Thursday, 16 May 2019

Sherpa Kami Rita reaching Mt. Everest in May, 2019 for a 23rd time - a world record

Mt. Everest 23rd ascent .Sherpa Kami Rita
Mt Everest and Sherpa Kami Rita Hindustan
Among the outdoor adventure sports, the one that is wrought with risk to  life, besides spending large amount of money, needing hard work and physical and mental well being, it is mountaineering. Man's quest to reach the tallest peak in the world, despite the dangers involved, is on the increase. This year, it is reported that  41 different teams with a total of 378 got the needed permit from Nepal to scale Everest each costing $11,000  to mountaineers for this year's spring climbing season, sparking fears of overcrowding if the weather cuts down the number of climbing days. The spring climbing season is the right one  and a large contingent of  Nepalese guides - Sherpas  will get ready to help the prospective climbers. Weather at higher mountains is one of the main hurdles. Normally every year the climbing season runs from March through May and in May  usually only a few windows of good weather near the summit will help  climbers  to scale the peak.

Eight Nepali climbers including Kami Rita Sherpa got to  the top of Mount Everest on  last Tuesday, thus opening the route for a potentially record number of climbers to summit the world's highest peak this part of the year. Ethnic Sherpas, born and raised on the lap of tall mountains of the Himalayas are just like mountain goats, renowned for their endurance and experience at high altitudes. Prior to 1950s, Sherpa tribes people were mostly yak herders and traders living deep within the Himalayas until Nepal opened its borders When Nepal opened the borders and mountain climbers started arriving they took to the profession of guiding them acting as porters.  On Tuesday, it was a team of Sherpa guides who again were the first to reach Everest's summit this year, completing their advanced work of setting up ropes and lines.  Many of us do not know that it is Sherpas who, each year, fix ropes and ladders over crevasses and ice falls that make things safer for the hundreds of climbers who will follow them.
Without their guides many foreign mountaineers attempting to climb Mt. Everest will be groping in the dark, not knowing the terrain, lurking ice falls and gaping crevasses in the glaciers. There are two routes to the peak, one from Tibet and the other being from Nepale.  As far as Mt. Everest is concerned, almost each year some kind of sensational news will be coming out from there ranging from -  a new  world record being broken by the climbers, loads of plastic trash on the higher mountain slopes, disappearing glaciers, etc. This year's interesting news is  Sherpa climber Kami Rita scaled Mount Everest on Wednesday for a 23rd time on May 15, 2019, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents of the world's highest peak. He and others who accompanied him were safe.

"It is my profession, but at the same time I am setting new world record for Nepal too," Rita told The Associated Press last month before heading to the mountain. This 49 year old experienced climber whose father was also a guide in the way past, is an asset to countless teams.  Rita first scaled Everest in 1994 and since then he has been making the trip nearly every year.  Sherpa guides like Rita play a vital part in the success of  each mountaineering team because their  expertise and skills are  important to the safety and success of the climbers. Rita  also scaled several  highest  peaks in the the world including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhots.
Rita was at Everest's base camp in 2015 and the death was at his door step when an avalanche swept through, killing 19 people. Undeterred, he made up his mind to pay obeisance to the tallest peak by way of guiding the new climbers and to take care of his family. Rita's  recent  grievance,  "However, when these climbers reach the summit, only their names are highlighted and nothing mentioned about the hard work done by the Sherpas," is true. It is their ground work that lays the foundation of the team's success in every mountain expedition. Rita'a poignant comment is, "I am like a soldier who leaves behind their wives, children and family to battle for the pride of the country."
01. Nepali guide, whill help 750 climbers  who will follow the same path to the top of the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) peak in the coming weeks. 
Mt. Everest. ThoughtCo

02. At least 140 others will try to  scale Everest using the northern route from Tibet.
03  Lat year a  record 807 climbers reached  Mount Everest,
with 563 people climbing from the south and 244 from the northern flank in Tibet.

Actor Kamal Hassan's remarks on Gandhiji's assassin Godse- unwarrented

Sabrang India
Referring to Mahatama Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse ((19 May 1910 – 15 November 1949), Tamil  matinee idol and founder of a new  political party Makkal Needhi Needhi Maiam  (MNM) 
Mr. Kamal  Haasan's remark as  "independent India's first extremist was a Hindu" has  kicked up a controversy that could have been avoided. 

The 64-year-old actor, while campaigning in Aravakurichi on Sunday, had said: "I am not saying this because this is a Muslim-dominated area, but I am saying this before a statue of Gandhi. Independent India's first extremist (theeviravaadi) was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse. There it starts." Mr Haasan's remarks on Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi on 30 January 1948 have snowballed into a subject of serious discussion in many states. In the wake of it, he earned the ire of people especially Hindus because this unwanted lose remark was made by Hassan  last Sunday   in a  Muslim dominated place close to Madurai city. Only some parties whose members are not nationalists play second fiddle to him. Godse  killed Mahatma Gandhi by  shooting on his chest three times at point blank range in New Delhi

Nobody ever thought, Hassan, a man with good credentials and maturity would stoop to such a low level and make a comparison between  an extremist and an assassin.  An extremist is the one who is well trained  to kill  lots of people either by going on a shooting spree or becoming a human bomb.  He is a  religious fanatic who has not understood the essence and moral  of his own religion and has no sympathy for fellow humans, including his own people. He is a trigger happy madcap who acts on behalf of another religious fanatic.

Unlike a coward, he himself admitted in the court in 1949 “I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus,”  What he did to Gandhi, who was in his advanced age,  was not acceptable and in the following year he was hanged to death on 15 Nov. 1949 at a prison in Ambala.  Many critics are of the view that  Godse  was a Hindu nationalist and a true patriot, and not a fanatic or a devil as he is portrayed in many biased history  books. Godse was  saddened by Gandhiji's ideology because he thought it would  force  Hindus toward an emasculating and coward nation. He made a decision to kill Gandhiji and it was a pre-meditated murder of  father of the Indian nation.  We can not conclude  that he  killed Gandhiji in a moment of aberration. The fact is he was a patriot driven by wrong misconception and  committed this crime, knowing well before hand its consequences. Positively Godse was not an extremist. Nor was he a Hindu fanatic. 

 As for Kamal Hassan, his gaffe has created  publicity bonanza for him as well as indignation among one section of the society. What made Kamal compare Godse with an extremist, that too during the election time? What recently happened in Sri Lanka is an act of extremism  carried out by a group of  well-trained extremists. Please read the following questions in the light of Kamal Hassan's disparaging remarks on Godse, who happened to be just an assassin of Gandhi. The investigation finally found out that  the RSS and the Hindu Maha Sabha  had no links with  Gandhiji's assassination.
01. Did Nathram Godse have a criminal record before  his assassination of Gandhiji showing him in bad light?

02. Did Godse carry a machine gun and  pump countless bullets and shoot other innocent people to death along with Gandhiji?

03. Did  Godse become a human bomb and blow himself  up before Gandhiji like an  extremist and cause destruction murder and mayhem? 

04. Is it not true that if  a modern-day extremist were in Godse's position  he would have killed a whole lot of people and also  destroyed or severely damaged the Birla House, the venue of Gandhiji's evening prayer?

05. Did Godse ever join a religious fanatic group and take to violence and killing  as a way of life?

06. Why did he hold his hand in supplication in front of him before shooting Gandhiji? Was it not out of respect for the old man? He knew very well that he was not doing the right thing and, at the same time, he had to accomplish  his mission.

07. Upon  shooting  did  Godse  run away from the scene of crime and be at large evading  arrest by the law enforcement?

08. Why did he keep quiet  and submit himself peacefully when he was being arrested by the police?

09. Why did he take so much pain to explain to  the Court  as to his reason for killing Gandhiji?

During political campaigns, responsible political leaders should focus their speech only on their party's policies, etc and must avoid dragging religion, caste, personal life of the contestants, etc. The High Court should come down heavily on those people and parties who, without any inhibition,  indulge in blasphemous remarks on religions, any caste, etc. Such explosive and irrelevant speeches  aiming at creating a wedge between communities, etc is not conducive to tranquillity and peace in the society. Freedom of speech does not mean insulting and intimidating certain castes to gain political advantage. Only extreme punishment will act as deterrent to such nauseating and disgusting speeches by narrow-minded nethas.  

Kamal Hassan's party has  come out with a statement: "This (his remark) has been taken absolutely out of context and the speech has been painted as anti-Hindu, with a malafide intent. Responsible politicians should not publicly discuss sensitive and explosive  issues and and get entangled in the barrage of criticisms and nasty comments that may follow later.

How Rogue elephant Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, who has a huge Facebook followers, has turned violent?

Onmanorama - Manoramaonline

Kerala’s star tusker Ramachandran has been in news ever since his  arrival  from Bihar in 1982. He has  been a regular participant in  what is called Thrissur Poorum, the most  popular  annual temple extravaganza that attracts lakhs of people every year in the month of May.  This year it was held on the 13th and 14th of May.  Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, also nick named  \Raman  has become a subject of serious discussion and talk in the media in Kerala long before the beginning of Pooram festival.  Elephant Raman grabbed more attention than the media reports/discussion on pre-poll election predictions as to which party or parties would form the ministry at Delhi. The controversy is about  the animal's  erratic and violent behavior and his fitness to take part in the festival.  There are as many as 600 captive elephants attached to the Kerala temple. Believe it or not Ramachandran, the tallest tusker,  has  a Facebook page that is followed by over 16,000 people.
That till  2019 Thechikottukavu Ramachandran  has killed 14 people, three elephants and injured hundreds of people is a sad track record that has made the officials to put yet another  ban on his presence in the festival.  Despite his rogue behavior and infamy,  Raman has won the heart of  countless people across  Kerala  and the reason being he is partially blind and  turned aggressive due to repeated torture and cruelty by the mahouts. Blind in one eye, the other eye  is affected by cataract, that needs to be removed soon, the animal gets the sympathy from the compassionate people.  The District officials put a ban on the  54-year old elephant's participation in the festival  in view of public safety.  However,  Elephant Owners Association and fans of this tusker  wanted the ban on the elephant removed. In the past elephant Raman was  banned at least six times   and the present ban became a necessity after  he trampled to death two people in February this year near Thrissur.
Thechikottukavu Ramachandran Telegraph India

Born and  raised in Bihar as  Moti Prasad, he was brought to Kerala in 1982 by one K.N. Venkatidri, an elephant contractor. The new owner renamed the elephant as Ganeshan and put a mahout to take care of the  tusker.  Soon the ownership changed,  the Peramangalam Thechikottukavu temple Devaswom bought the elephant from  Venkatidri.  The temple Devaswom renamed him Ramachandran and used him for temple festivals and puja rituals. 
Perhaps, you may be wondering why the elephant was partially blind. Until he came down to Kerala,  Ramachndran had a good eyesight. It is a matter of deep pain and sorrow it was here the elephant lost sight in one of his eyes. Having been trained to respond to commands in Hindi and 
Bhojpuri,  the mahout, who only knew Malayalam language, was unable to make the elephant understand his command.   The mahout  could have  been patient with the elephant, instead he lost his temper and, in rage, he hit the animal in the eye with a sharp object, making it blind in that left  eye. Though with a blind  left eye and a sensitive right eye  that causes him agitation upon seeing the huge crowd, it is Ramachandran who kick-started the 2019 Poorum festival  by pushing open a giant door at the Vadakkumnathan (Lord Shiva) temple in Thrissur,  and then picked his way through a sea of worshippers and spectators without causing any mishap. 

While training the elephant, world over ''torture'' is used  to discipline it and there is a limit to it. Since most of the mahouts are not well educated and be familiar with animal behaviour, they use  crude torture methods as a way to discipline the huge elephant and to understand their  commands. When an elephant undergoes training with  different mahouts. it causes them  additional strains and nightmares because mahouts follow their own methods of torture to train the animal. As for the animal, under a new mahout he goes through the torture cycle all over, causing fear and confusion. The animal becomes defencive and, in course of time, becomes violent and aggressive. To subdue them and obey, the  mahouts hit them, wound them, and then hit them on the wounds again. The wounds will not heal causing infections. The painful infections make them edgy.

According to Dr Gopakumar, a veterinary surgeon  who pays particular attention to elephants, they  immobilised  it by chains creating wounds on its legs and the wounds remain unhealed. Torture of animals by mahouts, lack of rest and proper food,  adequate water (elephants need 150 to 250 liters of water a day), denial of frequent medical care and  treatment, long walk under the hot sun on the  hard asphalt road and most importantly  making them stand for long hours at temple ceremonies were identified as the immediate causes for many captive elephants turning violent.
Yet another biological problem is musth - a periodic condition 
Elephant with musth Safari Guide Online -

in bull (male) elephants, characterised by highly
aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be as much as 6 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.  Scientists say musth alone can not be a factor for elephant's violent behavior. Even quiet and placid elephants become highly violent irritable  toward humans and other elephants during musth.  During pre-musth (pre-rutting) stage the elephants needed rest, cool surroundings, lot of water to drink, special diet, etc. Normally, when people and crowds stand nearby, the elephant can become nervous and the din associated with urban areas may complicate the matter.

Normally every year lots of temple festivals take place in Kerala between January and May. Perhaps, it may the cruelest months for the pachyderms, not so for the Elephant owners and Mahouts.  During this time, there is a great demand for the elephants as they  are being rented out for various temple functions across Kerala  for a heft sum ranging from  Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,00,000 a day, depending on the elephants' track record. The elephant owners, mahouts, contractors  are the main culprits, having vested interests in the over-exploitation of these innocent pachyderms for their personal gains at the cost of animal's health and risking public safety.  

So, it is the money-minded humans that turn the captive elephants violent  and aggressive. Many vets advise the Kerala government not to parade the animals during the festival time and there must be time  and day restrictions. Some elephants are paraded more than 40 times out of 60 days.  As for Ramachandran, as he has seen nothing but violent mahouts who were his trainers. since his arrival in Kerala with one blind eye, his behaviour in public places saw a different change. He loses his temperament and goes on rampage  with a view to safeguarding him from noisy crowd and cruel mahouts. Longhours of work, poor resting period, over-torture and the resultant fatigue made him public-shy.  According to Sreedevi  “The elephant  (Raman) was paraded between 10 and 30 times even after the ban'came to force in February 2019''. To the elephant owners and others the animals are money-spinning machines. A gross violation of government rules goes on without a break!!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The case of rogue temple elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, Kerala

 Celebrity Elephant 'Ramachandran' at Thrissur Pooram Google News - Overview
In the state of Kerala, elephants are closely associated with the Hindu temples and the seasonal temple festivals. In Puja rituals, the elephants are used to carry the procession idol (Utchavar) around the temple. Even the other religious faiths take interest in the elephants for their participation in their religious activities. Considered as divine, the pachyderms form an integral part of the temple and this cultural tradition has been in vogue for centuries in Kerala. As for the temples, maintaining them and keeping them in good health is a tough task because  not only does it require money and space but also trained Mahouts and Vets to take care of them periodically. The case of elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, a temple elephant  is an interesting one.
Captive elephant Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran (born 1964),  as he is called, has a unique distinction. He is the tallest captive elephant in India, and the second tallest in Asia, behind Nadungamuwe Raja, a tusker in Sri Lanka(?). Equally disturbing is the fact  that  he is one of the captive violent elephants in India. The paradox is  in spite of his notoriety and ill-repute, a large number of Keralites enjoy his presence in the famous temple festivals.  Owned and managed  by Thechikottukavu devasom, a temple in Kerala, he has  a huge gathering of fans  across Kerala much to the envy of some Malayalam matinee idols and is affectionately called ''Raman''. 
During his life time  never had  Raman proved that he was a good tusker, calm and composed.  On several occasions, he went amok and had killed a record number of 14 people and injured hundreds and caused the death of three other elephants. He is equally  well-known across Kerala for his rage and unprovoked rampage that would result in civil damages and human lives. Consequently, he got a bad name and was branded as the most dangerous captive elephant in the state. During  annual Thrissur Pooram festivals Raman, who is partly blind, pays a key role in the Villambaram event. On account of his unexpected violent and erratic behavior, the government authorities, taking the safety of public into account, put a ban on his participation in fests on many occasions. This year, for the Pooram festival, he was finally allowed to take part in the 11th hour.
Brought to Kerala from Bihar in 1982  it was the  Thechikottukavu Devaswom, which, in 1984, purchased Ramachandran to use him for divine services to God.  Unfortunately, during a short span of  6 
years between 1984 and  1989, Ramachandran  was never a subdued pachyderm, rather he proved his male superiority and aggressive nature by way of killing  five mahouts hired by the Devaswom  board to care for him. In the year 2009, while on temple duty at  Kattakampal Bhagavathy temple  fest in Thrissur, he, all of a sudden, ran beserk (may be due to musth?) and caused havoc, causing the people running helter shelter. His aggression was in full bloom,  resulting in the death of  a 12-year-old boy and injuries to  hundreds of people. 
It is not undestood  why the government officials allowed the rogue elephant to do the duty at temple fest as he had never shown any sign of  improvement in his behavior before the public and the risk to public safety. The same year, a woman  fell a victim  to his sudden violent outburst during the fest at Eranakulathappan Temple in Ernakulam. Elephant Raman's killing spree did not stop here, rather, it continued without any permanent break.  In 2013 the tusker  caused the death of  three women during the Thaipooyam at Perumbavoor. In 2019 also, the inherent violent nature in him came tothe fore. This time he trampled two people to death during a house-warming ceremony  near Thrissur.
Thechikottukavu Ramachandran
Despite his dangerous and violent behavior and the lurking infamy he earned, elephant Ramachandran has lots of fans. When the news was conveyed about  his doubtful participation in the 2019 Pooram festival, disappointment was  largely writ on scores of people who expected  Ramachandran would be on his best behavior this time and make the Pooram festival a memorable one. Citing erratic and violent behaviour, the district authorities, in February this year, had imposed a stringent ban on the elephant, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, after  he trampled upon two people during a recent event.  That the tusker has reportedly killed 14 people in the last thirty years is a sad commentary on his unpredictable temperament. The  veterinarians, who  conducted a series of medical tests  which Ramachandran  cleared, were quite satisfied and gave him a clean chit for his participation in the temple festival, 2019.  The team cleared him as "fit for all activities". Upon through scrutiny, the District Collector allowed Raman to participate in the festival.  The condition was that four people must escort the animal and barricades should be constructed on a 10-metre radius to prevent people from getting closer to the jumbo.
Villambaram event. elephant Ramachandran at this ritual since
The 54 -year old tusker, Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, was brought to the Vadakkumnathan temple here  for this year's poorum festival in a lorry  at around 10.30 a.m. He symbolically pushed open the southern entrance of the temple, signalling the start of the festivities as part of Villambaram eventThe most  keenly-watched  event during the festival is the parading of more than 50 elephants. (Aanaottam) Ramachandran was not a participant in that event. 

Countless  devotees were happy when  Kerala's  famed, but violent one-eyed elephant waded through the corridor of the famed Vadakkumnathan temple in Thrissur on Sunday. Though  the officials allowed the elephant's participation just for an hour, Raman stayed on for up to two hours, causing no trouble to the people. As he is ageing, perhaps, he might have thought it is time for him  to take it easy and  be on his best behavior till the rest of his life!! Thrissur Pooram is an annual Hindu temple festival held in Kerala. This year, it was held on May 13 and 14. The festival that dates back to the 18th century, was started by none other than Sakthan Thampuran himself, the Maharajah of the erstwhile Kochi state.
The fans of Ramachandran are of the opinion  that the temperament of the partially blind old  tusker, has become aggressive and violent due to the torture and cruelty caused by  humans during training and later on duty. And Ramachandran is not the only one to endure torture. According to information available with animal rights activists, the number of elephants in the state has come down  from 3000 to around 300 in the last five years. Up to 17 elephants have died this year alone, and 57 had died last year. The average life expectancy of an elephant is 80 years. Those died in 2018 were less than 50 years old. Reason: mostly due to torture by trainers and some may be due to diseases.  According to Sreedevi S Kartha, an animal rights activist with People for Animals (PFA). “For instance, one elephant died after he was constipated for 61 days. One elephant named Karnan was paraded forty times in sixty days in the just-concluded festival season.” Temple elephants should be given long rest between festivals. Since they do a divine job for us, besides giving us  the needed entertainment, it is the responsibility of the owners (temple boards) to keep them in pink and cheereful.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Quite fascinating Thrissur Poorum festival (2019) of Kerala - greatest Hindu temple show on earth!!

Thrissur Pooram 2019, sea of humans.
Flag hoisting Thrissur Pooram
Among the temple festivals of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram is the most popular and extravacant one  that attracts a sea of people from different parts of Kerala as well as other states. What  the festival of Kallazhagar getting into the Vaigai river to Madurai city, TN  is to the city of Thrissur which is tagged as the  "cultural capital of Kerala". During the festivities the 65-acre (26 ha) hillock called the Thekkinkadu Maidan close to Thrissur comes alive because of the presence of  Vadakkumnathan temple.  Normally, the festival is held at the Thekkinkadu Maidan in April or May and this year it was held yesterday 13 May. This annual fascinating festival  gave a long  needed break to the people of Kerala  who were  bombarded with ''General Election'' political campaigns of various sorts by the nethas (leaders) ranging from monotonous, boring and blaring stump speeches, gaffs, etc  to scathing  verbal attacks on the personal lives of other nethas that would numb the voters/people. Quite obviously the visitors to this city were quite lost in the pomp and colorful pageantry, and the splendor of this unique festival. 
The amazing thing is lakhs of people made a beeline to Thekkinkadu Maidan and Swaraj Round to watch the festivities, unmindful of  humid  weather, sweat and dust. They never looked fatigued; nor the huge milling crowd and noise  had dampened their spirit. This annual event was a visual treat to every body- procession of caparisoned elephants, of gods, percussion ensembles, and most importantly the fireworks at night. It was the ruler Raja Rama Varma, popularly  known as Sakthan Thampuran, the Maharaja of Cochin (1790–1805), it is believed, who introduced this Poorum festival here. Later it became the largest Hindu temple festival of Kerala,  superseeding the  one-day festival held at Aarattupuzha known as Arattupuzha Pooram. Temples in and around the city of Thrissur were regular participants.
 Above image: 
The famous  elephant  Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran opening the Thekke Gopura Nada of Sree Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur. With District Collector's permission, the elephant was brought to this place in a lorry. The Vilambaram ritual, which declares open the pooram celebrations, is about bringing the idol of Naithilakkavu Temple, Kuttor to the Vadakkunnathan temple.  Another elephant Thechikkottukavu Devidasan, carried the idol from Naithilakkavu temple to Manikandanal  on the Swaraj  Round...........................

This Pooram festival, that may include as many as 36 hour-long festivities is symbolic of the meeting of deities (Utchavars) from near-by 10 different temples. Traditionally it begins with the arrival of the procession from Kanimangalam Sastha by 7.30 am.  This was when ‘cherupoorams’ start entering the Thekkikadu  Maidan. This is followed by procession from other temples. The main venue is 
Poorum festival, 2019 Thrissur.
the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur every year on the Pooram day when the moon rises with the Pooram star in the Malayalam Calendar month of Medam. It is the largest and most famous of all poorams. The belief is that the 10 deities visit the Vadukanathan temple on the Pooram day to pay their respect to the presiding deity- lord Shiva. An interesting fact that is worth mentioning is that annually everything related to the temple events  is made afresh- right from the scratch. This includes  coloful umbrellas and the nettipattam, etc. The ten temples fall under two sides - Paramekkavu side" and "Thiruvambady side" as ordained by Sakthan Thamburan.  As it is a common practise, the  temple flag hosting ceremony (Kodiyettam) begins seven days before Thrissur Pooram. All the participating temples of Thrissur Pooram are present for the ceremony.  There will be  a light fireworks to announce the commencement of the festival. During the festival when the two groups of temples - organize the processions which include much sought-after percussion ensembles. The famous and highly talented percussionists will make huge audience spell-binding. Yet another attraction is the changing of  colorful umbrellas by the Paramekkavu  and "Thiruvambady Devaswoms. The main  attraction of the festival is the Elanjithara Melam, considered the world’s largest live orchestra of percussionists known for its technical brilliance. In the evening, 30 caparisoned elephants, with 15 on either side, stood facing each other in a colorful ceremony called the ‘Kudamattam’. The latter too  not only attracted lots of local people but also got the national attention  with respect to the controversy over parading of the elephants.
This year saw the participation of 90 well-trained elephants, in many events. Though the festival itself is just one day, preparations begin months in advance as several things need to be taken care of for the simple reason it will attract  huge gathering of people and perfect coordination among the nearby ten participating temples.  As mentioned earlier,  seven days before the Pooram, temple flags are ceremoniously hoisted at the two main participating temples, the Paramekkavu Bhagavathi Temple and the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple, officially kick-starting the proceedings. Over the years, the Pooram has become a secular event as one may see participation of many people from other faith. This kind of religious harmony and tolerance is essential for a country's upward growth promoting unity among the countless communities.

Vennimala Sri Rama Lakshmana temple, Kerala with rare pot-shaped sanctum

Vennimala Sri Rama Lakshmaqna templeYouTube
In this Kerala Hindu temple, both lord Lakshmana and lord Rama are worshipped. The striking feature of this unique temple is the shape of the sanctum - Srikovil. Kottayam is the nearest railway station. 
Vennimala Sri Rama Lakshmana temple  located on a 1500 foot tall hill in Puthupally in Kottayam District Kerala is believed to have been built by the ruler  Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara upon the advice and guidance of sage Kapila Maharishi.  Originally, the place was known as Iravipuram. Perhaps one may be wondering why this Hindu temple is located in a secluded area(15 km away from Kottayam town). Legend has it this place, once upon a time a Tabhovana Bhumi (place of meditation), was  ridden with countless demons/ Asuras who terrorised the people and Sadhus/ sages. Driven by arrogance, pride and enormous physical power, they caused untold miseries to the people living there. As the mischief and pain caused by them became so unbearable and went on unchecked, the sages mediated on the lord Sri Lakshmana and Sri Rama  to get rid of the demons from the forest. Lord Lakshmana was quite angry with the demons who had no compassion for the ordinary mortals  who were minding their own business in the forest.  Sri Rama and Lakshmana came to this part of Kerala  wandering during their 14 long year exile. In the ensuing battle between Lord Lakshmana who acted on behalf of Sri Rama and the terrorizing demons, the lord came out victorious. Hence this place later came to be called ‘Vijayadri’ meaning ''victory in Sanskrit.
Vennimala Sree Rama Lakshmana Perumal Temple ...Temple Advisor
As for the ruler Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara, attracted by the beauty of this place and the quiet ambiance stayed here for good and had his place built. Besides, he declared that Lord Rama of this temple would be the ruler of the region and he being his servant. He also further declared this place was a holy one and hence a sacred one - a place of veneration.  The presiding deity is called  “Vennimala Perumal”. The temple is under the administrative control of the Uranma Devaswom Board. 
As one may notice, though the temple is dedicated to Lord Lakshmana, his elder bother  lord Rama gets  equal importance. Unlike many temples, here one can see two dhwajastambhas (flag masts) outside the nalambalam -in the front yard.  Vennimala Koothu, an important  part of the cultural and traditional finearts form  of Kerala, has been around  for centuries and it will be held for 16 long days followed by Koodiyattom  that will last for 12 days. It is believed the duration of festivities is reduced recently for many social reasons. Here the puja protocol is limited to only 3 times daily,

This west facing temple is built in Kerala style in with an  Anapandal (elephant portico). Sri kovil and the mukhamantapa  have interesting  carved wooden panels  in between stone pillars which support a tiled roof atop. They form a sort of pathway. The most exciting feature of this temple which other Kerala temples lack is its Garbagriha / Sri kovil which is in the form of a pot - 'Ghata Prasada’ type. Srikovil is in circular form, but, inside it is hexagonal in shape. The pot-shaped sri kovil  and  the neck-shaped Namaskara mantap (the place where the devotees prostrate before the deity)  have copper-plated wooden roof supported by heavy  wooden  rafters and beams; Close-by is balikkal and  the namaskarara mantap and balikkal are in front of the main shrine.   All along the periphery of the temple lie a series of wood carved images of gods -''daru silpas'' at regular interval. The temple has many small shrines and among them the shrines of Sri Krishna Shastha, Bagavathi are of interest to the devotees.  

The temple tank is not close-by, but is located 100m from the temple. It is said there is an underground channel connecting the temple and the pond. Certain rituals like Balikarmas take place during Thulam and Karkidagam vavu days. About 1 km from the cave there is  a fairly big  cave

Sunday, 12 May 2019

The first and early revolt (1817) against the oppressive British rule - Paika Rebellion of Odisha

This being an election month (the 'General Election' to the Parliament is held in phases across India), here is yet another brief note on the earliest  rebellion /struggle for  independence called  Paika rebellion organized by the Odisha's Paika community.  The Vellore mutiny on 10 July 1806 was the first instance of a large-scale and violent rebellion by Indian sepoys against the East India Company, predating the Paika Rebellion and the  major Indian Rebellion of 1857 by half a century. The revolt took place in the city of  Vellore, Tamil Nadu in which 200 British troops were killed and wounded in the Vellore fort. The struggle lasted for  just a day and roughly 100 sepoys were executed by the British military. Many were blown before the canon. Reason for the trouble: The British asked the Hindus to remove the religious marks on the forehead and the Muslims were advised to forego their beard. But the Paika rebellion was a large scale protest predating the 1857 Indian rebellion.
Vellore Mutiny, 1806. Live History India

The East India company's repressive rule and atrocities in India reached the summit, pushing the tolerant natives to the fag end. This resulted in armed rebellion against the English before the major one that later took place in 1857. Almost every Indian region  across the subcontinent had a taste of the unjust British rule and their exploitation of the land and people. Besides, the discriminatory attitude of the English men toward the natives got them as much bad name as their disgusting wheeling and dealings in trade practises. 
Have you ever heard of the famous armed rebellion of 1817 against the British East India Company's rule in the state of Odisha  called  the Paika Rebellion (also known as the Paika Bidroha)? What was the root cause of this rebellion in this part of East India? The controversial and  contentious land revenue policy of the British was the primary cause of the rebellion. The biased policy affected every section of people in the society; the people were left with no revenue, having lost their hereditary rights to their lands, whereas the company's coffer was full to the brim through out the season. 
 Tinkering with the revenue system by the British earned the ire of the farming community of Odisha.  The sustained struggle  had caused  a large section of the people to let out their pent up anger and frustration against the English company ( Proxy government of the British Crown) who overstepped on their  freedom and fundamental rights. Led by one Bakshi Jagabandhu, leader of the revolt,  the armed rebellion was a symbol of Odia unity and  their  indomitable spirit  to fight  for a common purpose. The rebellion quickly gathered momentum  and spread across  most of Odisha like gossips among women. Surprisingly not only Paikas, but also zamindars, farmers and other sections of the community took the cudgels against the wily   British and their biased land polices. Bakshi Jagabandhu Mohapatra Bhramarabar Ray was the former bakshi or commander of the forces of the Raja of Khurda.  In 1814, the British took over Jagabandhu's family estate of Killa Rorang  forcing him to lead a hand to mouth life.  Once a rich and well-known commander  now became a poor soul  by the British
It is to be noted that the  Paikas  of Odisha were  traditionally  courageous warriors.  They were the landed militia under the state's Gajapati rulers. Believed to be daring and  fearless in dealing with enemies, they were entrusted with the job of safeguarding the state's security and safety of people during peace time. The  Paikas were divided into  three groups/ranks  based on  their occupation and the weapons being used by them. They did different duties in the army and, it is said, they were always duty-bound and would give due importance to their pride. 
East India co. Battle with the Marathas. Live History India
As ill-luck would have it, the political scenario in Odisha changed in 1803 with the English company taking over the reign from the ruler of the land -  Raja of Khurda. Consequent upon the company rule and the use of their army, the power and prestige of the Paikas declined  drastically.  As the English company did not need the services of Paikas, they showed scant respect for them. What angered the natives was the greedy and grasping company officials had set their eyes on the lands owned by the Paikas. They wanted to take over their land - rent free lands given by the ex-ruler to the Paikas for their military service to the state.  The EIC had some reservation about the paikas: they suspected their loyalty to them and their support to the ex-ruler. As they were no longer in the Military services, they forfeited their rights to the land and the revenue. The company considered them  as common Ryots and, as such, like others should pay taxes, etc to the company.  It meant they had no rights whatsoever on the former Jagir lands. So, now they were pushed to the verge of losing  their livelihood -their  main source of income for their families. Besides seizing their hereditary rent-free lands granted to them, the British subjected the Paika to insults, intimidation and extortion. A disgusting fact was the natives were asked to pay taxes in silver on salt!!Being shrewed as they were, the English wanted to take over their lands by driving a wedge in between them to disrupt their unity and economic status. It is something like removing the poisonous flanges and teeth from  Cobras to subdue them as Indian snake charmers used to do in the past. In the mean time, the company kept their police force on high alert to tackle the brewing revolt. 

The Paika community and others, having driven to the end of the cliff, decided to fight it back and revolted under the direction of Raja of Khurda against the unjust English company.  In March 1817 under the leadership. Raja Mukunda Deva, the last King of Khurda there was a large-scale revolt backed by every section of Odia people, including countless land owners and zamindars, not to speak of other rulers of Odisha. At may towns and villages there were riots, many British commanders lost their lives in controlling the revolting Paiga. Only in May 1817 situation came under the control of the British. 
The EIC officials  between 1816 and 1826 searched the jungles and other remote places for the rebels, captured  many of them and  put some  to death.  Jagabandhu, the rebel leader,  was caught in 1825 and  sent to jail till 1827. The Raja of  Khurda refused any concession and died a British prisoner in November, 1817.
At Bubaneswar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2018 released a stamp and a coin to commemorate the Paika rebellion of 1817 in Odisha. 
Paika revolt, Odisha,YouTube