Markazhi

Kathina Vedi

Prabhakarettan lights Kathina


”My uncle Ayyunni’s house was on the other side of the field. It was in a small compound, with a few ancient coconut palms and a cluster of banana trees. The little house was in the middle. It was a low house, with a thatched roof and earthen walls. His wife and four remaining children lived in it. Slivers of darkness that lurked inside even in the daytime were their constant companions under the canopy of gunpowder smell. Aunt pounded the cashew nut wood charcoal along with gun powder and sulphur.” Prabhakarettan continued..

filling gunpowder

Ayyunni mama would pack the powder in the plastic paper( polythene) and rush towards Malamakkavu temple. He moved along like an isolated morsel of darkness. He went through the lane, past the platform beneath the banyan tree and descended into the fields. How sharp they were, the paddy roots left over after the harvest! They seemed to pierce his feet

when sound blooms

.”Ayyunni mama may fill the barrel with gun powder then seal it tightly with laterite stone pieces..He keeps them upright along a straight line..he draws a straight line with gun powder and takes two long puffs of Kajah beedi and lights the kathina.It blasts and reverberates the Malamakkavu valley. The booming sound reverberates around three to four kilometres around the temple.After seconds later, there was a sound of explosion that sent a smoke circle into the air which goes round and round into the air and a blastwave radiating the air . His blasts that trigger from the lighting butt of beedi kathinas with an internally thick sound that shakes our soul. That stirs the crowd that thronged around the temple on the pooram day..He was a legendary figure who was born to blast kathinas” Prabhakarettan revealed his legends of kathina..

unbearable sound !!!!

On Malamakkavu pooram day as the elephants, each will stand face-to-face, in front of the eastern door of the Lord Ayyappa temple Temple, hundreds of people sandwiched in the middle. It seems the sultry weather has had absolutely no impact on the crowds. Every year, it seems the crowds just keep getting bigger and bigger.  It’s a different feeling altogether when you join the crowds, despite the sweltering heat, to partake in the ‘Melam’ (he interest around the Pooram has been so0 hysterical over the last few years that every local wanted to experience it. When one is immersed I may blast the kathina he added..

Malamakkavu temple

When I was a small child I used to cry hearing the sound. But when I was eighteen. Here in Malamakkavu we used this kathina since the period time when i was a boy.. probably a little more than fifty years the lineage of kathina crackers Raman.Ayyunni, Kuttikrishnan ,Matamani and at last me Prabhakarettan, he smiled and added. I joined the adventurous team of sound creators that matches the anger of Bhadrakali. Prabhakarettan breathed a sigh of relief.You know in Devi temples Kathina vedis were blasted in time immemorial.This Kathina is burst three times a day; i.e. morning, afternoon and evening Deeparadhana times in some temples.

kathina blast

The silence of the forest was more oppressive than the heat, and at this hour of the day there was not even the whine of insects. Only when kathina crackers roused a bold bird of sound from a primitive nest of sticks was the silence shattered and echoes set ringing by a harsh cry that seemed to come out of the abyss of ages.

Vezhoor kkavu durga temple

That tore away the mask of fear.. that was the sound of human boldness.., that drove away wild animals from human inhabitation .a bloodless hunt as a practice in the Veloorkunnu temple of Kumaranellur ,Vezhoor kavu temple to burst crackers since unknown ages. The temple belonged to Akkthathethu mana. But Padippurakkal Gopi Nair initiated the magnificent attempt of blasting kathina every day at twelve in the noon. That acted as a siren to the working class and people from all walks of life. Padippurakkal Gopi Nair did this calculation of time by measuring the shade of materials in the sunlight and cracked the kathina at twelve sharply.He continued the practice till 1975.We can see the old barrels used by him to blast the kathinas.

kathina blast

“The searing afternoon heat is giving way to a soothing evening breeze through the precincts of Puthussery temple at Palakkad. Hundreds of people are now assembling on the grounds of the temple right in front of the eastern door of the Puthussery temple..hundreds of kathinas are kept along a straight line and set on fire..It is called Puthussery Vedi. The use of the word “”Vedi “”instead pooram suggests the importance and Vedi prevailed even in the days the poorams started. It also suggests that the reusable iron barrel cracker existed before the establishment of other firework items. “

gun powder

“There is a tradition in many Devi (Durga) Temples even today to burst “Kathina”heavy iron pipe cracker.The number may be five bursting minimum and any number in maximum.  This is a bursting of gun-powder from a small but strong iron barrel with about two and half inches diameter and  with a height of six inches horizontal hole to hold the gun powder. Its a reusable cracker. what is called “Vedi” (Ve-di) in Malayalam? Theres another story of curing of the plant diseases one report says that a man used to blast kathinas beneath a coconut  tree, .. fortunately, it is believed the coconut mite disease (mandari )of the coconut tree was alleviated..the tree began to sprout profusely with more and more coconuts.they say”

filling the barrels at Parakkunnath

You may see another Kathina culture in Thriprayar. One such temple is the Thriprayar Shrirama Temple in Thrissur has a specific offering, Kathina Vedi vazhipadu ,offering, usually for prosperity, marriage or for those seeking children. Devotees can choose between a single “Vedi”, “kootuvedi” of 3, a chain of 101, or even a chain of 1001!” It is said that Hanuman found Sita, and returned joyously and burst a kathina to intimate or awaken Rama about the good news,” explains Prabhakarettan added, Thriprayar Temple.

”Where can we get kathinas ?” ”We may get kathinas from Kunnamkulam..It may cost Rs 350 to Rs500. The gunpowder costs about250Rs per kilogram.”

”One of the exceptions where “vedi” is not an offering is the Sri Krishna Temple in Guruvayur, where legend has it that the deity, Baby Krishna is scared of loud noises.”

”Prabhakaretta, we are leaving .”[Ramankutty and me slipped through the narrow passage.

kathin steel barrels

As we turned back Ramankutty, switched on to ruminate over the history of Kathinas.”Fireworks were documented to have been used during the Mamankam, or Mamangam Mahotsavam held on the banks of the Bharatapuzha during the 12 th century. “The Zamorin documents clearly mention kathina being burst from opposite shores of the river. Muslim merchants and Chettiars would also pump in money for the fireworks. Blacksmiths would vie to make the best castings for the kathina. It was a total community event,” explains VV Haridas, Asst Prof History, University of Calicut.” this is the only authentic document we have regarding the history of kathinas.”

Nilapaduthara mamankam monument

; ”Fireworks and pyrotechnic shows existed as a form of royal entertainment in many medieval Indian kingdoms during festivals, events and special occasions like weddings. Manufacturing formulas for fireworks describing pyrotechnic mixtures are found within Kautukachintamani, a Sanskrit volume by Gajapati Prataparudradeva (1497-1539), a reputed royal author from Orissa. Gode mused on the possibility that Chinese pyrotechnic formulas were brought to India around 1400 AD and then modified with the use of Indian substitutes for the Chinese ones not available in India.”

blast

”Fireworks date back 2000 years in Chinese history and are said to have been used in rituals and festivals to ward off evil spirits. Relations between Kerala and China are pegged to date back to over 1000 years, and as Prof A Sreedhara Menon points out in his book ‘A Survey of Kerala History’, “Many articles in Kerala even today.. have the prefix China added to their name. Example China ottam (kind of boat), China vala (fishing net), China veti (a kind of firework), China chatti ( a kind of pot)China mulaku , chilly.. China patakkam a lot nd of cracker,China bharani kind of vessel. Most probably these are trade articles originally introduced into Kerala by the Chinese traders.”

gun powder line that connects kathinas

Fireworks, like its primary ingredient Gunpowder, have a long history in India. Gunpowder — the accidental tenth or eleventh century invention of medieval Chinese alchemists — was early on dubbed as “devil’s distillate,” as it terrified and fascinated onlookers with its flash and bang. As its military use evolved in China, so did its show and gimmick value — right from the white, magical appearing smoke left in the wake of its open combustion. the first pyrotechnical mixtures for entertainment, was brought to India and Europe from China by the Arabs. –

filling and air tight sealing

”We are, nowadays discussing and debating whether the traditions are good or are we blindly following them.  It just occurred to me to think over this practice and understand why our ancestors kept this tradition.”  The following are my observations you lend your ears Narayanan , : ”The bursting indicates the coincidence with Deeparadhana to the Goddess.  The people inside the temple are a direct witness to this event. For them, the Ve-di is happening outside.  They are not affected by it because they are in tune with the Almighty.

old kathina barrels used in Vezhoorkkavu temple

Those who hear the sound of this bursting far away from the temple, instantly connect themselves with the Almighty in the position and job in which they are occupied.  Though they are away from the temple, they get the feeling of oneness with the Almighty. The Ve-di is indicative of the time in which we are placed at that present moment.  Another indication is to remind us that the time is short and be in tune with that Almighty. So the “inside-outside” concept is removed from the human mind and they are reminded of the Supreme at least at those moments. Some pause for a few seconds during these moments and just pray (look inward) during these small gaps every day.”Raman Kutty asserted at a stretch.

old barrels

It has an economic message as well.  The person who does this Ve-di has to acquire some technical skill.  No education is required for this.  So the persons who develop this skill get employed in their own way and a family is sustained. The same is true of the ancillary products connected with that Ve-di. Again, we are reminded about the origin of sound and That Brahman. On special occasions, when the number of Ve-di is more, we know about the festivals and the thinking process starts with the importance of those festivals. 

kathina blast preperations

Devaswom board members advocated a ban on major fireworks other than ‘Kathina’ when the issue of air pollution was surfaced in Kerala.

.”At last, to say Raman Kutty the word kathina derives from the Kathina festival of the Buddhists. They celebrate the one-month-long festival beginning from the full moon day to the eleventh month of the lunar calendar. The hell shattering sound may scare away the animals from Chinese Buddhist monasteries,, That word might have been stuck with the instrument when the Chinese introduced it in Kerala”

.There was not a breath of wind; the hush of the far-distant swelling mirage diluted by robins song came through the blue weather—the only audible sound except, now and then, a movement and flutter from the bird perched in the branches of the mango tree. a faint, throbbing sound, like the beating of a distant drum and at last the sudden blasting of Kathina.

courtsey Muraliyettan and Krishnakumarettan

Markazhi

Markazhi

There is always something left behind…a twig, fragments of a bangle, a seed, a blossom on the hedges enrolled in the red list.

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