Kerala Muslim man takes pride in performing temple ritual for 38th year in a row

Hassanar , 49, has been performing Kumbha kudam dance at Machadu Mamankam since he was 11. Photo: Special arrangement.

Palakkad: Among the gaggle of performers who would break into rhythmic steps for a tiring 12 kms long Kumbha Kudam procession as part of the famed Machadu Mamangam, Kunnathu Peedikayil Hassanar is called as Asan (the master). Being a Muslim and part of this temple ritual for more than three decades, Hassanar has earned the title and owned it with pride. On Tuesday, he turned up again without fail, his painted face beaming, his garish attire gleaming in the sun and he perfectly balanced the pots on his head as he swayed and occasionally swirled around.

He has only two wishes in mind. "Let the Thiruvanikkavilamma bless me to participate in the ritual till I die; let me pass on this centuries old tradition to the coming generations," he says.

Inspired by a karakattam performer, he began associating with the ritual at his 11th age, he never skipped the annual event even once. 

“For me, this is a year-long wait to perform for the Thiruvanikkavilamma who has given everything in my life. Today, if I’m anything in life, it’s all her blessings,” says 49-year-old Hassanar, who works as Southern Railway ticket supervisor at the Wadakkanchery railway station under the Thiruvananthapuram railway division.

Hassanar performs Kumbha Kudam Ezhunnellippu for the Malaakka group coming under the Manalikkara Desham. Kumbha Kudam Ezhunnellippu is one of the quintessential ceremonies as part of the Machad Mamangam at the Machad Thiruvanikkavu Temple located at Thekkumkara near Wadakkanchery about 28 km away from Thrissur town.

Kumbha Kudam Ezhunnellippu is more like a dance procession where a group of people – a minimum of 21 people perform unique dance steps during a procession covering about 12 kms from Malaakka that starts around 8 in the morning and ends in front of the Thiruvanikkavilamma at around 4 in the evening. Even for a seasoned performer, the ritualistic procession is draining and they rely on days long abstinence.

“Vratham is a must for those who want to participate in the Kumbha Kudam Ezhunnellippu. They go for 41 days of abstinence, similar to the the one observed by the Ayyappa devotees during the Sabarimala pilgrim season. Ever since Hassanar-aasaan started participating in the ceremony, he has been following all the rituals including wearing the chain from in front of the temple, strictly following the food habits, etc. Today, he is considered as Aasaan (guru) for all the people who participate in the procession. He is the one who teaches the dance steps to all of us,” said Suresh Ottayil, president, Manalithara Desham, one of the prominent deshams in the Mamangam, adding that Hassanar is a messiah of communal harmony in the area.  

“My family used to stay in Panangattukara during my childhood. I had a dance guru Mohanan from Guruvayur who taught me the history and tradition of Mamangam. During those days, I used to perform Karakattam, an ancient folk dance performed in praise of the rain goddess in old days along with Mohanan master. At my 11th age, I decided to participate in the Kumbha Kudam Ezhunnellippu despite objections from many quarters. Today, both the Hindu and Muslim community accept me wholeheartedly,” says Hassanar.

Today, Hassanar teaches the third generation of the Kumbha Kudam performers. “I started participating in the ritual by teaching my fellow performers the basic steps of the ceremony. Now, their third generation kids are learning from me. From a poor family consisting of five sisters and staying in the puramboke land some 40 years back, I have had enough in my life to earn daily bread. It is the annual ritual that keeps me alive,” said Hassanar, who is father of three sons. All his sons actively participate in the Mamangam every year. This year, his eldest son Thaneesh, now working with the Wipro, has reached the native land to be part of the colourful event. 

The entire family including Hassanar’s wife Sainamol observes 41 days of rigorous fasting before the Mamangam.

“For me the mosque and the temple are the same. I observe 41 days fasting of Mamangam and 30 days fasting of Ramadan. On all days, I pray to the Goddess and Allah. Let me be like this till my end,” concludes Hassanar.

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