Friday, August 30, 2013

Swami Anandatheertha-the first crusader against casteism in Payyanur


             One of the first crusaders against casteism in Payyanur was Swami Anantha Theertha. A second rank Honors in Physics from Madras University, Anantha Shenoy (born on 2nd January 1905 in Thalassery in a konkani family to Ramachandra rao and Devubhai) should have got a respectable job under the British. But he chose a different and more adventures path. He jumped into the freedom struggle movement. He joined Sabari Ashram in 1926. Gandhiji advised him to take up the task of upliftment of the downtrodden classes. He went to Sivagiri in 1928. Sreenarayana Gure consecrated him as Swami Anathatheertha and he became the defender of the rights of the down trodden. He raised the banner of revolt against casteism in Malabar. He selected Payyanur as his battleground following an incident at kandoth, Payyanur which shocked everyone.

       A possession consisting of 64 patriots led by T. S. Thirumump, AKG , P. Krishna Pillai and Keraleeyan  to spread the message of Guruvayoor satyagraha was attacked brutally at kandoth by a large mob with arms. AKG and Kerleeyan were thought to be dead in the attack which was sponsored by the landlord. There was a path forbidden to harijans passing near kandoth temple (ara). The landlord tried to invoke communal friction between the ezhavas who run the temple and the harijans convincing them that the struggle was for the right of the harijans to use the pathway.

      Hearing about the brutal attack Anantha Theertha reached Payyanur which was at the time a capital of casteism. At that time members belonging to lower castes were not allowed to pass through main pathways, and they were deprived admission to temples and other public places. They were not allowed to wear dress above waist, wear chappals, or caps. They were the main work force. But they were treated as animals. Even their presence within a distance of 64 feet from caste Hindus invited grave punishment. Swamiji understood that the rights of the oppressed cannot be gained with out imparting proper education to them. All schools closed their doors to harijan students. So in 1931 he started an School for the oppressed in Payyanur near Payyanur temple . Caste Hindus raised many objections and hence he had to shift the school and hostel thrice. Swami intended to house the School in a permanent site by purchasing some land. Finally he tried to purchase some land in  moorikkovval from the money he got after selling his ancestral house in Thalassery. But the land owner was alarmed at the idea of using his land for such a 'sacrilegious ' purpose. So he changed his mind. Finally Swami prompted a patriotic muslim to purchase the land for him. Here he started the School which has been a boon to many students who could have other wise withered away by doing menial jobs for caste Hindus.  
      He led many possessions with harijans to temples for entry. He marched through all forbidden roads. He was brutally attacked by caste hindus. He was a revolutionary saint. He questioned the discrimination meted out by harijans in Hotels by giving tea in cocunut shells. He staged many dharnas before barber shops were harijans were not admitted. He led a march to Guruvayur where free meals were given to Brahmins in the name of God when thousands were dying of hunger outside.
      He used to add tails to the names of the students as Sarma, Marar, Nambiar, Das etc to students to drive home the point that caste is a meaningless ordeal. Many revolutionaries of the times like Subrmanya shenoy, A K Kunhirama Poduval joined hands with Swami in this social movements, inviting the wrath of caste committees which expelled them form the caste.

Gandhiji visited the Ashram in 1934 and planted a mango tree there  It is still there in full bloom. 
      Swamiji wet to wynad and south kanara to fight the cause of dalits and adivasis. 
        He raised many students who could have wasted their life in their home village  at Sree Narayana Vidyalaya to get respectable Govt jobs .
In 1984 at Agalpady, Kasaragod a group of College students brutally attacked him, leaving him unconscious for taking a koraga to a temple. After the incident he was laid up ill . On November 21, 1987 morning he left us.

Monday, August 26, 2013


  There are several arguments regarding the etymological origin of Payyanur. Dr. MGS Narayanan is of the opinion that Payyanur is derived from pazhaiyyante ooru (the land of Pazhaiyyan,the Sangham king) But the most popular version is the ooru of payyan ( The land of Lord Subrahmnya) . 

              Payyanur belonged to the erstwhile Payyanur firka. Kavvayi, the port of Payyanur was the capital of Chirakkal thaluk. Kavvayi consisted of 138 desams. The first landing of Vasco de Gama on his way to Calicut was believed to be Kavvayi port from where he collected enough fresh water for his onward journey.
The human foot prints at Payyanur dates back to prehistoric era. Stone writings using iron nails could be seen from coastal Ramanthali to the hilly Prapoyil. Prehistoric burial sites like ‘theeyathi malika in echilam vayal and several other places, Burial urns(nannagadi) and umbrella stones at various places shows that human habitation started here ages before. There are historians who believes that the stone drawings at ettukudukka dates back to 4000 BC.

           There is nothing in the recorded history with regard to the life of the early settlers of Payyanur. There were no property rights and the land belonged to every one. Their number should have been small. They might have lived a peaceful life without the interference of outsiders as the land was well protected by rivers and the mighty Arabian Sea from all sides. The early kavus of payyanur might have been their centre of social life with no idols of gods and without any doctrines of sacred texts. As organized farming has not yet started they might have depended on the food supply from forests, rivers and fields. They might have been thwarted from their dwellings on the arrival of settlers mainly Brahmins from central India, Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Their descendants however is seen confined to certain pulaya pockets on the outskirts of main land deprived of fresh water and other amenities. 

Perumbuzha popularly known as perumba puzha winds along the boarders of Payyanur nourishing its watershed kaippads which is the breeding ground of fishes and other aquatic life forms. 
The Brahmin settlers should have experienced some protests from the local people initially. But their knowledge of astronomy and Gods gave them an upper hand which might have instilled awe on the natives. They constructed temples on a large scale and started to live an ascetic life eating only vegetables. They could predict the advent of monsoon , eclipses and other celestial events. Organised farming has not yet started. Paddy was quite new to the natives. Paddy cultivation requires some insight as to when rains will start as the seedlings have to be made ready before the fields get flooded. They constructed canals from every filed to the river bed for draining of the excess water. They used small wooden vessels tied down from a tripod which could be used for drying water from the fields . The Brahmin settles brought the plough and seeds with them which revolutionalised farming. They got easy labour from the natives. Gradually as in the other part of Kerala they organized a temple oriented village structure . All the land was made officially belonging to the temple. The temple was governed by Brahmins and they gradually constructed a social structure with the Brahmins as rulers of the land and all others their dependents.

Payyanur was a classic Kerala village. In fact it took the lead role in the 64 Namboodiri gramams of Kerala. The division of society on the basis of castes made things simple. For every caste a small portion of the village was allowed with a kavu of their mother goddess as the centre. An ambassador of the Landlord belonging to upper castes such as Nair or Poduval was posted as the representative (koima) of the caste who is directly answerable to the landlord. As there was cut throat untouchability, a law caste man cannot even appear before the landlord. He has to represent through the koima. A person belonging to pulaya caste should not come more than 64 feet towards a Namboodiri: an ezhava some 32 feet and a Nair 15 feet. The penalty for violating the rule was fatal. The working class was thus tormented from morning to evening in the fields for the welfare of the landlord who almost starved them to death.

                                                  To be continued .. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Pothera Raman Ezhuthachan was a contemporary of Thunjath Ezhuthachan whose celebrated work 'soorya sthuthi' is reckoned as a classic work in Malayalam. The poem is an invocation to the mighty sun, the creator and preserver of all life forms on earth. There is a strange story regarding the creation of this charming verse in Malayalam. He contracted the deadly chicken pox and as there was no treatment for the highly contagious decease he was abandoned by his wife and relatives. They left him to die in a forest . But his disciples who loved him deeply were not ready to part him. With the help of the tribal 'karimbalars' they tried to rescue him. Ezhuthachan asked them to put him on a hammock made up of 51 coir strings (symbolizing 51 letters) hanging from the branch of a tree above a violent river overlooking a treacherous valley were he could see the sun through the entire day. He penned the verses from there and at the end of the verse staring with 'aa' he cut the first string of the hammock. Then he penned the verses starting with the succeeding malayalam alphabet one by one. After completing 51 verses all the 51 strings had been cut and he fell down deep into the river. His disciples who were witnessing the scene from the river bank thought everything over. But miraculously he rose up from the river unhurt. When he swam back to the shore everyone was astonished to see that he had been fully cured. He had completed the celebrated 'sooryasthuthi'. When the news of the miracle spread everyone including his wife returned. He proved that sun bath is a treatment for all ailments. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Payyanur Gramam has produced many men of talents in the field of Ayurveda medicine. There was a saying in Malabar that ‘ashtangahrudaya’ has no effect beyond Valapatanam river. This myth was to be broken later by eminent ayurvedachryas like Meethale veetil Koma Poduval, Vannadil Valiya Chindan Vaidyar, V P Sreekanda Poduval, Edavalath Kannan vaidyar and their disciples. They combined folk medicine with ayurveda and produced miracles.
V P Sreekanda Poduval popularly known as Chindan Vaidyar was a legend. He was a famous playwright, actor, orator and a cultural activist of the times. He had profound knowledge in Sanskrit literature. He had a clinic in Payyanur town opposite to the present day Co-operative store buildings. At that time there was a cotemporary to Chindan Vaidyar –the mighty Edavalath Kannan Vaidyar who used to examine patients at Home in Mahadeva Gramam.
There were two allopathic doctors at Payyanur at that time- Dr. V C nayanar and Dr. C V Damodaran. These four doctors had a tough time visiting all the houses of Gramam when an epidemic spreads which was very common on those days.
Sreekanda Poduval was an untainted Gandian and was actively involved in the freedom struggle. His dramas like maya naradam, santhanagopalam etc were liked by everyone. He made many experiments in theatre also.

 Today there are many hospitals and doctors in Payyanur. But treatment has become a real business. It is worthwhile to note that doctors like Chindan Vaidyar thought that treatment expecting money from the patient will never cure anyone.