Change of Guard Part 2 – Accession of the New Zamorin

I haven’t read such an elaborate description of the accession of a king anywhere. Because of the level of intermixing of rituals, I had to carry forward a part of the information from the previous article. Due to the use of too much traditional jargon, the book is not that a great read, but the details provided are really mindboggling.
Very early in the morning of the 15th day, the new Zamorin and the nephews of the deceased offer Bali in the room where the dead body had been lying. The Attikkurissi sprinkles milk and water over them. Then Danams are distributed among the Brahmins. A purse containing 1000 Fanams is given to Alvancheri Tamprakkal, who, however, does not receive it in person, but sends a representative for the purpose. After this the Zamorin proceeds to the tank for Pulakuli.
He enters the tank hand in hand with the Rajah of Punnattur. Till A.D. 1793, the Rajah of Bettet had also taken port in this ceremony, Punnattur taking hold of his left hand Bettet of the right. Aa soon as the Zamorin and Punanttur plunge into the water the latter swims away to another part of the tank hidden from the former. This is an evidence of the close intimacy that had existed in the past between the two families which is also revealed by the unique privilege, enjoyed by Punnnttur, of dining with the Zamorin alter the Ariyittuvalcha.
When the Zamorin returns from the tank to the palace, the Tantri or the Namputiri director of religious ceremonies purifies him, externally by sprinkling and internally by causing him to sip some Punyaham or consecrated water.
Then the Zamorin puts the Virasringhala on his right leg. This is one of a pair of anklets given, according to the Keralotpatti, by Cheraman Perumal to the Zamorin’s ancestor, as a reward for bin services against his enemies and as a promise of succession to his own imperial throne. One of the Zamorins made a present of the chain worn on the left leg lo his son, the Kutiravattattu Nayar, for conquering Natuvattam from Tarur Svarupam.
The next ceremony is Vayarattam, or massage with Vayara, a common meadow grass reputed lo have medicinal properties. A holy man named Kolkunnattu Sivankal, pleased with the devotion of the Zamorin, prescribed it as a daily practice for his health and welfare – Every morning the Zamorin goes to the Vayaratalam and the Vayara Panikkars perform this rite, shampooing his limbs and body behind thick screens. All the while he has to remain blind-folded. After the process the grass is not thrown away but given to the cows of the palace.
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.
Next, the Zamorin proceeds to his ‘private’ chapel to worship his Bhagavati or the tutelary goddess and the Cheraman Sword. The former, the manifestation of Sakti, is the guardian deity of all the Kerala Svarupams, the latter is peculiar to Nediyiruppu. It was the gift of the saint-king, Cheraman Perumal Nayanar, to the Zamorin’s ancestor. The original sword was reduced to splinters in A.D. 1670 at Crangaoore where the Zamorin was then camping in the course of a surprise attack made by the Dutch. The present sword, encased in a brass sheath was made in A. D. 1672 out of the fragments of the old. The Zamorin has to worship this sword every day if he has no pollution. It is the common belief, a belief held by him as well as his enemies, that the Cheraman Sword was the cause of his extraordinary success against them
The next item is Utaval anakkuka and Utaval vanguga, that is, to sharpen one’s own sword and receive one’s own sword respectively. During the fourteen days the pollution lasts, the Zamorin cannot touch sword or shield. After worshipping the precious heirloom the Zamorin goes to his Kalari or private gymnasium. Under the guidance of Tamme Panikkar, the heriditary instructor-in-arms, he bows before each of the twenty-seven deities presiding over the Kalari, after which he receives his sword from the Panikkar.
Then the Zamorin pays his respects to Alvancheri Tamprakkal, the religious head of Kerala. Originally there were two high priests or Tamprakkal, Kalpakancheri Tatnprakkal for the Panniyur-kur and Alvancheri Tamprakkal for the Chovara-kur. The Zamorin was the protector of the Panniyur faction and Kalpakancheri alone came for the Ariyittuvalcha. In course of time all memories of the ancient bitter war between the two parties died out, and interdining and intermarriage between the members of the two Kurs became common. Sometime in the seventeenth century the family of Kalpakancheri became extinct. So Alvancheri was invited to take his place. The Tamprakkal does not come to the Zamorin’s palace, but takes up his residence in the nearest temple. The Zamorin goes to him and performs Sashtangam. In slow and measured terms the Tamprakkal pronounces three times his benediction in the following words “Protecting cows and Brahmins, reign as Kunnalakkonattiri”
As soon as be returus to tbe palace, be proceeds to the dressing room for Chamayam charttal or puttiug on the ornaments. He is helped by Nandavanattil Nambi who was in former times the keeper of the crown jewels. These were worn by the Zamorin on all important occasions, not only for Ariyittuvalcha, Attacchamayam, Tai-Puyam and Mamakam, but also when he received the ambassadors of foreign kings.
Among the jewels worn by the Zamorin at Ariyittuvalcha the crown is conspicuous by its absence. In its stead be wears a gold band or fillet called Tirumutippattam. The Ariyittuvalcha is neither a corouation nor an enthronement ; for, neither the crown nor the throne figures in it.
The crown and coronation were first introduced in Kerala by the Portuguese, when, in A. D. 1505, Almeida placed the ‘golden crown brought from Portugal’ on the head of Unni Rama Varma, the King of Cochin. Instead of the throne the Zamorin is throughout the ceremony seated on a white and a black carpet, spread one above the other. The Ariyittuvalcha is the formal inauguration of the reign with the blessings of the Brahmins conferred in the customary way of throwing rice on the head. This is the central feature that gives the name
to the ceremony.
At first this was done by Kotachirakkal Adhyan and the Rajah of Bettet, the one representing the Brahmins of the Panniyurkur to which the Zamorin belonged, the other the Kshatriyas of Kerala, both superior to the Samantas by caste. The Bettet dynasty died out in A. D. 1793. Once the Adhyan found himself unable to take part in an Ariyittuvalcha on account of pollution. So he caused his sister’s son, the Pumulli Namputiri to officiate in his stead, himself supervising the ceremony, standing on the floor below. This became the practice ever since, and Kotachira lost his ancient right. It is not known when Varikkumancheri Namputiri, and Kinangat Namputiri, both belonging to the Chovarakur, came to be invited. In all probability Varikkumancheri was one of those who assisted the Zamorin to perform Hiranyagarbham. Kinangat was a partisan of Perumpatappu, and he was given this privilege for changing sides.
While the Zamorin is engaged in putting on his jewels, the Pallimaradi is brought in state to the Vayaratalam. It is called Pallimaradi elunnellikka – It is a door-panel draped in silk, and it is the characteristic emblem of the Zamorin. Its origin is obscure. According to tradition, the Zamorin found it difficult to defeat the Vellatri’s soldiers at Tirnnavnyi, for, his Nayars were frightened by a terrible demoness who fought in the enemy’s ranks. So he retired to the temple of Tiruvalayanad and supplicated the Bhagavati of Tirumandhamkunnu, the guardian deity of the Vellatri. At last pleased with him, the goddess appeared before him in the form of a dazzling celestial beauty, fully decked from head to foot, and promised him victory. He tried to seize her by the band, and actually caught bold of the Valayam, or gold bangle, when she disappeared in one of
the door-panels of the shrine. This was removed from its hinges, and carried before the Zamorin as he led the attack on the Vellatri. The frightful demoness, who was really no other than the Tirumandham Bhagavati, did not now make her appearance to assist the enemy, and the Zamorin found himself master of the field.
With his right hand supported by Talappana and the left by Nandavanattil Nampi, the Zamorin comes from the dressing room, to the Vayaratalam, handsomely decorated by Tunnara Chakravarti. He takes the seat on the white-and-black spread before two or four golden lamps placed on either side of the Sword of Bhagavati brought from the private chapel. After paying his respects to the Bhagavati by placing some flowers on the Sword and bowing with palm joined to palm, he gives Dakshinas according to the ancient custom read out by Olukil Menon, to Chennas, Talappana, Valluvangat Pattar, Alur Kanikal, who is the palace astrologer, Desamangalam Variar, who is the palace tutor, and the representatives of Pumulli, Varikkumancheri and Kinangat. Then Tinayancheri Elayutu, the Brahmin minister and general, brings up a big silver saucer, containing raw rice, fried rice and Tumpa flower mixed together, before Pumulli, Varikkumancheri and Kinangat, one after another in succession. Three times, each one of them, beginning with Pumuili, gathers the mixture in his hands and pours it on the head of the Zamorin.
In this manner. blessed by the Brahmins, tho Zamorin begins his reign. His first act is to sign four olas, ordering the resumption of Amkam or trial by battle, Chunkam or collection of customs, Kappalottam or navigation, and Panamati or the coining of money. Then follows the confirmation of the ministers and commanders, like Acchan, Panikkar, Elayatu, Para Nampi, Ernad Menon, and the Talachenors of Calicut, Ponnani, Chowghat and Aliparamba.
Formerly, the Ariyittuvalcha of the other Stanis also was held on the same day. The Zamorin and Varikkumancheri pour rice on their head, and the former give the second and third princes, each an ola, appointing them governor of Nedunganad and commander-in-chief of the army respectively.
The last item is the public procession. Returning to the palace the Zamorin and his four juniors take their seat on the white-and-black, and women called Ventiammar wave before them lighted wicks and pots of saffron water to ward off the effects of the ’evil eye’.
-The Zamorins of Calicut

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