Kannamkulam Illam: My father's ancestral house, Part II

Kannamkulam Illam: 
My father's ancestral house

Part II*

My first visit to Illam

I might have been taken to Kannamkulam Illam earlier also. But the first visit I remember was in 1953/4. I was 9 years old. My sister and I were staying inside the temple with our father, nearer to our school which was some 8 km away from our maternal ancestral house where our mother and other sisters were staying. During weekends my sister and I used to be with our mother. Saturday and Sunday, I used to be sent to a nearby temple for ‘duty’ (Kazhakam, which involved lighting outside lamps, some cleaning, holding a lamp during ‘Seeveli’ etc. My father’s nephew (brother’s son) was the “Shantikkaran”(Pujari) in that temple. After temple duties, I used to stay overnight in that brother’s house and return early next morning.
One Saturday evening when I reached the temple, there was a substitute ‘Pujari’. I was told my brother had left for Illam on receipt of some message. Next morning when I was returning to my house, the substitute ‘Pujari’ handed over a folded paper to me for being safely handed over to my father on Monday when I return. While walking home, I became curious to know what was written in the folded paper. It was a short letter in Malayalam which I could read. The gist of the message was:
Muthassan (Grandfather) has left on Thursday morning and please reach as soon as possible to do the remaining things…”
Buddu me, I didn’t understand the message until I saw my mother taking the letter to her other sisters and my grandmother and all gathering and discussing, weeping in between. Muthassan had gone on his final journey. On Tuesday, father, mother and I traveled by train to Payyanur and from there, by walk (about 2 hours), reached Illam.
As my mother and I belonged to a lower caste, we were accommodated in an outhouse adjacent to the Illam. We stayed there till the twelfth-day ceremony of Muthassan, which was a grand celebration of sorts. All inmates of the Illam treated us well. They included my father’s two elder brothers, My father’s eldest brother’s three sons (Sankaran, Krishnan, Kesavan), Sankaran’s wife and three children (Govindan, Narayanan, and Kesavan who was three years old then) and a widow. Three-year-old Kesavan ( third Kesavan, first my father, second his nephew who is the third among the brothers mentioned earlier) was here, there and everywhere. Every other person was asking him “Where is Muthassan?”, just to hear him saying “Muthassan phoo…phooo…”, as he had himself witnessed Muthassan disappearing in flames!
I can imagine, there was a time when this Illam had more members and enough income from the farms and properties they owned. The big kitchen, outhouses, facilities for accommodating several cows and so on talked a lot about a past, maybe in the 19th Century and first quarter of last Century. My father, as the senior-most male member was doing the “Shraddha” ( Annual ritual on the death anniversary of ancestors who have left this world) for 28 of his relatives, every year, till 1950’s.
The safe journey to heaven and comfortable stay there of every soul depended on the proper observance of rituals by the survivors. From daily ‘bali’ from the day after cremation, 12th-dayPindam’, 41 days ‘Deeksha’, monthly ‘bali’ culminating with another grand function on the first death anniversary all are ‘costly’ celebrations in a Namboodiri family. Add to these, birth, 28th day, Upanayanam, marriage, girl’s first menstruation, marriage, pregnancy and so on. There is a genuine feeling that many Namboodiri Illams landed in abject poverty by their refusal to reduce expenditure on celebrations.
Muthassan’s  Pindam’ was a grand celebration and after that, we bid bye to Illam.
To be continued...
*Part I was posted here on October 21, 2018


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