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Kunnathur Padi The Aaroodam

As Sastha to Sabarimala, so is Sri Muthappan to Kunnathurpadi. It is His `aaroodam’ - the abode. Thottam says this `kanakabhoomi’ as `Kailasam’.

This is the place blessed with the divine acts of Lord Sri Muthappan. This hillock atop Udumbamala of the Sahyadri mountain is 3,000 feet above sea level. It is near Srikandapuram in Payyavur village of Taliparamba taluk in Kannur district. This abode of Sri Muthappan has kept its natural purity down the centuries. This was the rendezvous of the divine will and a historic need. Lord Vishnu, incarnated as Muthppan, has chosen this hilly terrain for His mission.

First thing that strikes the eyes of a pilgrim is a moderate building that houses the office of the Kunnathurpadi Sri Muthappan Devasthanam. Adjacent to the office is the `podikkalam’. There are two temples of Bhagavathi and Sri Muthappan. Forest area begins from a few metres away from `podikkalam’. As a pilgrim progresses, there is `kalasasthanam’. From there , Kunnathurpadi begins.
Forests giving way to marauders are the order of the day. In the guise of extending facilities to pilgrims, large areas of forests are turned into barren land. Kunnathurpadi is an exception. "Knee-deep `koorkela’ (fallen leaves), a spring, a large mountain, a round stone, `vallikkettu’ (forest) and palm trees" are enough, for me,’’ frequently reminds Sri Muthappan. He is against any kind of opulence. Padi is keeping the Sri Muthappan spirit in toto. Even today, no temple or building is seen at the festival venue. It is conducted in a natural setting. The Nature here resembles Kailas, sans the snowy canopy. Bonfires and reed torches add colour and a celestial touch. It is a mini universe with Sri Muthappan and his `bhoothaganas’ performing the divine act as a blessing for the mortals. And like a stadium, the sloppy hills provide balcony for the devotees to witness the show. Only after being a part of this bit of universe one can realize why Sri Muthappan asks His devotees to ``come and meet me at Kunnathurpadi’’. Where else the jeevatma’s communion with the Paramatma can take place in a better environment?

In this divine `kanakabhoomi’, axes and knives are forbidden. Only hands and sharpened bamboos are used. No tree is cut from here. Only fallen trees are removed or used for construction. From `neelakurinji’ to `devatharu’, around 15,000 to 20,000 plant species can be traced here, it is said. This rich flora and fauna can be of great interest to environmentalists. Around 3,000 acres of forest land belonged to the Devasthanam before the nationalization of the forest land. Now, Devasthanam has only 60 acres to claim as its own!

Festival

There is an open place in the midst of the forest. A cave can be seen here. During the festival season, a temporary `madappura’ is erected here. This is the `sreekovil’ - the sanctum sanctorum. West of the cave is a stone, a rock stand and a mud platform. Two palm trees are visible like `dwarapalakas’, one on each side of the cave. At the north of this place is the spring called Thiruvankadavu. Beyond that is Aadipadi.
Kunnathurpadi becomes the centre of vibrant activity from the Malayalam month of Dhanu. One-month-long festival at Padi begins from the month of Dhanu 2 and ends on Makaram 2 (December middle to January middle). More than ten lakhs of devotees flock here to have a darsan of their living God in His aaroodam during the festival season. Purifying rituals are performed by `tantris’. `Sudhi, pasudanam, punyaham, Ganapati homam’ and `Bhagavathiseva’ are conducted. Purifying rituals are done atop Padi too. At Kunnathurpadi, invoking of Sri Muthappan (malayirakkal) is from Puralimala whereas at Puralimala, it is from Kunnathurpadi. In all other `madappuras’, this is done from Kunnathurpadi.
On the first day of the festival, four theyyams appear at Padi. Puthiya Sri Muthappan, Puramkala Sri Muthappan, Naduvazhissan Daivam and Thiruavappana. The concept of Vannan about Sri Muthappan is Eiver Muthappan (five Muthappans) - Puramkala Sri Muthappan, Puralimala Sri Muthappan (Thiruvappana), Nambala Sri Muthappan (Nambala is ant hill) Sri Muthappan (Vellattam), Thoovakkally Sri Muthappan and Andu Muthappan.

There are very interesting scenes in the rituals of Padi. Muthappan does Pallivetta and accepts `veethu’ (madhu) [click to see more] One of the acts depicts the Lord’s writing on the granite stone with His arrow. He is writing moola mantras. Perhaps, with this act, the Lord may be writing the customs and traditions the generations should observe for all times!

One special thing at Padi is that `Thiruvappana’ and `Vellattam’ do not appear simultaneously as in many other Sri Muthappan centres. He comes in the night and goes in the night. After the divine dance is over, He sits on the platform and asks Nayanar also to sit in front. Sri Muthappan recites the `pattola’. It is the history of the Lord and His relationship with Vanavar. `Bhandaram’ (coffer) is brought. Devotees do not put anything directly to the coffer. Offerings are given to the Lord in hand, and `Bhagvan’ places it in the coffer. Then begins the most important part of the festival. Sri Muthappan starts His `arulappadu’. The long wait of the devotees is over and He hears their grievances, consoles them and blesses them. `Vellattam’ appears after that.

Moolampetta Bhagvathi also appears at times as per Sri Muthappan’s wish. There are differing versions about Moolampetta Bhagavathi. Some believe She is Vana Durga and others consider her as Bhadrakali. She is also believed to be the Eruvassi deity Padikkutty Bhagavathi and yet another view is that She is Muthppan’s foster mother Padikkutty Antharjanam.

There is `nithya payankutty’ at podikkalam. Vellattam is performed on `sankrama’ days. Puthari Vellattam is special. Kalathil Thira is held on Vrischikam 2. No poojas are held in the month of Karkitakam as the Lord is supposed to go to heaven for hunting.

Trustee

Sri Muthappan directly entrusted Kunnummel Edam as His custodian. In due course, he fell from the grace of Sri Muthappan when he tried to destroy Chandan, the ardent Sri Muthappan devotee. Thereafter, the Lord entrusted the responsibility to Karakkattedam Vanavar. Till today, from generations, Karakkattedam Vanavar is the hereditary trustee.

Sri S K Kunhiraman Nayanar is the present trustee and general manager of the Kunnathurpadi Sri Muthappan Devasthanam. He has tried his best to keep the abode of Sri Muthappan free of opulence. As desired by Sri Muthappan, even today, there are only thatched sheds, mud platform, a rock, bonfires and reed torches in the midst of the forest where Sri Muthappan’s divine dance and predictions are made.

A `Swarnaprasnam’ at Padi revealed that foreign liquor is taboo to Sri Muthappan. Thereafter, Sri Nayanar banned foreign liquor and introduced `annadanam’ instead. After that, there is a remarkable improvement in the general atmosphere there, says Sri Nayanar.

Five `illams’ (Anchillam - five houses) were entrusted with the conduct of rituals in connection with Sri Muthappan worship. They are Pullayaikkodi, Kallayikkodi, Noottadakkan, Eloran and Moothoran. Chandan belonged to Moothoran Illam. When the Moothoran family had no progeny, the rights of Chandan went to Pullayikkodi. Now Chandan has become a title and the eldest of the Pullayikkodi Illam gets the title. Komaram rights belong to Kallayikkodi. Bhagavathi Kolam rights go to Pullayikkodi.

Thaladayan is nominated by the eldest of the Anchillam families to do the general works entrusted by Vanavar. If any obstruction occurs to any one of the functionaries, Eloran should continue the rituals till the issue is sorted out. And like the Siva Ganga, the system Sri Muthappan set up in an unknown period of history still flows uninterruptedly.