The extremely beautiful Vellinezhi, a small hamlet which lies north to Kunthi River in Palakkad, is home to some of the most talented artists who have given up fame to pursue perfection in their art. A celebrated Kathakali village, Vellinezhi is also known for its famed Adakkaputhur mirror.
The cave at Kuruvattoor is associated with Buddhism and historians from all over the world throng the place to identify the significance of the religion to the history of Vellinezhi. Inspections were conducted by the officials of the archaeology department. However, the owner of the plot where the cave stands is worried that the government may take over the site if the historical significance of the place is proven.
The abode of Kathakali
Pattikamthodi Ravunni Menon, the legendary Kathakali artist hails from Vellinezhi. This serene village which has art in its soul has produced exceptionally talented Kathakali artists like Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair and Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair. There are many ‘kalari’ (training center) where the younger generation train in the ‘kalluvazhi chitta’, an intricate style in Kathakali. The people of Vellinezhi carry the artistic spirit of Kathakali wherever they go and always long to come back to the goodness of this charming village, like Dr Achuthankutty who gave up his job as a researcher at the famed Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and returned to Vellinezhi to pursue his love for Kathakali.
Padmasree Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, another eminent Kathakali artist, made Vellinezhi a familiar term among the Kathakali enthusiasts in Kerala. Legendary Tamil actor MGR was one of the few famous personalities who shared a very close friendship with Keezhpadam. “It was my father who trained MGR in dance. He had stayed at our home too. There was a time when our courtyard was crowded with Kathakali lovers,” says Unnii, the son of Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair.
Padmasree Vazhenkada Kunju Nair was another Kathakali doyen who brought laurels to Vellinezhi. Vijayan Nair, son of Kunju Nair, too is a well known Kathakali artist. A recipient of many awards including the ones instituted by the central government for eminence in art, Vijayan attributes whatever he has achieved to his father.
It has only been a year since the Kerala government has honored Vellinezhi with the prestigious title of ‘Kala Gramam’. Though the news of it was reported by all the major media, the people are still are not aware about the rich artistic traditions of Vellinezhi. Onapattu, kalamezhuthupattu, kaalapoottu, kolam kali, kaikotty kali, chakyakoothu, cherumakali, tholpavakoothu, nanthunipattu, padakalithallu, parichamuttu kali, paana, paankali, paambum thullal, poothanum thirayum are some of the art forms which are popular in the village.
There are only a few shops and two tea shops at the small junction at Vellinezhi. Rubber plantations and huge plots covered in various types of greenery take up the rest of the village. The houses built in the traditional architectural style of Kerala add an old-world charm to the village. The serene nature too plays a role in granting an incredible rustic allure to Vellinezhi.
The village is also known for the various ‘panisala’ (workshops) where master craftsmen make the elaborate ornaments and other adornments associated with Kathakali. Rajeev and Padmanaban are two of the famed craftsmen in Kerala whose adornments are purchased by the leading Kathakali artists. Kireedam (head adornment), hasta kadakam (wrist band), thol poottu (shoulder ornament), paruthikamani, kuralaram, ottanakku and kazhutharam are the different types of ornaments made by the duo. “It would take at least one-and-a-half months to make the adornments worn by the male character. First the structure is made and then painted and beautified with other adornments. Head adornments would take even longer than that,” says Rajeev.
Kothavil Ramankutty Achary is another craftsman at Vellinezhi who crafts the various Kathakali paraphernalia in wood. It was his father Krishnan Achary, a famous carpenter, who introduced Ramankutty to the art form.
The Olappamanna Mana, an ancient traditional mansion, is the finest example of the traditional architecture of Kerala. The majestic structure boasts of 8 courtyards, a ‘pathayapura’ (storage unit) and an elaborate ‘maalikapuram’ (double storey). Many art forms thrived on the courtyards of this ancestral home. OMC Narayanan Nampoothiripadu, who translated the Rigveda into Malayalam, Neelakandan Nampoothiripadu who transformed Olamanna Mana into a major Vedic study center and several other eminent artists played significant roles in spreading the fame of this ancient household.
Movie lovers would easily recall the mesmerizing interiors of Olappamanna Mana from super hit movies like 'Aakashaganga', 'Aaram Thampuran' and 'Ennu Ninte Moitheen'.
One can visit the Mana at any time of the day and Sanakaranarayanan, the manager would happily explain the historical and cultural significance of the property. The Mana is now owned by a trust called the ‘Devi Prasadam’ in which 20 members of the family are trustees. This ancient house has some historical artefacts like the centuries-old huge vessels, wooden vessels, palanquin etc. A translated copy of the Rig veda in Malayalam is one of the most treasured items safeguarded in a room on the first floor.
Just like the famed Aranmula mirror, Vellinezhi too has its own unique heritage mirror called the Adakkaputhur mirror. It was Balan Moossary, the village blacksmith who produced a new kind of metal mirror years ago. Continuous hard labour extending up to five hours and the risk involving burning metals have kept many from learning the craft, says Krishna Kumar, the son of Balan Moossary. He is the only one who makes the mirror now at Vellinezhi. Krishnakumar says, “It would take up to four days to craft a mirror. The mirror and the metal frame are crafted using hands. The mirror would lose its sparkle if this is seen merely as a job.”
Kumar’s brother Hari Govindan is a well-known sculptor from Vellinezhi. The statue of St Alphonsa made by Hari is erected at Boon Lay in Singapore. Like his brother, Hari too gives prime importance to the perfection of his art rather than the value of money it may fetch.
How to reach
Vellinezhi is in Palakkad district. Ottapalam and Cherpulassery are the nearby towns. Vellinezhi is 43 km away from Palakkad and 60 km from Thrissur.