If you are a tourist fascinated by ‘spirits,’ there are a few places for you to see in Mattanchery. But you will have a hard time finding them because they are hardly promoted by the tourism department. Not because it is scared of spirits, but owing to lack of awareness of their tourism potential.
The spot is known as ‘Kappiri Mathil’ (Negro Wall) in local parlance and there are five of them at Chakkamadam and Parwana in Mattanchery.
Myths and make-believe add some spice and romance to life, like the buildings of yore with an aura of mystery. The legend of spirits guarding treasures has gripped the fantasy of people from time immemorial. ‘Kappiri Mathil’ bears testimony to this long established legend. It could have acquired the status of an historical monument had the authorities taken measures to preserve it. The legend of the ‘Kappiri’ smoking a cigar, resting on a wall (Kappiri mathil) and safeguarding the treasures hidden by their masters has been doing the rounds for almost 350 years, says K J Sohan, former Mayor and Town Planning Standing Committee chairman, Kochi Corporation. When the Portuguese came to Kerala, they brought many Kappiri (native Africans) with them to safeguard their treasures. But the scene took a violent turn when the Dutch usurped power from the Portuguese, Sohan adds. “It was a violent takeover and they had to leave their treasures behind. But they buried the treasures in a deep trench and slaughtered a ‘Kappiri’ along with the treasure,” he adds. In course of time, this tale took a mythical note and people were touched and taken by it. The natives of Mattanchery, irrespective of religion, started believing that ‘Kappiri Muthappan’ who dwells on the ‘Kappiri mathil’ is their saviour.
Sohan says that there are around 20 such walls in Mattanchery. But only two walls are being maintained and that too by the local people. Sohan is also of the opinion that if packaged properly, this wall and its legend could be of high tourism potential. “Each spot in Kochi is of tourist importance. Like other countries, we have to promote ‘spirit tourism.’ Attempts should be made to recreate those feelings. If attempts are not made at the earliest, these traces of historical evidence would go into oblivion,” he adds. Reji Kumar, director (additional charge) State Department of Archaeology says that he is not aware of the matter. “I will soon look into the matter. “But a retired official from the same department says: “Only a heritage zone has been declared. But so far no policy decisions have been taken to preserve the historical pieces.”
K V Thomas, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, said that he would visit the place. “Such a place has not come to my notice. I will visit it,” he said.
By Shalet Jimmy
(Published in The New Indian Express)