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Yogam and Yogaathiris

Associated with almost every major temple ("Mahaakshethrams") in Kerala, there used to be a high-power committee called "Yogam"; and also a "Sanketham", described as a "Temple Kingdom" ("Ambala-raajyam") by Ward and Connor of Britain in their survey report. Sanketham was not just the lands around the temple, but quite a large region. The Peruvanam Kshethra Sanketham for instance, extended about 40 kM in all directions, to Kuthiraanmudi (peak) Ayyappa temple in the east, Kodungalloor Oozhakam Sastha temple in the south, Edathiruthy Ayyappa temple near Thriprayar in the west and the Akamala Sastha temple in the north.

The chief of the Sanketham ("Sankethaadhikaari") was selected from the temple Yogam, and as decided by the Yogaathiri. Within a Sanketham, the Sankethaadhikaari was all-powerful and could punish even the king. In some Sankethams, kings of even the adjacent kingdoms also used to be members of the Sanketham. The Thrissur Vadakkumnaathha temple Yogam, for example, honoured not only its owm Maharaja of Kochi, but also Perumpadappu Raja, Manakkulam Raja, Ayanikkoor (Chiralayam) Thampuraan, Kurumbranaad Thampuraan, Valluvakkonaathiri, Thekkumkoor and Vadakkumkoor Rajas. These kings considered such positions an honour conferred on them. The Yogaathiri, however, was invariably to be a Namboothiri.

The "Prathishttha" (consecration) of the deity in Vadakkumnaathhan temple and the "Avarodham" (installation) of their Yogaathiri goes back to the times of sage Parasuraaman. The Avarodham, said to have started then, continued until the last one on Makaram 9 of 938 ME (AD 1763). Most of the Yogaathiri Avarodhams came to an end by around 993 ME (1817 - 18). There was no Avarodham after the demise of Sakthan Thampuraan in 981, for which there was a reason. Paathaaikkara Nambudiripad was once installed as the Yogaathiri, with the support of the Saamoothiri, in spite of the known objections from the Maharaja of Kochi. Soon afterwards, the King of Kochi defeated the Saamoothiri, and through Thrissur Vaadhyaan asked Paathaaikkara Nambudiripad to step down. He refused, but was about to be forcibly removed. By then he, on his own, stepped out of the north gate of Brahmaswam (Vadakke) Madham, the official residence of the Yogaathiri, and left the kingdom of Kochi, with his family. After such a dispute befell the prestigeous position of Yogaathiris, the Avarodham of Yogathiris was discontinued.

The Procedure

The process of Avarodham of Yogaathiri of Thrissur Vadakkumnaathhan temple is initiated by preparing and sending two invitation letters by Perumpadappu Thampuraan, one to Vadakkiniyedathu Kaaramukku Nambudiripad and the other to Aazhvaancherry Thampraakkal (click). Only after the Namboothiris of Mundakassery, Kaavunkal and Vettanaad sign in the first letter, and 18 Namboothiris sign in the second one, will the king affix his signature.

Along with these two letters, the king sends invitation letters to Thekkiniyedath Nambudiripad, Paakkaatt Namboodiri, Kurumbranaad Raja, Valluvakkonaathiri, Thekkumkoor and Vadakkumkoor Rajas, Kakkaat Nambudiripad, Puthoor Raja, etc. The Yogaathiri Avarodham is performed in the presence of all of them. Only such a Namboothiri who is an eminent Vedam scholar, an Aadhyan, has administrative ability and acceptance by all ("Sarvasammathan"), and who belongs to that particular Yogam, is selected to be installed as Yogaathiri.

The Avarodham Ritual

On the special platform ("Thara") for Yogiyaar Avarodham provided in Vadakkumnaathhan temple, two bronze lamp-stands ("Nilavilakku") and two filled "Paras" ("Nirapara") are placed along with the items needed for Ganapathy "Nivedyam". Aazhvaancherry Thampraakkal first sits on the south side of the lamp and on an "Aavanappalaka", facing north. Kiraangaat Nambudiripad then sits to his left, also facing north. The senior Raja of Perumpadappu will stand on the north side of the lamp on a white sheet with woollen sheet over it ("Vellayum karimpadavum virichu"), holding his ceremonial sword. When Thampraakkal says "Irunnaatte" (please be seated), the Raja sits there facing south and keeping the sword on his lap. Then Vadakkiniyedathu Kaaramukku Nambudiripad sits on a "Keettu-palaka" to the north of the Raja, and facing south. To the west of the lamp, and facing east will sit Paakkaatt Namboodiri on a "Kol-palaka", wearing a cloth ("Mundu") over "Thattuduthathu". Thereafter, the Nambis of Pathillam and Irupathillam will be seated. They sit on towels ("Thorthu") spread on the ground facing east behind Paakkaatt Namboodiri and facing north behind Kiraangaat Nambudiripad. The Rajas of Kurumpranaad, Manakkulam and Ayinikkoor stand on the eastern step of the platform with their ceremonial swords.

The "Pattolakkaaran" stands with the "Pattola" on the south side of the same east step. To his south, Panamukku Kaimal (Maaliyekkal Kartha) will take his stance with his sword and shield. At that time when Perumpadappu Raja orders to read "Pattola", the Pattolakkaaran reads it thus : "On such-and-such year, month, date and "Raasi" for the Avarodham of so-and-so Namboothiri as Yogiyaar of Thrissivaperoor, have the Thampraakkal, Kiraangaat Nambudiripad, 22 Nambis, the heads of the two Madhams, Chaangaliyod Namboodiri, Kurumbranaad Raja, Paakkaatt Namboodiri, the Rajas of Thekkumkoor and Vadakkumkoor, Valluvakkonaathiri, Kakkaatt Kaaranoppaad, Punnathur Raja, Pathilathu Namboodiris, Panamukku Kaimal, Kaaraalar Naalwar, Randupurathe Aasaanmaar, Saasthra Namboodiris, and those from Paadavanam arrived, and have Vazhiyil Marar and other Marars, come ?"

Then after Ganapathy Nivedyam, Kiraangaat Nambudiripad reads aloud the Avarodham statement. During these proceedings, the incumbent Yogaathiri Namboothiri will be at his Illam. Now it is time to bring him ceremoniously to Vadakkumnaathha temple. This is known as "Pushpaanjalikku Ezhunnallikkal". The "Thevaari" Namboothiri of the Yogam, Kizhoottil Varier carrying "Aavana", Marar with "Sankhu" (sacred conch), Randupurathe Aasaans, Saasthra Namboothiris, Perutaya Nayar carrying with him the "Utayaata", Pallissa Naayanmaar carrying the "Pallakku", etc. travel to the Namboothiri’s Mana, place the items there, and blow the conch. At that time, the Pattolakkaaran tells everyone there, including the Namboothiri women ("Akaayil") that they are going to be led for the Vadakkumnaathhan’s Pushpaanjali Avarodham, and again blows the conch. Led by Vaadhyaan and accompanied by the conch-blowing Marar, the Namboothiri is taken for a bath, after which he wears the Utayaata and starts off to Thrissivaperoor.

The Perumpadappu Valiya Thampuraan receives him at Viyyoor bridge and accompanies him ceremoniously to inside Vadakkumnaathha temple Mathilakam ("Rishabham"). Then Thampraakkal, Perumpadappu Valiya Thampuraan and Perumpadappu Mooppeennu together request him "Puthuvaala thirumudi aruthu, neeraattukuli kazhinju, akaayil pushpaanjalikku ezhunnallanam". Then Thampraakal and Puliyannoor Namboodiri go into the "Sreekovil" (inner temple - sanctum sanctorum).

After the ritualistic haircut and bath in the "Kokkarni", the "Avarodha Purushan" enters the sanctorum and performs "Pushpaanjali" (flower-offerings to the deity) - with this he becomes the Yogaathiri, Devaswam Governor and the "Utamasthhan" (owner) of the Devaswam.

With minor variations, every Mahaakshethram had such Avarodham rituals. Such main temples were Thrissivaperoor (Thrissur), Irinjalakuda, Peruvanam, Thrithala, Thaliparamba and Sukapuram.

| Article No:2.4.0 | Last update of this article:1st March 2011 |
Article by : P Vinod Bhattathiripad, Polpaya Mana, Thiruthiyad, Kozhikode - 673 004, Tel: 0495-2720522 (R), 94470-60066 (M)
With Inputs from : Adv. B Agnisarman Namboodiri
Reference : "Pathompathaam Noottaandile Keralam" - P Bhaskaranunni

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