Archive for April, 2013

Mangaladevi Kottam: Kannaki, Patini, Mangalamadan Tai and the Historical Linkages between Keralam and Tamilakam

// April 28th, 2013 // 2 Comments » // Culture and Ecology

Mangaladevi Kottam in Kumaly on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013

Mangaladevi Kottam in Kumaly on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.  The Pandya style stone temple could be built in 9th century after the Saivite conquest of Sambandhar and his rabid legion who persecuted the Chamana nuns.

Mangaladevi temple or Mangala Madan Tai Kottam is an ancient shrine eructed in the memory of a brave and legendary Tamil woman by the ancient Chera emperor of Keralam in the second century AD. Mangaladevi or Mangalamadan Tai is an early Tamil and Buddhist south Indian cult signifying an auspicious female guardian deity from the beginning of the common era.  The cult of Mangalamadan Tai flourished with Buddhist popular culture and gave birth to plenty of place names all over the peninsular India as in Koramangala, Mangalapuram, Neryamangalam, Kotamangalam etc.

The grassland shola peak on which Mangalamadantai Kottam is situated at the Kerala-Tamilaka border.  The forest watch tower and shola are visible from miles afar.  A view from Kerala side of the mountain.

The grassland shola peak (1337m) on which Mangalamadantai Kottam is situated at the Kerala-Tamilaka border. The forest watch tower and shola are visible from miles afar. A view from Kerala side of the mountain. The winding road is also seen.

The current Mangaladevi temple or Madantai Kottam in true ancient Tamil Amana (Jain and Buddhist) parlance, near Kumaly in Idukki district of Kerala close to the border of Tamil Nadu on a high grassland shola peak at around 1337 m above sea level overlooking the Kambam valley and Meghamalai dales has more than 2000 years of history to tell. It is 15km from Kumaly town which is on the Kollam – Kottayam – Theni National Highway.

People struggling to get into the Kannaki shrine at Mangaladevi Kottam on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2008.

People from all over south India struggling to get into the Kannaki shrine at Mangaladevi Kottam on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2008.  The Tamil women use yellow and green clothes for this exquisite pilgrimage to the top of the Western Ghats at 1337 m.  They have also formed a volunteer group to handle the rush at the Kannaki shrine. Yellow marigolds and green Neem and mango leaves decorate.

This unique grassland shola is within the PTR or Periyar Tiger Reserve that is ecologically sensitive and extremely crucial for the sustenance of life and drinking water down in central and south Kerala apart from being the last asylum of the Asiatic Tiger in South India. The grassland sholas and fern groves are also home to rare and endangered flora and fauna, most of them medicinal.

The Pandya style of architecture is visible in the granite stone temple complex at Mangaladevi Kottam.

The Pandya style of architecture is visible in the granite stone temple complex at Mangaladevi Kottam. Can be dated to 9th century and the Saivite take over under Sambandhar and his militia who specialized in persecuting the Buddhist nuns.

According to researchers and authors like S N Sadasivan this organic Tai Shola or mother of all sholas as in the Nilgriris was a Buddhist nunnery in the beginning of the common era on a great trade route and mountain pass that connected the Pandya kingdom with the Chera lands across the western ghats.

Kannaki idol in Mangaladevi Kottam, Kumaly.  Tamil women are leading the rituals even today.  25 apl 2013.

Kannaki idol in Mangaladevi Kottam, Kumaly. Tamil women are leading the rituals even today though the priest is a boy. 25 apl 2013. A passing shot in the rush with one hand.

Kannaki the legendary heroine of sage Ilango Adikal’s Tamil epic Silapatikaram, after cursing and metaphorically burning the city of Madurai in her ire against the king who unethically punished her husband Kovalan (accusing him of stealing the anklets of the queen ) by ripping of her breast, went north west along the banks of river Vaigai in the Kambam valley and disappeared into the Sahyadri’s according to legend and the epic.

Devotees mostly women and dalitbahujans from Tamilakam and Keralam thronging in to get a glimpse of their ancient heroine Kannaki as Patini as installed by Cheran Chenguttuvan in 2nd C. AD. Chitra Paurnami day 25 apl 2013.

Devotees mostly women and dalitbahujans from Tamilakam and Keralam thronging in to get a glimpse of their ancient heroine Kannaki as Patini as installed by Cheran Chenguttuvan in 2nd C. AD.     A historic shot on Chitra Paurnami day 25 apl 2013.

The grassland shola peaks near Kumaly then was known as Vindhamalai among the Tamil people.  The southern mountain is still called Meghamalai.  The existence of the Chamana monastery or lamasery was known to the people of the Pandian  planes as far as Madurai during the early common era.  This peak is still visible from Theni district.

The decorated southern gateway to the Kottam.  Two big banana plants in fruition are used in typical south Indian style along with mango and Neem leaves and yellow marigolds.

The decorated southern gateway to the Kottam. Two big banana plants in fruition are used in typical south Indian style along with mango and Neem leaves and yellow marigolds.

It must also be remembered that Ilango Adigal was the younger brother of the Chera chief Changuttuvan who consecrated the temple in the memory of Kannaki as Patini or the chaste wife. Kodungallur was the capital of Cheran were Adikal composed his epic in the monastery at Matilakam or Tiru Kunavayil Kottam.  Both these enlightened sons of Kerala were the biological sons of the Chera emperor Nedum Cheral Atan.  The surname Atan is a regional form of the Arhat the Buddhist sage.

The eastern slopes of the Western Ghats that go down to the Kambam Theni valley in Tamilakam: A view to the north east of Mangaladevi Kottam near Kumaly

The eastern slopes of the Western Ghats that go down to the Kambam Theni valley in Tamilakam: A view to the north east of Mangaladevi Kottam near Kumaly

Patini cult was popular among the Buddhist laity in the early common era.  There were Patini installations in Kumaly, Kodungallur and Atukal by Cheran Chenguttuvan.  The Patini or Kannaki cult was also popular in Tamraparni or Sri Lanka then and the Muventar or the south Indian ruling trio consisting of Chera, Chola and Pandya kings were also close to the Sri Lankan kings in culture and kinship.  That is why Gajabahu I (c. 114 – 136 CE) the king of Ceylon was also present during this installation at Kumaly and Kodungallur (Sadasivan 2008).

The remaining outer wall of Mangaladevi Kottam that was finely built.  A woman from Tamil Nadu sits a while after the 2 hour long queue to get in. 25 apl 2013.

The remaining outer wall of Mangaladevi Kottam that was finely built. A woman from Tamil Nadu sits a while after the 2 hour long queue to get in. 25 apl 2013.

Brahmanism captured these Buddhist nunneries and monasteries known as Kottam, Kuti, Vattam, Vihara, Kavu, Thopu, Thottam etc. through the strategic use of subaltern energy that was cunningly utilized in the Bhakti movement as in Saivism and Vaishnaism in Tamilakam and Keralam.   These movements were initiated as democratic liberalizations but they actually contributed to the expansion of the Brahmanical Hindu world among the lower strata by violently converting Amana sects and heterodox sites in south India.

Periyar lake as seen from Mangaladevi Kottam. A view to the south east from the southern gateway of the Kottam.  Most parts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) are also seen here.

Periyar lake as seen from Mangaladevi Kottam in the left corner in haze. A view to the south east from the southern gateway of the Mangala Madantai Kottam. Most parts of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) are also seen here.

In the 9th century AD during the heyday of Saivism, Sambandha Moorty’s (Jnana Sambandhar) rabid legion of assassins conquered this shrine at Kumaly and converted it violently to a Siva temple installing the huge rock Linga, the Amman or Parvati and Ganapati. Some pre existing Buddhist idols were reconsecrated as these new deities.  They did this conquest by violently executing the Buddhist monks with tridents and raping and torturing the nuns in unimaginable barbaric ways.  But fortunately the Patini or Kannaki shrine was spared for some reason and is still surviving as a sub shrine within the big but ruined temple complex atop the grassland.  It is also possible that the people from Tamilakam recovered the Kannaki idol and cult and reinstalled the practice again after the hey day of Saivism.

Taradevi bronze in an antique shop in Kumaly

Taradevi bronze in Rajalilasana in an antique shop in Kumaly.  She is the only female Boddhisatva of compassion.  Such Mahayana deities got “Modified” into Hindu Devis and goddesses after the 8-12 century Saiva/Vaishnava Bhakti frenzies unleashed by the hidden agenda of Brahmanism to take over Buddhist shrines and Viharas.

The Patini installation by Chenguttuvan was in AD second century according to the history and chronology of Chera rulers.  The Tamil people as well as the Bahujans or Avarnas from Kerala used to climb up the western ghats every year on the festival day of the Chitra Paurnami.  As it is a disputed location on the border; Kerala and Tamil Nadu are conducting the festival collectively now with official co-operation.

Tamil and Kerala pilgrims atop the Mangalamadantai Kottam near Kumaly on the day of Chitra Paurnami, 25 apl 2013.

Tamil and Kerala pilgrims atop the Mangalamadantai Kottam near Kumaly on the day of Chitra Paurnami, 25 apl 2013. See the yellow-green floral-leaf decoration and clothes of the devotees mixed with white Jasmin flowers.

But there is every possibility that this ancient Tamil Buddhist shrine could be gradually Hinduized and Brahmanized and Sanksritized in a covetous fashion.  Brahman priests are at the helm and the Parivar outfits are gaining momentum in this Sangham age monument that represents the true secular tradition of south India.  Only the Kannaki shrine is with the Avarna and  Tamil people now. Women and Bahujans are leading the rituals there while half naked Brahmans are playing the priestly  role in other shrines of Siva, Parvati and Ganapati.  At least 30,000 people mostly women and dalitbahujans or the Avarna visited the mountain shrine this year on 25 April 2013 from Tamilakam and Keralam.

Jeeps plying from Kumaly to Mangaladevi shrine through mountain roads over the grasslands on the Kerala-Tamil border.

Jeeps plying from Kumaly to Mangaladevi shrine through mountain roads over the grasslands on the Kerala-Tamil border.

There is also a conspiracy to make this temple something like the current Sabarimala that was originally the abode of Avalokiteswara Boddhisatva (Ayyappa) of Mahayana Buddhism prior to 8th century.  The Saivites and Vaishnavites who conquered the shrine at Sabarimala under the strategic meta narrative of Brahmanism got into a pact and made it a half Saivite and half Vaishnavaite shrine, a queer combination of Appa and Ayya according to their weird etymological interpretation.  This will be catastrophic because the region is in Periyar Tiger Reserve and is part of the most crucial eco screen preventing the dry weather from Tamil planes into Kerala.  The Pullumedu disaster and other losses to the grasslands in Sabarimala season must also be remembered and well pondered.

Before the big northern shrine now enshrining a Linga at Mangalamadantai Kottam with Anirudh Raman on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.

Before the big northern shrine now enshrining a Linga at Mangalamadantai Kottam with Anirudh Raman on Chitra Paurnami day, 25 apl 2013.

More over the ancient Sangam shrine without any caste and gender hierarchy and untouchability and purity practice is now being gradually converted into a Brahmanic Hindu temple of high purity and pollution riddles and Savarna elitism.  They are starting with a Savarna aversion for footwear in this archeological and historical site as in many Savarna villages in Tamil Nadu and Savarna temples in Kerala now and will end up in Dhoti and the bare breast very soon.  They are going back to the pre-renaissance days where struggles were required to cover breasts in public.

A herd of wild elephants at Tekady, on the banks of the Periyar lake reservoir inside the PTR, 26 apl 2013.

A herd of wild elephants at Tekady, on the banks of the Periyar lake reservoir inside the PTR, 26 apl 2013.

The Brahmanic Tantris, Melsantis and Kizhsantis will soon drop in out of the blue and will make it another Sabarimala where millions are given as donation to get a lower division priestly post every year.  It is a Brahmanical conspiracy to squeeze the money from the Bahujans who offer everything they can to the shrine in the name of faith and religion.

A self take with left hand with Mr Das as researcher and young scholar who reached the summit on the day of Chitra Paurnami.

A self take with left hand with Mr Das a researcher and young scholar who reached the summit on the day of Chitra Paurnami.

In Malabar they are now forcing the temple goers to remove the pants and shirts and soon they will come down to the inner clothes.  If current Brahmanical Hinduization goes unchecked by the people and their organizations  Mangalamadantai Kottam will become another Sabarimala and a new environmental and cultural disaster in the present and near future that cannot be corrected ever after.  It is high time for the policy makers and people’s elected bodies to think, discuss and act.

Saffron flags coming up on the Mangaladevi top, 25 apl 2013.

Saffron flags coming up on the Mangaladevi top, 25 apl 2013.

The Last of the Migrants: Oystercatchers Lingering at Chavakad

// April 24th, 2013 // No Comments » // Eco Watch

Vijesh Vallikunnu's file photo taken in 2012 summer at Chavakad beach showing the Oystercatcher with a trapped left leg.

Vijesh Vallikunnu’s file photo taken in 2012 summer at Chavakad Tiruvatra beach showing the Oystercatcher with a trapped left leg. Mark the long horizontal stick like snare-paraphernalia  attached to its left leg (bird on the left.   By courtesy of Vijesh Vallikunnu (Mobile: +91 9846777992)

On 20th April 2013 I revisited Chavakad beach at Tiruvatra Puthan Kadapuram to find four Oystercatchers.  A few weeks ago I found three of them at the same location and reported it earlier in Keralabirder internet group.  The injured bird is still getting along though with a lot of difficulties in movement.

See the snare tightly gripped to the birds left toe pulled up to the under belly.  Another shot by Vijesh in summer 2012 a year ago.  By courtesy of Vijesh Valikunnu.

See the snare tightly gripped to the bird”s left toe pulled up to the under belly. Another shot by Vijesh in summer 2012 a year ago. By courtesy of Vijesh Vallikunnu.

Meanwhile I got a chance to meet photographer Vijesh Vallikunnu who took its photos a year ago in 2012 summer.  Mr Vijesh was kind enough to send me a few photos of the injured Eurasian Oystercatcher in trapped condition with a long pole like snare fixed to its left toe. This was taken in early 2012 from Tiruvatra Puthan Kadapuram by Vijesh.   This year exactly a year after this take by Vijesh the bird seems to have lost its toe completely and got rid of the snare part.

The same bird now without the toe at Chavakad beach.  My photo on 20 apl 2013.

The same bird now without the toe at Chavakad beach. My photo on 20 apl 2013.

We can imagine the pain and suffering this beautiful little creature had undergone for over a year now. It has gone back to Europe and come back to Kerala again.  Will it make it next time in the coming winter?  Only time can tell.  Let us hope for the better and expect this challenged but brave bird in Kerala cost again.

Eurasian Oystercatcher catching an oyster at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Eurasian Oystercatcher catching an oyster at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Cracking the oyster shell with the beak at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Cracking the oyster shell with the beak at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Savoring the sweet meat of oyster by removing the shell so ingeniously.  The Oystercatcher at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Savoring the sweet meat of oyster by removing the shell so ingeniously. The Oystercatcher at Chavakad beach, 20 apl 2013.

Though it has got rid of the big stick like trap part, the injury and open wound seems to be sore even today and the infection may be fatal to its very life.  I think experts and specialists can help in this ragard after carefully examining the images here and probably after field observations later.

Eurasian Oystercatchers in flight at Chavakad beach this summer.

Eurasian Oystercatchers in flight at Chavakad beach this summer.

A few small gulls and Lesser Crested Terns are also left in the beach in this advanced summer.  Green Shanks and Sand Plovers are also common.  I spent a whole afternoon at the beach and it seems that almost all the big gulls and other shorebirds have gone back because of the rising temperatures here.  But the Oystercatchers are still lingering and why…  perhaps the misery of their fellow is forcing them to stay on this alien shore in extreme heat.ajaysekher.net.tanur.kodungalur.chavakad 068

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