Friday, January 12, 2007
Komana Kadu by our western lakeshore at Olavipe is one of the thousands of groves found all over India. Such emerald beauties are veritable treasure troves sustaining amazing bio-diversity and functional eco-systems, and provide homes to several species of trees, plants, animals and birds. They are considered hallowed because of the belief that certain deities or spirits dwell in them.
This veneration safeguarded the woods from exploitation by man. Sacred groves, in which all forms of life are protected, existed even during Vedic times. Later, Emperor Ashoka's Fifth Pillar Edict (252 B.C.) decreed that forests were to be preserved. The sanctity of these woods became ingrained in the minds of the people.
The origin of sacred groves is still unclear. One theory is that these small patches escaped intense climatic changes ensuring survival of plants and animals. Another is that parts of forests were left undisturbed while clearing land for agriculture. A third possibility is that they were carefully selected, protected and conserved for the benefit of communities living around them.
In my memory, there was only one family living in the area around Komana Kadu – that of Valan (a fishermen caste) Shankaran. It is said that members of this community manned the boat/s that brought the Parayil Family centuries back from some location near Cragannore to Thycattussarry of which, Olavipe is a part. They had a special relationship with the Family through the generations. Shankaran who was also called Shankari, was our favourite boatman.
Today, no one stays at Komana and no lamp is lit at sunset for the serpent gods and spirits of the Kadu. But once, in another era, there was a community inhabiting the place. It is not known why those people migrated from the locality, but once their descendants came back to pay respects to the spirits of Komana Kadu.
That was, I think, in the early 1970s. Ammachi was alone in the house when a large group of people arrived by a country craft at our western landing and came straight to the house. They said that their ancestors used to live in Komana and that they wanted to conduct a pooja at the grove where their forefathers were buried. According to them, it was to be a onetime function.
Ammachi was naturally apprehensive. It was difficult to say no to the visitors. But at the same time there was the risk of the pooja, if permitted, becoming a regular feature. She asked the people who came to sit on the western courtyard and ordered that all of them be served tender coconut water. After consulting the ‘karyasthans’, permission was given to the visitors to perform their rituals.
The function took couple of hours. When it was over, the leaders of the group returned to the house to thank Ammachi. They told her that their obligation to the departed souls had been discharged and that they would not come back.
They never returned.
Also see: Kerala Architecture: Nalukettu, ettukettu, pathinarukettu