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Until about a century ago, when a suspicion arose about the loss of chastity - "atukkaladosham" or "chaarithradosham" - of a female member of the Namboothiri community ("antharjanam"), a trial was conducted and judgment delivered (inquisition) on the issue. This process was called "smaarthavichaaram". The particular Namboothiri woman was called "saadhanam" (meaning thing). Such a trial of the notorious Kuriyedath Thaathrykutty was conducted sometime around ME 1079 (AD 1903-04). As a result, many a Namboothiri was ostracised or ex-communicated.

"Smaarthavichaaram" involves six steps:
1. "Daaseevichaaram" - investigation through maid-servants;
2. "Anchaampurayilaakkal" - consigning (remanding) the "saadhanam" to "anchaampura";
3. "Smaarthavichaaram" - the trial;
4. "Swaroopam chollal" - delivering of judgment;
5. "Udakavichhedam" - ritualistic de-linking from the family;
6. "Sudhabhojanam" - formal social acceptance of the rest of the family.

In addition, if any of the accused Namboothiri deny guilt, he can go through "Sucheendrath kaimukkal" ( Click here for "Kaimukkal" at Sucheendram Temple) to prove his innocence, and if successful, he is acquitted by giving a "Sudhipathram" (clean slate). These steps are briefly discussed here.

First, of course, a suspicion about the "antharjanam" has to arise. People in the neighborhood make a preliminary investigation and a questioning through the maid-servants. Through this, if it cannot be proved that she is quite faultless, and some doubts and indications remain, (to have "sankayum thumpum"), then the second step is taken and she is confined to a separate quarters.

If the suspicion is substantiated in the preliminary enquiry, she is taken to an appropriate quarters outside the main "illam" ("anchaampura"). She is refrained from meeting or getting advice from anyone, ensured through the posting of guards.

Thereafter, two respectable neighbours ("enangar") go, meet and apprise the Maharaja of the matter, who orders the conduct of "smaarthavichaaram". Orders are served on the "smaarthan", two "meemaamsakars" recommended by the "enangar", "akakkovil" (an authorised representative from the concerned area) and the Tehsildar of the concerned Taluk.

From the time the "saadhanam" is confined to "anchaampura" to the last step of "sudhabhojanam", all the members of her family are kept somewhat segregated from the community and are not permitted inside temples. But the kith and kin assist in the essential "karmams" like "sraadham", etc.

"Meemaamsakan" refers to a learned person who makes wise and principled decisions. The assigned "meemaamsakar" (plural) are usually from the concerned region to take advantage of their personal knowledge on the background of the particular community.

In earlier times, the Maharaja himself used to be present on the occasion of the trial, but later, he started sending a representative (only "Kshathriyas").

Present during the trial are the "smaarthan", two neighbours ("enangars"), two "meemaamsakar" (jury), "akakkovil" and the king or his representative. Only the "smaarthan" is authorised to do the questioning. It is the responsibility of the "meemaamsakar" to give proper advice to him and to make wise interpretations of all questions and answers. Though the "akakkoyma" cannot directly question the "saadhanam", he can and should indicate to the "smaarthan" that a particular question is immaterial or irrelevant, by removing the towel from his shoulder and dropping it on the floor. Only if he is satisfied with the question, does he pick up the towel.

"Purakkovil" or the king himself (or his representative) provides overall supervision and ensures proper procedure and conduct of the trial. The "saadhanam" will be in an adjacent room with the doors closed, and will not be directly seen unless and until the guilt is admitted. The trial may sometimes last for days, weeks or even months.

This refers to the reading of the verdict. In fact, it involves presentation of the entire trial proceedings from the time of suspicion to the reading of the verdict. It is usually done at night in the king's palace, in his presence. After the "swaroopam chollal", the "smaarthan" should take bath.

Proving the guilt through "smaarthavichaaram" and the consequent ex-communication through  "swaroopam chollal" delinks the guilty from the family members only in a worldly sense ("lowkika-bandham"). The process does not cut off the religious links ("vaidika-bandham" - "pula", "Seshakriya", etc.). These can be cut off only after performing the prescribed ritual called "udakavichhedam".

Patiyatachu Pindam Vekkal
During "smaarthavichaaram", if the "saadhanam" implicates a man, but "swaroopam chollal" and "udakavichhedam" have not been completed, and at that juncture, if the man dies, then the concerned relatives have to observe the usual ten-day "pula" and perform "pindam", but in secrecy. The gate to the house or the outer doors are kept closed during "pindam", which is why it is called "patiyatachu pindam vekkal". Even so, "udakavichhedam" needs to be performed after "smaarthavichaaram" and "swaroopam chollal".

This is the last phase of "smaarthavichaaram". During the entire trial process, all the family members of the "saadhanam" would have been treated differentially by the community, getting assistance only in the essential rites and rituals. After the guilt is proven, "swaroopam chollal" is completed and all the guilty ("bhrashtanmaar") are ex-communicated and sent away by collective clapping of hands; all the rest have a get-together with the "enangar", relatives and friends. They are all given a feast and "dakshina" to re-affirm mutual acceptance and return to early relationship and normalcy. This ritual is called "sudhabhojanam".

Azhivu Chollal
It may turn out that the suspicions on the "antharjanam" ("saadhanam") were completely false, and she is declared not guilty. Under such a circumstance, she is accepted back by the community through what is called "azhivu chollal" followed by "sudhabhojanam".

| Article No:9.6 | Last update of this article:17th September 2000 |
Article prepared by: K. D. Nambudripad
Reference: "Ente Smaranakal" - Vol. 3 by Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad, Panchangam Press, Kunnamkulam.

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