Ever since BJP came to power 4 years back Beef as a delicacy has become a contentious issue. Kerala is often thrown as a counter punch against the sanghis by all the so called free thinkers as a haven for beef eaters. It has reached such a proportion that a non beef eating malayali is now getting automatically identified as a BJP sympathiser. The food habits of keralites are a bit complexed to be categorised into well defined brackets. Though over 90% of us are non vegetarians , vegetarian hotels are one of the most lucrative businesses in the state. It is true that beef is served at every nook and cranny of the state , a significant number of Hindus from all castes refrain from consuming it due to religious reasons. In a state where Hindus make up just over 54% that could come to somewhere near 30%. Though a relatively large percentage of Hindu men consume it with the traditional toddy , women rarely make it a part of their diet. Kerala is a highly religious society , Hindu tenants do hold sway especially at the household level . Hence the percentage of non beef cooking households could go up to around 45 percent.
Culinary choices are personal preferences hence eating beef is not a crime and the atrocities being perpetuated in its name is shameful. But forcing beef on others just to prove ones secular credentials is equally deplorable.
this week saw the lowest level to which malayali society could fall , at a felicitation event at the trivandrum airport , mrs sunanda pushkar was attacked by a few perverts , at the pretext of welcoming her. this is not an isolated event , in a state where women out number men , the ego of the minority are always on show , whether it be the crowd at the bus stop or the ranjini haridas haters on facebook it all boils down to the ideal concept of what a woman is supposed to be. ironically these so called traditional values the moral brigade dwells on is not even indian , but a crude imitation of the victorian society. what else could explain the fact that in a region where women rarely covered the upper body , the women are crucified for the dressing choices they make and where a matriarchal society always existed a free willed woman is considered a whore. all this comes down to the way we as a society have evolved post independence.
this attitude is more an issue in the southern districts of kerala and among particular communities of malabar. the south was the region first to embrace the missionary education and the accompanying value system of the victorian era .these new set of moral guidelines were worlds apart from what existed , the imbibition of these so called moral values where slow and steady . on the heels of christian missionaries the hindu reformation movement also adopted a similar stance resulting in the universal accreditation of these practices. and sadly it still remains as the ultimate authority.muslims of malabar were the most egalitarian of the sect in india , women were the pillars of the community , sadly the gulf boom put an end to that world. malyali men in arabia saw a different brand of islam which they adopted with vigour , introducing purdahs and hijabs. within the span of a decade the community have become more global in following the extreme views of islam , abandoning the moderate views which it developed over centuries. a whole new generation have been brought up in this fold , that is why one of my lady friends who exceled in studies commented on the sunanda pushkar episode as “if she would have worn a purdah this would not have happened” .
a reformation of these archaic laws must and will happen as we as a society become more globalized , till then these acts are bound to increase , what we can hope for is nothing like this turn more brutal.
Islam constitutes about a quarter of the population of the state of Kerala ,their population is unevenly distributed with the bulk of them concentrated in the districts of malappuram and kozhikode.Islam came to the malayali shores through trade like elsewhere in the indian ocean region. The newly converted Arab traders settled along the coast , building the first mosque at Kodungallur by the 7th century AD . A few of these arab settlers took malayali wives(mappila = groom) from the coastal communities , who in turn became the first indigenous converts to the new faith . Coastal communities at the time including fishermen and petty traders found themselves at odds with the dominant religions of the time – Jainism , Buddhism and Brahmanism , due to their emphasis on non violence and ritual purity. They were classified as the outcasts decided to try out the new faith which was more inclusive and egalitarian . As Hinduism evolved over the next centuries , Brahmanising the Dravidian cults , a stricter variant of caste system came up pushing the existing social equations into dissaray . Unlike the rest of India where there was a four fold classification of varnas , Kerala had just two varnas – Brahmanas and Shudras . Anyone and everyone other than the Brahmins including the ruling dynasties were put under the shudra bracket . Absence of the vaishya caste that too in a region that depended heavily on trade was an anomaly which was soon filled by the Arabs and the Mapillas .
The second chera empire disintegrated by the twelfth century AD . Local chieftans started to assert their Independence with Valluvanad becoming the supreme power in North , with the right to conduct Mamangam – The trade cum martial arts festival . This once in 12 years gathering was attended by chieftans of all desams from Thekkamkur in the south to Chirakkal up north. The most powerful of them was given the perpetual right to preside over the gathering and to use it as a platform to show off his prowess.The flooding of Periyar and the decline of Mahodayapuram lead to the rise of Calicut as the major port in the region. zamorin , the ruler of Calicut encouraged Mappillas to settle in the city in his effort to transform it into the trade emporium of the the West coast. Islam flourished under the zamorin who granted them rights at par with Nairs , including the the right to carry arms . The Calicut Navy was recruited exclusively from the Mappila caste . There was a tradition among the fishermen of Calicut to bring up their elder sons as Muslims , who could later man the nations ships.
Thanks to the flourishing trade with the Arabs , Calicut became an economic powerhouse overnight. But in the local power structure it was still a second rate power subservient to Valluvanad . According to a popular folklore , During one of the mamangams , the Zamorin took with him one of the prominent Mapillas of Calicut . Seeing his King being treated like a vassal the Mapilla vowed to make the Zamorin the steward of the next Mamangam and in this process making Calicut the supreme power in Kerala. Over the next twelve years the Zamorin who is also called Erlipad ( ruler of Eranad ) started conquering Valluvanad and the adjoining areas with his massive Nair – Mapilla army. As promised , the Mapillas gave the Zamorin the Mamangam before the next chapter and he became overlord of the whole of the erstwhile Chera dominion. . The Valluvakonathiri ( The ruler of Valluvanad ) realizing the importance of Mapillas started inviting them to settle in his domain and over time they became an integral part of the Valluvanadan social fabric. Though Mapillas saw reverses during the Portuguese period they regained their stature in no time becoming one of the prominent communities in Malabar,
The decendants of Arabs and the indigenous Mapillas who constituted the Malayali Muslims were still a small community in numerical terms till the 18th century , mainly confined to coastal areas and smaller towns . The large scale proselytization of the rural masses of Eranad occurred in the 18th century and Valluvanad in the 19th century. The main reason for this mass conversion was the increasing rigidity of the Caste system . The Thiyya caste and the untouchables found Islam an easy way to escape the tyranny of the Nairs and Brahmins . Unlike the Chirakkal country to the North or Cochin to the south , Eranad and Valluvanad were centers of orthodox Brahmanism . Most of the land was under Brahman Illams or Nair Tharavads with the other castes reduced to being tenants or laborers who were nothing more than slaves. The laws of purity and pollution made their life even more miserable . Once they converted to Islam their social status rose manifold and were even allowed to walk beside their erstwhile masters. Islam also liberated their women folk from being the sexual slaves of the higher castes.
With the inclusion of Thiyyas and other lower castes , Dravidian mysticism which was prevalent among these sections became a part of Mapilla culture . Even today Eranad and Valluvanad is littered with tombs of saints and fakirs whose mythology is strikingly similar to Hindu tribal beliefs revered by rural folk of the region. The conversion was not limited to lower and Intermediate castes only , even a few Nair families embraced Islam due to the works of fakirs and saints.
The history of peaceful spread of Islam in the region was interrupted by the Mysorean invasion in the late 1700s. The Nairs who were the chief antagonists to both Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan were massacred in their thousands and their women and children forcibly converted to Islam. Hyder Ali took upon himself to oversee the conversion process. He declared Nairs to be the lowest of the castes and took away their right to bear arms. Nairs being the martial class found it demeaning . The proclaimation also said that they could get back their privileges once they converted to islam. This oppression forced Nairs and other aristocratic families to flee Malabar .The repression under Tippu was even brutal. Once the British re established order the Landlords were brought back and reinstated as Zamindars. Their fellow caste men who were forcefully converted were not allowed to return to their original faith and their properties were confiscated and redistributed among the returnees. This laid the foundation for the agrarian unrest to follow in the next two centuries.
The Mysore invasion , which turned the Muslims against the Hindus including their patron – the Zamorin ( who committed suicide in his palace) was the watershed moment in the history of Malabar. From then on Mapillas were not just seen as a caste within the larger Hindu fold but as an alien faith. This division was reiterated during the Mapilla rebellions in the 19th and 20th century. Though Mapilla rebellions were agrarian in nature , directed against the Landlords and the British , it quickly turned communal with higher castes being the targets of peasant fury. Many instances of forced conversions were reported from Eranad and Valluvanad . The Khilafat movement in 1920s turned bloody in many parts of Valluvanad with the area between Areakode and Thootha being declared an Islamic Nation forbidden for Kafirs by Variankunnathu Kunjahammad Haji.
The Malabar variant of Islam is unique in its own ways . A malayali Muslim is a peculiar blend of Nair, Ezava and Arab influences . The Mapilla Malayalam of Eranad and Valluvanad is a mix of Tamil-Malayalam substrata with Sanskrit and Arabic , It is one of the least studied variants of Malayalam which according to me is unfair as it is a treasure trove for both linguists and historians. The Mapilla culture which include dance forms , folklores and Mapilla pattus have its own place in Malabar. sadly, the salafist forces ,which aims to homogenise Islam throughout the world is slowly exerting its pressure here too. This has led to divisions with in the community and outside. The steps needed to conserve this culture must come from within the community or else it would be swallowed by both modernism and salafism.
the problem with the indian english language media is that if it gets a news it feeds on it for weeks. this time the media have re discovered its passion long forgotten since the jessica lal case – “fighting for justice for the north indian urban upper middle class”.
the ruchika murder/suicide and the following cover up was one of the shameful incidents done in the confines of our system, which boasts of equal rights for all. its pity that the police officer who is said to have molested the girl got a minisculest verdict that he deserved . it’s the duty of the media to fight for justice and we must all fight against such inherent problems in our system and try to make it perfect.
my point here is that the so-called third eye of the society fights its battles only for a particular strata . the criterion are –
1.the victim be from the punjabi north or goa( tourist or catholic native). who can fluently speak english.
2. from upper middle class , that is who can tweet,use face book et al.
3.the perpetuator from a powerful background.if politician the best. so that they can chant all the anti politician slogans.
4.the family/friends of the victim able to conduct rang de basanti type candle light vigils.
some of you who chance up on this article must have gotten hyper by now so for them I like to give an example for the injustice of media justice.
in kerala there were two such cases involving rape(even serial rape) and murder . that too of girls of the same age as ruchika’s. one of them anakha- a brahmin girl from poor background was raped by people who were having connections with many prominent politicians in kerala. the girl and her family committed suicide that is how the whole story came out in open. the malayalam media was very active in finding the truth but their smaller reach meant smaller effect. the story slowly died down , no one except some scape goats were arrested.the other case is of shari ,with some of the same people involved.
had anakha or shari be born to some rich punjabi family their justice would have been done by now. in anakha’s case the culprits killed a whole family,is anakha’s justice less important than ruchika’s , why isnt the english media taking up its arms for the victim? or asking the home minister of the country(that too for a state matter) the all important “questions”. the answer can be found in the above mentioned criteria.
there are many unheard anakhas or sharis in other parts of the country the culprits in their cases may not be big guns , they may be a zamindar or a petty police constable. so the media must widen its area of vision to incorporate all of india, not just focussing on one core group. the middle class anger against the system must be also be diverted to the fight for justice of these poor lads too .
the ctn I started must be taken up urgently or we as people will fail these hundreds of unknown ruchikas .
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.
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 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
the topic of national language have always been a raging topic especially here in south for the past century or so.the imposition of an alien language or a culture is always detested by those on whom it is imposed . the world outside the hindi heart land is no exception. hindi which is our national language is spoken by 40% of the population,which again is of different dialects and sub languages.hindi in its present form is one of the youngest languages and in literary content one of the least developed,but many of the regional languages like Tamil or Bengali is rich both historically and in language.even the youngest of the regional languages – Malayalam had evolved into its standard form centuries before Devanagari was adopted for Urdu. the imposition of such a language over these well established ones was one of the greatest mistakes done by the post independent india.hindi after splitting from Urdu started to adopt words from Sanskrit so that it can mask its persianness .but the hindi used in daily life was more or less same as Urdu which is alien to most parts of the country.
english on the other hand is the language of the world.every one needs to study that to succeed in life,its like the modern persian. but the adoption of english as the national language will affect india’s future position as a global power. our use of english as a medium can only make us inferior to the Anglo saxon power block. their attitude towards india is more evident in the british media and legalization of english can only legitimize their colonial mentality.
in this scenario i would like to propose the use of Sanskrit as the link language between the indian populace .it is the bed rock of all languages including the three of the four southern languages.moreover every one need to learn a second language and there will be a level playing field for all.even tamil have 20-30% of its words from Sanskrit.the use of an indigenous language can act as an advantage when india develops and can act as its soft power as english is doing for america.the use of sanskrit can decrease the fear of extinction or inferiority that may languages face as they can flourish in their own ways.
the religious tone of Sanskrit is the main disadvantage of the language. this can be overcome by developing the language in the secular front , new secular literature can be written in Sanskrit or many of the best secular literature of other languages could be translated to it. this can give an added advantage as people in different parts of the country can get to know about each other. think about this – parts of thirukural being studied in a school in Punjab or geetanjali taught in Kerala, that too in Sanskrit.
there will be oppositions to my view but adoption of english can only make us colonial puppets and that of hindi will be a crime done to other languages which have a huge literary history.
hinduism is one of the oldest traditions of the world dating back to the indus valley civilisation.one of the major characteristics of this religion is the fact that it is not a religion but a way of life.that means anyone who follow the ‘indian’ way of life can be considered a hindu.this interpretation of hinduism gives scope for millions of different beliefs and traditions,so a malayali like me or a punjabi or a gujrati are hindu though our beliefs and most importantly gods vary.even the epics we hear may vary from one another this is the beauty of being hindu.
but after independence and especially from the 80s due to the vigorous efforts of some vested interests particularly from the north the religion or the hindu beliefs have begun to get homogenised.we in kerala started to get more into the rama and krishna cult and started abandoning the traditional gods and godesses.more importantly the ancestral worship which was an important aspect of our tradition is slowly dying out. the ‘adianthiram’ which used to be a yearly affair is now observed once in two or some cases in three years.’adiyanthiram’ is a ceremony that is conducted in these parts to honour the dead , the day is marked by special pooja conducted by a priest who is nonbrahmin not to any idols but to a ‘peedam’ or a small wooden stool and a plantain leaf.this ritual is supposed to feed the ancestors who are represented by the stool for one year.the ritual also involves sacrifices (cock) and offering of toddy or alcohol to appease the ancestors. this tradition is slowly dying out mainly due to the aforesaid homogenization of hinduism,where the northern beliefs are forced on us and we are made to abandon our tradition.
another of such case is the ‘naga pooja ‘and’ puluvan pattu’ ,where the snakes are worshiped.kerala have a long history of snake worship and every home used to have sacred grooves called’ pambin kavu ‘or snake temple. the naga poojas seldom happen these days and the sacred grooves are destroyed.the art form of puluvan pattu associated with this is also dying out.
the problem of homogenizing hinduism is felt in every community which have traditions different fro the north indian ones.i have read about’ balinese hinduism’ and its dilemma whether to adopt this new brand of hinduism or stick to their traditional ones. the propagators of this phenomenon must understand that diversity is the character of hinduism that differentiate it from other religions and this diversity is the only reason why it have stood the test of time.