Monday, March 8, 2010


MEZHATHOL AGNIHOTHRI: The first born of Vararuchi couple, Mezhathol Agnihothri (Brahmadathan), of the twelve children, is said to have been born on a Thursday on the 2nd day of the month of Meenam in Kali year 3444, (342 AD) based on the Kali number "Parudheesamaashraya:". The Antharjanam (Namboothiri wife) in Vemancheri Mana, who found the new-born baby abandoned by Vararuchi on the bank of Nila river and raised it like her own, recognised one day that the child had divine powers. The boy who had accompanied her to bathe in the river performed deification(sanctification or Prathishta, in Sanskrit) of Sivalingam in the Taali (herbal paste for cleaning hair) plate and diverted the course of the river at Varanduttikkadavu. It is believed that the deity which Agnihothri had made out of river sand in the "Thiruthaalam" (sacred plate) later came to be known as "Thrithaala Appan". As a hongover of a custom, even to this day, the Vemancheri Mana members do not offer prayers at the Siva temple at Thrithala.

According to history, after Budha and Jain periods, the deteriorated Vedadharma and Yagna (Yaagam) culture were rejuvenated in Kerala, several years later, by Mezhathol Agnihothri, by performing Yaagam ninety-nine times, one after the other. Only seven of the thirty two Namboothiri Graamams (villages) co-operated with Agnihothri and accepted the Yaagam culture again. Even today, only these seven Graamams (Thaliparambu, Alathur, Karikkad, Panniyur, Sukapuram, Perumanam and Irinjalakkuda) have families having right to perform Yaagams. It has to be noted that seventeen experts are needed to perform Yaagam. For all these 99 Yaagams, Mezhathol Agnihothri drew these seventeen experts from seven Namboothiri families, viz, Kalakandathur Griham, Maathur Griham, Kulukkamillaavur Griham, Chemmangad Griham, Paazhoor Griham, Muringoth Griham and Vella Griham.

It is said that a person who performs 100 Yaagams will become god Indran. When 99 Yaagams were over, Lord Indran feared that his power would be lost to the Yajamaanan (leader) of this Yaagam. Indran personally arrived in the 99th Yaagasaala to accept the oblations meant for each of them, and pleaded to Mezhathol Agnihothri to stop performing the 100th Yaagam. The leader, Mezhathol Agnihothri, declined the request saying that he is performing it not for a better position but for retaining the culture of Yaagam among Brahmanans. Indran then conceded Mezhathol Agnihothri and his seven colleagues, his equal status.

The 99 Yaagams of Mezhathol Agnihothri were performed at "Yagneswaram". After the Yaagam fire (Yaagaagni, energy) extinguished, the Yagna gods, Siva and Vishnu were deified in the fireplace (Homakundam). The northern dry branch (struck by lightening) of the huge banyan tree (Arayaal, in Malayalam) to the south of the temple planted and grown by Agnihothri for his Yaagams, is even now used for making "Arani" for Sroutha rituals (like Yaagams). It is now believed that Aazhvaancheri Thampraakkal performed the duties of "Brahman" in all these Yaagams. Vaidyamadham family members were the Yaagasaala physicians. [ Click here for "Saalaa vaidyan"]

The story goes that once a huge vortex appeared in the river Cauvery. An Amyar (Malayalam term for Tamil Brahmanan lady) girl residing on the bank of the river apparently got a divine message and said that only Mezhathol Agnihothri can find a solution for this cyclonic formation in the river. When invited, he went there, went down into the waters and came up on the third day with three spears in his hand. Some Gandharvans had apparently lost them there.

Agnihothri accepted the Amyar girl as his third wife, returned and installed the gold spear in his own house, the silver spear at Velliyamkallu and the copper spear at Kotikunnath. It is believed that the gold spear installed on the west side of the quadrangle (Patinjaatti) in Vemancheri Mana, later grew itself as a large stone lamp (Kalvilakku). The twelve brothers of Agnihothri (Pantheerukulam) are said to have been meeting at Vemancheri Mana, the home of Agnihothri, every year on the Bheeshmaashtami day of Utharayanam to perform the death anniversary rites (Sraadham) of their father, Vararuchi. It is from the Agnihothra smoke-stained Patinjaatti of this Mana that sparked the beginning of Sroutha culture now existing in a relatively pure form in Kerala. Vaastu Vidya (part of Architecture) and Thachu Saasthram (also part of Architecture) are integrated in this Mana retaining the Yagnasaala's arrangements and sanctity. Symbolised here are the peaceful Bhagavathy in the Patinjaatti and in the central quadrangle (Nadumittam), the Durga, Bhadrakaali and Krishnakaali.

It was to this Mana that Agnihothri's brother Paakkanaar of Paraya caste had turned up carrying the udder chopped off from a dead cow in order to perform Sraadha (in his own style) of their father Vararuchi.

The first wife of Mezhathol Agnihothri was the wife who participated in Yaagam along with him and hence received the title "Pathanaadi". Disturbed at having to cook and serve for the brothers-in-law belonging to various lower castes and due to incompatibilities with other wives, the first wife left and stayed at Velutha Patteri Illam nearby. The second wife, after receiving the spirit of Bhagavathi on to a Vaalkannati (a copper mirror which a bride carries during marriage, and kept safely later) also left childless and started living in Koodallur Kodanat Mana, nearby. The Vemancheri Mana members, in order to sustain the sanctity of the temple deities, shifted to the adjacent building (Pathaayappura) and later to Kadambur near Ottapalam.

Across the river Nila from Yagneswaram is the rock called Velliyamkallu (silver rock), where Agnihothri's silver spear was installed. On the full moon night (Veluthavaavu) in the month of Thulaam when it is usually crowded there, one can see the marks of Velliyamkallu where Agnihothri used to spread his clothes to dry. During Thrithala temple festival, the deity used to be taken to Velliyamkallu in a procession and do the "Thidampu Aaraattu" (deity immersion) there. Thus the rock is also known as "Aaraattu Paara". The rice mound, which Agnihothri used to make for his Yaagam, and the channel into which the rice gravy (kanji) used to be poured still exist in Thrithala as "Arikkunnu" (rice hill) and "Kanjithodu" (rice gravy stream) in memory of Agnihothri.

The famous astrologer Puthussery Vishnu Namboothiri has, according to Kalidinasamkhya "Yagna Sthaanam Samrakshya" determined that Agnihothri ended his last Yaagam on Tuesday, the 28th of the month Kumbham in Kali year 3479 (AD 377-378). Agnihothri's age was then said to be 34 years, 11 months and 26 days.

According to Kesari Balakrishna Pilla, Mezhathol may have come from Mezhithol, which could mean Karinthol, which could be the Graamam by the same name (Karanthola) among the 32 Namboothiri Graamams.

It is believed that Agnihothri wrote the books "Bhaavanaavivekam", "Sphotasidhi", "Brahmasidhi", etc. using the pen name "Mandanamisra" and three poems in Chenthamizhu included in "Purananoor" in the pen name of "Vanparanar". The famous scholars Payyur Bhattathiris claim their ancestry to Agnihothri.

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