Upholding a 500-year-old tradition: Eettisseri Mana

Mana’s have history entrenched in them. They showcase a culture steeped in aristocracy. Their walls and corridors which echoed traditions and moors are no longer just about a languid past. These Manas are a symbol now. A few kilometres drive from Thaliparambu will take you to Narikot. You can almost hear the sounds of Theyyam as you walk through the vast paddy fields. The first thing you will notice is a pond that hasn’t dried even in the month of April. We continued to stroll around the pond.

The grandeur of the 500-year-old Eettisseri Mana left unguarded at Nareekodu Kundamangalathu will surprise you. There are rice granaries (turned into guest houses now) on the left side of this Mana which is spread over 5 acres.

We were welcomed warmly by Chandrasekaran Namboothiripad and his son Umesh. Namboothiripad couldn’t hide his pride as he showed every nook and corner of the ‘Panthrandu kettu.’ But there was a pall of gloom on his face that couldn’t be missed. Namboothiripad felt he wasn’t preserving this 500-year-old Mana as he would have liked. He didn’t have the money to opt for any kind of restoration work for now. It’s his dream to see the mana being restored back into its former glory.

Perunjalloor in Thaliparambu was a village that housed over 3000 manas- the largest Namboothiri village. But today there are only 42 of them, that too struggling to regain their past glory. Kundamangalathu Eettisseri Mana is one of them. In front of the Mana, there are expansive paddy fields and at its rear end lies the Kuppam river. On the other side of the river, there is another Mana, Perinthitta Eettisseri Man.

Perinthitta Eettisseri Mana

The Mana is done in Malabar’s famous brown laterite tiles. The scent of nostalgia permeates inside. As you enter, you can see the Kizhakkekottil on the right, where travelling Namboothiri’s used to rest at night. The first thing you notice as you enter the Mana is the pooja room of Theyyam. They worship idols done in wood like Kutty Shasthan, Rakstheshwari, Vishnumoorthi, and Uchitta. Kutty Shasthan, Kutteri Muthukudan, Kayyathu Vakka, Ezhothu Janmari are the theyyams of four Malaya families.

The following theyyams like Parammal, Parol Bhagavathy, Puthiya Kunnathu Puthiya Bhagavathy, Manicheri, Madayil Bhagavathy, Padavil Muthappan Theyyakavukal used to preside over Narikodu Mana. At every 10th of Thulam when the Thanthra arrives to conduct Gurusa Pooja the theyyams start to dance in its full glory.

About the Mana

Eettisseri Kuberan Namboothiripad had ten children- 3 boys and 7 girls. Since there existed a patrilineal system, the ancestral property (the Mana itself) went to the boys. The family is survived by the youngest son, Chandrasekaran Namboothiripad. A trust formed by Namboothiripad, his sons and representative of his late brothers runs the Mana now. There are two other residents who live in one corner of the Mana- his brother’s son’s wife and daughter.

There were designated rooms like Kombura, Valliambakam, and Cheriyambakam allocated for women who were menstruating. Special poojas and marriages were held at a Vadakini and Karthika Pooja was conducted at Valia Padinjatta, Kunji Padinjatta. Each room had a name and a special significance attached to it. There was a well at the far end of the kitchen and the water was sourced from the kitchen itself. That was how it was built.

A guided tour around the Mana

On the ground floor of the Mana, you can see a lot of antiquated vessels. Iroko was primarily used for construction work. They also used Teakwood. Lime, mortar and jaggery were mixed together to cement the stones. While the floor was made blending mud, cow dung and juice of selected plants.

As we climbed the wooden stairs, we were stopped in our tracks by a fleet of bats flying around. Strangely they quickly disappeared. There were several rooms there and each one of them probably had a story to tell.

The Mana that shined in a film

Apparently, MT and Hariharan wanted to shoot Oru Vadakkan Veeragadha in this mana. But the Mana didn’t give them permission. They were still keen to shoot Mayookham but to no avail. Finally they could shoot some portions of Pazhassiraja in the Mana. That beautiful KS Chitra song pictured on Kaniha, where she climbs down the stone stairs is the Puliparambu temple.

In the recent past, there were many who were interested in buying the Mana for exorbitant rates. But Umesh says nothing will induce them to sell this ancestral property that is believed to house Goddesses. They might never be able to sleep at night if they managed to let greed overwhelm them. They only want to preserve their precious Mana.

Mana Preservation

There are plans to rent the Mana as a shooting space for Television serials and films. A portion of the Mana will be turned into a museum for tourists and another portion can be used as an Ayurveda healing centre. To preserve such Manas tourism is the best possible option.

Some popular Illams/ Manas in Kerala

Olappamanna Mana: Located in Vellinezhi near Cherpulassery (Palakkad), this Illam is about 500 years old. The Illam was originally a Nalukettu, which was subsequently expanded into an Ettukettu. There were four Pathaayappuras around the house. Among them, the Kacheri was later demolished. There is no Padippura. Because of the enmity with the Mana, the Saamoothiripaad sent an army chieftain to demolish the Padippura as a punitive action. Thereafter the Padippura was never constructed. Within the Ettukettu there is a Sreelakam with the idol of Sree Chakram. As to when the Sree chakram was sanctified is anybody's guess. It is believed to have occurred at least 500 years ago. Though the idol is Sree Chakram, the goddess worshipped is Bhadrakaali - Bhagavathy of Thirumaandhaamkunnu. The ritual, "Kalam Ezhuthu Paattu" is conducted here even now. The Olappamanna Mana family has always fostered not only Vedic studies but also fine arts, music, literature, and so on. 200 years ago, there was a Kathakali troupe maintained by the Illam. Ittiraaricha Menon, who was the originator of "Kalluvazhi Chitta" (Kalluvazhi School) in Kathakali was the teacher of the troupe. The practicing venue for Kathakali used to be the hall attached to the Kanthaloor temple, situated close to the Mana. The Kathakali Yogam came to an end in 1938. A portion of the house is now being used for home stay for tourists.

Poomulli Mana: This Mana was reputed to be the largest and richest among the aristocratic Illams in Kerala. Once upon a time, a large sprawling "Pathinaarukettu" stood as a symbol of affluent pride in a 5.5-acre compound located in Peringode, a village blessed with rustic serenity, near Koottanad in Palakkad. The building complex which was a tribute to Kerala Vaastu Vidya was eventually demolished and on the foundations of this, a smaller building was constructed. However, the ancient "Poomukham" (parlor) and Pathaayappura has been preserved and retained as a historical monument. The "Tharavadu" which is claimed to be more than nine centuries old, was reconstructed in 1856. The reconstruction was completed within two years. The architect was the famous Vaastu Vidya expert Velanezhi Namboodiri. The age-old belief was that the lifespan of a building is almost equal to that of a human being - that is, about 120 years. Accordingly, the building should have disintegrated by 1976, but it did not and lasted till it was demolished 20 years later.

The main Naalukettu was a three-storied building, beautifully designed as a model of Vaasthu-aesthetics. It had an aesthetically built Poomukham, a drama hall (Naatakasaala), Sreelakam, Vadakkini, Kulappura Maalika and a spacious Nadumittam (central courtyard). Associated with the main Naalukettu, there was a Vadakkekettu meant exclusively for the use of the lady inmates, and two other smaller Naalukettu. Poomulli Illam was thus a good example of Pathinaarukettu. When the Mana was demolished, 15,000 cubic feet of wood was retrieved. Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo), "Maruthu" (Terminalia paniculata) and jack wood (Artocarpus integrifolia) were the main timber used for the construction of the house. In the early ages, the use of teak wood (Tectona grandis) was prohibited. The family members of Poomulli Mana encouraged fine arts like music, Kathakali, martial arts like "Kalarippayattu", as also medical sciences like Ayurveda. There is a temple of Lord Sree Rama, close to the Illam.

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