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Mukkunnimala: A Travel to The Land of Penance


Abstract

Wayanad, a district which forms an important part of the Western Ghats in South India, has the habit of hiding her beautiful sights and her past stories. This paper mainly talks about, “Manukkunnumala” (Manikkunnumala) which is an example of that. It is a hill that controls and influences the eco systems of Wayanad. This hill is one of the most ecologically fragile regions of Wayanad catering to the lives of large variety of species and it is like the backbone of Wayanad.

Maha Rishi Manu (The spiritual son of Brahma) had done penance here. This place is protected by some other temples and mythical histories around the foothills of the mountain. This district is a peaceful and serene place where even the slightest trouble cannot be tolerated.

However nowadays Wayanad is not really protected by the administrative or the constitutional laws. The outbreak and other natural disasters in many parts of Wayanad in 2019 are the consequences we have faced in losing those rituals and traditions. Only because of these cultural factors, the hill is still not destroyed even after the mining lobbies trying to eat up the hill.

Hence an interesting point that is brought out through this paper is that the cultural rituals and beliefs that have become part of the lifestyle of the people are the real factors that preserve and protect the natural sanctity of our land. At the top of the hill, there is a self-manifested (swayambhu) idol of Lord Vishnu which is over 1,500-year-old. Every year, a large number of people irrespective of caste, creed, color or gender come to see Lord Vishnu, on the day of Painkuni Uthram, a festival on the Meenam month of Malayalam Calender.

The paper also highlights the fact that these customs, rituals, and practices have originated from the Rishisankalpas (will power of the Rishis), maintaining the balance between man and nature, and also lead forward mankind throughout several generations.

Introduction

The great Rishis of ancient times brought into existence a variety of methodologies and systems of worship that are associated with landscape, geography, nature, environment, ecology, customs and human thought process using history and creativity as supporting elements. Even our epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata are circulated differently in different parts of the country based on ethnicity [1].

The legendary characters from these great epics reached every nook and corner of
this country. And they still prevail through native storytelling and other oral traditions.
When these beliefs and traditions, that every ancestor left behind for their society are put into practice by us in our daily lives, we are in fact planting a seed of our culture without realizing it.

The tradition of Kavu [2], where even venomous snakes are worshipped and hence left for free, festivals [3] connected with harvest and nature, the tradition of ‘Kolam’ [4] that feeds the ants and insects, worship of water and rivers, worship of the sun, moon, trees, etc. are instants of such traditional belief systems. A devotee pouring water to a Tulsi plant is, in fact, worshipping Lord Krishna himself.

Each of these traditions was introduced to help people realize their self, and to train them and strengthen them by removing debilitation (weakness). Besides these, each of these customs is designed to establish a link between people and their living environment (nature). Such forms of customs and traditions have helped people to live a healthy life.

Our ancestors’ wisdom was also helped us to maintain the right balance with nature. Our ancient scriptures convey that when we do our actions with the utmost care and when we do it while maintaining harmony with nature, we will acquire goodness. Think about the current situation, when planting a sapling or take care of an animal, we usually think about what benefit we gain from doing so. However, if we do it with a conviction, as a practice, then it becomes an offering to the divine. Hence when we do any of these activities as part of a tradition or belief, they become an offering to the divine.

Such traditions help us to maintain a selfless mind and to act without thinking about personal benefit. Consequently, this will inevitably lead to enjoying the action itself, and not simply its fruits. Every action that we perform will become selfless and it allows us to build a connection with our surroundings, an emotional connection. This, in turn, will inspire us to act with the utmost care and love. Our ancestors would have envisioned that in the future at one point in time people would become so egoistic (greedy) and they would try to find a benefit (profit) from any action they do.

Due to this, they have created each custom in relation to nature (environment). The greatness of the vision behind our traditions and culture is abundantly clear. Our wise ancestors saw that people tend to be greedy and would only try to look for benefits in their actions. Every single custom, every form of worship, every tradition practiced is a selfless act in itself and inspires the believer to feel an unconditional love for nature, of which everyone and everything including the believer is a part.

Our rishis united us with our day to day activities with all the living beings in one or the other manner. The birds, animals, trees, hills and mountains, rivers, ocean are all a part of our life. It is easy to reject all this as superstitious beliefs. We may still be able to protect our mother nature (environment) without considering any of this. However, we will surely lose our emotional connection with nature. And eventually, we will lose people who conserve nature due to their emotional connection and selflessness. This will also result in the degradation of the beautiful and diverse culture our ancestors gifted us.

Mukkunnimala:

It is believed that ‘MANUKUNNUMALA’ is where Maharshi Manu performed his penance (‘tapas’). It is also argued and believed by some that the name of the hill is ‘MUNIKKUNNUMALA’ where some great ‘Munis’ [5] (sages or rishis) performed ‘tapas’, during the last period of the Dwaparayuga (third out of four Yugas).

Mukkunnimala,Wayanad, Kerala

Standing on the ground of beliefs and principles, Rishis [6] (Munis) are the great men who imparted diverse/multifarious philosophies to the common people of societies through their rituals and practices and also taught these people to see all fellow beings as part of one’s own self. Along with exploring their inner selves, the Rishis contemplated and devised various spiritual practices and systems, also making sure it preserved the balance of nature. Caste, creed, or color was never a hindrance to becoming a Rishi. Among the great Rishis of Bharath, there was a very prominent sage named ‘Manu’.

It is said that, Manu was not just a single individual, but that there was fourteen ‘Manus’ existent through the fourteen Manvantaras [7]. First among them is the beloved son of Lord ‘Brahma’. Each of those Manus were also believed to be the incarnations of Lord ‘Vishnu’. Besides those fourteen Manus, the Vedas, the Puranas, and the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, also mentions about other characters in the name of ‘Manu’. In Ramayana [8], there is a sage called Kashyapa, who had a wife named Manu, while Rigveda [9] talks about a Rajarshi named Manu. Tapan (also called Panchajanya) had a son named Manu, which is cited in the Vanaparva [10] of Mahabharata, whereas Shantiparva [11] of Mahabharata mentions about a Manu who was also called ‘Prachetas’.

Harivamsha Purana, Vishnu Purana, and the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, proclaim that each of those Manus had led humanity forward in their respective lifespans / Manvantaras. The fourteen Tirthankaras in Jainism is also referred to as Manus. Nonetheless, Vedic literature like ‘Manava Grihya Sutra’, ‘Manava Sulbasutra’, ‘Manava Dharmasastra’ (also called Manusmṛti [12]), etc.reinforces the existence of Manu. In Sanskrit, the meaning of Manu includes ‘mind’, as well as ‘human’.

The countless Rishisankalpas (willpower of the Rishis) of our country conceived several customs and practices, with an understanding of the minds of people and also in compliance with Nature, to lead mankind on a sustainable way forward. The place Manukunnumala is an illustration of such Rishisankalpas.

This huge hill, with the, believed self-formed idol of Lord Vishnu at the top, the various temple locations in its valley, the associated beliefs and mythologies, each and every person who visits, the big community of habitants, the diverse flora and fauna, and the entire land itself, are all safeguarded as part of a clearly orchestrated process. The noble mind in which such foresighted notions blossomed would have belonged to the great Rishi Manu or maybe to some other great Munis.

Manukkunnumala is also known as MANIKKUNNUMALA [13] among the natives. Mani means glorious in Malayalam. Mani also means bell in Malayalam. The mountain does indeed look like a bell. The mountain has another name MANIKKUNDUMALA. ‘Kundu’ means deep pit in Malayalam. i.e. the mountain with deep pits (watered).

Wayanad:

Manukunnumala mala is situated in the Wayanad district of Kerala, which is the southernmost part of Bharath (India). The Malayalam word ‘Vayanam’ or ‘Vayunam’ [14] means temple or knowledge. The land of “Vayanam” hence means Wayanad. Temples are places of worship and abode for spiritual practices. Temples became a place (medium) not only for self-realization but also for understanding and communicating (connecting) with nature and its inhabitants. It is through temples that various art forms such as music, literature, dance, sculpture, etc. and various fields of science developed and flourished in our country.

The region was known as Mayakshetra (Maya’s [15] land) in the earliest records. Valmiki’s Ramayana (Kishkindha Kandh-50) talks about Maya’s land: Hanuman was searching for Sita Devi in the Vindhya forests and caves. He reached the southwest peaks and found a big cave there. He went inside and found a lady, after a long walk. Her name was Swayamprabha, daughter of Merusaravarni. She hosted Him with the utmost respect and told Him that the Maya King asked her to protect these beautiful caves and peaks and that she is doing this duty there.

Being an environmentally fragile area, people understood the need for protecting the soil, the hill, the air, the streams, etc., and this was possible only by establishing an innocent and emotional relationship with nature. So our ancestors tied these practices into its histories, epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Puranas and local beliefs and customs. Most places in Wayanad are associated with such beliefs. We should not be in the least bit distrustful of this.

It is because of such beliefs that a sustainable existence for mankind with nature is possible. So, the pilgrimage and rituals of Manukkunnumala have depth in concept and importance in sacral and worldly life.

Location:

‘Manukkunnumala’, a hilly forest tract located in Vythiri Taluk, spans till Meppady, Muttil Panchayats, and Kalpetta Municipality. Semi-evergreen, Evergreen & Grasslands characterizes the type of forest here. The altitude of Manukkunnumala is 1384 meters. The total area comprises of 1226.24 hectares. Manukkunnumala mountain is located in Thrikkaippetta Village and in the center of four towns called Kalpetta, Meppadi, Chundel, and Ambalavayal.

Painkuni Utharam:

The public has access to the hill-top only once a year on Uthram day in the month of Meenam – Eighth Month of Malayalam Calendar [16]. The day of festival is called as Painkuni Uthram[17] (Panguni Uthiram). The day of Panguni Uthiram is of special significance to the worship of earth element [18].

The day has much more importance in custom of agriculture also: According to local Astrological texts, Lord Bhaga [19] is a God of Uthram Star. The mantra of Uthram is ‘Aum Bhagaaya Namah’. He is one of the Dwadasa Aditya (Sun). Bhaga means the provider [20]. He is the God who provides everything. Devotees offer their prayers on the date of the star of Uthram, before they start farming.

They celebrate the first day of the following month (Medam) as Vishu [21], the festival of farming. The auspicious day of Vishu marks the beginning of agriculture calendar in Kerala and the land would witness the beginning of many agricultural activities. Cultivation of new crops commences on this day and the activities would extend to the Pathamudayam day or the tenth day from the Vishu. Vishu is celebrated as an important festival across all Vishnu temples in Southern Bharath.

Poojaris:

Poojaris (Pandits) are the priests who does the traditional rituals there on the day of pilgrimage. The Pandit of the Thrikaipatta Shiva Temple performs the pooja of the pilgrimage day. They will climb with Kuthuvilakku (lamp) and Thiruvayudham (holy weapons of the God), only after the daily morning rituals and poojas of Thrikkaippetta Shiva Temple and Kottayil Bhagavati Temple.

The Nair community representative will be in front of the team (priests) with a sword as escort. All other pilgrims will come after this team. Natives of foothills and Poojaries will carry tender coconut as an offering to the Lord.

Chanting:

‘Govindaa.. Govinda..’ hymn can be heard continuously from the throats of all the pilgrims as they ascend the mountain. Govinda [22] is the name of Vishnu. The name means Cowherd and Protector of Cows. These names are also popularly addressed to Krishna, referring to his youthful activity as a cowherd boy. Another reason for Krishna getting this name is that Krishna has protected farmers and cattle from the rain, with the help of Mount Govardhan [22].

Pilgrim:

There is no age/caste/creed/gender/class limits to make the pilgrimage. This is also a meeting place of diverse culture and caste. Generally, only menstruated women, people whose close relatives have died and people who find it physically difficult to make the travel will abstain from the pilgrimage. Pilgrims must take a three to nine days fast where they abstain from non-vegetarian food and intoxicants.

All the pilgrims will gather at Thrikkaippetta Shiva Temple and Kottayil Bhagavati Temple (Kottappadi), in the early morning itself. A team of pilgrims (from THRIKKAIPPETTA SHIVA TEMPLE) will start ascending the mountain from KAPPUKKUNNU SRIRAMA SWAMI TEMPLE, then VADIKUTHI PARA (Vadi-kuthi means the stick to be used as a support.

We can walk here only with the help of a stick), VENGA CHOLA (Venga is a plant also known as ‘Indian Kino’ tree) and NALUKETTUM CHOLA (a forest area, abode of the holy tiger, which also serves as the mount to the Lord Vishnu). The other team (from KOTTAYIL BHAGAVATI TEMPLE) will start from VANADURGA, then GOVINDA PARA and NARINIRANGI PARA. Both team will meet at THEERTHA PARA. The average time to finish the climbing is one hour and forty-five minutes, from both sides.

Kappukunnu Ramaswami Temple: 

Kappukunnu Ramaswami Temple is a Srirama (Seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu) Temple is in Thrikkaippetta Village. Devotees will start the climb after the temple visit from Thrikkaippetta Shiva Temple and then Kappukunnu Ramaswami Temple.

Vadikuthi Para:

‘Vadi-kuthi’ means the stick to be used as a support. We can walk here only with the help of a stick.

Venga Chola:

Venga is a plant also known as ‘Indian Kino’ tree. This is a forest type of area with trees and small water brooks.

Nalukettum Chola:

It is a forest type of area – abode of the holy tiger, which also serves as the mount to the Lord Vishnu.

Vanadurga:

Vanadurga is a Goddess of forest, a manifestation of Durga, a form of Parvati. Devotees pray to Vanadurga for mental and physical power to finish the pilgrim. Vanadurga’s idol is on Mullathara (floor of Jasmin plant), as a sacred grove, without a roof or shrine (Sreekovil). Devotees will go to Vanadurga after they visit Kottayil Bhagavati Temple (Kottappadi). They offer prayers at the temple and a bamboo stick to Vanadurga on the way back. There are many more small groves around the foothills of Manukkunnumala.

Govinda Para:

Govindappara is a rock on the way to the hill-top. Pilgrims will do long call of ‘Govinda… Govinda..’ devotionally as they climb Govindappara. Devotees perceive the holy presence of Lord Krishna here and it is a custom to walk on the rock top.

Narinirangi Para:

‘Narinirangippaara’ means that a rock that could be climbed only by creeping, even for a Jackal. Pilgrims can see deep craters all around if they open their eyes as they’ve surpassed this rock. They will pray by calling ‘Govinda…’. It is daring and dangerous too. But all the devotees will finally succeed. ‘As of now, there are no report of accidents during the Pilgrimage’ says Brahmasree Phaneedharan Embranthiri. People would sit and after mounting this rock. They enjoy the mist, the sky and the dark green all around.

Theertha Para:

The water required to perform the pooja arise all of a sudden at the top of the mountain, where there wasn’t any trace of water earlier. This theertha (Holy water) is used for the pooja. People believe that the amount of water that arises at the time determines the rate of rainfall that will be received during the particular year. The theertha is considered to be Goddess Ganga which originates inside the rock of Manukkunnumala.

This rock is also called Theertha Para. This rock is situated in the north direction of the Lord Vishnu. The rock has distance of one kilometer from the top. A priest will take water from the rock with the traditional orchestration. The holy water will start to flow automatically from the rock approximately Fifteenth Nazhika [23] (Six Hours) of the star of Uthram, says Phaneedharan Embranthiri. All the pilgrims (from both directions) will meet at Theertha Para, before they see their Lord on the top of the mountain.

Swayambhu:

Above all these wonders, an idol (Swayambhu – Self Existing – Self Manifested – it has emerged by its own) [25] of Lord Vishnu on top of this mountain will surprise us. We don’t know how many years of rain, sun and snow have showered on it! There is no shrine or roof for the Lord. According to the local legends, the idol may be over 1,500 years old! Lord Vishnu’s idol here is in a seated posture (approx. 2 feet height) which is very rare to find.

Offering:

Anointing of some liquid forms on to the idol is a part of a ritual. Offerings are fresh water, tender coconut water, gingelly oil, milk, curd, ghee, honey and panakam (a special preparation with jaggery, ginger, cardamom, black pepper and lemon). Priests and pilgrims too bring these items as their offering. Other traditional rituals and offerings like ancient silver crown, fruits, Panchamritam (a special preparation with bananas, jaggery, honey, cardamom and ghee – clarified butter), flattened rice, fried grain of rice, flowers, lamps and incense are a part of the offering.

Peetha Para:

Peetham means stool to sit. There is a large rock on the top of Manukkunnumala called Peetha Para which is very difficult to climb. But Priests must climb before they start main rituals on top of the mountain. Others can turn around the rock to the right. People can sit there, if they can climb to the top of it. Then they can enjoy the beautiful sights: Cool wind, fresh and deep aroma of wild flowers, good smell of the burning lamps and incense. Sky and earth conjoin here. we can see rivers as a thread of glittering lights, sun will hide with mist, dark green spots will be visible between the fast-moving fog.

Kavana Para:

‘Kavana’ is a native weapon similar to a slingshot. It is normally a small, hand-powered projectile weapon. The classic form consists of a Y-shaped frame held in the off-hand (non-dominant hand), with two natural rubber type strips attached to the uprights. The other ends of the strips lead back to a pocket that holds the projectile. The dominant hand grasps the pocket and draws it back to the desired extent to provide power for the projectile—up to a full span of the arm with sufficiently long bands. Kavana Para is situated in the north side of Lord Vishnu’s idol on the hilltop.

Pilgrims who came from the Thrikkaippatta area circle this Kavana Para three times before they start to descend the mountain. There is a story behind this – Once there was a test of strength between Karumon Devan (The Lord of Muttil Mala, near Manukkunnumala) and Manukkunnappan (Lord of Manukkunnu Mala).

Then the Karumon Devan used the weapon of ‘Kavana’ with a rock to shoot Manukkunnappan. Suddenly Lord Vishnu appeared and blocked the rock with his holy hand, calmed down the ego of Karumon, and protected Manukkunnappan. The rock is still there as a wonder without any stand or support. Pilgrims will circle this rock three times and bow down their head (surrendering their ego) before it.

Descending:

All the devotees must collect a stick from the top or from nearby bushes. They have to bring the stick downhill. They can also use this as a support to go down through sharply oblique ways. Then the pilgrims (Thrikkaippetta Shiva Temple) will start descending the mountain from Kavana Para through Nalukettum Chola, Venga Chola and Vadikuthi Para Other team of pilgrims (Kottayil Bhagavati Temple) will go down through Narinirangippara and Govindappara. There is a tradition that all people must return by the same route they climb.

The Count of Bamboo Sticks:

Pilgrims will submit their rod that they’ve gathered already from the hill-top. Those people who came from Thrikkaippatta area and Kottappadi area will submit it in front of a foothill rock (near Ramaswami temple) and in front of Vanadurga respectively. These sticks will help the temple administrative people to count the number of pilgrims each year, region wise.

Prasadam in Leaf Hole:

Devotees will not get anything without water from the top. And it is strictly prohibited to leave any items there on Manukkunnumala. Kerala Forest Department and Temple Administration are ensuring this through campaigns. We will get rice soup, Jackfruit spice mix (Puzhukku) and pickle as ‘Prasadam’ in a leaf hole on the ground. This area is in front of the temple, is called
‘Annakshetram’ (temple of food/rice).

Natives and Devotees:

Thousands of devotees visit the temple on the particular day of Pankuni Uthram, especially the residents of Manukkunnumala region. At least one person from each house will trek to the hilltop on the special day. A large number of people irrespective of caste, creed, color and gender comes to see Lord Vishnu on the hill top. Kurichyar, Paniyar, Kurumar, Kattunaikar [26] and other non-tribal resides all around the foothills of the mountain. Thousands of devotees (residents and non-residents)

visit the temple on the Uthram day of the month of Meenam and all the different sects of people practice their own rituals in association with the day which is now observed as a festival.

“We’ve been coming here every Pilgrim season for the past fifteen years. My father brought me here at the age of eight. We aren’t going to get any materialistic benefits from the hill-top instead we come to sit here after this adventurous climbing, to see our Manukkunnilappan, to enjoy the air, nature, mist, cool… And we can tell that the secret of our health is this single day of pilgrimage, every year.’’, says Priyesh.PS (MBA graduate. Helping his father in business and agriculture. He is staying near foothills of Manukkunnumala)

“I am from Kozhikode. I’ve been coming here for the past eight years. I don’t know what I get from here but I can assure that the most memorable day in a year is Uthram. We would wait for this day to attend the festival”, says Pradeep Kumar (Traveller through allover Kerala for various social initiatives of Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Bharhamachi – Poorvashram at Kozhikode)

Brahmasree Phaneedharan Embranthiri  (His mother’s elder brother was the first priest from this family) was the chief priest of Manukkunnumala till 1997. He has written a manuscript  that explains the history of Wayanad, the mountain and traditional knowledge as acquired from ancestors. ‘Each cast has their own bestowed responsibilities with regard to their community traditions in Manukkunnumala and foothills.

They are the heirs of these tasks like cleaning the temple ponds, courtyards, etc.’ he has written. Only the Paniyar tribe has the right to climb up to the top of Manukkunumala on the previous night and stay there. They will clean and set up the way. And this group of people will mark the pathway with a green stick for others who will come for pilgrimage on the next day. Brahmins, Nairs and other non-tribal communities are also carry out their own duties and roles. It is also a social fellowship event and all the castes gather here with mutual understanding and togetherness for the pilgrim.

Eco-Systems:

It is a hill that controls and influence the ecosystems of Wayanad. This is one of the most ecologically fragile regions of Wayanad catering to the lives of diverse species. The hill is inhabited by small animals, grasslands, medicinal plants, gooseberry trees, wild sandalwoods and cane plants on the way. More than ninety-four species of butterflies were found in a study [27] here. Out of this, twenty-two species were rare and six species were rarest butterflies. “Bonelli’s Eagle, one of the largest birds of prey, is found breeding here,” said ornithologist C.K. Vishnudas.

It is home to eight species of rare raptors such as Jerdon’s Baza, Black Eagle and Crested Serpent Eagle. “What attracts the birds here is the steep rock face,” Mr. Vishnudas said. Nearly one hundred and sixty-seven species of birds, including Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Rufus Babblers, Wayanad Laughing Thrush, Small Sunbird, Malabar Grey Hornbill and Malabar Parakeet are also found in the mountains.

The different beliefs and cultures associated with the temple and the Manukkunumala as a whole might have been one good reason why the ecosystem is still preserved. Chapin (1991) argues that where tradition remains strong, people see no need to make special efforts to preserve knowledge, they simply practice their culture [28]. All the religious ceremonies of the tribes are done in association with the Ecosystem of Manukunnumala; They consider the whole mountain to be sacred.

The Outbreak:

Wayanad is surrounded by Western Ghats mountain ranges with number of Ghat Roads [29] or high mountain passes. The district is the main connection route between Mysore and Kozhikkode (Karnataka & Malabar/Kerala). Wayanad is a peaceful and serene place where even the slightest disruption cannot be tolerated. This is an important part of the Western Ghats in Southern Bharath.

According to the report of The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) [30], also known as the Gadgil Commission, Wayanad is under South Central Western Ghats (SCWG) and these areas fall under ecologically very sensitive zones (ESZ1). The granite mining groups are increasingly targeting Manukkunnumala, the granite-rich mountain. The mountain is like a spine of Wayanad. However, the active campaign of the local community and devotees stopped the preparatory activities by the mining lobbies for quarrying.

MS Swaminathan Research Foundation Director N. Anilkumar said entire Wayanad would be affected if there is any damage to the Manukkunnumala mountain ranges. “The mountain not only nestles rare species of flora and fauna but influences the weather patterns of the region”. The outbreak and other natural disasters in many parts of Wayanad in 2019 are the consequences that we have faced due to losing these rituals. Only because of these cultural factors, the hill is still not destroyed.

Man and Nature:

In Bharath, the sun is not considered some inert ball of gas, but Surya Deva—the Sun God. The earth is Bhumi Devi—the Earth Goddess. Similarly named are the rivers, mountains, and trees. Bharath’s culture is one wherein everything is considered one and serves as a reminder of the all-pervasive nature of the Divine. At its heart, this perspective is not polytheistic, but an acknowledgment that all names and forms are but various manifestations of the one all-pervasive consciousness that serves as the substratum of creation. Rigveda says (10.97) Plants personify the divine. When we see Nature as the embodiment of God, we will automatically serve and protect her.

Conclusion: 

India is rich in its diverse nature in all manners. It has the culture of worshiping rivers, mountains etc., which came from the wisdom of our ancient Rishis. When we see Nature as the embodiment of God, we will automatically serve and protect her. India’s culture is one wherein everything one sees serves as a reminder of the all-pervasive nature of the Divine. At its heart, this perspective is not polytheistic, but an acknowledgement that all names and forms are but various manifestations of the one all-pervasive consciousness that serves as the substratum of creation. This paper has taken you through such a cultural and historical place, i.e.

Manukkunnumala and also the facts and legends associated with it. It also explains how this place is protected officially by constitutional laws but practically weak. However, a set of strong cultural rituals and beliefs of a lingo can protect nature without any fail. In every generation there is a small fraction of people who carry forward such traditions and protect the nature by doing their rituals on the basis of their beliefs. This involuntary system will not fail if we connect these rituals with eternal facts or wisdom and with some myths.

Rishis or our ancestors made these systems and they called this wisdom as Sanatana Dharma. It is clear that, some dedicated practice or strong beliefs of a group of people can attain much better result than the laws can achieve. So I suggest that these types of customs and practices must be studied and protected under law, ultimately for protecting these historically significant places.

References and footnotes

  1. There are some examples in Wayanad itself: Ramayana Parikramanam (The commemorative procession covers many places related to Ramayana, within twenty for Kilometer), Poothadi (According to wayanadan local legends, Bhima of Mahabharata when he was travelling with his brothers went in search of the flower Kalyana saugandhika, He asked about the flower to a tribal woman in Malayalam language ‘Poovu Tharumo’ which eventually become Poothadi).
  2. Kavu is the traditional name given for sacred groves across the Malabar Coast in Kerala, South India. Kavus are notable for Theyyam, the centuries-old ritual dance. These are forest fragments of varying sizes, which are communally protected, and which usually have a significant religious connotation for the protecting community. Hunting and logging are usually
    strictly prohibited within these patches.
  3. Vishu is an example. This is an agricultural festival which celebrates in many parts of India with diverse rituals as in the name of Bihu, Bwisagu, Baisakhi, Pohela Boishakh, Puthandu, Pana Sankranti.
  4. Kolamideel is a form of drawing that is drawn by using rice flour in South India.
  5. Muni (‘silent’, the ‘Mauna’ – pause) – a term for types of ancient Indian sages and hermits or ancient Indian ascetics. Sages of this type are said know the truth of existence not on the basis of scientific texts but through self-realization. (Some other Munis in Puranas : Yakshas were born from a lady called Muni – wife of Kasyapa Prajapati – Agni Purana – Chapter 19, Gandharvas born from Muni – Vyasa’s Mahabharata – Adiparva 65.42, Manu is a son of Kuru – Puru Vamsha – Mahabharata 94.50, Another Muni is a son of Dyutiman – Markandeya Purana 5.24)
  6. The term Rishi derived from the word (Kriya Dhatu) Darshana.
    ‘Ru’ means the sound (Agnipurana.348) The term used in many texts (Eg. Rishis came from all the directions to visit Srirama when the rituals of coronetion after his Vanavasa – Uthara Ramayana)
  7. One Human Year = One day of Devas
    Three hundred and sixty days of Devas = One Valsara
    Twelve Thousand Deva Valsara = One Chatur Yuga (Thirty-Six Lakh of Human Year) Seventy One Chatur Yuga = One Manwantara
  8. Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kandha (14.11)
  9. Rigveda (1.16.112)
  10. Mahabharata, Vanaparva (221.4)
  11. Mahabharata, Shanti Parva (57.43)
  12. The Manusmriti is an ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras and it presents itself as a discourse given
    by Manu (Svayambhuva) and Bhrigu on dharma topics such as duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and others.
  13. Kunnu = Mountain
    Mala = Hill
  14. According to the authentic language dictionary, Sabdataravali (Sreekantheswaram), Wayam has various meanings of
    Earth, Water, and Power or Energy in Malayalam and Sanskrit.
    Wayanad also refferes,
    Land of Forest (Vanam)
    Land of paddy field (Vayal)
    Land of bamboos (Vey)
    Land of connection way (Vazhi) between Malabar and Mysore.
  15. In Hindu mythology, Maya was a great ancient king of the Asuras. Maya was known for his brilliant architecture. Mayasabha – the hall of illusions – was named after him. (Mahabharata – Sabhaparva – First Chapter).
  16. Malayalam Calendar or Kollam Era or Agricultural Calendar is a solar and sidereal Hindu calendar used in Kerala. The origin of the calendar has been dated as 825 CE.
  17. Painguni Uthram (Panguni Uthiram/Palguni Uthiram/Meena Uttara-phalguni in Sanskrit) ) is a much talked about festival of many temples throughout South India. Devotees flock to temples nearby and some of the famous temples which assumes a lot of importance during this festival is Perur-near Coimbatore, Palani, Kapaleeswarar-Mylapore, Vadapalani
    Murugan temple, to name a few. The festival falls during March-April. Panguni is special because of the coming together of the star Uthiram and Pournami. Says Historian Chithra Madhavan: It is believed that the wedding of Rama and Sita was celebrated on Panguni Uthiram. (Valmiki’s Ramayana) As Sri Deivayanai married Lord Subramanya on this day, it is an important festival for Lord Subramanya devotees. One of the main annual festivals of the famous Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is the Painkuni Festival. It starts with kodiyettu – the hoisting of the ceremonial flag. The festival is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Meenam(March/April).
    During the Painkuni Festival, huge fibre glass figures of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu in the Indian epic Mahabharata) will be placed at the eastern entrance to the temple. As per belief, the figures are put up to propitiate Indra, the Rain God. The Panguni Utsavam is a unique festival in Varadarajaswami Temple temple which lasts for seven days and culminates
    on the Uthiram day with the marriage of Goddess Malayala Nachiyar or Serakula Nachiyar to the Lord. People throng in thousands to witness this divine marriage. (‘Sri Varadarajaswami Temple-Kanchi’ by Prof. K.V. Raman) In the Ahananuru, a Tamil work of the Sangam period, there is a mention about a festival in Panguni which is equated to Uthira Vizha. (The Manukkunnumala region was a part of Punnad when Sangham Period)
    Panguni Uthiram is an important day for Tamil Hindus. It is observed in Panguni month when Nakshatra Uthiram or Uttara Phalguni prevails. Panguni is the twelfth and last month in Tamil Calendar. Panguni month is known as Meena month in other solar calendars. This day is also known as Mahalakshmi Jayanti as on this day Goddess Mahalakshmi incarnated on the Earth during legendry churning of the Milky Ocean. Churning of Milky Ocean is also known as Ksheera Sagara Manthan. This day is also celebrated as Lord Ayyappan Jayanti. Lord Ayyappan was born due to union of Lord Shiva and Mohini, the female form of Lord Vishnu. The month of Panguni when coinciding with Phalguna, sees the festival of Holi too. It is celebrated in the Braj region, which includes locations traditionally connected to the Lord Krishna.
  18. Prithvi lingam of Ekambareswarar Temple, where festivities last for 13 days
  19. The Vedas describe the Sun as the primordial cause of the whole universe. The word Aditya is coined from the term Aditi, mother of Adityas. The Bhagavata Purana lists 12 Adityas as twelve sun gods. So, there are 12 for each of the lunar months of the Tamil calendar. And in each year, a different sun that shines. The names of the 12 Adityas are Aryaman, Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Vivasvan, Tvashtha, Vishnu, Amshuman, Bhaga, Pusha, Parjanja, Dhata.
  20. Rigveda (7.41)
  21. Vishu, a major (agricultural) festival in Kerala falls on the first day in the Malayalam month of Medam (April/May). It marks the beginning of a new year in the Malayalam calendar. There are many festivities and ceremonies associated with Vishu celebrated across the state. Vishukani is very important for Vishu. The custom leans back to the belief that good things seen on the New Year day bring prosperity throughout the year. The Vishukani, consisting of Idol of Krishna, Saplings(Vrikshakkani), Seeds, rice grains, fruits, Konna flowers, Mirror, gold and new coins- all signifying prosperity- will be arranged by the eldest member of the family on the day prior to the Vishu day. Placed in a sparkling bell metal pan in front of the image/idol of Lord Krishna, the set gets complete with a lighted Nilavilakku (wick lamp). The yellowish, golden colored Konna flower (Laburnum flower) enhances the beauty of other materials kept as part of the Vishukani. Then elders in the family have to give Vishukaineettam (Coin) along with Vishuthaineettam (Sapling) to all those who are younger to them in age.
  22. Govinda: 187th and the 539th name of Lord Vishnu in Vishnu Sahasranama. Mount Govardhana is a Giri Raj or Royal Hill. The name ‘Govardhana’ has two primary translations. In the literal meaning,
    ‘Go’ translates to ‘cows’, and ‘vardhana’ translates to ‘nourishment’. Another meaning of ‘Go’ is ‘the senses’ and ‘vardhana’ can also mean ‘to increase’ – thus the name is also translated by devotees of Krishna as ‘that which increases the senses’ in their attraction to Krishna. In this connection, it is believed that the personality of Govardhan blesses the devotee by
    increasing his devotion. Govardhan Pooja is celebrated on the day after Diwali. It is the day upon which Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of
    thunder and rain. As per the story, Krishna saw huge preparations for the annual offering to Indra and questions his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their ‘dharma’ truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He continued to say that all human beings should merely do their ‘dharma’, to the best of their ability and not pray or conduct sacrifices for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special pooja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna then lifted Mount Govardhan and held it up as protection to his people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme.
  23. Traditional astrologers measures time in terms of Nazhika and Vinazhika with reference to Sunrise or Sunset.
  24. Agamasastra or the science related to the Temple says the divinity of the sanctum should be bestowed up on by a ‘Tapasvi’ who is a master of spiritual practices. Kshetra Chaitanya Rahasyam (Authentic Tantric Text written by Acharya Madhavji, Published by Kshetra Samrakshana
    Samiti – Seventh Edition, 2004) Kshetrangal Sadhana Kendrangal (Sadguru Shree Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Published by Mata Amritanandamayi
    Math – First Edition, 1988).
  25. The Kattunayakar are one of the earliest known inhabitants of the Western Ghats, who are engaged in the collection and gathering of forest produce, mainly wild honey and wax. Kurichiyans are one of the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala practicing agriculture. They are a matrilineal tribe of Kerala distributed mainly in Wayanad and Kannur districts of Kerala. The Paniya, also known as Paniyar and Paniyan, are an ethnic group of India. They are believed to have been brought to Wayanad by the king of Malabar, and thereafter tilled the land as serfs. Kurumars (Uralikuruma) are one of the rarest artisan tribes in Kerala. All these communities are worshiping animals, birds, trees, rock hillocks, and snakes along with the other deities. And they live very much in tune with Nature. The tribal communities construct Daivapura, which is considered sacred on occasions of marriage. This structure is made with the help of bamboo accessed from the forests of
    Manukunnumala. The paniya and the Kattunaika tribes utilize certain area of the forest as their burial grounds. All the Tribal communities rely on the bamboo poles accessed from the forest of Manukunnumala inorder to carry the corpse.
  26. Ijar (International Journal of Advanced Research (2015), Volume 3, Issue 1, 206-211, ISSN 2320-5407) Research Article: Butterfly Species Diversity And Abundance In Manikkunnumala Forest Of Western Ghats, India. (M. K.
    Nandakumar, V.V. Sivan, Jayesh P Joseph, M. M. Jithin, M. K. Ratheesh Narayanan, N. Anilkumar, MS Swaminathan Foundation)
  27. Chapin, M. 1991. Losing the way of the Great Father. New Scientist 131:40-44. Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management – Author(s): Fikret Berkes, Johan Colding, Carl Folke, Source: Ecological Applications, Vol. 10, No. 5 (Oct., 2000), pp. 1251-1262, Published by: Ecological Society of America.
  28. Thamarassery–Lakkidi Ghat Road, Nedumpoil–Periya Ghat Road, Kuttiady–Pakramthalam Ghat Road, Vazhikkadavu–Nadukani Ghat Road, Kottiyoor–Ambayathode–Palchuram–Boys Town Ghat Road.
  29. Report of The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission. (2011)
  30. ‘Man and Nature’ (Sadguru Sree Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, First Edition – 1994, Published by Mata Amritanandamayi Mission Trust.
  31. ‘Sacred Plants of India’ (Nanditha Krishna & M.Amritalingam, ISBN 978 0 143 06626, Penguin Books India – 2014)
  32. ‘Hinduism and Nature’ (Nanditha Krishna, ISBN 978 0 143 42783 4, Penguin Random House India -2017)
  33. Ecosystem Services of Manikkunnuma (A hill forest eco system) ; A comparative study on the utility, perception and knowledge of local communities. (Smt. Priya Ajith. A research paper guided by Girigan Gopi 2010, MSSRF CAbC.)
  34. ‘Valmiki Ramayana’, Moolam – Gita Press, Goraghpur
  35. ‘Vyasa Mahabharata’, Moolam – Gita Press, Goraghpur
  36. ‘Malabar Series; Wayanad – It’s People and Traditions’ – Rao Bahadur C. Gopalan Nair, Deputy Collector, Malabar. (First Edition – 1000, Madras Higginbotham & Co., 1911) https://archive.org/details/wynaditspeoplest00goparich
  37. An Article on Manukkunnumala (Kesari -1951- Weekly, Article dated on July 2017, Sanoop Sadanandan)

(This paper was presented by Sanoop Sadanandan at  Indic Yatra conference)


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