Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waves of History at Mattancherry

KOCHI: Punnamthottam, the 106-year-old Thiruvaranmula Palliyodam,   at  Mattanchery, has become the cynosure of tourist eyes from far and wide. The snake boat which once used to accompany the Thiruvonathoni of Aranmula Parthasarathi during its hey-days has become one of the proudest possessions  of N B Majnu, owner of Heritage Arts, an antique-shop at Mattanchery.

It is divine luck which preserved the palliyodam. Five years back, the   Aranmula Karayogam which owned the palliyodam decided to set it ablaze as per the tradition. It is believed that the palliyodams have life and have to be cremated once theycompletes their life span. “As the Karayogam was about to set it on fire, I came to know about it by sheer luck and quickly bought it,” Majnu says.

As the legend goes, this 106-ft-long snake boat played a predominant role by accompanying the boats which brought ‘Thiruvona sadya’ to Parthasarathi temple from Kattur Madom. It had to protect the boat carrying sumptuous Onam feast and various delicacies from bandits.

Majnu remembers that it was a Herculean task to transport the snake boat to Mattanchery. As many as 70 people were employed for the purpose. “It was  rowed from Aranmula via Thakazhi till Chengannur. Then, it was brought to Mattanchery using boats,” he said.

Majnu says this is a ‘small contribution’ from his part in preserving the  antiques in the country. “Our country is blessed with relics which have high antique value. These objects can proclaim our heritage,” he said.

Though the palliyodam is drawing tourists and many international media like  Fox History channel, Majnu laments that it is not getting wide recognition  among the locals. “Tourists are flocking to see the palliyodam, but it fails to lure people from Kerala. One of the main reasons is that people seem to be unaware of it,” he said. The palliyodam has been registered.

Nambiraj, an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) official, had inspected the palliyodam and asked the proprietor to preserve it.

“We came to know about it during our routine inspection. Since the  palliyodam is more than 100 years old, the ASI has asked the owner to take  necessary steps to preserve it and not to export it,” he said.

This is the only place in the country where a snake boat is preserved as an antique piece other than the one in the Bhopal Museum. It is also believed that the palliyodam was built by the Vishwakarma family of Ranni.

Published in The New Indian Express

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