Solitude of a Black Buddha: Karumady Kuttan and Kerala

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


Birding the Buddhist Trail

Early morning on Friday(3rd April 2009) we began the journey on a Kawasaki eliminator near Pally purthau kavu of Kodimatha in Kottayam and ended it at Thottappally in Alapuzha district.

Plenty of cotton teals, whistling teals and a solitary spot-billed duck were there in Kodimatha marsh at that early hour. Little cormorants and Bronze-winged Jacanas were also out.

During the whole-day journey we covered the premises around Pally Bhagavathy temple at Neelamperur (an ancient Buddhist Pally or temple shrine), the recovered Buddha statues at Karumady, Mavelikara, Krishnapuram and various parts of Karthika pally/Karunaga pally taluks.

In Neelamperur we saw an un id. falcon, a brown shrike, purple-rumped sunbirds and an ashy prinia.

just a few miles west in Kavalam and Kainadi we saw large congregations of Terns. We could identify Whiskered and Black-bellied terns only. Thousands of Yellow wagtails were also present in the fields. Plenty of Little, Median and Cattle Egrets were also seen. Some un id. swifts were also seen high above. A few purple herons also showed up.

Then we moved south through Kidangara – Edathwa – Thakazhy and reached Karumady in the west near Ambalapuzha. Plenty of mixed Egrets and un. id. Aquilas were around.

After paying homage to this half destructed stone Buddha of AD 8th century we moved west to enter NH 47 and then south to reach Thotta pally, one of the ancient holiest shrines on the western coast considered in Buddhist legends along with the submerged and lost city of Srimulavasam.

Thousands of Brown headed and other gulls, green shanks, and common sandpipers were there in the backwaters and on the beach to welcome us. A few images are posted here. We had our belated lunch there and rested there for a few hours and began the return journey through Kayamkulam – Mavelikkara route. In between we saw the more than a millennium old intact granite Buddhas in Krishnapuram, Mavelikkara and Pallikkal. We reached Kottayam before 8 pm.

We ended this short, little journey of eco-cultural inquiry with great contentment and enlightenment. We consider this as an attempt to rediscover the erased and forgotten legacies of conservation and ethical, egalitarian, and sustainable living. The surviving and still sociable gulls of Thottapally are as unforgettable as the black Buddhas of Karumady and Karthika pally regions.