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Monday, May 29, 2023

Temple Reclamation Movement in Kerala: A movement to restore traditions of the region

Kerala is said to have constant presence in the history of south Bharat with its unique cultural heritage and as a defender of Hindus during sundry incursions. The Cheras are believed to be the first kings to have ruled over Kerala though frequently struggling to keep power by withstanding perpetual attacks from their neighbouring kings like Cholas, Pandyas etc. The state, despite keeping every invading force in check and staying the sole propagator of Dharma when muslim forces assailed the land of Tamizhagam after the fall of Vijayangara empire, lost its cultural and spiritual heritage after the Mysore invasion of Malabar. Many temples of south Bharat were attacked by Muslims as a result of which the local Hindus took the utsava murthis of various temples to different parts of Kerala until the invaders were subjugated by Kottayam Kerala Varma near Thiruvattar, Kanyakumari.

However, the conquest of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu sultan, transmuted the Dharmic nature of Kerala weakening it both economically and spiritually. Multiple Mysorean invasions of Malabar happened between approximately 1750-1792, and Muslims ruled for a short while in Kerala. Genocide of lakhs of Hindu Nairs happened along with forced conversion in large scale, in addition to temple destruction and wealth looting. As a result of these invasions, the Vayalapra Nambiar family also lost their temple and surroundings during pre-1790 periods of continuous jihad of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu.

The family settled in adjacent regions’ following war, and lived there for more than 200 years. The new generation had no idea about their traditions or ancient family temple. During an astrological consultation, it was predicted about the existence of their temple lands in the said place. They searched for the property in the predicted place, and after a long search they found the remains of the temple. Now the land was in the hands of Muslims. They were successful in buying 80 cents of land back for the restoration of Dharma.

The traditional theyyam festival, which was not conducted for about 250 years after the invasion of Mysore Sultanate has also been successfully started again. Full renovation of the temple, its pond, water well, the Vayalapra Nambiar’s family home, will start with this commencement of the elaborate ”theyyam festival” which has been the tradition of the region since time immemorial.

The presiding deities of this temple which was ravaged by the invaders is identified as Vettakkoru Makan (Son of Lord Shiva and Parvathi worshipped mainly in Kerala), Urpazhassi (deity worshipped as the protector of the region), Bhagavathi and Ancestor-Guru using devaprashnam (traditional astrological practice of Kerala).

The Reclaim Temples movement in Kerala, which so far has rebuilt thousands of temples ravaged by the Islamic invasion of Kerala by Mysore sultanate, has also been using devaprashnam to retrace and re-establish Dharma in the region.

This development is exciting at multiple levels. First of all, it is directly connected with historical events. Second, it shows how even after 200 years we can still regain the culture, tradition and rituals of our ancestors. Third, the regain of the Dharma at personal/family levels. Fourth, reclaiming of temples/land lost due to jihad, and finally a fine example of how young people are ready to go back to roots and ready to upkeep the honour of their illustrious ancestors.

The organisation named KBSV Bharat has been actively working for the restoration of temples and lands which were ravaged by the invaders. We just hope that with more such attempts, Hindus of that region regain their hold on their traditional practices and Dharma which were lost by the bloodshed which occurred in the name of Islamic invasion.

Note: This article has been written by Revathi (@jayarevathi) using the information published in Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi.

(Featured image courtesy: http://www.malaparamba-narasimhamoorthy.org/photogallery.htm. The image is of Malaparamba Mattummal Narasimha Murthi temple, one such temple rebuilt after its destruction by Islamic invasion)

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