Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Remembering KV Krishnan (Field notes, published version with bibliography in ed Ishwar Modi, Education, Religion and Creativity, Rawat 2013)


Pallakad Diaries
December 2007

It’s a town which is associated with music, dance , drama and ayurveda. It is across the blue line of hills that separates it from Coimbatore. And the village of Kalpathy is associated with heaven itself. “Bathe in it’s river, and you will go to heaven.” The temples of Kalpathy are famous for it’s rath festivals. The guide books describe it as a melting point for all the people of Kerala. Kalpathy is a Brahmin enclave.The Brahmins are Tamil Brahmins. They are said to have arrived 600years ago. To avert a famine and illness which was raging among his people, the Rajav asked his astrologers what he should do. They told him to build a temple. But then, the Rajav could not cooperate with his  Namboodri priests, he could not control them…so he invited the Tamil Brahmins. They came from Mayavaram near Tanjavore. Eighteen villages were set up in Pallakad, and the temples were identical with those of Tamil Nadu, except that the gopuram of the Tamil temples is missing. In these temples the Devan is important, while in Kerala it is the Devi who is usually emphasized.

A woman from Kalpathy called Lakshmi Ammal went to Varanasi on pilgrimage and got the stone, that is the original stone dedicated here in the Kalpathi Viswanatha Swamy temple. The Kalpathy village is now a heritage site. For residents like Lakshmi Narayanan, Kalpathy is their home, associated with the temples and the tradition of music. Veda and Music are like railway tracks, he says, running parallel to each other. He mentions Challakudi Narayan, Mridunga Subbier and Pallakad Mani Iyer. I have already visited the residence of the kinsman of Pallakad Mani Iyer. That gentleman has  a large portrait in his house of the famous mridangam player, and when I ask him the history of the community, he tells me that he has a website! All the details on the website provide the description of Kalpathy, it’s history and its environs, including the five temples, for every ward has it’s own temple, and also the river which forms the boundary of the village. So very early, I have found my local historian.

Kalpathy temples are a tourist destination, for their beauty and their cultural  vitality. In November, the inner lanes of Kalpathy become packed with residents, visitors and tourists all  of whom are excited by the rituals and the market that springs up for the rath festivals. The huge raths lie in the street otherwise, testimony to the grandness of ritual. Kalpathy consists of  a community of Brahmins who are now Malayalis by virtue of their residence, but their original Tamil Brahmin identity is well asserted. They were once agriculturists, but the enclave is associated with pathshalla or teaching work, Accountancy, Veda specialization as in chanting and publishing, all fields of education such as Literature, Music  and Science. Families have been associated with clerical work as much as with more powerful roles in administration. Residents believe in caste, for that is their heritage and their capital, but they do not believe in communalism. Caste, they say, is the classification of actions and duties. They are impoverished by modernism, and yet the poor Brahmin is the icon of hard work and integrity. How do they cope? One of the resident, Ram Narain tells me that “In Kali Yuga, one must be silent and observe.” He tells me that Hinduism is about meditation, trance, vision, knowledge and the inner voice. Maybe this is why music is such a strong part of the vocabulary of the young and the old in Kalpathy. In the evening, one can hear singing coming from almost every street, and lots of young children can be seen carrying violins. For Ram Narain’s son, there are four gods who must be worshipped: they are the parents, the village deity, the family deity and the ishta deva (the God of one’s choice).

This gentle world was recently disrupted by the offer of “heritage site”  by the state government, but the residents say that it was not an offer, it was imposed on them without warning.  Laxmi Narayanan says it is the “culture of the people” which is the heritage, and  any  insensitive display of political power, which does not take community representatives, into consultation, will always create problems for residents.

Roads in Kalpathy were dug up, the open sewage system which was previously community responsibility, was cemented up, so that the blockages and  general inconvenience are now frequent, and cannot be cleared. The Government had offered the families three lakhs as renovation money, but then said they would have to move out, to accommodate tourists. “Who would agree to that?” Before the heritage papers could be cleared in official quarters, people started  selling their houses to builders. So Kalpathy will lose its quaintness, and accommodate outsiders in a volume that the water and sewage capacities cannot handle. So much of urban planning is done without consulting the residents, who are completely ignored as if they have no will or intelligence, that it leaves the sociologist quite baffled. A heritage site should be protected and conserved, not redone  in an untidy slip shod manner with crumbling cement over original granite. There was no interaction between tourist department and electricity department, between tourist department and water department.  For the inhabitants of Kalpathy, tourism and modernism have meant the suggestion by the  state government that their houses be mortgaged for” improvement” when they love their traditional homes, and then given over to the State for use as tourist Homes in four or five years! This is so absurd a suggestion that people are left aghast at the idea of a Heritage Site.

 In Ram Narain’s youth there was a  continuity between the houses. On festival days, the plantain leaves for community feasting would be spread in a single line, and every one would eat together.

The car festival is a replica of rituals  performed in  the original hamlet in Tanjavore. All the gods are celebrated in Kalpathy.  There are no boundaries between castes in the Rath Ullsavam. Muslims and Christians have been traditionally present as shop keepers. The music festival is a National festival which brings thousands into Kalpathy. It is known as Kalpathy Sangeetha Ullsavam.

I was in Kalpathy on 14th April 2007.  It was Tamil New Year. In Kalpathy, the sense of jubilation was evident in the evening. Because of the temples in every street, and the row of shops near the Siva-Parvati temple there was a sense of bustling joy. The houses are arranged in this “grammam” or village in a concentration, as in Mylapore, or in any traditional town with a temple. Each room leads to another, and in the evenings, the occupants sit on the ledge, or even on the road.

The afternoons are very hot. This year the temperature is unusual, but it also rained quite miraculously. Kalpathy river rushes along at the edge of the Agraharam, as the settlement of Brahmins is called. From 4 a.m onwards, bathers arrive, wash their clothes on the steps, have their baths, and then with towels tied on their head, the women make an obeisance at the Bhagawathi temple. There are two temples side by side on the edge of the river, one to Bhagyavati, the patron goddess of Kerala, and the other to that constant visitor who never discriminates, Krishna.

With Tsunami and now Chikanguniya ravaging the state of Kerala, I’m always puzzled why any religious shrine would keep anyone out! People need a place to pray, or atleast share the state of calm brought about by faith, who ever it be. My study of Mannarkad church in the 1980s, and  also of Kurisu Palli in Puthenangadi, Kottayam showed that people of all faiths arrive in sacred places. Sacred places are associated with universalism. My  study of  Ramanasramam and Tiruvannamalai, shows that wherever people believe God to be present congregations appear, regardless of distinction.

 I ask Lakshmi Narayan, whose wife is the elected councillor for Kalpathy, whether there is a Pallakad Rajav anymore, they say “Vamsham ondu, Rajav Illa!” I wonder today, if the priests of all religions have a stake in keeping others out…and empirically speaking ofcourse they do. Control and Homogeniety go together. I would like to study Kalpathy one day, but born of Christian parents will I be allowed to enter and ask my questions? I don’t know. I hope to revisit Pallakad in November to see how the influx of foreigners and tourists impact upon this small beautiful and courteous hamlet, where exquisite manners are the norm. Of Kalpathy, everyone always say,”The people of Kalpathy are very nice.” Their food culture is as famous as their music. This is true of Pallakad in general. When you get off at the station you hear the most wonderful music, and can buy the most impressive breakfasts.

!5th April is Vishu, the Malayalam New Year, and the culmination of the a Harvest. There is an honouring of fruits and leaves and flowers. The Malayalis have been bursting crackers continuously since early morning. They bathe at the crack of dawn, and go to the temple wearing new clothes, flowers in their hair and are generally jubilant and adorned.

I realize then,  that the river never asks anyone whether their mother or father was a Hindu before allowing them to bathe, or share in that lovely sense of water and sunlight which Pallakad always brings to my mind, with the blue hills of the ghats in the horizon. We were in Pallakad for Christmas 2006, and my old classmate from  the ‘70s in JNU, Nirmala Nair, who is a  Pallakad novelist and activist, brought her daughters along to visit us, and and no one asks them “Which half of you is Christian, and which half is Hindu?”

Mr Lakshmi Naryan believes that the down fall of the Vijaya Nagar Empire was accompanied by North Indian invasion, a Muslim invasion which caused the Tanjore barahmins to migrate. The Pallakad Rajav was pleased to see them for this reason, since he,
 A Royal family member had a liasion with a tribal woman, the Namboodiris refused to serve in the temple. The migrants served in their place." Since they were well versed in the vedic tradition, including mathematics and the  scripturalarts, they were welcomed.
Mr Krishnan, an eminent lawyer,  living  in Ooty, (whose son practises in the Supreme Court visits the Kalpathy Viswam temple in thanksgiving when a son  is born,) says that they were “hydraulic victims.” The drought had made them leave their  natal territories, and being informed in the Vedas they were welcomed by the King.”

Mr K.N. Lakshmi Narayan states regarding the music festival in Kalpathy, that, in 1986 the music festival was started. Gigi Thompson was the Collector, and he helped in setting it up. Mr Narayan and MrThompson collected money, Mr Gigi Thompson was the Chairman of the first
committee. TVS Sundaram was the co-ordinator.Later the Government, then the tourism promotion board got involved.



27th June 2009
The local historian Mr Lakshmi Naarayan has promised to take me inside the Kalpathy Viswanath Swamy temple,  since as a Syrian Christian  I cannot access it’s interiors without permission. He says that I can circle the interior of the temple, like tourists do, but not present myself before the sanctum, since that is not permitted. While we are waiting for him to get ready, we go inside the temple precincts which has a shopping area. This, as we have been told is open to anyone. There are some residences on either side of the temple, a tailor’s shop and another with sells holy pictures, oil and beads.
Rajan Narayanan, a priest doing rituals for the dead talks to us. He says that Lakshmi Ammal, a widow had returned from Benares, given coins to the temple and left the stone there, The stone is a lingam, it is about six feet tall. It had inscriptions but now these are gone. (We have photographs of the inscriptions, a temple spokesman says comfortingly. Since Kerala has a wood tradition, it is possible that the medieval script was not seen as significant by the asari who polished the stone.)

 Kalpathy is the place where Lakshmi Ammal established the lingam from Benaras, and so it is called the Banaras of the South, for those who cannot take ashes to Benaras, may visit  KalpathyViswanath Swamy temple for the mortuary  ceremonies of  their kinfolk. The connection with Benaras continues, and Lakshmi Narayan tells us that in Vishwanath Swamy temple in Benaras, every evening rituals and songs support the Tamil pilgrims under the umbrella of the Shankaracharya of Kanchi.
We walk around the renovated Temple. Mr Lakshmi Narayan is very proud of the changes, and old ladies congratulate him on the continuous work of modernization. Every twelve years it is renovated (or should be) according to him. Only one rafter of the old temple has been incorporated into the new structure. The rest have been built back into the wooden portals of a building, like a shed, with an aluminium roof, at the rear courtyard..they are pretty wood carvings with simple motifs of flowers. Surrounding this facing the river, is a small sacred garden which is kept scrupulously clean by the old attendant. The snake stones are venerated here.
Mr Lakshmi Narayan tells me that Kalpathy is convenient ritual site for many families in Kerala, to carry out their funerary rituals. The priests are called Shivacharyas and are trained in the agamams. Originally they were from Mayavaram, but now some come from Coimbatore. They must be trained in the scriptures, they must be recognised or accepted by the serving priests. The Smartha Iyers, who live in Kalpathy are not equipped to deal with mortuary rituals being householders. However they are very learned in scripture, and there are some very well known Deekshitar families.

We walk toward the river. It is terribly stagnant, inspite of the myth surrounding it, that to bathe in Kalpathy is to know heaven. The river is blocked, silted up, crammed with weeds and sludge and water hyacinths. Who will clean the river? Sand mining is creating a block. Further up there are three small dams which further obstruct the rivers’ slow. About the sand miners’ Mr Lakshmi Narayan only says, “One cannot say anything! That is how they make a living.” I read later in the Hindu that there have been death threats to those who obstruct the miners.. Further up, garbage blows into the river. After the election, no one has come forward to help with river maintenance.

29th June 2009
I have been buying needles, shampoo and other things from one of those ubiquitous stores in Kerala which are called  Fancy Stores.  They have everything from soap and washing powder to artificial jewellery, buttons and baubles and toys.The owner is a man called Sethu Madhavan who worked in Pallakad station for decades. It is a success story that Kerala knows so well, for he came to Pallakad for work, bought a house and settled down. His son in law, Achutanandan Prasad is an accountant with an eye for antiques. The house is beautifully embellished with old things, each lovingly carved from wood, bought from demolished  Kalpathy houses, from shops and stores in New Bazaar. Prasad used to come to bathe in Kalpathy river when he was a boy, and studied in the local school. Each of the objects he has bought costs a great deals. Sethu Madhavan is extremely proud of his new house, constructed with marble floor and his son in law’s good taste in antiques. They have been written about in a well known Malayalam magazine.
Prasad, the antique collector, says that the Brahmins are going through a decline which happens to many communities during historical periods. The subject of the poor Brahmin is of great interest to the community. They have lost traditional occupations and skills, and have become auto drivers, shopkeepers and labourers.

Mr Lakshmi Narayan tells me his father was a Sanskrit scholar who had the ability to cross over and weave and plait texts  “Jedda” they used to call him. Opposite his house , where the owner has built a pretty cottage with a charming garden, which has a coniferous tree,  there was once a printing press which published Sanskrit works. He says,

“Some people in the gramam may still have copies. In the 1920s it shut down for lack of buyers and a new press opened. They print texts, but not necessarily Sanskrit. When people say “Heritage Village”today it is limited to taking some foreigners for a walk around Kalpathy. Preservation of culture is not limited to buildings, it is not only about buildings it is about vedic culture, about music, mathematics and  scriptural knowledge,  that is,Sanskrit.”

The Tamil Brahmins in Kalpathy remains migrants in Kerala, though they have been here for centuries. Mayavaram, or Maileaddiathooram remain extolled, though not many people may visit the ancestral oor. The temple is 650 years old, and by the records in the memory of residents, it is the woman Ammal  (or Lakshmi Ammal ) who  established the stone, by decree of the King, so that Kalpathy and the river became embodiments of Shiva Shakti of BenarasVishwanath Swami and the Ganges respectively. Achutanandan Prasad says a dip in Kalpathy is worth half of a dip in Benaras. No one is ready however to take any action over the increasingly polluted river. Prasad says, “It cannot be done by a single individual.”  The Kalpathy river is dependent on the Mallampuzha dam for its rapid flow. During the summer months, water is diverted from the dam to the town for drinking purposes, so the farmers and the pilgrims have to manage with the minimal flow, silted, trees growing in the middle, and stagnation. In a later part of this paper, I will discuss the significance of the Mallampuzha dam for Pallakad and its inhabitants.
People still come from far to bathe in the Kalpathy river, and women can be seen carrying their buckets of washing in the early morning, and jumping into the bus with their children and  women friends, long hair washed in the river. Cows are washed in the afternoon. The men come after a day’s work, as do boys in the evening.

The transformation of a Brahmin agraharam by commerce is very visible in the recent past. Mila, a trained homeopath who has been living in the same house for 26 years, says that they have not renovated their home, because one has to go to Thiruvanthapuram to get the papers to do this. She looks around, where by the day, houses are being demolished and rebuilt. Most of new Kalpathy has become vividly commercial, there is a herbal beauty shop, and Ayurveda clinic, two telephone and internet shops, a  private milk depot, a food shop (canteen and caterers) document writers, an old age home and office. It then merges with the temple complex, and the shopping arena which has a series of grocers’ shops very well stocked with  provisions, a tailors shop, a fancy store for women and children, a kitchen wares store,  a cycle repairs shop, and a Milma or government milk depot, a bakery and three eateries for tourists and piligrims. There are two pickle stores, one of them run by two ladies who are local residents, and sell fried savouries in packets along with pickles and appalams or pappads. There are coir and broom dealers, a carpenters shop,  a publishing house  and a clothes store, and ofcourse well stocked medical stores. Fruit merchants and flower merchants have push carts stationed in front of the Temple. There is also two shops selling betel leaf, fruit, lemon drinks and eggs. The last is a representation of changing times, since eggs and non vegetarian food  were traditionally not to be found in Kalpathy. However, the former residents are selling their homes to others, and new mosaics of residence  and food customs are now to be found. Ezhavas and Nairs traditionally meat eating, are found serving the Brahmans, and one of them laughed and said, “In the flats if the tenant wants to eat and cook meat, the Board cannot say anything.” However, while diaspora Tamils may eat eggs, there is a circular taken out, if meat or fish are cooked, saying this is  strictly forbidden. The flats are taking over the Heritage Village rapidly, and the sky line is beginning to change, as people return to Kalpathy because it is a sacred site, but still remember  neighbourhoods in Delhi or in Bombay with affection. I have had interesting conversations with diaspora Tamil women (always perfectly dressed in the  calm of their homes) who accompanied their bureaucrat husbands to various parts of India, and who speak Hindi with felicity, while being nostalgic about the  shops in Sector 1 R.K. Puram, which I too, know well.  Many of them still have children in big cities in India, or more likely in Amercia or Singapore, the citadels of the computer men and women.

It is not necessary to cook meals at home in Kalpathy  since there are excellent caterers who bring food to the door step on request. Even the cakes  soldat the bakery were “ghee cakes.” Outside the local eateries which are crammed with clientele, mainly the  working class and the middle class pilgrims from outside the village, the Brahmin men and women  congregate outside the “Mess” where caterers sell appam, dosas, vadas, coffee and all sorts of sweets and delicacies known to them such as shoondal, sewai and parram vada. As if this were not enough, there are pakoda sellers doing brisk business too. On my first visit to Kalpathy, I made an awful hybrid type language mistake. While my daughters asked for dosas, I said very grandly, “Ennika Thali Vennam!” I imagined that a plate with steaming curries and rice would appear. It was 5 p.m. The owner of the café looked totally aghast, and then perplexed. “Tali Vennam?” I had asked for a plate of food using a Hindi word, but he converted it into a word that Brahmins and Nairs must have had in common for many centuries i.e, a marriage  locket. My secular Syrian Christian identity was immediately undercut. A kind woman eating with her husband said “Shaddam Vennam” which means Rice. Malayalis would have used the word Chor, since that is what they use in everyday language. Being Malayali in erstwhile Madras Presidency has its problems for the secular scholar whose earlier work was in Travancore. The questions of language, politics and identity are too large to present here, but would include the questions of the historical location of Pallakad both in medievalism and after the Merger, when it came to Kerala: agriculture and caste and language are the key motifs of that ensemble. Deekshitar, the most eminent of the men in the agraharam, asked his relative who I was, and the man answered “Angadikar” which could mean a resident, but was traditionally used for Syrian Christians, who as pepper merchants were traditionally allowed into the agraharam. It may be noticed that caste as exclusionary is the subject of fiction writers attention, and in modernism the problem reappears in new ways which are yet to be analysed. Class becomes read in Kerala through the motifs of dispossession of land and property, and in the agraharam, which resembles an emptied out landscape as the old and infirm remain posted for relatives who have made new lives elsewhere, tradition is crystallized in motifs of archival significance: music being one of them.

While the street on New Kalpathy remains completely empty in the afternoon because of the heat, the bright white light, an unblemished azure sky, during the early morning it is busy with school children waiting for the bus, with parents, waiting with them, old people reading the newspapers, women drawing the ornamental and sacred kollam. Evenings are markedly different, everyone comes out to chat and talk. Families sit at their verandahs, the women wear jasmines in their hair, the children play and sing and chatter. The men are often comfortable in their white sarongs, bare chested with only the sacred thread as upper vestment. The street is a public thoroughfare with  fruit vendors and vegetable sellers, jasmine merchants carrying their fragrant ware on bicycles or on their heads in baskets. Kalpathy is rapidly becoming a flatted area. The residents  in the flats  which are now elbowed in with the agraharam homes, are professionals who have retired from Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi or Chennai. Elderly couples with children abroad, or in the metropolis (Bangalore is a hub for professionals’ children, many of whom are in the Sciences, Industry or in Electronics) spend their day as other retired professionals in India do, cooking cleaning, reading newspapers and watching television, chatting to one another, over balcony walls or in the corridors.

 21st May 2008

Before one's eyes the landscape changes. Everywhere modernization brings its own story. It effaces the past without a murmur, or so it seems, the old changes, and gives way to the new. The new is sometimes very brash. In  New Kalpathy, the old  houses in the hamlet, are being demolished and new cement and florid paint comes in its stead. The street changes its face from month to month. Some people say “Only Old Kalpathy is a heritage sight.”  Old shops are replaced by new ones. The old people  in the agraharam,sit outside their porches, looking like the ancient scribes, recording the past in memory. The ancient snake circle near the the river has gone. Ancient stones under the peepal tree, representing Shiva, Shakti, faceless gods and goddesses as well, snakes and flat stones, are now replaced with a brand new Ganesha. Only three stones remain of the many in the circle, Shiva, Shakti and one cobra.

The street is quiet during the day. No one comes out. The agraharam is silent, ike a ghost town. In the evening, visitors to the temples begin filling the streets, standing at the  rims of the temples, worshipping the Gods. The shopkeepers are well stocked traditional grocers. They now keep eggs along with bakery bread. In Kalpathy, traditionally, no one could keep non-vegetarian foods. The bakery sells excellent fresh bread. The most popular place for food is the small shop in the middle of the agraharam, where breakfast and "tiffin" which means savouries at tea time, are served.



An old woman sitting in the enclosed verandah of her house smiles toothlessly at me. I stop to talk to her.
"Has your fever gone?" she asks me.

I smile, and say "Yes." knowing she has mistaken me for someone else.

"And are you well? (Sukam anno?) I ask her.

"What well being can I have at this age," she says,"I just exist. Whatever comfort I have (sukam) is in my mind.What about you, " she says to me.

"Shantam Aa." (I am in peace."



“So how many days?"

"Just today and tomorrow.

We part, with me saying, "I'm happy to have met you."
There is great poverty in these houses, many are derelict. Many are being rebuilt in modern fashion, with cement and kaleidoscopic paint.

I spoke to the grand old man Dikshitar. He is the best known and most respected of the Vidvans. He has milky blue eyes, a top knot and diamonds in his ears. He must be 80 and more.

"I wish to write a book on Kalpathy”
He points to the ledge, adjacent to him, beckoning me to sit.
“What about?”
“It's history. Can I speak with you?”
“You need to talk to old people who know. It's an old history that goes back and back.” He makes whorls  with his hands, indicating spirals.

“I'm a sociologist – we record, we inscribe. Everything is changing very fast, so we must describe it. Whatever you tell me, wish to tell me I will write it down.”
“I have no time,” Dikshitar say.
I take his leave and go away. He is a very great scholar, and when we see each other everyday, we  wave to one another.

I ask the priest who has come to circumambulate the peepal tree near the Kalpathy river where the snake circle was, and he says, "All gone, only three left." The guard at River View apartments, where I stay, tells me an insane man came and broke the ringed lamp as well as the stones. He crushed the stones with a heavy stone. He damaged the ancient stones at the Shiva temple as well.
The treasurer of the  block of Flats adjoining the river Kalpathy, says that Indra Nooyi, Pepsi Cola chief is a Kalpathi girl and has donated to the making of a gyanamandiram or meditation chamber. Pallakad was the site of debate over the Pepsi cola company using up ground water and disrupting the river sources of village people. Nooyi's grandfather, Justice Narayanan was from Kalpathy, so her mother gave three lakhs and a plaque which is inscribed in his name.

Mr K.N. Lakshmi Narayanan speaks with me.  He runs a kiosk for telephones, and a courier service, and is the local historian, with a website, kalpathyviswam. com. He is on the managing committee of the Music Festival in Kalpathy, which is an annual feature, taking place during the Ter or Car festival in November, when the village becomes the centre of attraction for pilgrims and tourists. He retells the story of the origin myth of Kalpathy a little differently from the previous version of the 2006 telling. This time he tells me that the agraharam formed because, there were mass migrations of Tamil Brahmins because of invasions by North Indians, from Tanjore, and this included the coming of Muslims. Mr Narayanan says, "The Namboodris were refusing to serve the Rajav, because one of the members of the royal family had a liason with a tribal woman. Because of the incoming migrations, the Rajav was pleased to recruit the Tamil Brahmins as priests, where the Namboodiris no longer served him." Mr Narayan speaks about the start of the Music festival in Kalpathy. He says that,

“It started in 1986 or 1987. Gigi Thompson was the Collector. He helped me. We collected money for the event. The Collector was the chairman, TVS Sundaram was the co-ordinator. Later the Government, then Department of Tourism got involved. For the first few years, we had to struggle. Government give us more money.
For the last two years, we have had only Carnatic Music, no dance performances, though in the early years, we did have dance as well. As you know, dance and music are temple arts. The Car Featival is not yet a National Festival. Puri, Jagannath Temple has achieved national festival status, so has Trichur Guruvayoor. They are conducted on a larger scale. Here it is smaller, but I would say, three lakhs visit in ten days.  The decorated cars of our temples come together. The decoration is done with paper pulp, The main car is pushed by an elephant. The people put all their strength, but the elephant is necessary for the car is too big.
The festival is associated with commercial activity, and this meets the needs of the villages. For four or five centuries, Tamil Nadu merchants have been coming with cloth, vessels, pulses and return with spices. Now the marketing system has changed, everything is available everywhere. So the festival provides a market which provides glittering things, which the villagers look forward to: ribbons, vessels, women's items like bangles and such. The Ter festival  (Rath or Car) takes place on  the last ten days of the Tamil month of Epishi. The rituals echo the ones which were typical of Mayavaram, the original place from which the Kalpathy residents come from. Some people continue to visit, for every house has a kuladevam, and since rituals to the kuladevam continue, they do return to villages in Tamil Nadu. Some have property there, some have marriage relations. But this is an individual relationship with Tanjore, one cannot generalize."
Regarding the music festival, Mr K.N Lakshminarayan says that committees are formed in June and July. Shamianas are conducted in Chatapura. Auditorium named after Pallakad Mani Iyer is a little away from the village. The Music festival is a costly business, musicians are invited, but the cost is heavy, and the committee pays 8-10 lakhs for the purpose of the ten day festival.

Mr Lakshmi Narayan escorts me to the Viswanatha temple. I have never been inside before. He takes me around, where tourists and non-Hindus may go. "You have to enter a valley." We go down a flight of steps. Everything is in a process of dismantling and construction. The Kumbha Abhishekam has just been completed. The thatched shamiana has been dismantled, so have the makeshift altars built for the purpose. Huge stainless steel pillars have come up, light pink tiles roof the building , ornate woodwork with the images of gods and devotees are to be seen. "A lot of work remains to be done" Mr Lakshmi Narayan tells me, "We have spent one crore rupees." I'm not a modernist, so I feel a sense of loss that old carvings have been substituted by new ones. My daughter who is training to be a historian tells me that colonial policy did not safeguard temples in use. The inhabitants of Kalpathy believe in change and transformation, Mr Lakshmi Narayan is happy and proud of the new temple, and his website (kalviviswam. Org/kalpathy) says that a temple according to the shastras must be renovated every twelve years. It is more than twenty five years since the last time it was improved upon. There are some old carvings, the wood piled in the corener, there are ancient stone carvings of snakes and Gods under a stone pillar. They may be reintegrated later. The carpenters are at work. The temple priests are inside tending to devotees.



Amal, the 13th century  widow, who brought a “kallu” or stone from Benares, had brought a shivalingam. This is the cornerstone of the Kalpathy Viswanath temple. Adjacent to the shivalingam is the shrine of the Goddess. In the temple compound, there is a tailoring shop, also a shop selling amulets.

Interestingly, in Kalpathy, the residents knock down their houses, and watch neighhbours doing the same. One man sitting outside his house fanning himself in the hot still evening, the sky still fiercely blue and cloudless, laughed when I said to him, "I heard this settlement is 700 years old."

"Is that what they told you?"

Then very reasonably, he said, “Maybe there were people who lived here seven hundred years ago. These houses are nor more than 150 years old, in fact probably renovated much later, and very frequently. Old houses were made of mud, the living conditions were very bad, there was no air or light, they were like guhas or caves." He likes the new houses, say they are convenient, and have light and air.
A.Satish, in his article on the website newindpress.com (April 4 2008) writes of Heritage Village Turning Nightmare for Residents,


"The restriction imposed on the repairs and alterations of the houses in Kalpathy agraharam as part  of it being declared a heritage site was turning out to be a bane for the residents." No one in the Heritage village can construct or modify without a go ahead from the Municipality in consultation with the Art and Heritage Commission inThiruvanathapuram. However the subsidy of 25 percent offered by the Tourism department will be made available only to those who "are providing homestays.”

Clearly, the report says, the inhabitants of Kalpathy who find maintenance of their traditional homes expensive are disturbed by their applications for renovation lying for long periods in municipality offices.

Kerala now depends on tourism as a non-polluting industry. Much of the beauty of the natural landscape has depended on craft, agriculture, fishing, and now information technology, functioning from laboratories. Heritage sites need protection, but so do inhabitants. My own data, as well as A.Satish's show that the large amounts of money which have been spent on Kalpathy are not seen as helping the villagers. It is time, that inhabitants are taken on as representatives of Government committees and have a say collectively about what their future is.



October 2009

Kalpathy has the sense of a picture postcard. The colours are always placid and bright. The breeze blows cool, as if there was a beach close by. The houses are set in such a way, that the horizon extends and is fullfilled by the temple. Suddenly the empty road ends and there is the warmth of people and activities and lights, colour, sound, fragrances. The solitude of the street and the appearance of the crowds comes as a surprise. Somewhere the mosaic of people, men and women, of different castes and communities appears, as a map of Kerala as it is changing with urbanization. The calm and peacefulness is marked by the appearance of the cows as they desultorily walk down the lanes, rummaging in the  occasional garbage consisting of plantain leaves outside the cafetarias  - for the rest, the streets are extremely clean, the frangipani, jasmines and the parjyathi  from the previous day, lie noticeably on the streets, uncrushed by the occasional passerby.

In the evening, the families sit outside sharing gossip – front to front – as the houses are adjoining, the entire street now begins to resemble an open courtyard. Fried vadas and bhajjis or pakodas are the most frequently bought , neghbours participating in the commerce of the everyday, buying what is popularly called “tiffin” together. Perhaps because they love to eat fried foods, a great deal of this is easily available. Dosas, vadas, bondas (these are seasoned potatos, dipped in a pulse batter and fried) and a delicious sweet called adais, which is rice batter, flattened on a banana leaf, on which is placed cooked jack fruit with jaggery,  scraped coconut, and  then folded and steamed in banana leaves. A carnival sense fills the market place every evening. The temples at the end of every street are brightly lit, people thronging them, and the children playing. As it happens, a lot of Kalpathy since British  times has had people visiting from Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi or Cheenari, so “gole guppa” and “bhel puri” typically Northern delicacies or urban foods can be bought at the street corner. The Bakery has soft springy white bread, warm and delicious, trayloads of  fresh bread and buns, appearing at noon, rapidly sold at 4 p,m along with fruit cakes, treacly and sweet icing pastries in vibrant pinks and chocolates, and the traditional sponge cakes, for which Malyali bakeries are famous.  British colonial presence is to be found in all the small towns in the fresh bread and sponge cakes.The local eateries also provide rice and sambhar and  vegetables on banana leaves. The Milma supplies excellent hot idlis and vadais to the auto drivers and pilgrims who haunt the shop for good coffee and butter milk. As they say about Paris, there is never a bad meal in Kalpathy. Eswarya Mess is the most popular of these eateries, Crowds gather in the early  morning and late afternoon, happy to get large quantities of coconut chutney with their vadas and bondas. The family living adjacent to the Easwarya Mess has put up a trestle table. Easwarya continues to get its loyal Brahman clientele, but the vendors next door seem to get enough customers. Especially during the ter or rath festival in November, the profits are  substantial never mind the size or custom of the eateries, mobile or stable, for the rest of the year.


 November 2010

Kalpathy is ready for the annual “ter” or ‘rath” (chariot) festival. The agraharm prepares slowly day by day. Bamboos line the street. On these advertisements come up, banners fluttering in the wind. The houses receive the ramshackle additions with aplomb. Everything looks makeshift. Diwali is over, the ter festival is what Kalpathy looks forward to with excitement. I visit the Ayurved Doctor who practices in new Kalpathy, and has a factory in Ambikapuram, and a hospital too. They have been practicing since 1934, in Kalpathy. His father established a practice, now he, his son and daughter circulate between three clinics in Pallakad.


The Arogyadayam Ayurveda Hospital is a modern double storey house with two patients, and a clientele of outpatients. The older Dr K.K, Kumaran  vaidyan, studied with his father Vaidyan KR. Krishnan Ezuthachatn who was born in Kuthanoor village of Pallakad in 1903. In 1934, Krishnan Ezuthuchathan set up a clinic in Kalpathy. He also started the production process of the medicines used by the present doctors. Earlier they got the herbs from gatherers and foragers, who were “local people’ who went in for any kind of work: gardening, cleaning of courtyards, paddy agriculture, cement labourers. Now the government protects the right of the tribals, so the Arogdayam pharmacy buys from shops in Pallakad, and there is a main outlet in Trichur, to whom they place orders either by post or by phone.










I visit his factory. It is adjacent to his house. His wife Seethalakshmi comes out to greet me. His manager Shakkit takes me upstairs to where there is a laboratory which checks each bottle for its purity content, and it’s alcohol base content. Downstairs are the vats for boiling, and for storing distilling and for bottling.

The bottles are collected by two or three agents from New Bazaar, and then washed with soap and water, and dried in the sun. It is a small unit, occupying the floor space of one house of medium proportion (2000 square feet) Production varies by the day. The output is dependent on all the factors being in place. The laboratory check for each batch is to provide for the standardization certificate required from the government.

Seethalakshmi amma, who is the Vaid’s wife, is rolling the small balls that go into the making the cough mecicine. The Manager tells  me that he cannot explain the application and use of the medicine since these are very complex and take years to learn. The medicines (pacha maranu or herbs) come from the town, from individual shops, and are stored in big plastic buckets. Each herb is classified by its Sanskrit name, Malayalam name and Latin name. Some herbs look very similar, so they have to be identified by the specialist.
The vaid tells me on a subsequent visit that (interview 17th April 2011) that he has nine brothers, all of whom are or were practitioners of Ayurveda. Seven practice in Chennai and he and his brother inherited the  Kalpathy practice. The two brothers were very compatible, but his older sibling died very recently. They would meet often, these nine brothers, discuss cases and these were very useful for them as individual practitioners.

The temples are getting ready for the event, lots of lights, people, shops, inspite of the drizzle. The sky is very dark blue. The river is flowing fast and sure. It is very different from the summer, when the river was a mere polluted trickle, and sand miners abounded.
In every house, guests have arrived, the accumulated slippers outside doorways show how many are gathered. The children cycle in the rain, the girls wearing beautiful long silk skirts. Their mothers are dressed in flamboyant silks too, with  very old diamonds glittering in their ears. The men are less demonstrative of the suppressed excitement, but also wearing new clothes.
These rituals serve to integrate the five wards of the village.each with its presiding deity. Tomorrow at 12 midnight, there will be a meeting of raths in the street. Some say tomorrow, 12th November, others say 13th November. I am to meet  Mr Lakshmi Narayan, the local historian  and website manager, tomorrow.

November 12th 2010
The women at the river wash clothes late in the morning after the chores are over. The talk is about ration ships, electricity bills, one woman has forgotten to bring her husband’s clothes for wash. The children have lost handkerchiefs, the mothers are laughing and complaining. One mother says that her son uses his handkerchief to clean the seats of the bus, another says her daughter always gives away everything she owns – handkerchiefs, bangles, even rubbers and pencils, oh the expense of it all! They laugh a lot when engaged in a hard task. The men chat desultorily at the back, some distance away, robing and disrobing with ease. The bathing space is not divided, water weeds grow to divide the river, and while the women are to be found near the steps, the men venture deeper into the water. The women are detached, (and do not look at the men who are oiling themselves,) they slip into their petticoats and stand in the water continuing their baths and clothes rinsing, and scrubbing the younger children who have accompanied them. The young girl who is already dressed in bright blue silk, after her bath, is waiting for her mother to finish and complaining that the ants are following her. In Malayalam there is a saying,”If you have now work, go pour water for the ants.” The river is the site where the Malayalis gather, and there is a temple to Bhagavati, which has been refurbished by the Tamils, but the Malayalis all prostrate to the goddess when they are bathed and leaving the river. The Tamil Brahmin women visit Bhagavati’s temple, and the adjoining Krishna temple with their husbands every mornig and evening, but they tend not to bathe in the river, since it is not their custom. While not being antarjyatis, never the less, they prefer the calm and solitude of their homes, and the organized meetings around prayer and ritual which are so frequently available to them in someone or the other’s home. It is ter samayam, they are busy cleaning their homes, waiting for relatives, and watching the close circuit t.v which brings the streets continuously to their living room, without their ever having to step out.

  The shopkeepers in the street are beginning to stock the ribbons, buttons, clips, bells, bangles and toys. One of them is called Saladri. Portly, dark, handsome, he has spent twenty years in the Gulf, in Saudi, as a courier agent, but the work was very hard. So he shifted back to Wadakencheri and is an itinerant seller of toys at fairs. He says he was 12 years in Mumbai as well. Since he suffered from back ache from carrying loads for the courier agency he worked for, he is now happy to earn a little everyday, stay with his family, and now keeps in good health.

The day is very hot. Bright white hot. The only person venturing out in the verandah is the Deekshitar, the wisest and most learned man in the village. He  has grown older year by year, and we have not yet spoken, except to greet one another. His sole diamond in one ear gleams against his ancient creased wise face. He is the most knowledgeable of the Sanskrit scholars. Further up the street,the other person who is outside in the afternoon heat, is a woman, making a pattern on the ground. She stops to gaze at the kollam she has made, and wonders if she had made it perfectly. A man feeds a cow and chases the bull calf away. The street is completely silent. At the chemists, the shop girls are excited. It is the fifth day of the ter festival. All the divine, both gods and goddesses, from all the wards, will gather at midnight at Kalpathy Vishwanath Temple.




November 13 2010
Pushpa who cleans for me, gave a graphic account of the rath festival. “There will be crowds. Pushing and pulling. Chains snatchers and alcoholics will move about freely. For the prasadam people come from miles around. The shops will be busy. Everything that you want!”
People gathered yesterday, the 5th day of the Ter at D.K. Pattamal Street, known commonly as Chattanapuram. It is the same street in which there is the Sai Homeopathy Clinic, always bursting with patients. I had visited it in January 2007, for a moth had got in my ear, and was trapped there for  two days, and inspite of pouring oil and water, it did not die or float out. Then with some homeopathic oil and mediines, it subsided. The clinic is so popular that people visit the doctors there  from as far away as Bangalore.

The music festival at Chattanapuram is supported by Kerala tourism. The singers were well known and exceptionally talented. Each day is dedicated to the memory of a traditional musicians  13th November will be to Tyagaraja,12th November was  to Siva Pappan. The simplicity and joy of the musicians is matched by the devotion of the listeners, mainly residents of the agraharams, the women dazzling in their diamonds and silks, the men urbane and detached. They sit on plastic chairs under shamiana roofing. Local television, unblinkingly records every moment for the captive audiences at home, mainly old people and housewives.

Each pandal is embossed and decorated with the name of a patron.  Joy Allukas, the Syrian Christian gold merchant who has vulgarized Kerala’s urban landscape with his shops, has emblazonged the roof of  Kalpathy Viswanath temple itself! Bajaj has his name up on Lakshminarayan temple in old Kalpathy. The music pandal is sponsored by Mathrubhumi, and the State government to promote tourism in Kerala.

The sellers of toys, ceramics, cold drinks, picnic foods like pop corn have started to line the road, mainly tamils from bordering towns and villages of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The amulets are well worked, and the  puffed rice is of astonishingly good quality Each day brings new vendors.

At 12 midnight,  the mini raths with the gods arrive. Two from the streets adjoining Shiva-Shakti temple, known as Viswanathaswamy, and the other from the New Kalpathy Ganesha temple. The Shiva-Shakti rath is drawn by white cows with perfect horns. All the white cows look mythic, white, perfect and identical They are  quite used to the crowds, though there is some essential pulling and straining. The people have been waiting for hours, sitting on ledges outside the houses or on any odd crook of wall. There is a sense of excitement, the boys race past on cycles or in gangs, the girls are dazzling in their synthetic clothes with spangles and sequins. A new dress culture has evolved among the children: keds, t-shirts with logos and shorts for the boys, ubiquitous choodidar-kameez for the girls. Young women wear silk saris with jasmines in their hair accompanied by siblings, parents, in-laws and  husband. Families move together in large groups, many have come from other places.

The Arogyadayam Ayurveda Hospital does good business. While we are talking,  outpatients are taken by the masseurs for treatment. They are happy with the treatment, and will perhaps tell others. The   Doctor’s wife shows me the 2 rooms,  for resident patients, one is occupied by a foreigner, another from an old lady who is from Chitoor. Her relatives have come to meet her. She is definitely better, she says. The Doctor tells me that in Ayurveda, they treat the person, so each treatment is singular.

14th Nov 2010

Yesterday, the “chiefs’ appeared on the dias – minister for tourism, MLAs, cultural secretary, police officers. The minister for tourism has sanctioned 3 lakhs rupees for the festival. Propogation of cultural values, the importance of heritage, the celebration of religion, difference and diversity, the adaptation of traditional culture to internet and other technologies, and the significance of inter-religious, and intercommunity dialogue, were the main themes of the talks. After the speeches, Sharrat, a famous film musician who has supported classical music in films introduced a young musician who sang to a very musically enlightened audience, for three hours. He passed the test, though some said “ A novice!He sang endlessly!” and people went home satisfied at 10 p.m. The ter is out again, travelling slowly from Ganesh temple to Swaminathan temple. People continue to flow into the streets, a steady river of human beings, all excited by the presence of the Gods. The normally quiet street is packed with visitors. Rajshri tells me that during Ter. people continuously visit them, all their relatives  and friends gather together. They all eat together, Everywhere else, people return home for Diwali and Christmas, but here they assemble together for Ter. Her parents have gone to feed the visiting priests and teachers and gurus, vadayars at the temple. Since this is an age old custom.

Rajshri takes me to her house, and introduced me to her cousins and aunts. Everyone has collected here – cousins, aunts, in laws. The house is large, with glass fitted into the tiles. So a lovely dim light comes in. It is a hushed tinted light, keeping the house incredibly cool. There are no partitions, no separations, no alcoves or hidden spaces. In a joint household, everything is shared. Collective or joint living means that every room is accessible to every one else. At the back there is a large garden. It extends with adjoining gardens, to a boundary wall. Each house stands in close proximity to the the neighbours such that the wall of each house, shares bricks with the next. The Government does not allow renovation of the front part of the house any longer, inside and beyond can be renovated. Rajshri explains the route of the ter:

Shiv and Shakti have 2 ters, Ganapathy has one.
They meet in the same street in New Kalpathy
Ambikapuram has its own ter, related to Guruvayur.
Old Kalpathy has Lakshmi Narayan
Chattapuram has Krishna.

Each ter with its God or  Gods will meet the people.She says,

The main function of the Ter is to have the Gods meet the people. There are people who cannot come to the temple, so once a year, the Gods come to visit the people to see them in their homes. Rajshri says that when the Pallakad king invited them to live in the 18 villages, the migrant Brahmins had only one condition: that the ter festivals which they celebrated in their village in Mayavaram, should be celebrated in the Pallakad villages in every detail. Rajshri sends me an email circular outlining the said events. It consists of seven pages, and has a long list of recipients all having a personal interest in the Kalpathy rath festival, and mentioning the cultural music festival events by date and event.

The festival is described as starting with Dwajarohanam (flag hoisting) and ends with Rathasangamom according to the publicity circular sent by email  to several residents and diaspora Tamilians.(http:co114.coll 14.mail.live. com/mail/PrintMessages.aspx?cpids+1820f011-5bfa-1.4.2011.) To quote,
“This year, The Kalpathy Car festival is scheduled to be held from November 8 to 16, 2010/ The Dwajarohanam (Flag hoisting ) will be held on November 8th. The Ratha Sangamom will be held before the Viswanatha Swamy temple on the evening of November 16th. The main attraction of the car festival is on the last three days, i.e from 14th to 16th November 2010. On these three days the chariots are ceremoniously drawn through the streets

On the first day (14th Nov) the three chariots carrying the deities of Sree Viswanatha Swamy temple is taken out in procession. The first chariot is of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. The second chariot  is of Lord Vigneswara and the third is of Lord Subramanya. The chariots set out on Grama Pradikshanam, which is the village tour, around 10 in the morning for a small distance and continues its journey to all the 4 nearby agraharams and returns to its base on the 3rd day evening, where the Ratha Sangamom takes place.
On the second day (15th Nov) Lord Maha Ganapathy which is the presiding deity of  New Kalpathy temple is taken out on procession.
On the final day (16th November) Lord Maha Ganapathy which is the presiding deity of New Kalpathy temple is taken out on procession.
On the final day (16th November) the deities of Lakshmi Narayan Perumal of Old Kalpathy and Mahaganapthy of Chatapuram villages are taken around the villages on their chariots.
In the evening on the final day (26th Nov) Deva Ratha Sangamom – the congregation of all the chariots – will take place in front of the Sree Viswanatha Swamy Temple.”

Field Notes April 2011
On an earlier fieldwork visit,  ( Visvanathan 2006) the farmers in Kannadi village had told me that water for the fields comes from Mallampuzha dam, and that in the summer, the water is not released so that paddy cultivation suffers. Padmaja Sasi Kumar who works in the Panchayat of Kannadi says Virripu (Kharif) from June to September and Mandakkam (Rabi) November to December are the two main cropping seasons. Poonja is from February to May, and this is when the farmers are advised to go for short crop duration, 90 days, 130 days and so, or for mixed cropping seasons. Farmers are given a schedule of the water release plan from Mallampuzha. Because of fragmentation of land, unlike the Tamil Nadu farmer, who works with hundreds of acres, the Kerala farmer works with 5-10 cents, sometimes 25 cents. Labour charge is too high, so farming is actually dependent on other activity such as school teaching, employment in private firms or government service. It is supported not only by mixed cropping (coconuts, arecanuts, yams, banana) but also keeping of cattle and fish in ponds or in rice fields. Earlier Bharatapuzha had water, now rivers are drying up because of plants and trees which are not cleared, and mining which aggravates the condition, paddy lands converted into real estate, so no water drains into the soil but is cemented up, December 15th onward water is released from the Dam.
Mallampuzha Dam is a recreational site where families gather for picnics. The water supplies Pallakad town with drinking water, so in the summer months, there is no diversion to Agriculture, but only piped to the town. The water is locked in, it is a peaceful lake, fenced off from tourists. Against the backdrop of the sky and the  Nilgiris, the water is beautiful  expanse of clear blue. There is an electric wire trolley car which gives an aerial view of the dam, a snake museum and an aquarium, and a garden which is closed for renovation. There is most significantly a temple to Hidimba, rakshasa wife to Bhima.
Colonel Venugopal who has accompanied me to the dam on my first visit speaks of the case for highlighting the exclusion of the brahmans in modern times for reasons believed to do with the punishing  of traditional hegemony.
“Though there is no evidence of the Tamil Brahmins’ criminality, he has been excluded from all things economic  or beneficial, particularly in Tamil Nadu.”  The diaspora Tamil often communicates why poverty made them leave their villages, compounded by the ignominy of state neglect because they are upper caste. Colonel Venugopal has published an account of a Pallakad Brahmin family centred around his mother, called Ittyamma. His father was an entomologist in the employee of the king. Once he asked his father for one anna to buy a pencil of German make, because the poor boys in the class got free books, new pens, but since he was a scientist’s son, he was excluded. He longed for a pen, his father agreed to give him the money to buy one. When he went to school, his friends said “Lets buy peanuts instead.” Before he knew what was happening, he was persuaded. A large quantity of peanuts was bought and distributed among the boys. Trailing home he went to his father’s laboratory and asked his father’s assistant to  loan him a pencil. When his father came home, he asked to see the new pencil, so Venu showed him the pencil.  His father said, “This is a glass marking pencil.” (interview 18.4.11) Sanjay Subramanium, David Shulman and Narayana Rao, while discussing the emergence of folktales in Tamil Nadu, write that  The poor Brahmin pits his wit, lies and survives. The folktale is a parody of, not a foil to high caste, Sanskritic modes. Parody pivots on a hinge that swings in two directions, both towards and away from the subject. Satire works in a linear fashion. Parody mingles domains and superimposes or interweaves contrasting visions, including competing notions of the real. There is real kingship and there is illusory kingship. Both wield power. What are the contexts in which we can see parallel  structures at work? (Naryana Rao et al pg 21)
The Pallakad raja and the tamil Brahmin are the two subjects of  analyses, in this legendary motif, but on the other hand, we cannot understand agriculture without the serf, who wins in the end….as in the disestablishment of Cocoa Cola in Pallakad.

23.5.11
The Mallampuzha dam was   established in 1956 as part of India’s development project. It provides drinking water to Palakad town, and water to the farmers, from November to March. From April onwards, the Dam water is released on specific  days. Mr Shekhar, the engineer who speaks to me has been trained in Mar Athanasius Engineering College in Ernakulam.
There was a conference going on the day that I visited (19.4.11) So, while I was not permitted  to attend the meeting (in fact so confidential that the engineers were locked in! )  I was informed that the discussion was around the question of increased surveillance, cctv cameras etc. There has been no trouble, the dam site is peaceful. It is a “large dam” for Kerala, but in comparison to others in India, a small dam.  People (large numbers come from all parts of Kerala and Tamilnadu) are  threatening agitation because the garden is closed for renovation. There are many people from Tamil Nadu who come to the Dam after visiting Kanayakumari  and Guruvayur and other temple sites. Busloads of gaily dressed peasants, including honey mooners arrive, and visit the pleasure booths (rides, food, lucky dip  and toy stalls.) There is a fish aquarium and a snake zoo. Since it is ticketed some of the poorer citizens sit despondently but still, the dam conveys a sense of a leisure zone.

On the way back I caught a bus to Kalpathy. The old woman sitting next to me was in traditional Syrian Christian dress: white mundu or sarong, and white shirt or jacket, and a cotton drape  over it, also white. I asked her, “Are you alone?” She pointed to a boy at the back. He was about 14 years old. “Isn’t it too hot to come to a tourist site?”  I ask her conversationally.She looked back at me blankly.
“I live here.” She said.
 “Where?” I was totally puzzled.
“Behind the dam. In a village called Annakallu (Elephant Stone). Elephants still come down the hill. We have to fence it. The agriculture is good. We grow everything that we did in Naadu (that is Kerala before 1956). Its not hot here, the cool breezes come down  the hill. The rain falls, and we have planted many trees. We came from Moovatapuzha and bought the land cheaply 35 years ago from farmers who feared the Dam. I am going for an eye check up. My son will meet me in  Pallakad. The boy accompanying me is his son, my grandson, training to be a Kappiar ( a deacon). We belong to the Patriarch of Antioch’s party. No, he cannot visit us, since there is a war. He will be killed if he comes by sea. (I think she must be remembering the story of the Jacobite bishop who was killed in 1664 at sea by adversaries when he made a visit to see faithful followers of the Antiochene rite) He could come through the forest. People of all religions, Hindu Muslims and Christians live peacefully in Annakalu.”
I had to leap off the bus, since, the agraharam  of Kalpathy where I stay had come.



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