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"Kaimukkal" at Suchindram Temple

Dipping the palm in boiling ghee (Kaimukkal) at Suchindram Temple was performed by Namboothiris in order to prove the innocence and integrity in case of punishment by excommunication (Bhrashtu). It is not known when this practise started, but there are evidences in the temple records to show that it was held as early as 802 ME (AD 1626-27) and continued till 1019 ME (AD 1843-44). Later it was prohibited by a law of the Government of India in 1036 ME (AD 1860-61)

The "Thanthri" and the chief priests of the temple, now situated in the State of Tamil Nadu, belonged to Irinjalakuda, Sukapuram and Perumanam "Graamams". The trustees were also Malayalee Brahmanans and hence Namboothiris had a close connection with this temple. As per records kept in the temple, most of the "kaimukkal" functions were performed to prove innocence in cases of suspected immorality. But a Namboothiri had once performed this act for his suspected role in a murder case also.

Generally "kaimukkal" used to be performed when a Namboothiri was awarded excommunication after "smaartha vichaaram" for having sexual relationship with another man's wife. It seems that in erstwhile North Malabar there was a similar practice where Namboothiris used to swear in the nearby Bhagavathy temple to prove his honesty and truthfulness. But Namboothiris of South Malabar, Cochin and Travancore preferred Suchindram Temple for proving their innocence in such cases. This is not only because the priests of Suchindram Temple were Namboothiris, but also because of the story that Lord Indran once dipped himself in boiling ghee and cleared of the curse (imprecation).

The Procedure: The accused Namboothiri applies for permission to prove his innocence by dipping his hand in boiling ghee in Suchindram Temple, to the "Smaarthan" (person who is authorised to hear the case and award punishment) Namboothiri. This permission is known as "pump". This "pump" is then presented to His Highness the Maharaja of Travancore, through the local priest where the excommunication procedures took place.

The Maharaja then issues an official order called "neettu" to the trustees of the Suchindram Temple. The accused and the local priest go to Suchindram with this order and deliver it to the trustee. A meeting of the trustees is then convened and the date for the "kaimukkal" function is fixed.

The long procedure starts a day prior to the actual "kaimukkal". The accused Namboothiri has to fast the previous day. Before sunset, he takes bath and conducts a special offering called "navagraha pooja". Nine Pottis (a sect of Namboothiris, especially belonging to Travancore area) will be seated in the positions of nine planets ("navagrahangal"). After this pooja, the devotee moves to the front of the sanctum sanctorum, when the Vattappally Moothathu warns him to enter only if he is quite sure about his integrity. Then, he takes an oath in the presence of Polppane Bhattathiri.Till then, only a single wick is lighted. But after the oath-taking ceremony, all the lamps are lighted and the usual "pooja" and "deepaaraadhana" are performed. The devotee should sleep only in the "balikkal pura" and should not go out of the temple.

Next morning, the Moothathu awakens him and escorts him to a special pond called "prajna theertham" which is in an uninhabited place. Such a deserted locality is chosen to give the Namboothiri a last chance to escape from the place, if he feels guilty. After bathing in that pond, he has to perform the "kaimukkal" function. He changes his dress and goes to the temple. Meanwhile, a copper vessel with boiling ghee will be kept ready. The Namboothiri should not talk any more. A palm leaf on which the oath taken the previous day is written, will be fitted to his hip. A golden ox is then put in the boiling ghee. The devotee prays to the god and repeats the oath taken already. Then, in the presence of the trustees, priests, temple employees and the local public assembled in the premises, the Namboothiri puts his right hand into the boiling ghee and takes out the golden ox from it. He now drops it on to a plantain leaf. Now he goes round the temple in a clockwise direction (pradakshinam) with his hands raised so as to be seen by everybody. The Moothathu then covers his hand with a cloth.

The next three days, the Namboothiri should stay in the Moothath's house; in other words it is the responsibility of the Moothathu to take care of him. On the third day, the Moothathu also takes bath along with the Namboothiri and both of them come to the flagstaff of the temple. Then the Moothathu removes the cloth from the hand of the Namboothiri in the presence of the trustees, priests and others.

If his hand is burnt (this is known as "blackening of the hand") he is an excommunicant, and if not (this is known as "whitening of the hand") he is innocent. In the former case, he has to give an amount of 400 "panam" [1 "panam" = 4 Annas, 7 Pies (old Indian Coins) = 28 Paise (new Indian Coin)] which is for the purification of the temple polluted by the excommunicant. Moreover, this excommunicant will be sent out and forced to cross the nearby river by 32 maids beating him with brooms.

In the latter case, he enters the temple and a lunch will be served for the Brahmanans, in which he also eats being seated along with others. After food, the Namboothiri is taken round the town. Then, a clean certificate is written. He now returns successful and visits the Maharaja who receives him by presenting silks, bracelets and money. Finally, the Namboothiri goes to his own village and shows the clean certificate to the local priest. He also offers a feast to all Namboothiris of the area.

| Article No:9.7 | Last update of this article:11th September 2000 |
Article prepared By T. N. Neelakantan, M. A, Thekkumon Matom, Suchindram, Kanyakumari Dist., 629 704, Phone : 0465-241885  &  V. M. N. Nambudiripad.

Reference : "Ente Smaranakal", Vol. 3, By : Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad

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