Kerala has always welcomed people from different parts of the world. They came from the East and the West – traders, travelers, Apostle St. Thomas, St. Francis Xavier and other missionaries, displaced communities and so on. The array of religions included Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. All were received warmly and a healthy symbiosis developed. Kerala was a land of communal harmony.
It is against this background that one has to view the story of Kudallur Mana situated in Naglasserry Panchayat, Palakkad District, Kerala. Mana means the home of Nampoothiris (Kerala Brahmins). Kudallur was a center of culture and learning. The Family gave great importance to learning and teaching. People who were interested in Sanskrit were welcome to free stay and tutorials at the Mana.
At the same time, the Nampoothiris were not able to obtain modern education without compromising their age-old traditions and beliefs. Kudallur Kunchunny Nampoothiripad was aware of this problem and approached the Government of Cochin in the 1870s to start a special school for the community. This move fructified with the establishment of Nampoothiri Vidyaalayam at Edakkunni near Thrissur almost five decades later.
The ancient Kudallur Mana was fabulously rich and powerful. But even during the height of feudalism, the enlightened and magnanimous members of the family were progressive in their outlook. The tenants were always treated fairly. People who needed help were never turned away empty-handed.
In spite of all these, the Communists once organized a struggle against the Mana with their stock slogans about capitalism, uplifting the downtrodden, imperialism, religious domination and the like. EMS Nampoothiripad, the undisputed leader of the Kerala Communists, himself ordered that the agitation be called off!
A piece from recent history – the last Karanavar (head of the family) of Kudallur Mana, Dr. K Narayanan Nampoothiripad, went to England for higher studies. He came back a Christian and continued as the chief of the family. No one tried to protest, or to ostracize him. Along with Vedic texts, readings from the Bible also resounded within the walls of the Mana.
When the doctor who came to be known as Nazrani Thampuran (Lord) died in 1995, he was buried in the western yard of the Mana. His tomb has a cross and a quotation from the Bible inscribed on it.
Right now Kudallur Mana is again in the limelight. The controversial social studies textbook for 7th Standard introduced by Kerala’s Left Government this year reportedly gives demeaning hints about this historic institution. The Communists seem to have forgotten the advice of EMS Napoothiripad.
[Note: This piece is inspired by an article on Kudallur Mana by Vasudevan Nampoothiripad in the Sunday Supplement of the Malayala Manorama dated July 27, 2008.]