Sunday, 14 September 2014

Chronicles of Avatti | Prologue - Sustenance

Rains in Avatti always assume a spiritual veneration. If there is anything which leaves my grandmother in sincere dread, it has always been the rains. Monsoon approaches Avatti with formidable vengeance, as if to capture a land which always had been their inheritance but which they lost in the tumult of pride. I remember sitting in our courtyard and admiring the pictures clouds used to make in the monsoon sky - as if it were a desperate lover seducing his long lost beloved. Local beliefs hold that the Durga which guards over the village, residing reluctantly in a crumbling and archaic shrine, is lustful to the rains and would open her eyes and ears once she hears the rattle of rains beating her prosaic abode. As she wakes from deafness, the world shall pour their cumbersome woes, and the temple compound abounds with prayers and accolades for their powerful Water Durga!

As the rains reclaim vast paddy fields, defeats and consumes every yellowish strain of grass, Avatti would explode in green! There lies a magnificence to green, a sincere expression of life which would make me conclude that everything alive should have a touch of green to it. Flowers which are arid wither off for new buds to form, the Lotus in the temple pond turns dark Pink, flowers- thumpa, jungle flames, golden trumpets, and all varieties of shoe-flowers rise from their burial to astonish birds and butterflies from all neighborhoods! The myths and fables of the land resurface with rains, quite like the flowers. Mahabali, the great king who ruled over Kerala would wake from his inflicted sleep and would come to visit his lost haven all for to discover the world loving him in a bogus adoration. Having repeatedly stripped of faith he would seek salvation at Avatti temple. By the time Mahabali reaches Avatti, the Durga would already be in her arrangements for Navratri, the nine nights where she shall assume nine distinct and dynamic personalities. Mahabali would wait with patience till the eighth day but could wait no more and leave before Durga assumes the form of the knowledge-granting Saraswati. As Mahabali makes his painful walk back to his dilapidated home, he would see children of all ages happily rushing to see the Durga who illustrates herself with all her vehemence. The image would make him smile, which he shall treasure till next year, as he waits painfully along with an abundance of loneliness one would find in hell.

The shrine, often associated with various superstitions, finds its history to be as profound as that of Avatti. It is often narrated in various accounts that the temple had been built by the great Keralavarma Pazhassi Raja in the 17th century. My grandmother always speak about the temple with visible pride. It is true that a part of our family's history, a part of my own history harmonize celestially with the temple. The varying moods of the Durga could be felt unmistakeably within the walls of our house, which sits below the temple, and thereby receiving the name Thazhathu Veedu or the house that sits below. Inevitably, our house finds itself in veneration among the tales of the temple and those of Avatti too.

The temple since its creation had seen crusades, battles, births and deaths in equal magnitude and vitality. It got destructed partly by time and partly by its own worshipers during the era of Tipu Sultan's domination, in a false fear that the noble Sultan would destroy it himself. It has also witnessed the wrath and greed of many. The ownership of the temple was taken up by a powerful landlord who at the time of an economic constraint, would thieve all the jewellery of Durga, dismiss the priest and close the temple forever. Immediately afterwards, the clouds of misfortune would thrive in the skies of Avatti and our own house would dissolve in its intimidating potential. Three different deaths due to three absurd reasons would torment our house leaving the elders in a situation they could no longer control. The people of Avatti assumed the moral authority to reclaim the temple, assigned a priest, rebuilt the pathways but could never dilute the fury of Durga. She danced in fiery steps, destroying willpower and splintering unity among the people. Nothing soothed her frivolous mind, and the society faced generation after generation of misfortune and extensive bereavements. My grandmother says that it was calmed by a woman, when she selflessly took off her golden necklace and adorned it on the neck of Durga. The fury ceased and calm was restored in Avatti, a calm which still continues today. The woman who brought tries to catch a breath as she begins to narrate the story of Avatti while she looks up at the temple. I do not believe in those myths, but I do believe in the woman, who pervades the entirety of her house which sits below the temple, and  narrates countless fables for me to hear. I may not accept the fact that her selfless action saved a village, but indeed, she holds the reason to express it all by words, she grants sustenance to a place which had been lost forever in a hopeless tirade of myths!


This is a prologue to a group of stories which I plan to share with you if time and circumstances permit. Inspired from Avatti, a place where I grew up, it may not be an exact recreation of history, but a moderated and dramatic version of the same. The characters in these stories may bear resemblances to those who still lived out their lives in Avatti, but the stories in no way could be taken as an accurate account of the concerned scenario.

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