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Appath Ateeri

There lived an "Ateeri" (Atithiripad, a Namboothiri who has performed "Aadhaanam"; real name is not known) in Appath Mana near Padinjaarangaadi of Edapal in Malapppuram dist. During 884 ME (1709 AD) he had inscribed on copper plates (strips) some of the eventful and personal experiences of his times. The narrative which is of an auto-biographical nature, dealt primarily with the Panniyoor-Sukapuram Conflict (click here) which had its origin as early as 14th century AD. The copper plates were later copied on to both sides of 74 palm leaves ("Ola") [30 cm x 4 cm size] by a Narayanan Namboodiri of Vella Mana of Thavanur, Malappuram dist. This work disproves the hitherto held belief that the origin of Malayalam prose coincided with the arrival of Christian Missionaries; much earlier to "Samkshepa Vedaarthham" and the Arnos Paathiri period. Appath Ateeri may even be described as the author of the first autobiographical work known in Malayalam.

There is reference about this work in a later document (1781) by Vella Namboodiri dealing with Hyder Ali's foray in these parts and the history of Vella. Together, the two works throw much light on the history of Graamams and governance covering a century. Vella's work gives a historical perspective of how the "Varaahamoorthy" idol of Panniyoor was destroyed and Subrahmanian's idol consecrated, and later how the people of Panniyoor Graamam (click here) re-consecrated Varaahamoorthy (931 ME Makaram 17, Wednesday). Following this, Ateeri's son declared the presence of his father's copper plate document with the consecration and predictions on the resolution of the conflict. This is how Vella got Ateeri's document.


Though the Panniyoor-Sukapuram feud had started earlier, the story begins with the riot-ridden Vellaaloor temple Vaaram (click here) of 575 M E. The Vaaram was attended by some Panniyoor families despite the ostracism which had been imposed by Sukapuram Graamam on not only Panniyoor Graamam families, but even outsiders related through marriage. This had resulted in physical violence between the two groups, and what made matters worse was that Appath Ateeri's sons had un-intentionally beaten up a representative of the Saamoothiri. They were ordered and brought to him, questioned for about 20 days, manhandled, and even starved, according to Ateeri.

The Sukapuram Graamam leaders could influence the Saamoothiripad enough to swing his favour from Panniyoor to their own Graamam. The torture from the king and Ateeri's fear that his entire family could be destroyed, upset him terribly. He could not eat nor sleep and finally decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kasi (Banares) and spend the rest of his life as a devotee of Sivan there. But when he (only 42 then) told about his decision to his wife, sons and daughter (Savithry, 11), their grief was uncontrollable. So, after discussing with all concerned, it was decided that he would instead spend a year worshipping their own Varaahamoorthy. He then went to Panniyoor taking his nephew, Narayanan to assist him.

At the end of the year, he returned home, but after further discussions with all concerned, he decided to continue the worship for 12 years. Around the 11th year, God appeared in a dream, told him that he will find perfect happiness if he spends the rest of his life with his family, but as a devotee of Varaahamoorthy, blessed him and disappeared. He completed the twelfth year and returned home.

On the 19th of Kumbham, when he visited the Maavare temple, he found a serpant on the north side of the temple Mandapam (platform) with its head to the east. When he made some noise, it raised its hood, slowly climbed down to the east and then up to the foot of the idol ("Sopaanam"), waved its raised hood a few times, withdrew and left to the east along the north side. He described this incident to Vella Namboodiri on Kumbham 20 while at Panniyoor temple.

It was decided to dig up the idols a couple of weeks later on the 4th of Meenam. After the relevant people, and especially the Vaadhyaan, Aykkulath Karuvaattu Namboodiri and Kothachira Aadhyan Namboodiri were called in. After offering two "Panams" [1 Panam = 4 Annas and 7 pies (old coinage) = 28 Paise (current)], to the Vaadhyaan, the digging started. At about 0.5 meter depth (3/4 of a "Kol", a local measure), they found a vessel containing idols, another with Ganga water, and a sinistral conch ("Valampiri Sankhu" - right-turned conch). One among the ten "Saalagraamams" was "Hiranyagarbham". Vella took them to Appath Mana the next day (5th) during Meenam Raasi, consecrated the idols, and "Pooja" (click here) and "Pushpaanjali" (offering of flowers) were performed.

| Article No:5.2.4 | Last update of this article:13th April 2005 |
Article by : Dr N M Nampoothiri
[Retired Professor of Malayalam, Sree Neelakandha Govt. Sanskrit College, & Project Director, U G C Sr. Research Fellow, Oriental Research Centre, Sree Neelakandha Govt. Sanskrit College, Pattambi]
No. 36, A R Family Quarters, Bazar - PO., Alapuzha. Tel. 0477-2254326

Our thanks are due to Mangalath Divakaran, Bramhamkulam, Guruvayoor, for initiating us into this topic.

Further Reading : "Vellayute Charithram" (History of Vella)
Compiled and Edited by Dr N M Nampoothiri. [Publishers : Vallathol Vidyapeettham, Sukapuram, Edapal - 679 576 . First Published : March 1998]

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