I have been visiting Kerala from Bengaluru since my childhood, all thanks to being born as a Malayali. Come summer vacations or other holidays, our small family would pack our bags into the car and set off in the early hours of the day to reach our hometown of Thrissur, the cultural capital of the state.
Hence began one such road trip which took me to the banks of the river Nila, which gave me a completely different experience and a different understanding of Kerala, the beautiful God's own country.
PC: P Das Arayil
The stop at Nila or Bharathapuzha was made after my mother and I kept nagging my dad saying that our vehicle comes to a halt once it reaches Thrissur district and does not move anywhere else.
Hence, en route to Thrissur my father decided to stop at the hometown of the father of Malayalam literature, Thunchathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan on the banks of the river Nila, at a place called Thunjan Parambu.
Codacal Tile Factory
PC: Ze'ev Barkan
As we were approaching the place, I took the help of Google, which gave me information which was not acceptable. We finally came across the famous Codacal Tile Factory.
A little more research on the factory yielded information which was simply shocking. The tile factory was run by the Commonwealth Trust and was the successor of the Basel Mission Industries.
To my surprise I found out that the foreign missionaries who had started this initiative did it to support the converted Christians by providing them employment, as these people were boycotted by the other communities after their conversion.
The Tile factory at Codacal was started in 1887 which made it the second tile manufacturing industry in the entire country. A surprise was awaiting us at the factory, which was the megalithic monuments which were unearthed from the courtyard of the factory. Some of them were destroyed recently over land grabbing issues.
Mamangam And The Monuments
I had heard a lot about the Mamangam festival which used to take place on the banks of the river Nila every 12 years and would last for 28 days. The festival was something which resembled the more contemporary Kochi Muzuris Biennale, an exhibition of art.
The Mamangam festival is not just about art, but sports, martial arts, quizzes, rituals, folk performances and much more. The festival at times would take a violent turn, and from a trade fair end up into being a warfare.
PC: PP Yoonus
Some of the sites of this festival have been renovated, all thanks to the archaeology department people. As such, people like me get to know that the festival did exist and is not a myth. Some of the key sites restored are the Changambali Kalari, Nilapadu Thara, Manikkinar, Pazhukka Mandapam and Marunnnara.
A funny thing here was there was a bunch of school kids who were longing to know why these structures were being restored, even though their school is just a stone's throw away distance from the Changambali Kalari. It would be of great help if the archaeology department conducts an awareness drive to explain the importance of the place.
Thunjan Parambu And The Parrot
Moving ahead, we headed straight to Thunjan Parambu, a place with a very surreal atmosphere where Ezhuthachan taught and spent half of his life time in writing the Malayalam version of Ramayana which was given the title of Adhyathmaramayanam. According to legend a parrot was made to recite the Ramayana in Malayalam for the author which helped him to write without taking a break.
We came across a beautiful stone statue of a parrot with an iron stylus and a palm leaf, which signifies the legend. Thunjan Parambu witnesses a lot of crowd on the Vijayadashmi day as tiny tots are welcomed to the world of letters by writing on the sands of this place. I too did the same and wrote the sloka of Hari Sree Ganapathaye Namaha on the sands.
PC: Arun P
My next decision was to go to the riverside which also can be seen in many Malayalam films. I ventured and sat on the banks and I got to see the Nila or Bharathapuzha from different angles, each more beautiful than the other.
With two minds we decided to move out of this place which gave us a magical experience and promised to return soon and to immerse ourselves in the magical sands of the Nila.