Monday, November 9, 2020

Of Gods n goddesses, fine dining and finding things - part 1

 Kannur is a quirky land. With quirks that are lovable to the Kannur folk, but very weird, initially at least, for the non Kannureans.  

Our Gods too, are Gods with a difference. They are, you could say,  of the people, by the people, for the people. Muthappan is one of the human-Gods, who take on a godly character when he dons the headgear which is believed to give him godly powers.  Not all can do it, 40 days of strict vratham are a prerequisite for the human to be able to don the head gear n transform into Muthappan. Taking swigs of his favourite toddy, he dances to that uniquely Muthappan beat; jumping n smiting his chest with his sword, he mingles freely with his devotees, telling them stories,  listening to their joys n tribulations, accepting whatever dakshina the devotee can afford, and in turn, he comforts them, advises them, gives them direction, laughs at them, questions them and in some cases, extracts a fee for services offered. You are to go back n give him his due only if you think you’ve got what you prayed for. Here too, Muthappan can be very clear as to what is owed and what is not.  

There are different Muthappan kaavus throughout the length n breadth of Kannur. And if you offered up a promise at a particular kaavu, Muthappan has to be offered your thanksgiving at the same place. An uncle of mine prayed to the Muthappan at Kunnathur padi to help him secure a ‘job in the Gulf’. Muthappan told him not to worry, that he would definitely look into it, but that he should come n ‘see’ him after that when he came home. Within a month of that prediction, the uncle found a job, n happily left for Dubai. When he came back for a visit, he dutifully visited Muthappan. Now, Kunnathur padi opens up only for one month in the year. Since that wasn’t the month my uncle came down for a visit, he visited Muthappan at Parassinikadavu. In gratitude, my uncle clasped Muthappan’s hand, reminded him of his prayer n promise, and passed on the dakshina. Muthappan took the dakshina, told him that he was very happy to see his bhakta, and then gave back the dakshina to my uncle. Saying that he was very happy to see his Bhakta remembered his promise, but the dakshina needed to be given to Kunnathur padi, as it had not been asked for by the Padi Muthappan, not him. 

It is uncanny the way he can see into your mind and tell you things you aren’t aware of yet/you’re going to tell him. In the first month of my pregnancy, when I visited home, and visited Muthappan entirely by chance, he told me- you have glad tidings for me? About a little leg about to enter your home? 

And to another Canadian cousin, to whom I was acting interpreter, he reflected that she was going to come to a turning point/parting of ways. Said cousin was finishing her MBA n scouting for jobs, so we were a bit confused over the 'vazhithirivu', but then put it down to her finishing her studies n embarking on a career. I also gave allowance to the fact that I might have misunderstood him, for its not always easy to decipher what he speaks. But not so. Within months of her going back to Canada, she discontinued her MBA, and joined up for Medicine, following in her dad's footsteps. 

Definitely not a savarna God, Muthappan eats fish, n meat, n drinks toddy (or whatever tipple the devotees bring him). One of the things that endeared Muthappan to me was that his vahana was a dog and dogs could be seen freely mingling with the devotees inside the shrine. 

Muthappan is invited home as well, as an offering, and that is when the whole locality lands up at the devotees home. He has been known at times to wait even long after all assembled devotees have 'seen' him, for some devotee who was on the way and was delayed. The family might not have know of the relative’s impulsive visit or delay, but Muthappan always knew. And never let down his bhakta. 

Whichever shrine of Muthappan you go to, the devotee will always get a glass of tea, n boiled  vanpayar (cowpeas) or kadala. If nothing he will at least get flattened rice. And like he says, Muthappan never lets go of the hand stretched out to him for help.