Karumadikuttan and its lure of Buddhism

Karumadikuttan. Photo: Vidya

Alappuzha: Tucked away in the small village of Karumadi, 17 kms away from Ambalapuzha is Karumadikuttan, famous for its three-feet-tall statue of lord Buddha—the lone silent reminder of the fact that Buddhism once flourished in Kerala between 3rd century BC and 13th century AD. _Karumadikuttan_, literally means the little black boy or the boy from Karumadi. Let's give you a bit of history. This statue is said to date back to somewhere between 9th and 14th century AD. History tells us that the statue remained abandoned for many years in a nearby stream named _Karumady thodu_ until it was discovered by Sir Robert Bristov, a British engineer in 1930, who built the shrine to preserve the relic. What grabs your attention when you see the statue for the first time is that, it is entirely broken on its left side. And yes, there are lores that explain this phenomenon. Ironically enough, though the statue of Buddha is in a meditative and peaceful stance, it was rather violently destroyed by a Mughal emperor. This was done in order to put a stop to the slow and steady creeping in of Buddhism in Kerala at the time. Another famous lore among the locals is that the statue was broken apart after an angry elephant went surging in, demolishing it. This is a paradox to the frequently eulogized story about Buddha's birth. Buddha's mother, Maya, dreamt of an elephant before giving birth to her son. She, however, considered it to be a good sign as elephant is a symbol of greatness. Whatever be the story, Karumadikuttan is a mute testimony of a violent past. It faces the Punnamada lake and is protected by a pagoda that is believed to have been built by Dalai Lama during his visit to Karumadi. Though it was declared as a protected monument by the Archaeology Department under the Kerala Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1968, the site remained neglected till last year. But now, due to the efforts of Karumadikuttans—a forum set up to look after the shrine—the Archeology Department has sanctioned Rs 15.67 lakhs for the renovation of its premises. The renovation works that included the construction of a resting shed for visitors, granite footpath, security cabin, compound wall, lighting facility and information counter, were all completed within a span of time that would have made Sir Robert Bistrov very proud. **By Boat**: You can reach Karumadikuttan in half an hour by a boat from Alappuzha. This journey comes along with the added benefit of exploring the charm of Alappuzha backwaters. **By Road**: It will take the same half an hour through NH 47 via Ambalappuzha. The shrine remains closed on Mondays and on national holidays. Visiting time is between 09:30 am and 04:30 pm.

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