Terracotta Figurines at Vendallur Parambathukavu

Jan 02, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 01
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There are many folk communities, traditional artists and artisans who have been living on the shores on River Nila (Bharathapuzha) since centuries.This issue features about the only remaining person in the community of Anthoor Nair, who makes terracotta figurines as part of a religions worship.

Since ages, Kavu, the sacred grove is a place of worship for many communities in Kerala. Most of these are dedicated to the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The Parambathukavu at Vendallur, near Valancherry in Malappuram district (Kerala) is one such that observes a unique ritual of offering Kolam, terracotta forms of animals or human beings to the deity for the well being of the devotee or cattle.

Terracotta figurines

The belief is that when you dedicate a terracotta miniature of human being or cattle, the related issues whatever it may be to, will be solved soon. Hence devotees offer human figurines as their representation generally to recover from health issues. If the health issue is particular to a specific part of the body, you need to offer the replica of that part in terracotta.

Some figurines here are dedicated with specific purposes.The figurines called Kuthirappurathu Unnichekkan means boy astride a horse, is a special offering made by couples to have boy child. Similarly to have girl child, devotees offer Ezhooriyum Makkalum, the  figurines  of seven identical ladies/goddesses in sitting posture on a mud plate, in an abstract form. Devotees offer figurines of tortoise for health issues of stomach and rat figurines for protecting their agriculture spreads from rat menace.

Mr. Ramakishnan, the administrative assistant at the temple said “Earlier devotees used to offer terracotta forms for each person seperately. But for some years now the temple has made an arrangement and the temple authorities keep stock a collection of all types of Kolam required for this, and devotees use the same Kolam repeatedly by paying a fee to the temple”. “Recently a large collection of Kolams were unearth from the temple premise during renovation work, which might be of archeological value. ” He added. 

Anthoor Nair

By tradition, making of Kolam and pots required for the temple rituals are vested with the community of potters called Anthoor Nair. Now the only remaining Anthoor Nair who practices this craft is Achuthan Nair, who resides near the Kavu opposite Vishnu Temple. Achuthan Nair aged 70 has been engaged in this work since childhood. The mud pots commonly used for temple rituals are locally known as Pdavu, Ara Pdavu, Kaara Pdavu and Kalam. Achuthan Nair said “Pdavu is a mud pot, which can cook 24 Naazhi (traditional volume of measurement) of rice. Ara pdavu is half of it. Kalam is another pot. Both Ara Pdavu and Kalam can cook a measure of 12 Naazhi. Kalam is offered to Durga for the tantric ritual Marli Pooja.  Kaara Pdavu is for Kaara Bhagavathi and measures one Naazhi”. Earlier the devotees used to buy these pots from him directly. But since some time back the temple authority procures it for devotees.

The Kavu

Parambathukavu is situated on a hillock and is dedicated to three deities- Durga, Bhadrakaali and Kaara Bhagavathi, all represent the Mother Goddess. The temple is covered with thick foliage and the remaining large area on the hillock is open space. There are numerous ancient tunnels and caves below the temple and one such cave entrance is still visible.

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when i see this article i remember Artist Rajan Krishnan's Work ORE.

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