Saturday, 17 January 2015

A Greeting, which Became the Village

Jayakumar, a resident of Kothavadi, a village near Kinathukadavu, regularly offers food to a mother and her child. But to the surprise of everyone, the duo is not alive today and they just stand as images on a hero stone near his house today.

Pointing at the hero stone, Jayakumar says:

“The woman, whom the people of Kothavadi call as Ottalamman, one day appeared in my dream and asked me food for her child”

Ever since the dream, Jayakumar has been performing Pooja for the memorial and ‘offering’ food to the duo. The hero stone, which portrays the mother and child, also contains the images of two bulls being in the posture of hitting the woman with their horns.

According to an oral tradition in Kothavadi, the hero stone was erected in memory of a woman from a Boyer community, who was killed by the bulls while grazing them on the meadow. With Ottar meaning members of the Boyer community, the villagers say that the female deity has been suitably named as Ottalamman. However, another tale prevalent in the village maintains that the hero stone was erected to honour a pregnant woman, who died after the attack of a bull while she was on the way to a farmland, carrying lunch to her husband.

Ancient Tamils of the Kongu region followed the tradition of erecting hero stones in memory of the warriors, who were killed in the battle for redeeming their village’s cattle from an enemy troop. Such memorials were also set up to honour the village guards, who met their end by fighting against tigers. Being suitably called as Pulikuththi Kall, the memorials can still be seen in the localities like Irugur and Pattanam on the outskirts of Coimbatore.

But, it is interesting that such ‘hero stones’ were also erected in memory of women.

“In ancient Kongunadu people erected ‘hero stones’ for women, who ended their lives by jumping into their husbands’ funeral pyre. Reminding the cruel practice called Sati, the memorials were called Maasatikals. Moreover, hero stones were also erected to honour the women, who met their doom in pregnancy. And such a memorial is the Ottalamman’s” Explains epigraphist D.Sundaram, who dates the hero stone to a period between 16th and 19th century.

The village Kothavadi got its name after the Chera king Ravi Kothai. Explaining the etymology behind the name, a resident of Kothavadi informs that the people’s greeting the king as ‘Kothai Vaazhi’ (May you prosper, King Kothai) has got corrupted to Kothavadi! 

However, the people will be glad, if their hamlet is renamed as ‘Annadurai Vaazhi’, since Mayilsamy Annadurai, the project director of Chandrayan, is the native of Kothavadi!  

 Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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