What was inside the old trunk steel box?

Pradheep said that there is chance of getting a metal anklet from his grand - father's home. I was stunned! Why there should be an anklet? Let us visit  the great Kodungalloor city during red hot summer to understand why we searched for an anklet?

The unique most annual festival :

It is towards the March end , Kodungalloor temple hoists its scared flag to announce the annual festival. Before that people from all over Kerala and some parts of Tamil nadu start their journey towards Kodungalloor town. Most of them gather and start walking for many days.

These devotees belong to the most ancient tribal south Indian communities of the state. They are generally called as '' Bharani kaarar''., meaning '' people who comes for Bharani festival''. Kodungalloor annual festival is well known as '' Kodungalloor Bharani''.

Scared to see them , but they are harmless:

These devotees are very different looking in the way of dressing, talk, life style and culture. I got scared when I saw them . Men also resemble women. They are very rough and tough in talk and behavior.

They wear pure crimson color dress. The dress has 2 pieces. One piece adorns the waist with fleets. Another piece covers the chest like  X - stripe. The waist is decorated with leather belt stitched with brass, bronze bells and balls . They cling together and make loud sound. They wear thick heavy bronze anklets. I admire how they walk?

They hold a long steel sword and also hold an anklet and their hairs fly around the shoulders and they smear their body with turmeric and saffron pastes. Very often they meditate Kannagi and go into trans form  . They foretell and attract a great mass and collect money and grains for their survival.

They make noise and chants many secret syllables. When they travel, they stay in many villages and do rituals, magical foretells and cure diseases also. They stay in homes where they are received and respected. Families which welcomes them offer food, clothing and grains for the year.

Slowly they reach Kodungalloor town and start settling in the outskirts of the town and temple. On ''Aswathi day '' , the day before Bharani day the climax of the festival happens. If we see the festival with background of Silappathikaram , we can relish the divinity of the sacred most festival.

The sexy songs with the mastered mind and gestures:

People who come for Bharani festival holds long small sticks and sing sexy songs. The songs are very very sexy and if we listen they sense nonsense also. But there is no one in the festival performs uncontrolled gestures. This shows  the body  -- mind control of the devotees.

Some of the great leaders of Kerala have strongly protested against this festival but nothing has stopped this festival till today. They sing these obscene songs and come around the temple and throw coins, rupees and even ornaments made of gold and silver. They offer cocks and sheeps also. In olden days they have sacrificed animals but now only red cloths are spreaded on altar. Turmeric powder will be showered along with pepper. The whole town enjoys the festival. But they never get into the temple. Because it is closed and secret rituals will be performed inside the sanctum.

The sun burns the whole town, humidity shoots up. Around 2 to 3 P.M the most  sacred and important event takes place. It is called '' Kaavu Theendal''.

Kaavu theendal:

A goldsmith from a low caste family will be called to touch and temple bell and he rings for 3 times. Immediately every body just rushes and start running around the whole temple complex with the sword and anklets. This is the main event of the Bharani festival.

Interpretation of Kaavu theendal :

The goldsmith in Madurai played the horrible role in Kannagi's life. So their community has surrendered to her and must have settled in Kodungalloor city after her installation by the  Chera king. They must have dedicated them self  to Kannagi and accepted to perform this ritual.

This event will be published in all local newspapers. The timing will be also recorded and people watch in local channels. That evening , the main rituals will be offered to Kannagi and the temple will be opened for the devotees.

The sacred sandal paste:

During the secret rituals pure sandal paste and turmeric powder will be smeared on the broad breasts of Kannagi. This is to cure her wounds on breats when she tore to curse Madurai. This paste is considered to be very very  sacred and people compete  to get at least a pinch of it.

Next day is the Bharani day. But all the rituals will be done in secret and temple workers starts cleaning the temple complex.  Then why it is named as Bharani?

Bharani - star of victory:

In ancient Tamil country Bharani [ one among the Indian constellation ] was dedicated to Maha Kali [ goddess of war ]. Kings has commenced their war on this day. Elaborate rituals will be performed to Maha Kali and the war will start. So this star has been chosen to celebrate Kannagi's victory over the dishonest emperor.

Bharani literature:

One of the ancient literature style is Tamil language is  '' Bharani''. It can be compared to the modern video show and live telecast of wars. The poets gather in the battle field and start singing in praise of the king's braveness. If the king or any warrior kills 1000 elephants in the war the poet will compose that brave event in the form of Bharani literature. There are many  Bharani literary work in Tamil. But the literary concept has been shaped out as a festival involving people from all communities in Kodungalloor.

The Bharani star has been selected because to show Kannagi's braveness in killing the Pandiya king. All most most of the Kerala Kali temples observe this particular star to celebrate the annual festival in various months. Keral must feel proud in holding very ancient Tamil traditions. The Malayalam language is the mutated form of very old Tamil and Sanskrith. But still very old Tamil terms and cultural aspects are preserved in Malayalam and Kerala. I always feel happy to listen to it and live there. In Tamil nadu after many invasions there are so many changes in language and culture.

Why Kodungalloor Bharani falls during summer?

It is to realize Kannagi's braveness hotter than the sun? From January till April south Indians have time to relax after their long span of agriculture. By June Kerala enjoys its heavy monsoon and people have to concentrate in agriculture. Kodungalloor was the capital city and the king must have planned  for a vast festival and people from all over the country has to reach the town. So summer has been selected to celebrate this festival. Most of the Bharani devotees belong to agricultural back ground.

So in Kerala most of the Hindu families of particular communities have sword and an anklet as the symbol of Kannagi cult . So Pradheep also went and searched for an anklet and finally we too found an anklet.

It is made of bronze and very heavy and make loud noise  . The anklet is having an emblem of conch and it is smooth. So once in Pradheep's family ancestors have observed fasting and gone for Bharani festival inside the town. We gave the anklet to his uncle and polished it and brought it to Madurai. So an anklet which changed Kannagi's life has come back to Maduari. We placed that it our shelf and offered flowers and did regular prayers.

What is an anklet ?

Anklet is called '' silambu'' in Tamil. Women wear this anklet as an ornament in their feet. Usually anklets will be made of light silver, gold or alloy. It will be decorated outside or just will be plain. Most of the anklets look alike. Inside  the anklets people put gems, pearls or any other gem stones which make sound.

Kannagi's father was a great merchant. He has traveled across many  nations and gathered lot of wealth. So he has put precious gems inside her anklet. This made Kannagi to think about them for selling.

Pandiya kings were the owners of many pearl farms across east coast. They were exporting pearls all over the world. So he has put pearls inside the queen's anklets. This made Kannagi's intellect to think about the case . The pearls and the gems are the symbol of '' honesty and truth''. The anklets has proved Kannagi's husband as an innocent man and made her to bring out the truth.

So after Kannagi's life I think Tamil women stopped wearing these anklets and today they wear a different ornament. So we felt very very proud in having an anklet in our family. That too only one anklet will be there in  all homes. Because Kannagi took only one anklet and walked towards the king's court.

Dr.Madeswaran

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