May 24, 2010 - Rajesh Odayanchal
In the thaliyola (talipot palm leaves) there is a memoir about a valiant soldier who wrestled for the autonomy of Kurichiyars and unchained them from the disgrace of Pazhassi Raja dynasty. The people with reverence called him Muthappan. By lending hands to the down caste people, he fought for them and thus is materialized through the art dance form named Muthappan theyyam. The antique songs sung by people can be considered to be the love and affection towards him. Above all these antique histories, Sree Muthappan theyyam also reminds us of the ardent sacrifice of an ascetic. Muthappan in the history is a man who stepped out from his home, lived with the outcaste and gave a new identity to the outcastes. In the declining years it is believed that Muthappan lived at Kunnattur paadi.
But Parassinikadavu is blessed with the presence of Muthappan. Here as a present to Muthappan the devotees give liquor and fish as their offering and thus held him in high regard. By the intake of liquor, Muthappan theyyam reminisce the old memories, where everything gets started with a new birth. Muthappan is the self realization of kollathunaad. They believe that in any predicament or troubles Sree Muthappan will always protect them as their guard.
Coming up from the upper caste family and helping the underlings, Sree Muthappan became the worshipped idol of the lower caste people. Sree Muthappan is believed to be the God, who hears the call of the needy and comes for his help. In between Kannur and Thaliparambh, the beautiful country side Parassinikadavu is filled with the grace of lord Muthappan. On the shores of Valappattannam river is Muttapann’s Madapura (outhouse). Through this ritual enactment, it clearly signifies the unity of the Kollathoor native. When Muthappan theyyam performs the delirious dance, we can see in the minds of the Kolathoor people, the old hidden figure of burnt wrath of coal. We can see clearly on the face of Muthappan, the misery caused to the poor people due to the illegal practice existed in the olden days.
Lord Muthappan is believed to be the God who hears the sorrowful cries of the devotees and comes for their help. Let’s move onto the history of Muthappan. Ayyangarillam was an illam, where the Brahmin landlord with his wife Paadikutti antharajn lived. They were not gifted with children. The couples were unhappy over this. One day Paadikuttiyamma went to the river bank to take bath and on her way back, she heard the cry of a baby and followed the cry. To her surprise she found a cute baby beating its legs, lying in-between the dried leaves. Seeing Paadikuttiyamma, the baby stopped its blubber. Loveliness brimmed over the cute face. She took the baby and kissed it with great affection.
Taking the name of lord Kottiyurappan she moved on to Ayyankara illam.
The Brahmin, after seeing his wife, with a baby in her hand ran towards her with surprise. This is the gift of Kootuyurapppan, she said with great contentment. She gave the baby to her husband. The couples considered the baby as a treasure from Lord Shiva who has helped the illam by giving an heir to the illam. The mana (house) was filled with happiness and glee. The sandal bed was ready. The illam was reverberated with lullabies. Paadikuttiyamma dressed the baby and gave him milk and fruits. He laughed innocently showing his gum. In that sweet smile, all their woes found its end. Paadikuttiyamma daily prayed Kottuyurrapan to make him healthy and to give him a long life span.
The couples didn’t know how the days passed. In the child’s sweet smile, in his tinkling bracelet and also in his prattling sweet talk; they saw a spanking kind of bliss. He acquired the maturity rapidly and they saw it as Lord Kottiyurappan’s wonder –working play. But their happiness did not stay for long time. They saw some kind of changes in their son’s behavior.
He liked to squander the day time fully outside the mana (house). He didn’t like the idea of confining himself inside the naalukett (quadrangular building). His companions were the kurichiyiran children (lower caste) living in the hilly area. He wandered about by joining with the low caste people and ate and drank with them. More than the milk rice, he liked the staled rice that he got from kurichiyir huts. Paadikutttiyamma was upset over the change that she saw in her son’s behavior. She cried bitterly thinking about her son’s wretched state. Seeing his wife’s state, the Ayyankara Brahmin’s rose into fury. Out of control he blasted.
“Living with the hill tribes, eating fish and deer meat you are a sinner! You are not supposed to enter the mana. You can go wherever you like. Ayyankara illam is not a place for you drunkard to enter.
“Get out ….!”- The Brahmin roared helplessly against his son.
He didn’t utter a word.
Paadikuttiyamma cried appallingly.
He neither stood to console his father nor to wipe out his mother’s tears. His resoluteness and steadiness made the father to plunge in grief. After all hopes being shattered, the father collapsed on the floor.
The last watch of the night was born.
The couples as if in a dream were staggered to see the sight when they opened their eyes. “The treasure of Lord Kottuyurappan, their son with thousands of sunshine was sitting on the gem throne”. The sweet smile showered out from the divine figure, wore the bow and arrow and was decorated with the golden jingling anklet and garments. The face was blazing with the divine light. The divine figure looking towards the couples said.
“Time has come near… it is the time to leave. After leaving, I won’t forget you. Whenever you think about me I will reach near you.
Further it is a journey to achieve my birth aim. Bless me and give me the permission to leave.”
After saying these words, the miraculous lad continued his journey.
Where is he going….! Nobody knew.
Crossing the hills and jungles he reached at Kunnathurpaadi, which was naturally so rapturous.
For thirty six years by doing penance he stayed along with the children’s of hill at the hilly side. Having nobody to control he wandered by frisking eating and drinking.
One day he desired to drink toddy from palm tree. He climbed the palm tree and poured out the pot of toddy into his mouth. The sweet taste of the toddy made him craze.
When the pot was empty, he kept the pot in its usual place and slept off.
Someone called out from down the tree.
Who is that?
“The toddy tapper chandan”. He has come to take toddy. After seeing a strange person on the top of the palm tree, he is shouting at him. When there was no response, he became angry.
“You arrogant creature, come down….. Who gave you the permission to drink toddy?
He roared like a lion which echoed till the sky.
But the person sitting on the top of the palm tree sat silently, turning a deaf ear to what he had heard. Chandan got irritated, seeing the man sitting idly without any response. He was outraged and tried to shoot the man using his bow and arrows.
But what a wonder, the arrow which went straight to the old man was caught and thrown away by the old man.
Chandan, who send the arrow fell unconscious and was turned into a rock. The news spread like wild fire. Chandan’s wife wailing came running near the palm tree. She went round Chandan who was turned into a rock. She bowed the old man standing near her and mourned.
“Mutttappa….…. This is the better half of my life… please bless me… please give back my Chandan. I don’t have anyone in this world. Muthappan blessed her and Chandan regained his original form. He offered his prayer to Muthappan and prostrated before him.
“From now onwards I am giving you the charge to offer me fish and toddy. Without any hammer you can perform it, my blessings are always with you”.
From the outer side of Ayyankaraillam, there arose an unexpected dejected cry. The villagers flocked in front of the illam.
Who is in danger?
The Ayyankara Brahmin is struggling to death. Paaddikuttiyamma couldn’t bear it any more and she is exhausted. She called out Kottiyyurappan to help them. She thought about her darling son. She grieved for not having a support. To wipe out the tears of Paadikuttiyamma, people flowed to the illam. Suddenly her son stood in front of her, smiling and was surrounded with the divine light. Brokenheartedly, she embraced her son and cried. The son wiped out his mother’s tears and consoled her.
Both father and mother shined in the divine light. Leaving the mana and all their properties to the people, they left their body. Sree Muthappan was glorified as the protector of the village people. It is believed that by this ritualistic dance performance (Muthappan Theyyam) Muthappan comes and consoles the people.
Sree Muthappan is believed to be the personification of two divine figures – Thiruvappana and Vellatom. The dual divine figures Thiruvappana and Vellatom are similar to those of the Theyyamkaliyattem of the northern Malabar region. Though Sree Muthappan is worshiped as a single deity, it actually represents an integrated or unified form of two Gods, namely Vishnu with a fish-shaped crown and Shiva with a crescent-shaped crown.
Sree Muttapann’s Theyyams are performed year-round whereas other Theyyams are seasonal.
Sree Muthappan is always escorted by a dog. Dogs are considered sacred here and one can see dogs in large numbers in and around the temple. There are two carved bronze dogs at the entrance of the temple that are believed to symbolize the bodyguards of the God. Once the Prasada is prepared it is first served to a dog that is always ready within the temple compound.
Local myths augment the importance of dogs to Sree Muthappan, such as the tale that follows:
A few years ago, temple authorities decided to lessen the number of dogs inside the temple; so they took some dogs and puppies away. From that very day, the performer of the Sree Muthappan Theyyam was unable to perform; it is said that the spirit of Sree Muthappan enters the performer’s body for the duration of the ceremony. But He probably refused to enter the performer’s body because the dogs had been removed. Realizing their mistake, the dogs were brought back to the temple by the temple authorities. From that day onwards, Theyyam performances returned to normal.
Tradition requires that the Annual Festival of the Muthappan Temple at Parassinikkadavu to start by a procession led by a male member of the “Thayyil” clan of Thayyil, Kannur from the family home to the main altar of the temple, where he offers a ‘Pooja’ to the God.