On February 12th morning, we drove into the countryside to visit a home for the elderly run by the Yogeeswara Sabha. They are one organization representing the Yogeeswara community of Kerala, perhaps 100,000 people who trace their ancestry back to Chola times and to Nandinatha, guru of Tirumular, author of Tirumantiram. There are, therefore, in same lineage as Kauai Aadheenam. Having come to know this, their elders have approached Bodhinatha for spiritual advice. It is, to them, something of a miracle that a guru sharing their lineage exists, as they have not had religious leadership in the community for some 200 years.
They have their own temples and brahmin families, and are mostly in agricultural and business. As many as 200 people showed up over the 3 hours Bodhinatha was there, despite the apparently remote location reached by road little wider than our car.
We will get better photos of this event from a professional photographer.
February 11 was the awaited day of the trip as this evening was the grand event at Cherukolpuzha Hindu Matha Parishad. This mela was founded by Swami Theerthapada Paramahamsa in 1913, making this the 100th event. Swami was a famed Hindu reformer of his time (search Wikipedia for "Chattampi Swamikal"). The area is both heavily Christian and Marxist. The Parishad provides strength to the local community. Dozens of religious organizations and hundreds of merchants set up shop on the mela site.
Bodhinatha's talk was full of very practical advice, and touched time and again on the inherent Divinity of man. It was translated into Malayalam, printed in a booklet and appeared to be well received.
We didn't get a picture of it yet, right after Bodhinatha's talk and before the translation, we honored Suresh Kumar, one of India's outstanding artists, who was commissioned by us to paint the visions of Gurudeva which led to the founding of Iraivan temple. He brought one of the paintings which drew oohs and awes from the audience when unfurled. He and other artists have been commissioned to paint a wall at the Mumbai airport which is 8 feet high and 1 kilometer long! He estimates his section of 80 feet will take 6 months.
The visit was arranged by GK Nair, our Hinduism Today correspondent for Kerala since 1995. The mela is held on the Pampa river bed, on a large sandbar. During monsoon, the area is completely flooded.
The visit got off to a rather late start as our flight from Bangalore was delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Chennai. We finally got on a 10:45 pm flight, and arrived at our hotel at 3:30 in the morning. We managed to still be up and about by 8 am, and adjusted our schedule.
During the visit to the Yogeeswara Sabha in Janani, Kilimanoor, Bodhinatha met everyone in a 300-year-old Kerala style house. We don't have a good photo of it from outside, though you can see it clearly in the background of the short movie clip of this visit.
It is now roofed with metal, rather than tile or thatch, and did not immediately attract the attention of the one among us most interested in carpentry....
The workmanship is extraordinary. The structure is put together with the precision of a piece of fine furniture but on the scale of a building! Complex joinery is complemented with artistic carvings throughout. Unlike a Western building, there is no "roof framing" which is then covered up by wallboard or wood. All the structural elements are visible and extremely refined.
This particular building is a guest receiving house situated in front of the main family home. The home has been replaced with a concrete house, but this has been preserved, though definitely showing signs of age. The building was originally roofed with thatch, which eventually leaked in the monsoon season, leading to mold and termite damage to the wood.
The building was raised up and overlooked the adjacent paddy fields. The wind naturally wafted through it, making the place very pleasant.
This house was owned by the local zamindar, the person responsible for collecting taxes from the people. He passed on part of the income to the king and was expected to maintain security and infrastructure in the area. The British retained the zamindar system, using it to bleed the peasants for decades.
We were told very few carpenters with this skill remain; the modern generation is not interested in this work.
February 10 in Bangalore was set aside for meetings. That evening we flew to Tiruvananthapuram (Trivandram).
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