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Till recently, "Thampraakkal" used to be the ultimate decision-making authority on all issues, religious or otherwise. Lord Parasuraman is said to have given them this spiritual "Aachaarya" status.

The word Thampraakkal has its origin in "Samraat", which later corrupted to the present form. The characteristics of a Samraat are, one who is : an expert in "Yogaabhyaasam", a know-all (highly learned), powerful enough to bless or curse, and who has merged into the eternal "Parabrahmam".

In early times, the status of a person was based not on his wealth or aristocracy, but on moral values like renunciation (of wordly possessions, pleasures and passions), religious discipline, single-minded concentration, and truthfulness. The Thampraakkal families had abundance of such virtues, which is why even Namboothiris referred to them as "Thampraakkal" out of respect. Apart from being the supreme authorities on all religious matters, they also had the power to punish, especially when Namboothiris sometimes disobeyed even the kings. As with other Namboothiri families, they also obseved the practice of only the eldest son getting married.

Every Graamam in Kerala had a Samraat, and some of them are listed below:



Aazhvaancheri Mana
Nedumpally Mana
Kalpakancheri Mana
Kirangattu Mana
Akavoor Mana
Kurumathur Mana
Kidangazhi Mana

Although Aadiriyedam of Karikkat Graamam mentions ten Thampraakkals, Kidangazhi is not mentioned as one. Kurumathur is certainly the Thampraakkal of Perinchellur Graamam, and known as Naikkarappan. But the powers of the position were taken away by the Raja of Kolathiri after he brought the Saagaradwijans (Click here). Akavoor lost their rights when the family relocated from Airaanikkulam to Vellarappally. Kirangat lost their position after Saamoothiri's invasion. Kalpakancherry was the Thampraakkal until the Panniyur problem erupted. The original Nedumpally Illam of Irinjalakuda does not exist any more. They became Tharananellur Thanthris (high priests). Thus, only Aazhvaancherry Thampraakkal remains.

The treatise referred to by Keralites for finding the auspicious day / time (Muhoortham) for marriage, etc. is the Granttham "Muhoortha padavi". There exists an excellent Bhaasha (Malayalam) commentary on it by a Thampraakkal, either Kalpakancheri or, according to Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer, Aazhvaancheri. The Illam of the former is said to be 8 - 10 km southeast of Tirur in a place called Kalpakancheri, but does not exist now.

In the Namboothiri community, Aazhvaancheri Thampraakkal is held in the highest esteem, mainly because of their strict observance and practice of "Dharmam". It is said that they could actually experience or see Lord Vishnu, which gave them an alias, "Nethranarayanan". There is a story that Paakkanaar, having been tremendously impressed by the divine powers of the Thampraakkal, exclaimed that only Aazhvaancheri Thampraakkal is the real Thampraakkal, and not the others, and the title "Thampraakkal" was stuck with that family. It is believed that Polpaya Mana (of Kulukkamillaavoor Griham) is the base family of Aazhvaancheri Thampraakkal (and also of Pandamparambath Mana and Polpakkara Mana). Aazhvaancheri Mana is also referred to in old documents as Polpaya-Aazhvaancheri Mana.

Thampraakkal who was to be present during the "Ariyittuvaazhcha" (Click here) of the Saamoothiris of Kozhikode, was requested to relocate to within their jurisdiction. The family thus shifted to Athavanad, near Thirunavaya in Malappuram District, where the Saamoothiri had donated some land. Earlier they were in Vanneri Desam (between the present Ponnani and Guruvayoor) according to Uddanda Saastrikal in his "Brahmaara Sandesam" which was written sometime during ME 600 - 700 (1425 - 1525 AD), and hence the shifting to Athavanad must have occurred later than that. The old Illam at Athavanad was destroyed in a fire and a new one built during ME 1028 - 40 (1853 - 65 AD). This has recently (2000) been demolished and a new small one built on its basement.

Until two or three generations ago, they never ate outside, except when they went to the Illam of their Kulaguru (family teacher) who was also their priest (Family name: Naaraath Mana). Except the eldest son, none of their younger brothers had any women in their lives. They had lived strictly as "Aviplutha Brahmachaaries", as prescribed in the Smrithis. Antharjanams (Namboothiri women) were taken out or brought home only fully veiled with brand new cloth ("Koti Seela").

Adi Sankaran's teacher was one Aazhvancheri Thampraakkal. Also, it was a member of this family who codified and systematised the Pooja (worship) rituals in Guruvayur temple.

The Maharaja of Travancore invites Thampraakkal for Murajapam (Click here), not for performing Japam, but mainly as an important guest. But he does act as the final judge in case disputes arise among the various Vaidikans. He was absolutely unbiased and unperturbed. While the invited Aadhyan Namboothiris visit the Maharaja and receive gifts before taking leave, it is the Maharaja who goes and visits the Thampraakkal who keeps sitting on the Aavanappalaka (wooden plank seat). The Raja places the gifts in front of him, circum-ambulates, prostrates and receives blessings from Thampraakkal, who continues in the sitting position. This clearly shows to what high esteem the Thampraakkal was held in those days.

| Article No:2.4.2 | Last update of this article:7th February 2003 |
Edited by: Prof. V.M.N.Nambudiripad
English Translation: K.D.Nambudripad

1.Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad - "Aarynmaarute Kudiyettam-Keralathil", Vol. 2 (Panchamgam Book Depot, Kunnamkulam - 680 505. Rs.80-00).
2.Kodungalloor Kunhikuttan Thampuran - "Kulukkamillaavoor Griham"

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