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Kadavalloor Anyonyam
(Vedic testing venue at Kadavalloor Temple)
True to the saying that highly intelligent people are compulsive in using that faculty, several Namboothiris became famous scholars of our rich inheritance, the highly evolved fields like Vedams, Upanishads, Tharkam and Vyaakaranam. The basis of this achievement was the meticulous educational methods, together with impartiality in testing their scholarship.

"Kadavalloor Anyonyam" is the final examination for the Vedic scholars. The ambitious goal of every Namboothiri boy initiated in Rigvedic studies after his "Upanayanam", is to successfully complete Kadavalloor's "Valiya Katannirikkal". There are, of course, only very few who achieve this feat.

Click here to get a list of winners of Kadavalloor Anyonyam

Studies and Tests: There are two active (not too active since the forties and the fifties) centres for study ("Paatthasaala") of Rigvedam in Kerala. These two "Brahmaswam Madhoms" - one at Thirunavaaya sponsored by the 'Samoothiri" (Zamorins - King of Kozhikode) and the other at Thrissivaperoor (Thrissur) supported by the King of Kochi - absorbed a healthy and constructive competitive spirit. The Rigvedam learning/teaching in these institutions in the traditional Paatthasala style with single-minded concentration extends for at least six years. During the first phase, the entire "Rigveda Samhitha" (text) is learnt by-heart (and by word of mouth), and in the second, the students practice "Padavibhajanam", a form of parse. Only after these, do the students learn "Prayogam". Many cannot get to this stage and drop out.

Although several "Prayogam" methods have been prescribed, only three - Vaaram, Jata and Ratha - are popular in Kerala. Fundamentals to "Prayogam" are the exercises in working out scientific variations (within definite constraints) of the words and phrases as well as in the tunes (music) for chanting. The renderings are made increasingly difficult in the advanced versions. It requires a basic quality of high memory capacity. The clarity and perfection in sound and pronunciation, musical quality, movement of the head and hand, and ease while chanting are achieved only through hours and hours of practice every day under strict supervision. Some individuals become outstanding performers.

The Venue: The Kadavalloor "Anyonyam" is conducted every year during the first fortnight of  the Malayalam month "Vrischikam" (mid-November) at the Sreeramaswamy Kshethram (temple) at Kadavalloor. The temple is situated about 10 km north of Kunnamkulam, on the west side of the Kunnamkulam - Calicut road, in the Kadavalloor village, near the border of Trissur and Malappuram districts.

Kadavalloor Temple

Testing Process: The literal meaning of the word Anyonyam is "each other". This nomenclature is due to the fact that when a Namboothiri belonging to the Thirunavaya school wants to exhibit his proficiency, the portion of the Rigveda to be chanted by him is to be set by the opposite side, that is, Thrissur school, and vice-versa. The opposite side also judges the correctness of the chanting of the portion specified by it. Three methods of chanting, viz. "Kramam", "Jata" and "Ratha" are adopted in order to adjudge the scholar's proficiency in (1) the correct memorization of the text (Samhitha), (2) its specific intonation (Swaras), (3) breaking the text into its constituent words (Padapaatha), (4) joining of the words (Sandhi) etc.  Only one scholar does the chanting of Kramam, whereas "Jata" and "Ratha" are chanted together by two scholars. When "Jata" or "Ratha" is chanted without any guidance (prompting) from others, that is, without any coaching or prodding, it confers higher titles such as "Katannirikkal " or "Valiya Katannirikkal". When a scholar becomes an acknowledged expert in all the aspects, viz. Samhita, Padachhedam, Kramam, Jata and Ratha, he can attempt for the title Katannirikkal. Then he has to chant Jata or Ratha without any help - either orally or by hand gestures. A scholar, already having obtained the Katannirikkal title, can aspire for attempting the highest title of Valiya Katannirikkal, after further enhancing of his scholarship and getting acknowledgment of the same by chanting a number of times in front of distinguished audience. Like Katannirikkal, the participant of Valiya Katannirikkal also has to perform without any assistance.

A scene from Kadavalloor Anyonyam

It is postulated that these methods of chanting and its exhibition in a large gathering of an audience of scholarly experts is primarily meant for the zealous preservation of the purity of the text, its correct intonation and correct breaking up of the words in their pristine original form, without an iota of error.  This chanting is sweet to listen and has some entertainment value to the initiated.

Each of the eight "Ashtakam" of Rigvedam forms the syllabus for each of the eight days. Ten to twelve persons each from the two schools - Thrunavaya and Thrissur Yogams - who are generally accepted as the best from each, get tested during these days. The examinees and the examiners are necessarily from opposite Yogams. The fact that they do not talk even to relatives belonging to opposite Yogams, if they meet in the Kshethram premises, shows the secrecy and seriousness of the examination system. The experts from the two Yogams are even housed separately. Each of the two Yogams gets prominence on alternate days.

Only those who have shown their expertise in a couple of "Prayogams" to a scholarly audience, get entry to "Anyonyam". The "Vaarams" used to offer such opportunities, as also at the "Brahmaswam Madhom" on special occasions like "Navaraathri".

The tests begin in the evening, in the Vaaram format, after "Deepaaraadhana" (a special offering with lighted camphor at dusk in the temple). The examiners mention the serial number of the "Vargam". The examinee takes time to silently remember the entire Vargam and then starts. The left and right sides are occupied separately by members of the two Yogams. The examinee will have to leave upon committing a single mistake.

Click here for a video clipping of Randaam Vaaram (Kramam Chanting): Display of expertise by a small boy Maarath Kaapra Narayanan Namboodiri (of Thrissur School). The prompters are Chalakkudi Paduthol Neelakandhan Namboodiri and Kaplingad Parameswaran Namboodiri (both, obviously, of Thrissur School). Nethissery Parameswaran Namboodiri (of Thirunavaya School) adorns the brahmananís position.

Note: The case of Nethissery Mana is a typical one as far as familyís affiliation to a school is concerned. Though Nethissery family is in Aayamkudi near Kottayam, it is affiliated to the Thirunavaya Vedic School and not to the nearby Thrissur School. Similarly, some families in North Kerala are affiliated to the Thrissur School and not to the nearby Thirunavaya School. But, in general, a family is affiliated to the nearest School.

The "Jata" and "Ratha" prayogams start later at night after the "Athaazha Pooja" is completed and the sanctum is closed. It starts with a sound-control practising by name "Kottu", by experts. Atleast four experts participate in it by rendering a small portion of  "Rigvedam" in Kramam format after closing their mouth and nose. One can hear only a humming sound. But experts can identify the portion sung by each participant. It is just a practising session and not a part of testing process. The most difficult is the "Ratha" in which two persons recite simultaneously and immediately upon the first 2-3 words of the Vargam is uttered. Squatting face to face, they have to complete the whole Vargam correctly, though they can be prompted by their Yogam-mates in case of doubts.  For the two Yogams, there are special locations for the examinees, depending on the expertise or standing of the examiners. For both "Jata" and "Ratha", the positions of examinees depend upon their expertise. The "Entry-level", "Katannirikkal" and "Valiya Katannirikkal" are the three testing positions based on "Jata" / "Ratha" format. The sitting positions of examinees, for these three testing processes, are different. (see the picture below). The following gives a highly simplified version of the formats of the three Prayogams, viz. Kramam, Jata and Ratha.
Suppose the Samhita consists of the five words-- A,B,C,D and E. Then:
Kramam:- AB; BC; CD; DE; E-end.
Ratha:- AB, A;
        AB, BC, CBA;
        AB, BC, CD, DCBA;
        AB, BC, CD, DE, EDCBA;
        AB, BC, CD, DE, E-end.
Though the above looks apparently simple, it is very difficult in practice due to complications of Samhita, Padachhedam, Sandhi and Swaram. It needs great memory and concentration to chant backwards, word by word, an entire long line consisting of 15 words or more.

Miti (crackling of middle finger and thumb)
During Anyonyam, each Yogam strives to minimize the mistakes committed by its participants. At the same time, it is also necessary to detect the mistakes and rectify the same. Thus there is a conflict of interest for the performing Yogam. Therefore, what happens is that, clear-cut mistakes, which cannot be suppressed, are acknowledged and corrected. Not so clear or minor mistakes are ignored deliberately and the chanting goes on uninterrupted. Now it is to the credit of the judging Yogam to detect that mistake and show the detection, not by words,but by a huge roaring sound of `Miti' of hundreds of members of the judging Yogam. Then the matter is discussed by the senior scholars from both the Yogams and finally the issue is settled either in favour or otherwise of the participant. The final verdict on the issue is made by the judging Yogam. It is interesting to note that there is no system of referee in such situation. The ultimate stand of the judging Yogam, after considering all the points put forth by the performing Yogam, is the final say in the matter. Both "Jata" and "Ratha" are tested during dinner. The feast is known as "Vaara Sadya" and the menu for it is simple.

There is no prompting either orally or by hand gestures to help the examinee for "Katannirikkal" as well as the "Valiya Katannirikkal". "Valiya Katannirikkal" position is for the pair of examinees with proven track record in the four testing points referred above as well as perfect sound control during chanting. Even a minute mistake disqualifies him.

For a video clipping of "Ratha", click here. The two examinees squatting face to face, are Kothamangalam Vasudevan Namboodiri (facing east) and Naraath Parameswaran Namboodiri (facing west). One of the prompters (sitting nearby Vasudevan) is Dr. Mannoor Jathavedan Namboodiri and the other is Thamaralloor. Kothamangalam Vasudevan Namboodiri, a postgraduate in Statistics from Indian Statistical Institute, is a senior officer in Indian Statistical Service. Naraath Parameswaran hails from a family of vedic experts and is a vedic chanting expert among the youngsters. Dr. Mannoor Jathavedan Namboodiri is a consultant Psychiatrist and has twice successfully performed in "Katannirikkal" position.

For a video clipping of "Jata", click here. Note that the clipping was not taken from the original position but from an Illam nearby, since, on the day of recording, there was no "Jata" testing.

THE KADAVALLOOR VEDIC TESTING PLATFORM: (The dotted box indicates the sitting position of Thirunaavaaya Yogam contestants)
Yellow Box The platform
Black Ellipse Pillar position
Green Boxes Position of entry-level-duo for "Jata" and "Ratha" (east-west). Two examinees squat face to face.
Blue Boxes "Katannirikkal" position of examinees. (east-west). Two examinees squat face to face.
Red Boxes "Valiya Katannirikkal" position of examinees. (north-south). Two examinees squat face to face.

Thrissur School members sit here


Vedic testing platform

Thirunavaya School members sit here

Revival: "Kadavalloor Anyonyam" was held regularly till 1947. Later, centred at Chovvannoor Sabhaamadhom, a revival effort was made which could not be sustained. After a gap, it was revived at Kadavalloor Temple itself, which is being regularly held now, annually.

Should not rejuvenation go much beyond revival of Kadavalloor Anyonyam, which is an outward manifestation of the method of ancient traditional Vedam recital? Through the ages, the Vedic culture may have passed through a number of changes as well as ups and downs. Yet at its core, its greatness is eternal, and its understanding should not be lost completely.

In contrast with the keenly competitive spirit with which it was done till about seventy years ago, now-a-days it has been reduced to an annual ritual, due to the scarcity of young scholars in these changed times. Presently, only a few examinees appear for getting tested. Still, the testing process has not been diluted much.

Only in Kerala can one see remnants of the basic traditions in the study of Vedams, use of Prayogams, and in enunciation (chanting / recital). There are still a few surviving scholars here who had gone through the tough grind of Kadavalloor Anyonyam and had come out with flying colours.

Only in Kerala have the Mudras (standardised movement of hand and fingers) used during Vedam recital been retained in its truely traditional, uncorrupted and pure form till this day. Its musical aspects (notes like Udaatham, Anudaatham, Swaritham) later evolved and developed into the classical music system of the country, and yet, the original form continues to be retained here. We continue to use the Veda-sookthams (parts of vedic text) at all levels - in the forms of worship, in religious and social rites, and in marriage and other rituals. The meaning and value of annual events like 'Kadavalloor Anyonyam' should be understood in this context.

| Article No:4.6.1 | Last update of this article:2nd March 2003 |
Article prepared jointly by K.D.Nambudripad and Kothamangalam Vasudevan Namboodiri with inputs from Prof. P.C.K.Nambudiripad, Perindiri Chennas Mana, Guruvayoor

Editing and Graphics: P. Vinod Bhattathiripad.
Video Coverage: Vazhakunnam Gireesan Namboodiri (Drisya Studio, Koppam, Near Pattambi, Palakkad district).

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