Friday, May 14, 2010

Thirur, the Other Capital of Kerala

Ripe mangoes falling down, birds and squirrels feeding on it, small children running to get a mango that just fell down in the passing winds. In the spacious lawn under the huge mango trees are the young and old, some relishing the sweet native mangoes. The mother mango tree looks down pleased. This is Thunchan Parambu, at Thirur in Malappuram district of Kerala. Where the old world charm of Kerala comes back, this was how a people took the bounties of nature few decades back. No more, they fell the trees for houses, offices, sold or or auctioned the mangoes for a pittance. This is the place where the Atchan, father, of Ezhuthu, Malayalam literature, Ezhuthachan, is believed to have been born and wrote. It is thus the cultural capital of the Malayali people. The vast area of the memorial has a subdued ambience, a soothing meditative quality, despite its location close to the small town. Students sit and study scattered here and there, thankfully the place is not yet crowded. Visitors walk silently through the beautiful lawns with only the chirruping of birds to accompany.

A discernible peace this, not easy to find in these days where boastful institutions and threatening buildings are the order. The rural landscape , harmonious buildings, all merge in to each other at Thunchan Parambu. It also reflects on the people behind. Though, one feels sad that the kind of predominance ought to have been given to this place is wanting. Just across the borders the way Tamilnadu honors poet-saint Thiru Valluar is a comparison. What Ezhuthachan too demands. That not many know about Thiru Valluar in Kerala, despite the composite Tamil past, despite the high content of Malayalam usages in Thirukkural, is something that deserves attention. The usual problems of Kerala as they say, but as it seems things are changing.

Poet-saint Thunchath Ramanujan Ezhuthachan, is one from the many in India who sang about Lord Ram, Tulasidasa, Kambar were all there, and the Adhyatma Ramayanam in Malayalam is more than a story, it has embedded in it great mystical revelations. Ezhuthachan wrote that in a unique way, as being told by a bird, Kili, called it ‘Kilipatu’ bird song. This it seems is a Parrot, which talks. And at Thunchan Parambu one can see a huge bird built of granite. The most popular work of Ezhuthachan is Harinama Keerthanam, what is a short rendering in the name of Hari, generally believed to be Lord Vishnu, whose chanting was part of Kerala culture till recently, it still continues in a small population. This is also a work with great wisdom and Ezhuthachan tells that it is accessible to all: low castes, women in their monthly periods, what is an oblique reference to the monopoly priestly Hinduism of the day. Where it was forbidden for low castes to learn the Vedas, Ved means knowledge. Shutting down the doors of knowledge, and these were all considered polluting by the rigid Vedic religion, rudiments of the belief still exist.

Thunchan Parambu is close to Thirur railway station on the Shorannur – Mangalapuram line and is not far from the Karippur International Airport. Nearest railway junction is Palakad, which has a beautiful railway station. Thiroor is an unassuming town with many pilgrim spots, mainly Hindu also Muslim, scattered around. This site of Thunchan Parambu is believed to be the same location where the great seer’s house was in the 16 th century and where the great renderings flowed. The place now has a Saraswathy Mandapam, for the Goddess of Learning Saraswathy, and during the Navaratri days young children are initiated in to the world of learning here, what is a unique Kerala tradition during Vijaya Dasami. It is also the time when the martial people were initiated, but this has almost ceased.

Thousands come here for the ritual called Vidyarambham when the Acharyas give the first words of formal learning, this is normally done writing in a silver plate with rice with the little fingers of tiny tots. The children obviously try to shake away from the prison of learning, and a lot of weeping can be seen, children are free by birth but human society binds them down by their learning is what can be said poetically. This Centre has a library of rare manuscripts, a light and sound show, auditorium and resting places. The picture gallery presents a well researched panel of Kerala culture and traditions, what can be very useful for students with a serious interest in these areas.

The ‘Kanjiram’, nux vomica, tree in the compound is celebrated and together with the parrot myth it is a metaphor of the inherent oneness of all beings, the parrot that sang the wisdom and the tree that gave the shade. The tree stands near a pond which must have been a household pond of the family. It is a practice in Kerala to have household ponds and wells, it was an advanced civilization from before the days of piped water and amenities. Eating mangoes falling down and watching the squirrels and birds having a feast one can sit at the place for hours and rejuvenate one self. No crowds of tourists, so far. The huge granite parrot and the iron stylus that was used by the poet, to write on palm leaf from before paper was invented, are land marks and the general terrain on the banks of the Nila is in tune with the Thunchan Parambu.

The Thunchan Memmorial Trust that runs the facility ought to get more support from the people that this becomes a better place with better amenities. In a state that underwent colonization at two levels, one priestly and another European, the crafty taking advantage of both, language and native culture are no more symbols of pride in Kerala. Aimed at revitalizing these this place has meanings beyond tourism and travel. Perhaps one could pay homage to the poet-saint had there been a place for that, for this is a place of sublime spirituality. An spot where one can light incense sticks, sit and meditate, wish that too comes. Many graceful politicians and beurocrats have helped in this venture, not the other kind so far. Many of the facilities are from donations that came from devotees and patrons and that is a tribute to Ezhuthachan, a light house in the Sidha tradition from south India. From the liberal faith of the Sidha traditions Kerala had undergone changes and Ezhuthachan was perhaps a turning point. Middlemen between man and god are not inevitable, that was a crucial message in the great works. That myth had damaged a people for long. Thunchan Parambu has a message, very much relevant for today’s Malayali.

The pictures, except the one of Palakkad railway station, mine, are from various sources.

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