Change of Guard Part 1 – Death Ceremonies of the Zamorin

The funeral ceremonies are similar to those of the high class Nayars. The Attikkurissi directs them; the dead body is burnt and the Tampurans ‘bend under the branch’ as soon as they return from the cremation ground; on the 7th, 9th or 11th day after death, declared suspicious for the new Zamorin by the palace astrologer, in the Sanchyanam or the gathering of the bones; on the 15th day the pollution caused by death is removed by a ceremonial bath.
All these are performed with the pomp and honours due to the exalted rank of the deceased. The death is announced by the firing of sixteen Katinas or mortars; the pyre is built of logs of sandalwood; drums are beaten during the cremation and twice a day till the Sanchayanam by the Karinkars; and a lamp is kept burning both day and night at the cremation ground and in the room where the dead body had been lying till the bones are gathered and buried in the earth.
When the Zamorin breathes his last, his Valia Tevari, Talappana Namputiri, informs the heir-apparent Valia Tevari of’ uncle Zarmorin’s death from rheumatism, and requests him to send the new Zamorin for Tiruvantali and Ariyittuvalcha. Letters are also sent to the various branches of the family, and to the Namputiris, the feudatories, the Naduvalis and others, who have to be present according to ancient custom.
When the Zamorin was ruling chief, all public activities were suspended for fourteen days, and resumed only after the Ariyittuvalcha, which immediately followed the Tiruvautali. Mangat Acchan, the chief minister, attended to all urgent business which could not wait, all letters being written in the name of Talappana and signed by Chittur Namputiri.
On the 14th day of the pollution the Toniyil Nayar paid his visit. One of his ancestors sought to take advantage of the general suspension of arms to penetrate into the palace with a view to setting himself up as Zamorin. His followers were cut down by Mangat Acchan, and he himself was necked out of the premises. The memory of this event was kept alive by the visit of his descendant. He advanced as far as the platform, where the Ariyittuvalcha was performed, with the lighted lamp and other insignia of royalty in front. The Acchan met him there and unceremoniously packed him off, the pretender retreating with arms reversed, and the lighted lamp and other paraphernalia following instead of preceding him.

Then the Zamorin offers Tirubali or cakes to the manes of his deceased predecessor. This is done daily for a year till the Tirumasam. Throughout this period he is expected to observe Diksha.
After Tirubali comes Grahasanti. It is performed under the direction of Chennamangalam Namputiri, commonly called Chennas, who is the Zamorin’s Tantri. Nine silver censers, one for each of the nine planets controlling human destiny, are filled with water, to which some juice of the four milky trees is added. Nine Namputiris perform homa by pouring oblations of ghee and rice into the fire and reciting Vedic hymns. The water thus made holy is poured on the head of the Zamorin and other Stanis who have their Ariyittuvalcha. This is called Tirumudikkalasam. After this Chennas whispers a mantra into the right ear of the Zamorin and the other stanis, each of the Stanams having its own appropriate mantra. This is called Mantram Kelpikkal, literally, causing the mantra to be heard.
-The Zamorins of Calicut

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