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An Interesting Legend

The legend of Sri Muthappan builds bridge between heaven and earth. Timeless, as He is, He traverses beyond Ages. It is believed that the relevant story might have happened in `Dwaparayuga’.
`Devas’ used to gather for periodic conferences. It was then they discuss the affairs of the universe - a kind of stocktaking. All aspects of creation, sustenance and the destruction would come under scrutiny. After the conference, it was time for merriment.

During a full moon day, amid one of those variety entertainments, Lord Siva created a figure in his own form. Lord Vishnu noticed it. Smelling something naughty, He also created one in His form. Vishnu knew about Siva's creation, but no one knew about Vishnu's creation.
Vishnuroopa went to Badrinath to do penance. Sivaroopa began destruction. Demons were the first victims. When destruction spread from demons to divines, saints were perturbed and reported to Brahma, the creator. Brahma asked `Kala’ and He asked Chitragupta - the scribe - to explain. Chitragupta was taken aback. He had no knowledge of this and there was no official entry of the deaths.

Perturbed over the piquant situation, they went to Kailas and explained the whole scenario to Lord Siva. He revealed the truth about His creation. All of them requested Him to call back His counterpart but Siva expressed his inability.

They all then reached Vaikunta and poured their grief before Vishnu. He told them about His own creation and asked them to meet Him at Badrinath to find a solution.

Vishnuroopa could not resist the combined request of Devas and rishis. He agreed to confront Sivaroopa for the good of the universe. It was a fight among equals. Defeat and success eluded both, though it lasted for years.

Both of them came to realize the futility of their fight. Vishnuroopa said: "Our fight should have some benefit. We have gained nothing from this fight. Let us stop it. Ask a boon and I shall give". Sivaroopa thought that He is no less a person than Vishnuroopa and retorted, "Ask a boon, and I shall give." Vishnurooopa accepted and asked for the boon: "Reverse your sword and let us be friends, hereafter". Sivaroopa bestowed the boon and left for Puralimala to perform penance and Vishnuroopa returned to Badrinath.

Years rolled by. One day, Narada visited Badrinath. He requested Vishnuroopa to bless the human race with a new incarnation for the protection of the good and the destruction of the evil.

And it happened. Padikutty Antharjanam and Ayyankara Vazhunnavar were the chosen couple. They were fortunate to have the Lord as their foster son, Sri Muthappan.

Later, when Sri Muthappan reached Puralimala, He had an encounter with the Sivaroopa who was doing penance. They recognized each other and as per the word given earlier, they became friends. Thenceforth, the devotees could get the blessings of Muthapppan in Vishnuroopa as `Valia Muthappan’ and in Sivaroopa as `Cheriya Muthappan’. In fact, whoever prays Sri Muthappan, he is worshipping both Siva and Vishnu. [Click to see Muthappan. Vishnu or Siva?]

From legend to living God

History of Sri Muthappan transcends from `Dwaparayuga’ to Kaliyuga. In fact, all attempts to limit Him to a time frame will be a futile exercise. How can the ordinary mortals gauge the timeless, formless, omnipresent and the omnipotent reality?

Some glimpses of His times and activities can be traced from the `pattola, thottampattu’ and `kalikkapattu’. These are the ritualistic recitals that `Anhoottans’ and `Peruvannans’ sing during the divine dance of the Lord. `Pattola’ recital is done while the Lord addresses His closest ones like `Vanavar’ in Kunnathurpadi and `Madayan’ in Madappuras. `Thottampattu’ are songs sung in praise of Sri Muthappan. `Kalikkappattu’ is the history of Sri Muthappan sung by both `Thiruvappana’ and `Vellattam’, at times in chorus with supporters. These are part and parcel of the rituals, which are exclusive rights of the traditional people entrusted with the God's work by the Lord Himself. They seldom part with these mantra-like assets. Since the rituals are embedded in secrecy and the custodians of these songs are reluctant to pass on these treasure, those who had written the history of Sri Muthappan depended mostly on their imagination and hearsay. And rightly, the true history is still elusive.
Some legends on Sri Muthappan passed on to generations from time immemorial are as good as history. They are deep-rooted in the thoughts of devotees and look real and vibrant.

The beginning of the story of Sri Muthappan starts from Eruvassi village. Ayyankara Vazhunnavar (ruler) and his wife Padikkutty Antharjanam yearned for long to beget a child. They were ardent Siva devotees. One day, Antharjanam went to bathe in the `thiruvankadavu’ of the Eruvassi river, a tributary of Valapattanam River. After a dip, she could hear the sound of anklets. Then she found a charming child with the divine symptoms on the thirunettikkallu (stone). The unexpected treasure brought tears of joy in her eyes. The touch of the divine child aroused motherhood in her and poured out in the form of milk. She breast fed the child and took Him to her house. The `Vazhunnavar’ was also happy.

His foster parents tried their best to groom Him according to their traditional Brahmanical style. They performed His `upanayana’. Strange was the behaviour of the child. The boy, while chanting Vedic hymns, found interest in hunting. He asked Padikkutty to provide Him a bow and arrow.

Thottampattu says: "Madhumamsathinu alpapriyanakakondu brahmaswam paricherinju Palazhiku samarpichu" (removed the sacred thread and offered it to Palazhi since found interest in toddy and meat). Bringing the hunted birds and animals home and roasting them became his pastime. He also had interest in fishing. His companions were the tribals, downtrodden, untouchables and the wild animals.
Motherly love restricted `Antharjanam’ from objecting to His ways. But the society was tightly compartmentalized to castes and sub-castes and the puritan Brahmanical order could not digest this. They argued that the tradition would be destroyed by the deeds of the boy. Hence, `Vazhunnavar’ had to succumb to their pressure and raised his voice against the boy's wayward behaviour.
The wordy duel between the mother and father went on. One day, the conflict between the mother's love and father's social compulsions reached a feverish pitch. Mother could not bear the words and she wept. Just then the boy entered and He could sense the smoke and fire of the arguments. He enquired what The `Vazhunnavar’ said. Mother said she did not hear anything. The boy said, "If you didn't hear, I heard with my divine ears. Hereafter, I will not be here, and I am going to plunder Malanad." And with embers of anger in His eyes He looked around. The Nature could not withstand His fury. Trees were reduced to ashes. When His ire turned to `Vazhunnavar’, His mother was terrified. She could, for the first time, identify her foster son as the Supreme God. "Bhagavan, please suppress your anger", she begged. The boy regained His calm.

He thought that the time had come to fulfil His life mission. Padikkutty realized that she could not stop him. Remembering the fire in His eyes, she asked Him to cover it. He promptly did so. He gave moksha to mother and ascended to forests.

He dressed like a `vedarajah’ (tribal king) and left home. `Pattola’ says about His journey: "Mayilpilikondu thalapothinju vedarajavayi purappettu" (covered the head with peacock feathers and started as a tribal chief).

From then onwards, the venue shifted from Eruvassi village to Kunnathurpadi. Wild animals were His companions, dogs accompanied Him, tribals found their friend, guide and God in Him.
While wandering through the forests, He was attracted by the toddy from the palm trees and consumed it. When it became a habit, the tappers sensed the loss. Muthoran Chandan, the tapper, watched for a few days and caught him red-handed. Seeing a person sitting on the palm tree and drinking toddy, aimed an arrow. Instantaneously, Chandan turned into a stone.

When he did not return home even after the usual time, his wife Kallayikudi Adiyathi went in search of her husband. She came to the regular place where Chandan used to tap and saw lifeless Chandan in the form of a stone. When she looked up, she could see the `viswaroopa’. Adiyathi called Him Muthappa and begged to forgive him. She assured Him to give `Nitya payankutty, thinkal Vellattom (Sankrama Vellattom), Thiruvappana’ with `akathoottu’ and `purathoottu’ and `madhukalasam’. [Click Here to know about Madhu] The Lord restored Chandan's life. Both of them became His ardent devotees. Thereafter, the name which the Adiyathi called stuck and He had come to be known as Mutthappan. Her offerings became His offerings. Pleased by the devotion of the couple, He decided to stay at Kunnathurpadi.
This incident happened at Adipadi, beyond the sacred spring, Thiruvankadavu near the present Padi, where the water is taken for rituals. It is believed that the Aadipadi is blessed with the presence of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara with the 33 crores of Devas. The atmosphere is said to be filled with the pranava mantra - Om. Since human beings do not have the `thapasakthi’ to perform `poojas’ here, Sri Muthappan suggested the present place to conduct the rituals.

Sri Muthappan taught the tribals the right way of living, organized them to fight against injustice and restored their faith. He partook their food and drink and made them realize that God is not an amorphous concept, but a reality before them.

His interest shifted to Puralimala. Sivaroopa was continuing His penance there. Since many years had lapsed, an ant hill had covered Him. When Sri Muthappan came near, the tip of the bow split the ant hill and the Sivaroopa appeared. Sri Muthappan woke Him up and told Him: "Cherukka, hold this bow and arrow." That was the pre-destined moment for Vishnu and Siva to join hands to perform their mission Devotees began calling one Valia Muthappan and the other Cheriya Muthappan.
Detractors of Sri Muthappan were not sitting idle. They tried in vain to contain the Sri Muthappan juggernaught many a time. Once they arranged toddy tappers to offer large quantity of toddy and then destroy Him. Muthappan drank it, but it was not Sri Muthappan who lost the balance, but the people who schemed against Him. In a drunken state, they rolled (puraluka) on the ground. Thenceforth, the place came to be known as Puralimala.

As told to mother, He started for the `Malanadukolla’ (digvijaya) along with Cheriya Muthappan and established supremacy over vast areas from Kudaku to Korappuzha. The `thottam’ says about the places He reigned as: "Ezhumala, Puralimala, 72 patumala, 108 asthanam and 308 madappura stanam."
Sri Muthappan reached Kottiyur but could not conquer it. There a symbolic ritual at Kottiyur where a person donning the crown of Sri Muthappan appears during the festival and retreats when rice is thrown on Him.

Those periods were tormenting for tribals and common people. They led a very miserable life. Autocratic rulers had their sway on all fronts. Sri Muthappan, like Parasurama, wanted to teach a lesson to Kshatriyas (rulers). The difference was that He did not kill them like Parasurama but suppressed their unlimited pride and supremacy (melkoyma) and established His authority. He gave back the places He conquered to defeated kings and asked them to govern at His will for alleviating the misery of the masses.

During the `digvijaya’, He captured many godowns too and grains were distributed among the poor.
He had defeated the Kottayam King among many. Though He defeated the king, they respected each other. This is evident from the Kottayam King's salutation to Sri Muthappan as "Puralimala Sri Muthappan" and Sri Muthappan in turn calling him "Prabhuvakum naduvazhum nattuswami".
After establishing His order and enhancing the living standards of the poor and the downtrodden, Sri Muthappan promised to be on their side at their beck and call and left the scene. Before He left, He entrusted duties to each and everyone associated with Him, set up a system of Sri Muthappan worship, handed over the powers to supervise and continue the system uninterrupted to Karakattedam Nayanar.
Thereafter, `Valiya Muthappan’ appears as `Thiruvappana’ and `Cheriya Muthappan’ as `Vellattam’ before the devotees and bless them.

Sri Muthappan worship has spread manifold and expanded from Padi to Parassini and His `digvijaya’ still goes on unchallenged, crossing many frontiers.