Here is a nice piece about a temple near Kannur in North Kerala .My wife and I had visited this temple just after our marriage and I can vouch for a fabulous experience which has stayed in my mind and heart ever since. The thunderous drum beating and the dance ritual was a spectacle to behold. I must thank Prem Bhaskaran , my cousin for sending me this write up .Prem is the son of Air Vice Marshal MBhaskaran who went on to become the General Manager of HAL , Nasik.He is one of several distinguished Thiyyas of a generation just gone by .
Kannur, in north Kerala, is a land of many unsung wonders ,a district with its own share of assets amongst the numerous attractions in god’s own country. One that stands out of many-a unique assets of Kannur, is Parassinikkadavu Muthappan Temple a temple of immense specialties!
Situated on the serene banks of river Valapattanam, about 20 km far from Kannur town, the Muthappan temple at Parassinikkadavu is perhaps the only one of its kind in the country in terms of it’s religious practices. In the Hindu temples that follow the ‘sattvic’ way of worship (a term attributed in respect to the high caste Brahmanic worship system) which demands strict purity and vegetarianism and the temple offerings are natural ones like flowers and fruits, can anyone imagine that here there is no idol to worship and offerings to offerings to the deity are meat & toddy! That’s the Temple at Parassinikkadavu.
Here, instead of Hinduism’s customary idol worship, the deity ‘Muthappan’ is worshipped by means of the folk art ‘Theyyam‘ (north Kerala’s indigenous dance form where the performer applies a mask on his face and puts on brightly coloured costumes).
In fact Muthappan Temple is the only one where devotees witness the fascinating Theyyam dance daily; as it is regarded that god uses humans as a medium to communicate to his devotees and put an end to their traumas. The Theyyam performed at this temple are two types: Vellattom and Thiruvappan, personification of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively.
If one learns about the interesting legends of the god ‘Muthappan’, Parassinikkadavu Temple‘s strange rituals can be given full justice. Muthappan, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva, was found as an infant by a childless Brahmin couple. They raised him as their own son. But as he grew up, Muthappan picked up wayward habits, becoming a wandering hunter extremely fond of meat and toddy. One day Muthappan vanished all of a sudden, but not before revealing his divine self to the local folks. Later a temple was consecrated at Parassinikkadavu in his honour.
A deity known for his instant wish granting prowess much like Lord Shiva, Parassinikkadavu Muthappan is the most popular deity in northern region of Kerala. Everyday, lots of people come to this temple to witness the worship rituals, which are indeed a treat to watch.
The daily routine begins with the Theyyam artists, in their colourful attire, performing frenzied dancing rhythmically , with the resonant beat of the percussion instrument ‘chenda’. Symbolically representing the ‘hunter god’, the Theyyam dances with the swaying of a sword. The movements, brisk and light randomly, are a true feast for the eye and the whole atmosphere throbs with the thunderous beating of drums. As the performance reaches its peak, Theyyam on behalf of the deity answers to the devotees’ various woes.
The worship concludes with the distribution of the temple’s special ‘prasadam’, i.e. ritual offerings, ‘Payyankutti’ (A dish made with flattened rice, boiled groundnut with shredded coconuts, black pepper, pappad and dried fish; together with toddy) to everyone but not before offering the same to Muthappan’s most trusted companion ‘the dog’ ! According to legends, the hunter god was always shadowed by dogs and it’s their privilege to be fed first of all with the temple ‘prasadam’. An act symbolizing the oneness of the supreme soul irrespective of gender, caste or creed which the enlightened ones stated that ultimately the soul only lasts, not the body.
In Kannur, people also conduct Theyyam, mainly ‘Vellattom’, at their homes as an offering to fulfill their wishes. After the proceedings are over, much the same like that in the temple, the inmates keep the ‘thirumudi’ of Vellattom (which represents the matted locks of Lord Shiva) on the house rooftop as it is believed that it will bring wellness & prosperity to the household throughout the year. Vellattom offering is held in high esteem by all locals alike.
Parassinikkadavu Temple is not limited to a particular religion; on the contrary it is open to all, with people from different faiths being staunch devotees of Muthappan. A shrine that is a thriving testimony of secular harmony. The practices here seems to intensify the ever debatable fact that isn’t these caste & creed are creations of one’s own mindset or .?