The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Palakkad Chapter is doing yeoman service to preserve the heritage of Palakkad district of Kerala. To give a brief overview of INTACH before knowing the initiatives taken by the community in Palakkad is worthwhile.
INTACH was formed as a registered society way back in 1984. Since inception till now, there are around 1985 chapters pan India. The logo was finalised the following year and in 1989 conservation plan of Ekamra Kshetra was initiated. What is more, in 1991 the conservation plan for Ujjain Heritage Zone was kick-started. The construction of the new headquarters building was initiated in 192-93. The INTACH Environmental Award was instituted in 2000 and three years later, the Chapter guidelines were laid.
Coming back to the Palakkad Chapter of INTACH, there is this vibrant community under the able guidance of Arun Narayanan, the Convenor of INTCH Palakkad Chapter. In fact, INTACH Palakkad Chapter has a Community website on Facebook with around 4K followers. The Chapter organises periodic heritage tours across the Palakkad district on various themes.
Songs of Valluvanad Tour
The recent tour, consisting of 34 people, perhaps the most varied group INTACH Palakkad Chapter would have hosted so far, went on what turned out to be the most enjoyable experience of its heritage tours, says Arun. The group set out on a tour on a sedate Sunday to scan the splendid scenes of the cultural cauldron of Palakkad, the Valluvanad region. Valluvanad is known for its rich cultural heritage and the beautiful Malayalam dialect spoken in the region inspires real awe.
“We were privileged to experience five wonderful performance forms of the Valluvanad region in historic locations that were, in one way or the other, connected to those traditions.”
While elaborating on the Valluvanad Tour, Arun spoke about Tholpavakoothu, the amazing leather puppetry form at Kavalappara, neighbouring to the Aryankavu, historically the most important destination for this art form. The award winning artists including Lakshana Pulavar, Vishwanatha Pulavar and their ensemble staged a wonderful show for the community to see and rejoice. Although, it was a miniature performance of the full version was shown there, nevertheless, that had enough vibrancy, drama and fun.
The Thopavakkoothu was organised at the Kavalappara Smaraka Vayanashala and that was preceded by a context-setting talk on the history of the Kavalappara Swaroopam by the local chronicler, OP Balakrishnan.
“After the first leg of the tour, we then proceeded to Olappanna Mana (traditional Namboothiri family of Palakkad with a magnificent ancient house) for a lecture demonstration of the ritual form of Kalamezhuthu Paatu.”
In one of the ancient homes, called tharavad, this ritual is usually practised, two gifted young practitioners, Krishnaprasad and Gokul rendered the song and gave incredible insight to the gathering about the techniques, rituals and symbolism of this art form, which is a replete with sacred art and music.
The community then moved to Poonthanam Illam in Kizhattoor near the Palakkad-Malappuram border village of Angadippuram, what used to be the capital of Valluvanad. Angadippuram is the birth place of Poonthanam, the great devotional poet of Kerala, where the group could witness two magical performances.
The first one was Thuyilunarthu Pattu, rendered by the current Malaya Rajavu of Thrirumadhamkunnu, His Highness Balan and his spouse, who was accompanied by one of young associate as well. Balettan, as he was fondly addressed by all, began the Thuyilunarthu Paatu by describing the lore surrounding the ancient thrown of which he is the current occupant and further about the song tradition of which they are custodians.
Later Sopanam (Idaykka, a little percussion drum, used at the temples), such as Venugopal Marar and Harikrishnan few select compositions by Poonthanam including passages from the great Jnanappana to the soothing accompaniment of the Idaykka. The rendition of these two artists were so melancholic and mesmerising, which really enthralled the gathering. The rendition not only made the visitor a memorable experience but also brought to life, the devotional spirit of the Poonthanam Illam (Ancestoral house of Poonthanam).
The last leg of the tour the Malappuram (neighbouring district of Palakkad) historic Valyangadi, where the group visited more than 200 year old Thangal House. “We had an immersion not just to the Badar Pattu tradition, most associates with Mahakavi Moinkutti Vaidyar, but to the wonderful warmth of the Mapilla (Muslim) culture of the region”, Arun concurred.
Hamza Mash (Master or teacher in local parlance) and PTM Anakkara described the historic context in which Vaidyar composed his works and followed with a series of songs that were a revelation to the group. “So many people helped us so generously to help make this trip happen. Our deepest gratitude to Balettan and Raju at the Kavalappara Library, Navaneeth and Sankaranarayana Ettan at Olappamanna Mana, Suresh, Superintentdent at the Guruvayur Devasom and Sadanandan, caretaker at the Poonnthanam Illam for permissions and Ibrahim who hosted us at their beautiful home in Malappuram. All the performers went out of the way to make it a memorable day for us – we can’t thank them adequately”, Arun added.
As part of promoting the long lost traditional games of Palakkad, like Lahori or ezhu chillu or Seven Stones, the INTACH Palakkad Chapter had a video posted this awesome nostalgic game, where kids revel on it.
Similarly, there are several languages and dialects in Palakkad district, where each province, people speak in different languages and dialects. You can hear, Malayalam, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu and other languages. In the bordering villages of Palakkad, people talk in chaste Tamil, while the Palakkad Brahmins talk in a peculiar way.
The Rawther Muslim community too speaks in Tamil. The mother tongue of Irula tribe, natives to the Attappadi Hills is called Irulaa and it is a mixed dialect consisting of Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. The Naidus, very small community in Palakkad and they speak in Telugu, so does Jangama Sangham, known as Pandarams, they too speak in Telugu.
In 2007, when the birth centenary of the late Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu an AIADMK Founder, MG Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR was celebrated on January 17, the small tiled house from where the legendary matinee idol began his stride to stardom and the eventual Chief Minister’s chair. The house is located at Vadavannur, near Kollengkode in Palakkad. The Maruthur Tharavad is in a dilapidated condition and thanks to the collective initiative, it was restored and turned it as his memorial. When you enter the house, Sathya Vilasam name plate can be seen, which was named after MGR’s mother Sathyabhama. For few years, this house was run as Anganwadi by the Panchayath as the relatives of MGR relocated to Palakkad town, entrusting this house to the Panchayath. Recently, the AIADMK functionaries visited the house and assured all help to restore it.
The INTACH Palakkad Chapter played a significant role in kicking off a year long village heritage celebrations in memory of MGR with the aim of giving a glimpse of his life and achievements to the next generation. Thanks to the efforts of INTACH, the group is contemplating on establishing a museum/cultural centre in the village along with holding annual festival.
Another nostalgia of Palakkad is the grand old Jayasri Typewriting institute, where almost 90% of the town folks would have a brush with it. Operating for ages, Jayasri Typewriting Institute evokes nostalgia among the citizens of Palakkad. Rows of Halda and Remington typewriters, where students sit and drum the typewriters in uneven pattern of sounds.