Sunday, September 6, 2015

Chelakkara -My village in Kerala, seventy years back

Chelakkara -My village  in Kerala, seventy years back

(Known in  the village  as Raja during those  times)

These  are  Random thoughts of an old man .There  is no order  in them and by no means  it is complete .I am sure  there would be mistakes   If you belong to Chelakkara  Gramam  and  find any mistakes in what I write do correct it   and  write other facts  which you remember.
   My village    was a part  of the Thalapilly Taluq  of Cochin  state  , which was  the rice granary  of Kerala. The nearest Railway station was Wadakkancherry  and the nearest  town was Trichur . It was located   inside   the valley of Machattu mountain. The area  where Brahmins lived in the village   was called for some peculiar  reason  Chelakkara  Gramam. Chel in Malayalam means  pretty   and Kara   meant the place   where Nair  houses  were situated.It seems before Tamil Brahmins settled there  , the entire Chelakkara Gramam belonged to Nairs..In the middle of the Gramam   there is a very huge Narasimhamurthy temple  belonging to a Nambudiri family .All round the temple Brahmins lived in houses   with compounds round it  . My father had told me that  one Brahmin gentleman  from a nearby village called Thonnurkkara   was the first to settle in the village  ,He it seems had seven daughters   and once they were given in marriage  the  son in laws  who came   from different Palakkad agraharams  preferred to   stay in this pretty village . This family was the seed family of the village. Their relations   from their native villages   and    teachers who came on transfer  to the old government schools  settled   there itself. When I was a boy there  were  about 120  brahmin houses  in Chelakkara  Gramam. Though most of the people were poor, some families were  relatively rich. At that time I remember that   there were , an engineer, a doctor  ,A vertinary doctor  , an overseer  ,  4-5 graduates , a post graduate   in mathematics and  even a doctorate  in mathematics . Five brahmins   in the village were having   shops in the village  itself , out of which two were provision stores   , one ran a cloth store and another  was a newspaper  dealer as well as agent   for school books and stationary, and  one was running  a copper vessel store.  Two families were  village priests , two were astrologers  and atleast 3-4 families were cooks  by profession. Ofcourse   there was a Menon Sami(Menon is a post in  Revenue department),  two were retired registrars , one was a musician   and 5-6 people were teachers  in high school as well as in elementary schools around  the village .Interestingly one Brahmin of the village   was a professor of mathematics  in Trichur, his father   was the Principal   of the University college Trivandrum,. Even at the time one Brahmin was running  a  Nellu Kuthu  Company (paddy pounding company) in the outskirts of  the village  and his brother was a freedom fighter. Many of the families owned small pieces land  and  they were  essentially absentee land lords.  Large number of people were working or owning hotels in different cities in India. The village was not electrified. There  were plenty of buses  coming from Trichur which were going to Pazhayannur.  There were two doctors practicing just outside the village .  There used to a gentleman called  Nondi Asan who used to come to all homes   and teach the   young kids , Malayalam, sanskrit etc.There  was a  government high school as well as  a private girl’s school . One brahmin gentleman was a famous Ayurvedic doctor and his brother was   running a typing shorthand institute. Most of the people   used to complete SSLC  in local school , study in the typing Institute  and leave   for Mumbai , where  a Brahmin  gentleman   of the village   was  running  a hotel. He used to accommodate   all the boys going from the village  till they get the job and collect the dues later . Thus a very large number of people of the village   became prosperous   by working in Mumbai.  I always think that   the Brahmins of the  village should erect  statutes to the gentleman who ran the typing institute in the village and to the one who ran the  hotel in Mumbai , because  but for them , my village would be still poor. There   was also a Kamban kudi family   which had settled down in the village. A Psharodi family which   takes care  of  supply of flowers to the temple and Embrandhiri family which used to do Pooja in the temple were also part of the village.
A pappada Karan (man who made Pappad  for living and a chakan   who   expelled oils) who were both not Brahmins lived   within the Gramam. It was one of  the first village  to have a Pakka  cinema theatre called Sankar Talkis owned by a Brahmin . In the lowest class of that theatre , eople have to sit on the  floor (THara ticket).After  every reel is shown, there  used to be a break   and a cinema used to consist of several such reels.
      I still remember  an old Tailor   called  Ponnusamy chettiar  and a  tailor for relatively rich called Damodaran  in the Chelakkara Angadi   who were   the only  tailors  used by the village,. There used   to be two Barbers called Appu Kuttan and Madhavan    serving the Brahmins of the   village .There used to be two doctors DR.Antony and DR,Madhava Menon who used to treat   all  the Brahmins of the village .There used to be a maternity Nurse  called Lakshmi Kutti Amma   who was   always serving the village  Brahmin ladies. There used to be two post offices   at that time in the village, of which one was a post office of Cochin state  (Anchal office)   and  a British post office.
 A Narasimha Murthy temple   which  belonged to a Nambudiri   family was  situated  in the centre of the village  .The God was considered as  a Vara Prasadhi because   even at that time A sait from Gujarat     had built a huge entrance to the temple .I understand that  this temple was attacked by Tippu Sultan , who broke   the statue of the temple and threw  it in the temple tank.Later a  new idol was got made  and consecrated .The temple had also a  Ganapathi sand Satha sub temples. All people believed that  by breaking 120 coconuts to that Ganapathi and distributing   it to the  Brahmins in the village all their problems can be solved. Elephants never used to enter this temple as it was believed that  they would die on entering the temple . The Brahmins had got made a small chariot which they used to draw round the temple.The Brahmins also had  a SAmooha Madam constructed   at that time   for their use  . Several free feasts .Nava Rathri  in the temple   was being  celebrated in a grand manner .Frequently  Harikathas   as well as Sampradaya Bhajans   were being held at the temple   All Brahmins used to take bath in the village tank   or  the THodu (stream)  near by   , go to the temple and then only started  their activities.where  Free feast was being arranged at least on five to six days annually . There used to be a temple tank  and a  pond belonging to the Samooham , which were rarely used for bathing   during those times.
      Adjacent to the village  there was a village  of Tamil speaking  Muslims (called Ravuthars) and telugu speaking Nayakkars, Outside the grammam,  there were localities where  Tamil speaking chettiars  lived. Apart from  them  people of all castes  and religion  lived in this village  .I still vividly remember  how the ladies of Pathu Kudi (umma) used   to go the forest and bring either firewood  as well as Bamboo thorn  and sell them  in the evening .The male Ravuthars used to come to village buy small quantities  of  paddy, take it home , pound it and sell  to the shop owners. The Naikkars were   essentially well diggers   who used   to go  to any distance to dig wells..Several Nair ladies came   as maid servants in the Brahmin house holds.  We children were very close to these  maid servants.
    Water was a big problem in the village   during  summer .During some seasons, only one house in the village had water in the well and we used to go  at least a km to get water. Ponds in the village used to get dried.All people used to walk three  to four km daily to take  bath in the pond of the famour Temple Anthimahakalan Kavu.
      Brahmins  used to live in clusters  in near by villages  caked Venganallur , where  there used to be a huge Shiva temple , Pulacode where  there   is A karthyayani temple   and Kolathur  , where there used to be a  Aubramanya templw.There  used to a priests   family  living  in KOlathur

   Now things g have changed .Most of the Chelakkara  Brahmins have become prosperous .I even met a boy from Chelakkara who had a Ph.D  from Harward  in law.  Though there are hardly 10-15 Brahmin families now   living in Chelakkara  Gramam .,the entire population of the village   assemble there   during festivals in the Narasimha  murthy temple.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks very much for writing this blog. My maternal grandmother JanakiAmmal grew up in chelakkara. She is the sister of the freedom fighter Ramchandra Iyer and the rice mill owner Mahadeva Iyer. She told me her stories of growing up in chelakkara and taking bath in the temple pond. My parents are in chelakkara now attending the dwadasi villaku celebration. She lived in Trichur and was married to the youngest son of Ramchandra Iyer, R.V.Venkatarama Iyer of Trichur.

My granny taught me to cook several of the recipies that you have included in your blog and also used to say the Villaku sthothram. I started chanting the sthothram last year after reading your translation almost a year after she passed away in 2013.

My grandparents blessing has helped me make it well in life. Although not a direct chelakkara descendant, I am blesses to have connections with this village.

I am hoping to visit this village in the future.

God bless you for your memoirs.

Parvathy Iyer
[Writing from USA]

P.R. Ramachander said...

Meppadam Mahasevan Mama , Ramachandra mama etc are distant uncles of my father whose mother belongs to Placode.Meppadam Mahadevan mama's son SAnkaran is living very near my home in Bangalore .

docrrp said...

Thank you sir for the nostalgic write-up. My grandfather AP Bharatha Pisharody was the HM of the local School SMT High before he retired in 1965. I too have wonderful childhood memories of the quaint little village of Anthimalan Kave. Thank you sir again .