Posts Tagged ‘Sabarimala’

Pallykanam and Pullykanam: Western Ghats and an Eco-cultural Crisis

// June 23rd, 2013 // 1 Comment » // Culture and Ecology

Pallykanam grasslands in Vagaman.  May 2013.  Anirudh walking through the grassland.  Also called Punjar Motta resonating the egg like top and the Stupa that once adorned the top.

Pallykanam grasslands in Vagaman. May 2013. Anirudh walking through the grassland top. Also called Punjar Motta resonating the egg like top and the Stupa that once adorned the top. The toponyms clearly suggest a Buddhist past.

Pallykanam means the Kanam of the Pally.  Pally is a Buddha Vihara and Kanam is a wooded hilltop.  Pallykanam is in the Vagaman mountains; high up on the Western Ghats near the border of the current Iduki and Kottayam districts in Kerala.  Now the place name is changed into Pullykanam to erase the Buddhist past by covetous Savarna Hindu forces who captured it in the middle ages or in the early modern era by exterminating the fugitive Amana monks who had fled to the mountain peaks escaping persecution in the planes.

The current Boddhi tree at Pallykanam top.  A Cholayal a kin of the fig in grassland sholas related to the rhododendrons.  A Pipal was here till a years ago according to local people.  The Tamils traditionally bowed before the fig.

The current Boddhi tree at Pallykanam top. A Cholayal a kin of the fig in grassland sholas related to the rhododendrons. A Pipal was here till a few years ago according to local people. The Tamils traditionally bowed before the fig. The same Cholayal is seen at Mangaladevi peak near the ancient shrine of Kannaki. Mark the blue decorations related to Tamil neo buddhist semiology.

There is a dominant tendency to change all the places with Pally affix into either Pilly or Pully that is gaining momentum in Kerala with increased discourses of Hinduization that desire to erase all linguistic and eco-cultural evidences of Buddhism from the soil.  Talapally is now called Talapilly, Varandarapally as Varandarapilly, Palapally is now twisted as Palapilly.  Similarly Kolapally near Shornur is changed into Kolapully.  Pallykanam is thus established now as Pullykanam in the same hegemonic shift of a single vowel.

A brooding presence of hegemonic surveilance and death: A Black Eagle combing the canopies for its prey down the Pallykanam peak below the DC School.

A brooding presence of hegemonic surveillance and death: A Black Eagle combing the canopies for its prey down the Pallykanam peak below the DC School.

The absurdity is that there are no such words as Pilly or Pully in any lexicon of Malayalam. The Savarna scholars may introduce it in near future after citing the increased use of the Pilly or Pully or Vally affix.  For erasing the past and to mutilate the collective memory of the people the Brahmanical Savarna forces  in public institutions and private media are introducing new meaningless words into local parlance in a hegemonic and centralized way with a totalitarian agenda.  A new branch of radical social linguistics is required for the study of such abuses of language for the purposes of local power and the sustenance of hegemony.

At the feet of the fig at Pallykanam.  The current Cholayal or Shola fig a close cousin of Shola growing rhododendron has covered the ancient granite idol into its organic embrace.  Photo: Anirudh Raman, early May 2013.

At the feet of the fig at Pallykanam. The current Cholayal or Shola fig a close cousin of Shola growing rhododendron has covered the ancient granite idol into its organic embrace. Photo: Anirudh Raman, early May 2013.

Pallykanam was with the Punjar kings (a Pandya clan in exile) for  the last few centuries.  It was their temporary abode as they crossed the western ghats to reach Punjar from Madurai.   So the grassland sholas at the western frontier of the Kanam is also called Punjar Motta (egg like grassland top).  The word Motta is a metaphoric expression for the  Stupa.  Mottambalam in Kottayam houses the Gautamapuram temple that housed a Stupa and Chaitya Vihara during the early middle ages.  Moreover, the place name of Kottayam is also derived from Kottam and its Ayam meaning the pond of the Kottam or Vattam (the circular Stupa like Sanctum in a Chaitya Vihara).

Part of the ancient granite idol covered by the fig roots at Pallykanam top.  Now it is termed as Siva and his phallus the Linga and Iduki Kshetra Samiti is going to build two huge concrete temples for Siva and Krishna on this eco-culturally sensitive zone.

Part of the ancient granite idol covered by the fig roots at Pallykanam top. Now it is termed as Siva and his colossal phallus the Linga and Iduki Kshetra Samiti is going to build two huge concrete temples and crisscrossing roads for Siva and Krishna on this eco-culturally sensitive zone.

I visited Pallykanam with Anirudh Raman in early May 2013. The tea plantation workers told us that there was a Pipal or fig tree on the eastern slope of the Pallykanam top and there was an obscure granite idol below.  The Tamil people who work in the estates traditionally worshiped this outcasted deity and they do it even today.  A Christian plantation worker Mrs Leelama Joseph stated that the Tamil people still go and bow before the deity and the fig tree.  The worshiping of the Boddhi tree and the ancient granite idol that is now covered under the roots of the current tree prove the Buddhist ancestry of the place and its name.

A rare butterfly at Pallykanam grassland peak. Early May 2013.

A rare butterfly at Pallykanam grassland peak. Early May 2013.

A few years ago the huge Pipal fell in storm and it was replaced by a typical shola tree akin to the fig that can survive on that altitude and rough weather at around 1000m above sea level.  Moreover the presence of Kutikanam (the well-wooded hilltop with a Kuti or Kottam or Vattam) in the south, Kavukulam in the east and Panjaseela Medu (now distorted as Panjali Medu) again in the south near Kutikanam; prove  the Buddhist legacy.

A Lark singing on the Punjar Motta or Pallykanam peak, early May 2013.

A Lark singing on the Punjar Motta or Pallykanam peak, early May 2013.

It is intelligible to identify these mountain shrines as part of the early eight sacred Viharas on the Western Ghats described in the ancient Tamil text Tiruvilayatal. It is also interesting to note that the highest peak in Vagaman mountains is still called Murugan Mudi.  Murugan like Ayyappan and Kannan, was a Boddhisatva in south Indian or Tamilaka Mahayana Buddhism.  These Mahayana Boddhisatvas were absorbed as gods and god-sons in the violent Saivite and Vaishnavite Hindu Bhakti cults in the early middle ages.

The grassland sholas of Pallykanam from where the major rivers of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta originate including the rivers Meenachil and Manimala.  This wooded grasland top once housed the Pally or Chaitya Vihara and hence the name Pallykanam wihich turned into Pullykanam by the enemies of the people and their true history.

The grassland sholas of Pallykanam from where the major rivers of Kottayam and Pathanamthitta originate including the rivers Meenachil and Manimala. This wooded grasland top once housed the Pally or Chaitya Vihara and hence the name Pallykanam which is  turned into Pullykanam by the enemies of the people and their true history. The whole of high rnage can be seen from here at around 1000m above sea level.  A view to the east.  The current fig covering the stone is also seen on the eastern slope of this wooded grassland.

It must be remembered that western ghats or Malakutam was the abode of the Buddhist and Jain monks till the 10th centuryAD.  In the Tamil text Tiruvilayatal (The Sacred Vihara or Mission) it is descried in the chapter or Patala called “Anayeyta” that there were eight prominent mountain monasteries and eight thousand monks altogether in them in the early 8th century.  This is also cross-confirmed by the accounts of the Chinese Buddhist travelers who visited south India in search of their zen master Boddhi Dharma”s nativity in ancient Tamilakam.

Local plantation workers at Pallykanam in Vagaman who told us that the Tamil people still go to the fig and bow before it and they are still guarding the site.

Local plantation workers at Pallykanam in Vagaman who told us that the Tamil people still go to the fig and bow before it and they are still guarding the site.

The eight Buddhist mountain Viharas (lamasery) on the Western Ghats were Anjana Malai (Karimalai/Sabarimala), Govardhana Malai, Kunjara Malai, Yamakuta Malai, Vinda Malai, Krauncha Malai and Trikuta Malai according to Tiruvilayatal.  Anjana Malai or Karimalai is identified as Sabarimala by the rationalist writer Srini Pattatanam in his book Sabarimala: Viswasavum Yadhardhyavum (Calicut; Progress, 2007).  In A Social History of India, S N Sadasivan has identified the Kumaly mountain and Vannatipara that houses Mangalamadantai Kottam or Mangaladevi temple as Vinda Malai.

Anirudh Raman at Pallykanam in Vagaman, early May 2013.

Anirudh Raman at Pallykanam in Vagaman, early May 2013.

Now the Pallykanam peak or Punjar Motta is with the Iduki Kshetra Samrakshana Samiti and this Hindu temple builders’ and developers’ outfit is going to build a new concrete Siva and Krishna temple on this historic Buddhist site by making roads through the pristine grassland and shola the source of drinking water for the planes.  The ancient Buddha granite idol is now termed as that of Siva and is abrogated as a Hindu idol.  This shift in the name of the deity is also in tandem with the change in place name from Pallykanam to Pullykanam and completes the Hindu hegemonic appropriation of the location and place.

Pallykanam Buddha. Acrylic on Canvas 2013 by Ajay Sekher, composed at Vagaman Asa Sadan. Thanks to Mr Ajit Murikan for his cultural hospitality.

Pallykanam Buddha. Acrylic on Canvas 2013 by Ajay Sekher, composed at Vagaman Asa Sadan. Thanks to Mr Ajit Muriken for his cultural hospitality.

The Savarna or caste Hindu worldview that operates both in uppercaste Hindu and Syrian Christian social fields endorses and consolidates this hegemonic appropriation of the place which is politically, culturally and ecologically catastrophic.  The destruction of grassland tops for new temples here in the model of Sabarimala is going to be an environmental disaster as Pallykanam and Vagaman grasslands are the origin of river Meenachil and some tributaries of Manimalayar the life blood of mid Kerala.

The new granite lamp post erected by the Hindu temple builders at Punjar Motta.  The ecologically fragile grassland top will turn into a disaster soon.

The new granite lamp post erected by the Hindu temple builders at Punjar Motta. The ecologically fragile grassland top will turn into a disaster soon.

We must learn from the Himalayan crisis (Utarakhand) of monsoon 2013 and check the increasing activities on the Western Ghats.  Gadgil recommendations are also being discarded by the political leadership and powerful lobbies who are the major landholders in Kerala part of the Western Ghats.  Hindu temple industry in the manner of Sabarimala or Guruvayur are proving to be eco-cultural disasters.  The PTR and protected forests and mountains and river Pampa is in threat because of Sabarimala that pollutes the whole Pampa river basin and Kuttanad upto Alapuzha in particular.  Guruvayur and other Savarna centres pollute the wetlands and water bodies around in unimaginable rates and leaps.  Human excreta from this temple township is pumped into the neighboring backwaters and Kol fields were cultivation is done.

In all these Hindu Savarna temples the money of the Bahujan masses are being exploited by the Brahmanic priesthood of Mel and Kizh Santis and their Padaja menial slaves co-opted as Sudra; and the land, water and air are being rendered irredeemably toxic.  Sixty to Seventy Lakh Rupees are given as capitation to become a Kizh Santi (lower division priest) at Sabarimala each season.  There are around fifty to sixty such Kizh Santis there mediating between the common man and god (originally a denier of god, i e, Gautama Buddha); Mel Santis and Tantry in addition.  The unaccounted income of theTantry for a pilgrim season equals that of lesser Ambanis.

People and their elected political servants must rethink about Hindu temple oriented commercial boom and pilgrim industry in Kerala and India and save the high ranges from an eco-cultural crisis that are essential for the sustenance of life.  Some of the Hindu centres have degraded into real estate mafia malls, suicidal retreats and sex, drug and human trafficking underworlds as in Guruvayur. The pomp and ignorance of the Savarna middle classes and the ignorant and co-opted Avarna masses who imitate their caste lords in true religious faith make things more culturally and religiously complex.  A concerted effort from the educated youth and ethical political leadership  is required to save Kerala from this eco-cultural landslide.

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.