Tag Archives: Komarakam

Komarakam: The Land of the Oracle

Komarakam – Chengalam paddyfields.  White Ibises as little spots scattered in the green

Komaram or Velichapad is an oracle in Kerala.  Komarams have their ritual origin in the ancient Dravidian and Sangham ages of South India.  There are plenty of place names associated with these ancient oracles all around the ancient Tamil country or the ancient Tamilakam.  Kanya Komari the cape of the peninsula, Komaranallur in Kottayam and Palakkad districts and Komarakam on the eastern banks of the Vembanad lake are a few remaining place names associated with the ancient oracles.

Kilirur Temple: Associated with the Pallybana Perumal and Buddhism, a few miles east of Komarakam. A Boddhisatva idol is worshiped as Kannan/Krishna here.

Another etymological possibility is associated with Komaran or Kumaran the ancient Dravidian deity of Murukan who was elevated to a Boddhisatva in the Chamana period.  Along with Ayyappan and Kannan, Murukan or Andavan was also considered as an Avalokiteswara Boddhistva.  Later all these Avalokiteswaras got absorbed into Brahmanical Hinduism after the wreck of Buddhism.  The places mentioned could also be associated with Komaran or Kumaran as well.

Black-shouldered Kite at Komarakam paddyfields

Though the pronunciations are slightly changed in the Sanskritization process in writing in particular, in speech people still use the ancient original form that is meaningful and culturally significant.  It is a typical instance of people’s culture resisting the Sanskritized high culture and its Savarna worldview.  By refusing to speak the edicts of chastised varieties of language they subvert elitism in their daily life.

Pale Tiger at Komarakam bird sanctuary

The Bahujans still say Komarakam in their daily reference to the place and not Kumarakam or Kumarakom in the Sanskritized Savarna fashion.  It is notable that places like Chengalam, Kutayampadi, Kutamalur, Komaranallur etc. surround Komarakam.  Chengalam has close affiliations with Changam and Chamana culture as in Chingavanam or Changanassery.

Egrets and Purple Heron at Komarakam paddy fields

Places having strong Buddhist cultural pasts like Kilirur and Neelamperur are also found in the periphery of the Vembanad wetland ecosystem.  Kuttanad that lies at sea level was the last abode of Buddhism in Kerala.  People call it the land of Kuttan or Buddhan himself.  The 8th century granite Buddha of Karumady called Karumady Kuttan  testifies the regional form of address.  Place names in Thrissur like Kuttanellur and Kuttankulangara are also associated with the localized version of the Buddha.

Oriental White Ibis in flight near Kavanatinkara in Komarakam

Kutayampadi and Kutamalur are associated with the spherical globe like Chaityas of Buddhism that gave importance to the ritual umbrellas and spherical urns and pagodas as metaphorical symbols of the enlightened one.  A place name in Kottayam like Muttambalam can provide an analogy here (a worshiping place like an eggshell, literally).  There are plenty of wrecks and vandalized Buddhist sacred groves and Sangharamas in Kutamalur.  They are surviving as Sarpa Kavus and sacred groves on the banks of the northern  branch of river Meenachil .

Neelamperur Pally Bhagavathy Temple, south east of Komarakam. Related to Pallybana Perumal and Buddhism. Mahamaya the mother of the Buddha is the chief deity. A Buddha idol is worshiped as Vishnu in a sub-shrine.

Kumaranallur could be a post 9th century Brahmanical modification of Komaranallur.  It is also remarkable that the pre Brahmanical rituals and cultural expressions like Pallyodams (sacred snake-boats related to the Pally) and Garudan Parawa (a ritual performance that celebrates a bird) are still surviving, though in Hinduized fashion.  Garudan Parawa closely resembling the Annam Kettu in the Padayani rituals of Neelamperur in the south, is a reminiscence of the Buddhist performance celebrating the Annam or Swans and Storks that were sacred in Buddhism.  The compassionate won is said to have  saved the life of a swan in his childhood.  Swans and storks are still worshiped in Japan, Korea and the far east.

Komarakam with its rich cultural and natural history and biodiversity must be protected from the heavy influx and concentration of tourists and commercial interests; and must be made part of a greater eco-cultural circuit involving the historic places around it.  The conservationist and ethical traditions of Buddhism could provide a prudent perspective  for developing these cultural locations all around the lake Vembanad.  Komarakam, Chengalam, Kutamaloor, Kilirur and Neelamperur could become the Nalanda and Takshasila of Kerala and could be developed in the manner of those ancient Buddhist cultural centres in the north now being revived under a pan-Asian initiative led by Prof Amartya Sen.

Kumarakam: The Winged Visitors are Still Here!


The Green Haven

Kumarakam paddy fields

Kumarakam, a lagoon like village on the eastern banks of the Vembanad lake in central south Kerala  is a traveler’s paradise.  This picturesque land in Kuttanad is well connected by road to Kochi and Kottayam.  Its green paddy fields, meandering canals and waterways, vast stretches of water lilies, long and fading rows of coconut groves and the blue glittering waters of the backwaters  form a perfect refreshing retreat for human tourists as well as migrant birds.  Tourists and migrant birds from all over the world flock to this rustic haven in search of fresh air, water and a taste of Kuttanad.

The blues and greens of Kumarakam

The Eco Crisis

I was in Kumarakam on 16 and 17 January 2010 to participate in the annual Vembanad Waterfowl Count organized by Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department and Kottayam Nature Society.  This year I was assigned the Thanneermukkam bund to survey.   The bund or rather barrage  is a cause of a huge environmental catastrophe in Kuttanad for the last few decades.  It was designed exclusively for the doubling of paddy yield, but unfortunately it had blocked the natural flow of water into the sea and

Sunrise at the barrage in Thannirmukkam

contaminated the whole region.  Now the government has made a decision to open it for a whole year, so that the toxins accumulated could be purged.  Let us hope for the best.

Waterfowl Count 2010

Since I was given the barrage area to survey there was little birds apart from a few whiskered terns,egrets, cormorants and Brahmany kites.  We could see a pair of white-browed wagtails at the western end of the barrage.  The count done in ten locations confirmed a marginal drop in the number of birds in the winter migration season.  The survey also brings to notice the extend of pollution that is increasing day by day as a result of irresponsible tourism.  The destruction of natural habitat and contamination of water bodies are detrimentally affecting the migrant waterfowl.


Westend Lakeside Home Stay

A place to repose: Lakeside Homstay

But the day before the survey I was lucky to spend my evening at the lake side in a beautiful  home stay retreat called Westend Lakeside Home Stay.  It is a small but well designed getaway in the traditional wooden architectural style of Kerala at the edge of the backwater from where you have a great view of the Vembanad.  Here you can enjoy the sunset from your balcony or the courtyard soothing yourself in the cool gentle breeze that caresses you all the time.

As this place is so calm and close to the lake you can also watch the birds that come to the shore and the lake.  Plenty of marsh and spotted sandpipers were near the shore.  I saw plenty of whistling ducks coming to feed in the lake in the evening.  A flight of cotton teals was also seen in between.  Egrets and pond herons were plenty.  A

Vembanad Lake: A view from the balcony

huge purple heron was seen at the edge of the water.  A few black kites and an Osprey were also seen at a distance in the horizon.  The breezy and quiet sunset here is a trans experience that will linger in our mind for so long.

Purple heron at the water’s edge

Once it was dark I could here the whistling of ducks coming in large flocks to the lake.  The dark silhouette of night herons in flight was also interesting.  I spend a lot of time at the lake shore just in front of the cottage experiencing the wonderful sounds, sights, smells and touch of mother nature in all her glory and subtlety.  It was a really refreshing evening for me.  After it was dark the calls and responses of jungle owlets and barn owls were coming form the adjacent palm groves.  Paul my host informed that pond herons and little cormorants regularly nest and breed in a small heronry on the tree that is near to the cottage every year.

Sunrise Cruise in the Lake

This Lake Side Home Stay is  near the MRF training centre slightly to the west of Pallychira between Kumarakam Jetty and Kavanatinkara Tourist Complex.  They also provide simple Kumarakam delicacies including Karimeen and prawn.  They could also arrange a country boat cruise in the lake at sunrise or sunset.  If you are interested to watch birds, sunrise cruise is ideal; if you want to enjoy nature and simply unwind in the breeze set sail at sunset.  Paul can be reached at:  +91 9447569895 or +91 9249411167.

The misty sunrise in the Vembanad

Blue tailed beeeater: A wetland bird