MANJHI’S BIHAR

It was ironical , watching all the major news channels cater to the suave , urban , Delhi based audience with paparazzi style commentary on an election to a half state half union territory at the expense of a political revolution taking place at the same time in a state with population larger than Germany . The Bihar fiasco deserved better coverage  for its symbolism , that is , The self assertion of the oppressed maha dalits in a state with one of the worst inter caste relationships . The political ramification of this incident holds more importance nationally  than the aam admi party vs BJP hoopla . Though JD(U) civil war was reported , a detailed analysis of the subject was missing beyond Nitish Kumar and Jitan Ram Manjhi.

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Caste is still as relevant to the Hindu society as it was at the time of independence , Though talked about in hush tones these days , it is still observed with great vigor  . Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are most often cited  as the most polarized on caste lines  , ironically other states are no better . Manjhi represents that section of the state which lies below the intermediate castes who had restricted the benefits of affirmative action from reaching those below them and now holds power once held by the upper castes . In the 1990s they started filling up the vacuum created by the flight of the upper castes to large cities by acquiring property left behind , turning them into mini zamindars. on the other hand the dalits , for whom the mechanism of affirmative action have been in place never really benefited . As Jatin Ram Manjhi said he could have remained silent like other Maha dalit leaders in the fear of being sidelined by the yadavs and paswans , as was the case in Bihar ,  But through the coup he pulled over Nitish Kumar , he has broken the stereotype .His assertion against the OBC strongmen , who have become the dominant force throughout the country , could be seen as the culmination of the 65 years of frustration against the system which have become redundant . This could be the beginning of a revolution similar to the awakening of the middle castes which started in Tamil Nadu in 50s , but ironically this time it will be against them. Though the first steps towards this confrontation began a few years back in Tamil Nadu itself , it precipitated itself in Bihar.

This brings us back to the primary question of finding a  more practical solution to the caste problem , Laws could  work only till a point , beyond that it is up to the society . But Indian society from time immemorial have been passive , unless struck by a shock , either from inside  or outside. So we have a society where the numerically strong OBCs hold disproportionate amount of power thanks tto the constitutional safeguards without sharing it with people above or below them in the caste hierarchy . Upper castes rarely show their dissent , may be feeling themselves secured in their apartment blocks or may be due to caste guilt ( Indian counterpart of white guilt ) . It is the Scs who suffer , pushed against the wall , they are slowly turning against the system , In kerala this is manifested by the rise  in RSS membership among the Dalits as the OBCs here are the Muslims and are seen as the oppressors .To avert another caste crisis , at present we don’t have a Buddha or Gandhi amongst us, As long as we aspire to move forward , caste will always be the stumbling block .To this my question is –  Why not abolish the caste system and re engineer our society on a more egalitarian terms ? , This may sound naive but i am speaking with a clear precedent in mind . Till 1951 no one dared to touch the sacred Hindu laws , but  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr.B R Ambedkar turned the religion around with a set of sane laws in the form of Civil code we follow today . why can’t we start a revolution towards a similar end ? . If it ever happen this could be the first of its kind , where a society transforms itself by a mass effort with out a cult figure , yes , I know  it is far fetched edging on lunatic , but having no choice , it is high time that we reinvent ourselves.

READ MORE

MORE TOILETS https://valluvanadtimes.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/toilets-or-temples/

IF YOU HATE CRICKET https://valluvanadtimes.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/the-other-half/

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ODIYAN

our valluvanad was one of the final frontiers for western civilization. A land of immense beauty inhabited by people with unique traditions and practices which could at best be categorised as animism . Hinduism which used to be practiced here identified itself more with the plethora of indigenous beliefs than with the Vedas. Though Tippu Sultan’s invasion and the subsequent British rule did expose us to the world outside , we remained in our small universe happy and content for a much longer period. Hence till the 1970s most of this region was relatively untouched by the seeds of modernity unlike the rest of Kerala . This helped us preserve our Tharavads , pambin kavus, the tradition of velichapad at bhagavathy kavus and of course the rich mythological universe of our ancestors . One of the integral part of this mythology is the supernatural world inhabited by Odiyans and practitioners of Odiyanseva .

Odiyans were the professional assassins (yes!) hired by landowning nair/ ezhava families to kill members of rival clans without leaving any evidence that could link them to the murder . Being an agrarian society most of these rivalries were based on land disputes or succession related issues .The Odiyans hailed from the untouchable castes like the panars,pulayars or the choklears who were also the family serfs. They were well known for their physical stamina and was often feared for their patronage of powerful tribal deities . It was believed that DURMANTRAVATAM (worship of these gods) gave them powers which could be matched only by a seasoned MANTRIKAN (powerful magicians) and hence could be used against lesser mortals.

the powers

According to the folklore , the odiyan used to apply an oil obtained from killed human fetus on their ear lobes , which gave them powers to assume forms or shapes that they desired to be . In reality they never changed into the objects they intended to be, but created a sensory illusion on their prey making them more vulnerable to a mortal blow. For example the Odiyan would assume the shape of a bull or a cat or even a granite rock and stood on the route that the victim routinely uses at night .As the prey approached this unfamiliar sight on a familiar terrain he would at first be amused and would try to remove it from the path. Seeing his target getting closer the Odiyan would transform instantly into his human form , overpowering and killing the prey instantly.

The question that may pop up is , why go to such lengths to kill someone if he could be stabbed or shot at plain sight ?. The reasons according to my grandmother were :

1.Most of the able bodied men at the time had kalari training from a young age hence it would have been difficult to over power them other than through a ruse.

2. The operations were covert so the people who arranged the assassin did not want themselves to get involved in the mess.

3. Odiyans were experts in disposing off their victims , leaving no trace .

The tactic used to over power the victims was the element of surprise . The forms the Odiyans took were abnormal .For example the bull that appeared in front of you might be a three-legged one or a tailless one which could amuse the onlooker . This gives the odiyan enough time to mount an attack and kill the prey as it approached .

These abnormalities could also be their undoing . A seasoned mantrikan or a Tharavad elder could easily recognize these anomalies and act accordingly to uncover the bluff. There is a story about a well known mantrikan who was returning home at night when he encountered two bulls . Realizing the trap , he pronounced some spells to counter the odi vidya and to overpower the odiyan’s charm . Then he tied the two bulls together and took them to a riverine nearby and washed their ears . With the oil washed off they retook their human forms and begged the mantrikan for forgiveness which was eventually granted.

the oil

The illusionary power of odiyan comes from the oil they apply on their earlobes . It is said to have been derived from the amniotic fluid of an unborn human fetus which was killed in the womb. Their targets were young women in their first pregnancy. During the day time while at work as the serf they would identify their victim and mark her off with a sign which was inscribed on the walls of the tharavad . At night , the pulaya or pana would return as odiyan and using his spells make the woman walk unconsciously in her sleep to a predetermined spot where he would be waiting . The woman’s womb would be surgically opened with sharpened knifes made of bamboo and the fetus taken out . The fetus is then hung from a bamboo pole to harvest the fluid while the woman walked back home to her room where she would eventually bleed to death.The amount of oil obtained from one child would be too little ,may be a few drops ,but it could last for a handful of odi tricks.

The history of Malabar is obscure before the advent of the British . The odiyan belief could have its roots in the tamilakam period of Kerala history when tribal practices played a major part in religious beliefs of the people. Sangam literature talks about a magical force that resides in all objects – living or non living called ANANKU . The panans and parayas (who were the untouchables then too) were enthrusted with rites and rituals to appease the ananku . A person with uncontained ananku was considered powerful , making the guardians of ananku dreaded beings . The concept of odiyan taking up different forms could be attributed to the presence of ananku in all beings. Like many of the sangam traditions ananku might have metamorphised into the odiyan tradition over time. But unlike most of the tamil practices which became part of vedic religion it remained in the fringes , away from brahmanical strong holds hidden in the foothills of western ghats.

what happened to them ?

Even today Valluvanad believes in Odiyans and their magical powers with many mysterious deaths still being attributed to odiyan seva ( latest case being reported last month) . But , With the advent of modern education and westernised lifestyles coupled with the social emancipation of panars and pulayars there are no takers for the job these days. More over their patrons found new ways to settle disputes thanks to the robust judicial system , forcing the odiyan seva to die out over a period of few decades without revealing many of their secrets like many other Indian traditions.

If you are interested in knowing more about the institution of velichapad press on the link below

https://valluvanadtimes.com/2017/12/03/velichappad/

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