the rock now being obscured by concrete constructions.  The cutting style of the Chaitya facade and the vestige design and foot mark on top distinguish that it is an ancient Amana shrine.  It has close similarity to rock temples at Kaviyur, Tirunandikara and Kattilapara inside Kulathupuzha forest.  All of them were ancient Chaityas or Basatis.

This vital treasure proving the 2000 and more years of cultural history of the Thutha river region must be protected by ASI or the state department of Archeology for posterity.  The long evasion and silence of the official bodies and the gradual attempt to Hinduize the rock again verify the Chamana connection. The Government and local bodies must take immediate steps towards the protection of this ancient heritage site in Valluvanad and the conservation of its surrounding ecology by the river Thutha that is shrinking day by day.

Kala Vela or Kettu Kazhcha at Ara Kavu south west of Tiruvegapura.  Researchers in Kerala history argue that Kettu Kazhcha and Vela or Pooram are reminiscent of Buddhist festivals.  Ara in Ara Kavu is a relic of Pally Ara the Vihara shrine.  15 Feb 2013

Kala Vela or Kettu Kazhcha at Ara Kavu south west of Tiruvegapura. Researchers in Kerala history argue that Kettu Kazhcha and Vela or Pooram are reminiscent of Buddhist festivals. Ara in Ara Kavu is a relic of Pally Ara the Vihara shrine.         15 Feb 2013