Tag Archives: Sramana tradition in Kerala

Pookode: A Cool Lake at the Gateway of Wayanad

Pookode lake:Blue waters, chilling evergreen forests and misty mountains of Wayanad

Up the ghat pass of Wayanad at the very gateway of this ancient elevated paddy land or Wayal Nadu at around 700m lies this tropical blue lake skirted by vernal wet green forests and grass land tops.  The Pookode lake is a natural freshwater spring lake having  great ecological, geographical and cultural antiquity.

Going up the 9 hairpin bends of Wayanad ghat pass

This refreshing waterbody is so close to the highway (Calicut-Kalpeta) and travelers are wooed to its chilling charms.  Temperatures are much lower around the lake and it is a great getaway from the heat of Calicut.  I was drawn to this ancient beauty while attending the National Theatre Festival of Kerala 2011 at Kozhikode.

Forests and mountains encircling Pookode lake

Plenty of KSRTC buses are available from Calicut to this place.  It takes under two hours to reach the lake from the city.  The blue lake also has mesmerizing lilac waterlilies in its bosom.  Reeds, bamboos, flowering riperian shrubs and trees lull the lake from all sides.  The walk around the lake along the winding path is amazing and spectacular. It opens up a new view of lake at every curve and turning.

Canopied with bowers: The green walkway around Pookode lake

Plenty of tourists from other states are also here to enjoy the chill and charms of this forest fairy.  boating and canoeing provisions are available.  Plenty of monkeys are also here.  There are also a few fish ponds near the lake.  It is a plastic-free zone and rural handicrafts are available in eco-shops with mud walls and bamboo thatches.

Grey Pansy butterfly near Pookode lake

The ancient Banyan and a small shrine of Pookode Amma the mother goddess of Pookode prove that this was an ancient sacred lake and shrine like Devikulam near Munnar located well above 1600m in Iduki district towards the south.  It is interesting to note that this sacred lake is so close to the Jain ruins of Sulthan Bathery and Mananthavady in Wayanadu.  Wayanadu itself is known for its Jain antiquity that still shelters Jain people in its natural bounty though reduced to a few in hegemonic invasions in history.

Rich reeds and bamboos skirting Pookode lake

Wayanadu with its geographical proximity with the Deccan plateau and Kodagu, Hassan and South Kannada districts of Karnataka was a cradle of Jainism from BC era itself.  Its closeness to Sravanabelgola is remarkable. Pookode Amma could be Pathmavady Devi or Khusmandini Devi or any other sacred fairies of Jainism with a local tint.

Cozy and cool cruise in Pookode lake

Now she is worshiped locally in the Hinduized form of Wana Durga or Bhagavathy.  I remember V V K Valath the renowned scholar and researcher in Kerala culture and history who opened up the mystery of Wana Durgas in Kerala by researching and disseminating the knowledge on their Sramana past.  He is the major organic intellectual in Kerala to expose the spatial and renaming strategies of Brahmanism with which it changed the whole cultural terrain in south India in a few centuries.

People enjoying the riperian beauty and soothing breeze of Pookode lake

Unfortunately he could not complete his mega project of writing about place names and local histories in Kerala.  Anyway Malayalees are gifted with his few volumes on a couple of disctricts like Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Palakkad, Ernakulam etc. published by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi.

Banyan and shrine of Pookode Amma the mother goddess of Pookode on the south bank of the lake

Anyway today the azure blue waters of this virgin spring is still medicinal and contains healing powers for the local people and the tribals of Wayanadu who were its original owners.  This is one of the coolest summer locations in Kerala where you can beat the heat and rising temperatures in the planes and relax in the lap of mother nature for a while and regain your human qualities and creativity which you can utilize for the conservation of nature and culture in an inclusive and democratic way.

Lilac waterlilies in Pookode lake

Buddhism in Kerala

Buddha Sculpture at Mavelikara

The Buddha idols of Mavelikara and Karumadi in south Kerala are now well known all over the world. Today we see plenty of relics and ravages related to Buddhism and the Sramana tradition in Kerala scattered all over the state. Architectural and sculptural reminiscences are numerous apart from the vital linguistic and cultural imprints like the abundance of Pali (the ancient Buddhist Bahujan language) words in the present south Indian regional languages.

Recovered from the River

Karumady Kuttan: Half destroyed Buddha idol in Karumady near Ambalapuzha

The state is also known for the educational and health care achievements apart from its universal literacy. All these human development indicators are not just the product of 20th century evangelical Christian missionary activities and state welfare schemes but the lasting legacy of Buddhism, the democratic, egalitarian and inclusive way of living that shaped the cultural contours of Kerala from B C 3rd century to A D 13th century.

Nilamperur Pally temple: Converted to Hindu after Pallybana Perumal

Kerala is also known for its progressive left and democratic politics. This grass root level democracy and collective struggles of subaltern people are also a reminiscence of Buddhism that was the first missionary yet peaceful religion that welcomed women and outcastes to the mainstream community. The people or Bahujans who were defiant to Hindu Brahmanism after the destruction of Buddhism by Brahmanism were condemned as untouchable Chandals as outside the Brahmanic Hindu Chatur Varnayam after the devastation of Sramana tradition in Kerala. These Chandals or untouchable Buhujan masses were and still are the agents of Kerala social revolution or renaissance under the aegis of various radical social rebellions like the Narayana Guru movement, Ayyankali movement, Sahodara movement and various other progressive left and democratic processes in Kerala.

Buddhist Pagoda Shrine housing Karumady Kuttan, built by Dalai Lama

According to researchers, historians and thinkers like P C Alexander, P K Gopalakrishnan, Pavanan, Puthussery Ramachandran, Aju Narayanan etc. Buddhism was introduced in Kerala in the B C third century itself by the missionaries of emperor Asoka on their way down south to Sri Lanka which still is a Buddhist country. Jainism and Ajivaka philosophy also co-existed with Buddhism creating the great Sramana civilization of the South that has given birth to cultural classics like The Thirukural, Silapatikaram, Manimekhala and the whole canon of Sangham writing. The Buddhist, Jain and Ajivaka seers introduced the Brahmi script and the art of writing in South India. All the early inscriptions now available are written in Brahmi script in Tamil language. The ancient Tamilakam or Tamil country was a treasure house of Sramana heritage.

Tenth century granite Buddha at Pallykal Bharanikavu, Kayamkulam. Recovered from the pond of a present Savarna Hindu temple and placed near the gate now with the intervention of local people

Almost all the current Savarna Hindu temples in Kerala are modified Buddhist or Jain temples by coveted Brahmanism and its Padaja (Sudra or subservient Varna) forces. The brutal persecution of Buddhist monks/nuns and conversion of temples happened in eighth and ninth centuries under the leadership of Sankara the furious advocate of Brahmanical propaganda and violence. He argued with other religious scholars, defeated them verbally and annihilated them and their religion forever. His brutal followers and henchmen like Vramila Bhatta converted the seat of the defeated to that of Hindu Brahmanical temples with extended support from ruling classes. He is also called Prachanna (pseudo) Buddha as he modified and disguised Buddha’s Sunyavada (rational theory) into the empire of the

A fake Gandhara Buddha in Mattaanchery antique market

Brahmanic self, the Advaita ‘theory’ that reiterated and enforced caste division and hierarchy with a peripheral and cunning shroud of unity that cheated the masses. Thirumulla Varam, Thottappally, Podiyil Mala, Sabarimala, Kodungallur, Thrissur, Kottakkal, Madappally and Bekal were world renowned Buddhist shrines of worship, learning, health care and nature conservation. In places like Mathilakam and Kiliroor there were even Buddhist and Jian universities and Research centres in Kerala in the early centuries of the first millennium that attracted intellectuals and students from all over the world.

Tenth century granite Buddha recovered from Maruthurkulangara, Karunagapally and now placed in Krishnapuram palce near Kayamkulam. Face and features badly mutilated

Pally is still the most popular affix used along with place, plot and family names in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra. The Pali word Pally means a non Hindu/ Brahmanic place of worship. In the ancient times it denoted a Jain or Buddhist shrine. Buddhism guided culture and society in the south for more than a millennium. It was erased from Kerala through the barbaric and coveted Brahmanic invasion that happened from the fifth to eighth centuries under cruel and reckless royal patronage and usurpation with power.

Karunagapally Buddha is claimed to be much older than Archeology Dept. says. Aju Narayanan argues that it is made out of a monolith in 8th century

Images and records of Buddhist persecution by the Brahmanic barbarians are still available in Kerala in the form of stone carved images, local subaltern orature and secret lore (Valath). The Hindu Brahmanic colonists burned the Pali canon and the sacred texts and knowledge systems of Buddhism in Kerala. These nomadic Aryans from the Vedic and Sanskritic clans of West and Central Asia introduced Sanskrit and Hindu religion in the South Indian Kingdoms. They found leverage in royal patronage through cunning usurpation and cheat. The legend of Onam and Maha Bali still articulates the historic deceit of Buddhist Bahujan culture by the Brahman dwarfs. Poets like Sahodaran Ayyappan has extensively written about the internal imperialism of Hindu Brahmanism in Kerala.

Vadayar Attuvela: A relic of Buddhist past

The Brahmans created the notorious sexual colonies among the Sudra women and used their male counterparts as foot soldiers who ensured the caste and Varna system, the practice of untoucahbility and pollution. The Sudras in return were given land and titles (as Nayar, Panikar, Thampy, Unni, Kaimal, Kurup, Menon etc.)with which they suppressed the local defiant untoucahable people having Buddhist lineage with bloody hands and weapons. These foot soldiers and menial hands of Brahmansim were absorbed to the Chatur Varnyam (fourfold Varna stratification of Brahmanical imagiNation comprising of Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra) as the fourth and last Varna, the Sudra. The vast majority of people, the Dalit Bahujans were outside the cultural geography of Brahmanism as Chandals and Mlechas, as they are the former Buddhist and Jain population.

Perinjanam Pallyil Bhagavati temple north of Kodungallur.  The first installation by Pallyvanar in early 16th century.

Perinjanam Pallyil Bhagavati temple north of Kodungallur. The first installation by Pallyvanar in early 16th century.  Goddess became prominent here as well.

The Nayar dominance in Kerala history began in the middle ages with large scale Brahman settlements and militarization and still holds sway though they also want to be declared as a backward community now, as they still relish absolute power! According to state commission reports this power elites and historically advantageous group having less than 15 percent of Kerala’s population enjoy more than 32 percent share in government jobs. In higher education and universities it is more than 48 and in private owned print media and visual media it is almost 90 percent. Imagine the extent of Savarna Nayar hegemony in Kerala even today!

Sastha idol recovered from Cherthala. Dharma Sastha is a synonym for the Buddha and is clearly related to pre Brahmanic traditions, Krishnapuram palace museum, Kayamkulam

These henchmen of Brahmanism who cheated and killed their Buddhist, Ajivaka and Jain brethren to enforce Brahmanic caste and did the work of pimps by fetching their own women for the Brahmanic high priests with all the shameless pride of getting an elite alliance; are now hailed as the Samurais of Kerala by some fascist spokesmen of elitism who thrive in popular cinema and culture. This historical mediating middllemen are still the advocates of Gita classes, Veda and Vedantic obscurantism in Kerala and outside! They are the orchestrators of Hindu hegemonic discourses and the power heads of the Parivar forces all over the country allying with the Neo Kshatriya aspirants. They are also Hinduizing the Bahujan masses who are attracted to power and chauvinist social status! They need the numbers of Hinduized Bahujans for their pseudo majoritarian and fascist politics. It is an absurdity of history that some of them even today boast about their Brahmanical wedlock which was stopped just a few decades ago!

This Brahman – Sudra alliance or infamous Sambandham gave birth to the Manipravalam literature, the new Malayam-Tamil and later Malayalam and the Savarna elite culture of Kerala in the dark and dubious middle ages that Sanskritized and Hinduized Kerala elites and a lot of people. Even Syrian Christians boast about their Brahmanical connections more than 2000 (?!) years after conversion! Actually there were no Brahmins in the south in the A D first century! Then how could St. Thomas convert those absent Brahmans to Christianity? The coveted Brahmans came to Kerala only in the 4th or 5th century or later.

The power of Brahmanism and Hindu hegemonic discourse is that much tangible and an everyday reality in Kerala and India. This hidden Savarna elitism is the real culprit behind all the fascist pogroms and genocides in post Independent India. All the minority religions in Inida and Kerala like Jews, Muslisms and Christians still use the Pali word Pally to refer to their place of worship along with Jains and Buddhists in the south. Buddhism is making a second coming as an ethical philosophy and eco-spiritual alternative way of life all over the world and in India and Kerala in particular.

Smiling Buddha at Pallykal Bharanikavu, Kayamkulam

The historic affiliation to Buddhism in the philosophy and praxis of Narayana Guru the seer of Kerala modernity, his disciples and intellectuals like C V Kunhiraman, Asan, Sahodaran Ayyappan and now the new Ambedkarite Dalit movement in Kerala are significant. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s illuminating subaltern hermeneutics of Buddhism in his masterpiece Bddha and his Dharma are also instrumental in the second rebellion of Buddhism against caste Brahmanism and social exclusion. Plenty of radical scholars and organic intellectuals in India and Kerala are now working on Buddhism like Gail Omvedt herself. It could be well assumed that Buddhism is emerging as the cultural and ethical alternative of the present and future all over the world and particularly in Kerala. The Bahujans in Kerala who lost their true Sramana legacy in the onslaught of Hindu Brahmanic internal imperialism are now recovering from the calamity of Brahmanism and its burden and looking forward to alternative paradigms and new ways of living.

Reference
Alexander, P C. Buddhism in Kerala.
Gopalakrishnan, P K. Keralthinte Samskarika Charithram. Tvm: Kerala Bhasha Institute, 2001.
Omvedt, Gail. Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste New Delhi: Sage, 2007.
Pavanan. Baudhaswadheenam Keralathil. Tvm: Kerala Bhasha Institute, 2008.
Ambedkar, B R. Buddha and his Dhamma. Bombay: Govt. of Maharashtra, 1980.
Valath, V V K. Keralathile Sthala Charithrangal: Ernakulam Jilla. Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academy, 2001.
—, Thrissur Jilla,Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academy, 2001.
—, Thiruvananthapuram Jilla, Thrissur: Kerala Sahitya Academy, 2001.
Narayanan, Aju. Keralathile Buddhamatha Samskaram. Thrissur: Current/Tapasam, 2005.