pachai maamalai pol mene

Sunday, May 23, 2010

kakka raman and abisravanam


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.

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