Cave Temple at Bhranthan Para.
I was barely in one digit when I first heard about Naranathu branthan perhaps from the primary school in the local area of Nayyur. Parmeshwaran master used to unbundle his stories introducing heroes from folktales colouring and exaggerating whenever necessary when the afternoon sessions seemed heavy and on the verge of blues. It sounded me like a mad man ..as Chathanassery Parangodan …or Patta bhranthan near the school neighbourhood who used to chop dried coconut palm leaves one by one using his fingernails and when it heaps up more than one or two feet, he used to light it and laugh loudly looking at the devouring flames.
The image of Naranathu Bhranthan with a profusely grown long beard that covers most of the face..the sides of it hang down long or stick out to the sides ..the hair around the mouth area was wet and smeared with betel pan juice.. which he used to have throughout day and night. As he wrestled with a huge granite rock with both hands and bracing himself and thrusting fiercely with his hands and feet, he pushed the boulder uphill to the top. Master continued.
But every time as master described, which children are supposed to imitate the action of the Branthan wrestling and thrusting with hands that kept the interest in the story burning. Branthan had had his stone dropped off before it is placed on the plane at the top of Chethallur hill.
The image of Branthan standing at the top of the hill and laughing thunderously, looking at the rolling down rock that haunted me throughout the childhood nights. It was a question nobody could have answered. I realised..so my tender brain kept him under the column of lunatics.
My teenagers could be characterized with all sorts of obsessions, longing as used to.Gradually , I forgot Branthan as usual. Shri Madhusudan rendered Naranathu branthan poem, versified by himself used reverberate the public meetings and campuses during those days. I determined to get a copy of the cassette as soon as it was available in cassette shops..
“”Chathamoottanothu cheruvanundente chettante illapparambil
Chathanum, Pananum, Pakkanarum, Perumthachanum, Nayarum ,Valluvonum,
Uppukottanum, Rajakanum, Karakkalammayum,
Kazhchakkuvendiyee nhanum…” and
Naranathu branthan was brought up in Naranathu mana situated in Palakkad district which was in Valluvanad division. Hence he got the name the mad man of Naranathu. He was shifted Thiruvegappura for mastering Vedas.
Bhranthan Para became his usual hangouts besides RariyanellurMala.He is believed to have brought up by the family of Ilayathu caste which is a subdivision of Brahmin community. They are forbidden from conducting rituals in the temple. Their prescribed duty was to conduct the rituals related to the souls of the dead. Naranathu was not interested to take the profession. He preferred to roam. He used to practice The rock activity until noon. Then he will go for the alms in the neighbouring localities. Then he would cook food and sleep the on the Bhranthan Para.
Later on as a youth when I seeped into existentialism. the myth of Sisyphus started to stir my conscience. It was a punishment inflicted by God for defeating death, the natural order of the biological world, the eternal punishment. The punishment that shocked him helplessly as the pitiless rock roll down towards valley so once again helpless Sisyphus had to wrestle with the boulder and push it up while the sweat poured from his limbs. Sisyphus just challenged twice the natural cycle of death and life. I felt it tragic.
But Naranathu bhranthan’s vigour, revolutionariness and rebelliousness that challenged the norms of life and death. The vigour of Mukhtha who has been liberated from the binding and sufferings of sentiments of life. He emerged as a protective father figure as per the Jungian concept of complexes. Instead of the Sisiphian helplessness.., he allowed the rock to roll down
and would laugh violently and thunderously shaking the valleys..around the hillock.
Bhranthan Para is a huge single rock covering an area of two hectares. As per the fascinating legends of Kerala, he spent his days on this rock. Consequently, People called The rock of Mad man or Bhranthan para.. .. the large single granite rock is situated at Kaippurm Desam of Thiruvegappura panchayat in Palakkad district.
The historical significance of the rock lies in the
three unfinished cells dug in the eastern side of the Bhranthanpara.
The whole cave shrine is an unfinished monument. The three unfinished cells dug out in granite are seen each with a measurement of 10 feet by 6 feet. As we observe the cells, very close to the third cell, an attempt to dig to the cave is seen. The cells carved on the rock suggests the process of different stages in the carving of rock-cut temples in Kerala.
The process can be analysed comparing with the architectural style of the period and the power that reigned that area.We don’t have enough evidences to clear why the builders of the shrine discontinued the work and finally abandoned it.We are not sure how Branthan Para got its name ? Did it spring from the frantic attempts of a folk to build a cave temple without considering the infrastructure facilities available to build such a temple?
. The architectural style employed in this monument is worth studying. The style suggests the influence of Pallava style of temple constructions prevailed in South India in the early decades of eighth and tenth and centuries. The feature of the cave temples on Kerala is that most of them intended for the worship of Lord Shiva. Here also we can see a temple on the top of the rock with Shivalinga with some unidentified idols those are supposed to be worshipped by Naranathu Branthan.
We can see a
Poison nut tree in which a thick rusty iron chain is transfixed which is supposed to have used to chain Naranathu Bhranthan…In due of course legends of Naranathu Bhranthan might have given a mythological colouring to the rock shrine..
Historians keep the view that Valluvanad royal dynasty had close martial ties with Pallava dynasty. Valluvanad was a political division doesn’t exist today. A political division comprising present-day Perinthalmanna, Ottapalam, Pattambi and certain parts of and Tirur taluks. The influence of Pallava architecture in Valluvanad can be traced closely comparing the architectural style of Branthanpara cave temple. Kaithal Shiva templePattambi and Kattilmadam of Koottupatha.
Historians say Kaithali temple might have been built in the 8th century AD during the second Chera dynasty. Traces of Pallava style of architecture can be seen on the semi-finished sanctum sanctorum.
Lord Narasimhamoorthy temple situated in the temple complex bears round in shaped sanctum sanatorium is an example for the usage of the architectural concepts of the Pallava period in a Kerala temple. The ‘Namaskara Mandapam’ in front of the Sanctum of Lord Mahadeva also reflects the Pallava style of Architecture. Appreciating the need to preserve this ancient unique temple complex, the Archaeological Survey of India took over this temple.
..Pallava architecture can be sub-divided into two phases – the rock-cut phase and the structural phase. The rock-cut phase lasted from the 610 to 668 AD and consisted of two groups of monuments eg – the cave temples at Mandagapattu, Pallavaram and Mamandur. (630 to 668 AD). During this period free-standing monolithic shrines called rathas were constructed alongside pillared halls. Some of the best examples of this style are the Pancha Rathas and Arjuna’s Penance at Mahabalipuram.this monolithic sreekovil construction is similar in both cases. Interestingly, the granite-rock temple stands in an area, which has no granite mines around. But further studies on the part of ASI can reveal the truth before the world.
. The similarities in architecture style among these monuments suggest the influence the PALLAVA style of temple constructions during the early decades of 8 and 9 centuries.
The proximity since the between Branthanpara and Rariyanellur Hillock chanced to bear a mythological halo around this rocks shrine. People might have woven stories around that Poison nut tree in the temple that enhanced the mythological connection.
Contrary to the popular version of the stories and beliefs woven around the cave temple of Branthanpara, it is a monument of great historical relevance that proves the dynasty of Valluvanad maintained close ties with Pallava dynasty. Bhranthanpara, Kattilmadam and Kaithali temple are real historical monuments of Valluvanad that employ the Pallava architectural style. These monuments are to be protected and conserved.