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My family and village deities

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    Kavus, Devi shrines and Sarpa kavus, shrines for the Snake gods are the specialities of Kerala, sanctioned by the great ParasuraAmA., as per the legends. In every house, there used to be a Sarpakavu, in the special corner allotted in the open, beneath a tree, where lamps were lighted every evening and special Poojas performed on special occasions. Even now, many old houses, maintain those home shrines.There are separate temples too for Nagaraja, and small shrines as a part of big temples.
    The Devi shrines, were mostly in forests and the devotees had to walk, miles, to reach some of them.
    Each ancestral core -family had a Kavu, for worship. The family tress would have spread and the branches crossed and climbed over several territories, but the Kavu remained the same and the Devine Mother, is the mother for all those branched families and they, Mother’s subjects.
    Chittalencheri or Cheruvathoor Bagavathy ( also called Cherunatturi) near Alathur, Palakkad is our Kuladeivam. In the olden days at least one member from our family used to visit the kavu and place two and half an anna on the step of the sanctum, called padippanam, as a token of telling the Divine Mother, ‘we are your adimai or slaves’. or ‘we surrender to you; save us’. Even now once a year, I visit our Kavu and submit the padippanam, as a token of surrender of my entire clan. We print our wedding invitation cards Invoking Mother’s blessings and take the couple, soon after the wedding to ‘show’ them to the Mother and seek Her blessings. That was the practice followed from time immemorial.
    My maternal grand father, was a kid when his mother went to the kavu.The kid cried and wanted to accompany her but she did not take him along with, as the journey was arduous though forest and it took several hours to reach the temple, by walk.
    Those days, there used to be velitchappadu,( oracle) in all kavus. Donning a red robe and holding a sword in his right hand, he used to utter a few words, vibrating the sword and his body, in spiritual ecstasy. The belief was those words were the commands from the Goddess and not his own.
    The oracle came near the patty and asked, “ente kunj evidae?-where is my child?
    Patty apologized and submitted the reason for not bringing the kid along with her. “Appo, Aammiyil viswam illa allae?-that means you don’t believe me, right ? ” asked the velitchappadu. Patti was given prasadam ( viboothi) only after she assured that the child would be brought next year and with some assistance the child was taken and presented next year. In the picture ( 1) below is the grandson of that ‘child’, my cousin, Cartoonist Kumar, aka K.R. Ramakrishnan, before the shrine.
    The elders believed in such super powers of the deities and they lived on belief, as God was the only dependable entity for them. There is now velitchappadu only for festivals or special occasions.
    My younger brother. for reasons unknown, had an aversion for rice, till his sixth or seventh year, though he liked snacks made of rice, such as idli, dosai etc. He would not tolerate even the presence of a plate of rice placed unintentionally along with the snacks . My parents were worried and when we went to our village, they prayed to our gramadevada, village deity Navaneetha Krishna Swamy and served payasam, after it was as offered to the God, as PrasAdam, to all the kids in the village . I remember as a boy, enjoying that prasAdam, along with so many children from the village, served in the hall facing the sanctum. Lo and behold, my brother voluntarily sat along with the other kids and tasted the payasam made of rice. Since then he continued to eat rice, from my plate too.
    There is no explanation for such happenings. For men of rational thinking, those happenings are accidental and for traditionalists, divine acts.. One thing I’m convinced is there are things beyond our comprehension.
    In the picture (2 ) below, is the frontage of our Perinkulam Thekkey gramam, Navaneetha Krushnaswamy Temple. My ancestral land, where there was an old mud house long ago, is seen near the temple where the ther, the temple chariot is parked. Our car festival starts shortly and the chariot -run four all the four temples , on March 3, this year.
    My first sister ‘s wedding took place in the mandapam, before the sanctum, which you see in the picture, over fifty years ago. Her’s was the first wedding to take place, soon after the construction. I remember the entire village contributing their skill, time and efforts for the wedding. Murukku and other snacks were prepared on the thinnai, raised platform, of the house opposite to the temple, under the leadership of PAkku mAmi. Food for the four- day long wedding was prepared by an expert team under the leadership of an uncle in our village. personal invitation to every house was a must, carrying coconut, betel leaves, kumkum, tarmuric powder etc. In addition, once the leaves for serving food were spread, again the invitation had to be extended, visiting each house personally. With all those formalities, there was camaraderie, cooperation and social happiness.
    The face of many villages has changed now. How long the identity will be maintained is a big question. Change is an integral part of growth, even of existence. So, let us accept things as they come.
    The childhood memories crop up when I visit my village, though I lived there only for a short period. But it is more the remembrance of my earlier generation, that makes my trip a pilgrimage. I recall their stories heard from my parents and visit without fail the land they were cremated and spend an hour or so, on the steps of the adjacent pond, Chooriappankulam, lost in their memory.
    The most sacred shradham I performed for my ancestors, was not the one I did in Gaya or Kasi or BramhakapAlam, but the one , standing in knee- deep water in the Chooriappan kulam pond, collecting a fistful of water and pouring it back to the pond, facing the Sun, remembering them, silently.
    When the manas, mind is packed with bakthi, mantrams and materials have no role to play.
    Sent from my iPad


reminds me of my first trip to meenkolathi amman temple and newly married could not understand the rituals of anything there still the temple gave the payasam vessel to be washed and told not to worry just keep it in the pond and it will be cleaned in a few minutes never understood what they meant by that but yes the answer was right there as i left the vessel on the first step itself saw the fishes jumping inside cleaning it away and jumping back into the pond, as i came out suddenly someone held my hand and with a loud voice booming said something like ninda shatrooyellam nasham adaiyattum or something similar and i had paled with this holding of my hand as he had a big sword kind of stuff too, and my husband was having a hilarious laugh looking at me paling away and all who joined him but it was a tense moment for me never to be forgotten ever….
with kind regards
sundari kannan [email protected]
A nice article giving some insight into mysterious incidents. Thanks.

i enjoyed reading this article…on a similar note is there anybody who can help in a peculiar situation.
i know a little boy who refuses to eat any rice or any good food..he sort of hates rice n homecooked food..this has happenedd suddenly.
anger also sets in as a result.can some elders suggest any remedy if theres any…
any prayer or maybe something which seems elusive to the parents please…
[email protected]

2 thoughts on “My family and village deities

  1. i enjoyed reading this article…

  2. The post makes for very interesting reading. Many are the ways of the lord. I remember one incident mentioned in Balakumaran’s “Thalayanai Pookkal”. The protagonist sells his land in a village and comes to Chennai for his livelihood with his family. He prays to an idol of Ganesha placed under a tree and vows to construct a roof over the head of the Lord if he prospers. Days pass and the person becomes very prosperous. But he forgets the vow. Once the Mahaperiyavaal of Kanchi comes to the area. Though the person is a follower of the Sringeri Madom, he goes out to pay his respects to the Mahaperiyavaal. Mahaperiyavaal has seen the person for the first time. When he prostrates before the sage, the sage asks “Pillayarukku Koorai podara karyam marandhuttayo?”. This shakes the person and he is speechless and his eyes fill with tears. He does the needful and prospers further. Such are the ways of great people.
    Ramdas Iyer

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