“Kerala is a madhouse” – said Swami Vivekananda once.
He made this comment when during one of his visits; he saw for himself what the deep rooted caste and religious system had in it for the people of the land.
It has been more than a century since this happened. And even in this modern eta, it still holds true. Religion, caste, sub caste et al, fighting each other, for no apparent reason. All this, despite the fact that Kerala has accepted countless religions and voyagers from remote and faraway lands without any ado.
For Hindus, there are Nambootiris, Nairs, Ezhavas and the countless castes and sub castes. For Christians there are the innumerable denominations, some found only in Kerala. The same for Muslims, some of whom even find it even inopportune to talk with other myriad groups within their community.
Today, we can see separate religious groups like NSS, SNDP etc within the same religion that can’t see eye to eye. In my hometown Kannur, you can see assemblage for even sub castes of Nairs like Nambiars, Maniyanis etc. Marriages between these sub castes are also rare.
I have long wondered, why despite having a long common heritage, an open society, social interaction and integration with the rest of the civilised world for centuries, Kerala sees such enmity and infighting between these social groups, which otherwise could peacefully coexist.
It is then, that I stumbled upon a small, insignificant legend that I had read long ago, and remain unheard of to most of us. Here, below, I recite that interesting story.
|Parasurama – A painting by Raja Ravi Varma|
The story goes that in Parasurama, who is the sixth avatar of Maha Vishnu, had killed all the Kshatriyas on the earth to avenge the death of his father, at the hands of the sons of King Kartavirya. Once he had finished off all the Kshatriyas, both guilty and innocent, he filled five lakes with their blood. Later, he approached a group of learned men on how to atone for his sins of killing the Kshatriyas. He was advised to hand over land to Brahmins as penance. It was for this purpose that he demanded Varuna to withdraw for the lands and provide a safe haven to the Brahmins. Parasurama threw his axe across the sea, from Kanyakumari to Gokarna, and created and created the land across 160 katams (an old measure of distance), which is now known as Keralam.
|Parasurama reclaims land from the Sea|
The land that was recovered from the seas was not suitable for human habitation as it was filled with poisonous snakes and other wild animals. Later, the great Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who converted it into fertile land, and later Vasuki was appointed as protector and custodian of the new land.
Later, Parasurama settled sixty four Brahmin families in various parts of the new land.
He was their guiding light, mentor and protector. Soon, when the time was ripe to leave them on their own and return to rumination, he gave them a boon.
What Parasurama said was, whenever the land he had created, and the people inhabiting it, needed him in times of necessity, all of them should get together, and pray. He would immediately be present before them and do all to rig them of their troubles and predicament.
Time passed. The populace of the land were covered in prosperity and opulence. There was nothing that was petite or diminutive for them all. But what thought developed in the minds of the people was that – “Did Sri Parasurama sincerely enlighten them that he would be there for them, when they needed him?”
To doubt is human nature, and there were some who were doing that. So what they did next was to test it out.
The sixty four families got together, and stared the prayer and yagna to invoke Sri Parasurama. The prayers continued on, till Parasurama was woken up from his musings, and he instantly went to where his people was gathered and expecting him.
He was happy to see his people, so were they to see their God.
He asked them, in what problem they were, and why have they called him.
They didn’t have an answer. After much pondering they replied, that they had no inconveniences in Parasurama’s land, and had prayed for attendance, just to check if the promise that he had given to them was true or not.
There is no sage more enraged that Parasurama when affronted and this comment was one of the nastiest varieties.
Parasurama was engulfed in anger, and hereto uttered the curse – “Now, let there be so much infighting and squabbling between you all that even when you need me, all of you cannot sit together and pray, and make my presence obligatory here”
He left the place in anger.
After the incident that that has happened narrated above, there has never been a situation where the people who have inhabited Kerala could get together for one voice on any substance of opinion.
Insulted, offended and slighted, Parasurama had left the people behind with never ending battles for land, power, culture and ego.
There has been many an instances when the presence of Parasurama would’ve been necessary for fighting the many evils and perils that have invaded Kerala over the ages. And Parasurama, being the Chiranjeevi avatar of Vishnu is roaming the earth waiting for the people of his land to call him in unison to rid them of all their tribulations.
He would come to absolve all our ills, if, only and only if, ALL OF US, decide to come together, forget and disregard the differences of caste and creed, and call him like he had always wanted.