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The word "Othikkan" refers to the title or position traditionally assigned to certain families among the Namboothiri community, authorised to perform or supervise the performance of certain rituals and to teach Vedam or "Othu". Every Namboothiri family will have a designated Othikkan family who will function in that capacity for a group of families. Such Othikkans will also have designated Othikkans. Othikkans come from "Picha" or higher class of Namboothiris.

Othikkan has primarily three functions : one to teach Othu (Vedam text, Samhitha) to the Brahmachaaris or Upanichunnis of their assigned families. Two, perform "Pirannaal Homam" (birthday offering/ ritual) for the members of all the families assigned to him. Such Homams are done annually or monthly depending on the longevity of the concerned individual based on his or her horoscope. Thirdly, they receive "Bhiksha" or "Picha" or alms from the Antharjanams (only Sumangalis, not widows) of the assigned families. Since women are prohibited from looking at or seeing other men, alms are offerred from behind the door of the Vadakkini, and received by him from the Naalirayam (corridor of the central quadrangle of the Illam). Krishnaajinam and Dandu are a must if it is an Upanichunni who receives the alms. Giving alms is not practised in Irinjalakuda region except those of that Graamam who live in Sukapuram Graamam.

Other rituals like marriage are not among the mandatory duties of Othikkan, but of course, they certainly can assist in them too. Guru Dakshina (offering to the teacher) has to be offered by the disciple Brahmachaaris after Samaavarthanam to the designated Othikkan as well as the actual teacher, if different. Rarely, some families have more than one designated Othikkan family, in which case all of them have to be invited for the rituals, though only one will perform the function. Picha can be received by all such families and all family members present for the function. "Chadangu Dakshina" (offering for the conduct of the ritual) is offered only to the actual conducting Othikkan, and "Visesham Cheyyal" to the other Othikkans present. Chadangu Dakshina consists of the number of ordinary "Daanams" offered in the ritual, times the Daanam amount (Panam, Dravyam), and clothes for two Dakshinaas. It is considered as a token of gratitude for conducting the ritual. Visesham Cheyyal consists of four times the Daanam amount plus clothes for two Daanams.

Othikkans are customarily invited for various functions and feasts in the family. In major feasts, the seating protocol (Maanyasthhaanam) will be : Thampraakkal (if present), Vaidikan, Akkitharu, Chomaathiri, then Othikkan, followed by Aaddhyans. It is not a common practice to give "Onappudava" and other gifts to Othikkans.

It may surprise some that even certain temples have Othikkans. Guruvayur and Trippunithura are examples. Such Othikkans do not have much duties other than performing the duties of the Thanthri or the Melsaanthi during their Pula (pollution) (Click here) period.

| Article No:2.4.4 | Last update of this article:19th April 2004 |
Article prepared by : P Vinod Bhattathiripad [in consultation with Naaraas Narayanan Namboodiri, Edapal]
Translated by : K D Nambudripad & K M Vasudevan Namboodiri (Kothamangalath Mana)

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