Tag Archives: Kallil rock temple

Madman’s Rock: Bhranthan Kallu or Bhranthachala in Tiruvegapura

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

 

Jain Temples of Manjeswaram: Jainism in Kerala

Chathurmukha Basati, Jain temple in Bengara, Manjeswar

Jainism was the first missionary religion to reach the present Kerala in BC fourth century itself (Gopalakrishnan 2009).  The Pattanam excavations prove this historical fact beyond doubt now.  Indian rouletted ware with the inscription “Amana” meaning Sramana or Jain/Buddhist recently recovered from Pattanam near Muziris or Kodungallur testify the presence of Jain monks even in central Kerala itself around BC fourth century.

Parswanatha Basati Jain temple, Bengara near Hosangadi, Manjeswar

Jain texts and inscriptions also talk about the southward migration of Chandragupta Maurya under the guidance of his Jain guru Bhadrabahu following a prolonged drought in the north in BC 4th century.  They settled down in Sravanabelgola (white pool of Sramanas or Jains) in present Karnataka so close to north Kerala.  Jainism and its culture and architecture spread to various parts of ancient Tamil country including Chera kingdom from here (Damodaran 2002).

Remnance of an ancient stone temple near Manjeswar river mouth close to the Arabian sea. Clearly Jain according to granite archetectural patterns, motifs and Dwarapalaka reliefs

Manjeswaram was the headquarters of a Jain kingdom called Bengara-Manjeswar towards the northern frontier of present Kerala for atleast 500 years from 12th century onwards (Pathmakumar 43).  According to scholars involved in Jain studies more than 800 families where here and the debris of a destroyed fort is still found in the region.  The relics of an ancient stone temple near the river mouth of Manjeswar close to the Arabina sea is also a clear evidence of the Jain antiquity of the place.  Manjeswaram still has two Jain temples or Jaina Basatis on the southern shore of river Manjeswar still called Bengara after the Jain kingdom.  There are also a few surviving Jain families here near Hosangadi to the west of NH 17 around the Parswanatha Basati.

Ancient Asoka tree and Naga deities before Chathurmukha Basati, Manjeswar

There is a Chathurmukha Basati housing four idols of Jain gurus Adinatha, Santinatha, Chandranatha and Mahavira facing to the four directions.  This ancient structure belongs to 12th century according to experts (Pathmakumar 42) It is situated on a small idyllic hillock  and is a green and calm retreat for the culturally inclined visitor.  The Sramana sages loved peace and tranquility of nature.  There are also sacred trees like flowering  Asoka underneath which Naga or serpent idols are worshiped by the ancient Jains. I found plenty of birds, butterflies and even a peacock there in Jan 2011 when I visited the place alone.

Ancient alter or Bali stone in Mallinatha Basati, Manjeswar

The second temple is the Parswanatha  Basati named after another saint  or Thirthankara of Jainism.  This temple renovated several times in its long history is identified as belonging to 14th century.  It has idols of Parswanatha, Pathmavathy Devi, Khusmandini Devi and Saraswati as well.  In many places in Karnataka and north Kerala Mallinatha Basatis are converted to Mallikarjuna Hindu temples. A Jain family is also attached to this temple.  I met the family who are fourth generation Jain priests called Indrans of the temple and they informed me that most of the community had migrated to Karnataka because of various social pressures and extreme marginalization and exclusion under hegemony.

Small Blue Kingfisher on the helm of a fishing boat in Manjeswar estuary, Kasaragod, Kerala

These temples at the northern boundary of Kerala like the Chitharal (Tirucharanthumala) rock temple and Nagerkovil temple at the southern frontier now being Hinduized along with Kallil in Ernakulam district and Kaviyoor rock temple in Pathanamthitta district prove the basic presence and foundation of Jain culture as the primary civilization of Kerala.

Entering Jain temple near Hosangadi, Manjeswar

All the bahujans or the people or subaltern in Kerala have their Jain/Buddhist ancestry and that is why they were considered as untouchables by Hinduism till a few decades ago. The Avarnas or former untouchables in India  as a people have their Sramana heritage and ethical legacy to fall back that lie at the bottom of things.  The still surviving Jain centers of Moodbidri, Karkala, Venur and Dharmasthala are also geographically close to Manjeswar like Sravanabelgola.

Green hillock housing the Jain temple in Manjeswar

Irinjalakuda Kudalmanikya temple was also a Jain temple till the 14th century (Valath 1992: 127; Gopalakrishnan; Pathmakumar).  Almost all the Brahmanical temples having an antiquity of more than a thousand years were violently Hinduized during the Brahmanic conquest with the help of Sudra henchmen who served as the militia and pimps of Brahmanism in establishing its material, sexual and mental colonies in Kerala during the 7th and 8th centuries AD through caste and pollution. The Savarna or upper caste Hindu hegemonic culture in Kerala is built on bloody and violent forms of invasion, brute aggression and inhuman oppression including genocide and annihilation.

Photos of Jain gurus inside the Jain home near Parswanatha temple, Manjeswar. Saraswati on the left showing that she was originally a Jain deity

It is high time that the people in Kerala who have survived these material and symbolic violences for centuries  must realize their true ethical heritage in the Sramana egalitarian cultures of Jainism and Buddhism and rewrite the cultural history of Kerala that was erased, obliterated and mutilated by Brahmanism and Savarna hegemonic forces who infiltrated and destroyed the Baliraj or rule of the egalitarian and subaltern mythical Maveli of Kerala in the middle ages through Brahman-Sudra nocturnal alliances and knowledge/power monopolies built by barbaric violence, erasure and repression.

Alter or Bali stone in Manjeswar Jain temple. Another feature of Jain temple architecture later Hinduized in the Brahmanical appropriations

Reference

Damodaran, K.  Tamilnadu: Archeological Perspectives.  Chennai: Govt. of Tamilnadu, 2002.

Gopalakrishnan, P K.  Keralathinte Samskarika Charithram.  Trivandrum:  Kerala Bhasha Institute, 2009.

— ,   Jainamatham Keralthil.  Trivandrum:  Prabhat, 1992

Pathmakumar, P D.  Jaina Dharmam Keralathil. Kozhikode: Wayanad Jaina Samaj and Mathrubhumi, 2007.

Sarkar, H.  Monuments of Kerala.  New Delhi:  Archeological Survey of India, 1992.

Valath, V V K.  Keralathile Sthala Nama Charithrangal: Ernakulam Jilla.  Thrissur:  Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1991.

— , Keralathile Sthala Nama Charithrangal: Thrissur Jilla.  Thrissur:  Kerala Sahitya Academy, 1992.