KAKKA RAMAN AND ABHISHRAVANAM
Have you heard about the abhishravanam? At least till about some thirty years ago, in the houses of affluent pattars, when there was ceremonial offering of food to the learned Brahmins on Occasions like Sraadhdham etc., a large number of laukeeka Brahmins will be invited to sit in a separate place within the earshot of the elite purohitas partaking in the ceremonial feast and chant some manthras and sookthas (such manthras were also called abhisravana manthras). The loukeekas whose level of knowledge of the vedic sookthas and chants was big zero ( this includes our hero kakka rama also) would have learnt such chants by just having heard it being uttered repeatedly by many of their professional colleagues and it was an exercise of parrot-like repetition. Besides some poor Brahmins who could not get to chant the verses in spite of all earnest attempts and the new entrants to the profession who were yet to memorize the abracadabra would also sit in the group and either move their lips or just utter some inarticulate words ensuring that the voice was kept so low that others would not know what these people were uttering. The ordinary onlooker's impression will be that the elite scholars were chanting something in deep meditation. Anyway this exercise was carried through because the abhisravana pattar would be also given some dakshina (may be four annas or if they were lucky enough eight annas). If they were extremely lucky, they may be offered a meal also as samaaradhana , after the ceremony. It was the convention that any Brahmin could come and sit in the group even without being invited and he also received the dakshina. So, the crowd in those days could be quite huge and some pompous householders who wanted to show off their devotion in religious matters would use all means at their disposal to restrict the number of abhisravana pattars to keep in control their expenditure by way of dakshina. In some cases the pattar of the house would closely watch the poor Brahmins chanting and with great dexterity, would identify the hapless lipmovers and new entrants and openly insult them and ask them to get out..instead of dakshina the poor soul would be abused with the words like, "Peera pattarey, enna oye, neer pulinguru, pulinguru ennu japikkarathukku omakku naan kaasu tharanamaa? Edatha kaali pannum . (to translate –"you wretched pattar, you are chanting something repeatedly like "pulinguru" [the tamarind seed---please just note, the word is magical, when you repeat the word silently moving your lips there will be very hectic lip movements creating a profound impression on the person who is watching], instead of the manthras and for this have I to pay you money? You immediately get out of here).
Now this is the background of a funny but costly tiff between our hero and a so called prominent grihastha in our agraharam.
The prominenent pattar was a " mookkillaa rajyathey murimookkan rajaavu" ( in the country of people without noses, the solitary man who has a small lump in the place of nose will be honoured as king) of our agraharam. One cannot but be skeptical about his credentials as a devout Brahmin.. the mama had at least on public sambandham (it was a practice among prominent pattars to have affairs—not exactly marriage, with ladies of communities like nairs and ambalavasis in addition to their own submissive mamis) in which he sired quarter of a dozen of nair children in addition to his near a dozen progenies through his Brahmin sahadharmini…and his overtures to greener pastures even in the upper middleaged status of his life had earned him the fame as a local don juan. But he wanted to flaunt his affluence by celebrating religious ceremonies etc., in the most noisy way with the least expenditure. On one such occasion, our Kakka Rama Iyer was the victim of a similar tonguelash as mentioned above, and this was all the more insulting to our hero because the grihastha concerned was a relative of the grama vaadhyar (the village priest) and this incident created some serious loss in our hero's profession for livelihood which included attending such religious ceremonies and receiving the pittance of dakshinas involved. Our hero, by nature is very good-natured but his pride (whatever it is) and his means of livelihood (a still more obscure thing) were affected and he was raring to get even with his tormentor.
Our hero got his opportunity. The vaideekas and loukeekas of almost all the agraharams around kalpathy usually met every day in front of Kshipra ganapathy temple just Opposite the famous muniappan kada(shop) at the ther mutti (the place where the celebrated car(Ratham) of Viswanathaswamy is parked on days other than the three days of the car festival.) and exchanged notes, and the loukeekas would be invariably present because it was here that they were informed about their job opportunities for the succeeding days, whether it was some pooja , sraadhdham, hiranyam, etc. The main vaadhyars chalked out the duty roster for the lesser mortals, and these were ocaasions where they exhibited their superiority and suzerainty over the latter souls. One heartening feature in the whole process is that the noble vaadhyars of those days never demanded a kickback on the daksinas received by junior vaadhyaars or loukeekas, whose cases were referred to by them,
It was on one such day and there was a sraadhdham in the house of the VIP pttar of our agraharam who had become the enemy of our hero. As luck would have it, our grama vadhyar was not present for the summit of the day and snatching the opportunity, our hero spread the hush and anonymous news that there was a sraadhdham at the house of …Iyer and for abhisravanam, the dakshina would be five rupees per head and many vaideekas were specially attending... Remember fiver rupees forty years ago was a very substantial sum.
The Sraadhdham day dawned. By 9 AM one could see a long parade of vaideekas (and also loukeekas) most of them clad in pompous somans and angavastrams , sporting prominent viboothi pattais or pattai namams, making a beeline to the house of the VIP grihastha.. The grama vadhyar who was present in the house and was preparing the day's schedule for the sraaddham and the VIP pattar were both surprised at the flow of such an elite crowd to the household. The professional colleagues of the grama vaadhyar informed him in whispers that they had all come for the abhisravanam and they knew how important it was since the dakshina was five rupees per head. The duo, the VIP pattar and the grama vadhyar were flabbergasted for a moment. A wrong news has been spread. However the fact remained that there was sraadhdham there and there was abhishravanam also. And the scholars who had come were all very learned, and at least to save his face the VIP pattar could not deny the news. The mama had to shell out five rupees each to at least the elite vaideekas, and the number of such persons in Palakkkad at that time was quite substantial.
Kaakka Raman had taken revenge for his disgrace.
Sraadhddham the annual death ceremony in honour of dead parent. Done every year on the same Tithi(the solar phase) and month of death
Loukeeka Brhahmanan the Brahmin who assists in ceremonies but does not have the complete knowledge of mantras and prayogas as the vadhyar
Dakshina money given as remuneration or gift for participating in religious ceremonies
Samaradhana Group meals
Grihastha One who is living in a house in agraharam, especially the head of the household. Now it can be applied to anyone running a family anywhere in the world.
Agraharam In an agraharam the houses are arranged in two straight rows opposite one another and at the farthest end of the street there will be a temple. An aerial look at the formation will give the picture of a garland with the temple at the place of pendant. See the aerial photo attached
Sambandam High caste people like pattars and namboodiris having marital or extra marital relationships with ladies of not so low casted…the ladies will be usually from nairs or ambalavasis. The children born will take the lady's caste/
Sahadharmini ones own house mami (the wife properly married to )
Vaadhyaar The learned person who leads in conducting religious ceremonies
Grama Vaadhyar In good old days a vadhyar was assigned the charge of a whole agraharam in conducting the religious ceremonies. His authority as the Guru was immense. He was virtually a family member of all.
Sekharipuram Agraharam Double street with Lasksminarayanaswamy temple at the left end.