30 May Varinjam Raghavan Pillai: Sri Bhuvanendran’s Biographer
Varinjam Raghavan Pillai: Sri Bhuvanendran’s Biographer
[The details that follow have been gathered by us (Prof. S Mohana Kumar and Dr.Thrivikramji KP) during a face to face on 18-01-10 with Manager Varinjam Vikraman Pillai, kid brother of Varinjam Raghavan Pillai (VRP). Our intention was to know more about VRP- Sri Bhuvanendran’s biographer. During the conversation, Manager Pillai consistently referred to VRP as Saami. In fact the dead body of VRP was cremated in the rubber plantation behind the Manager Pillai’s “Ambadi” home and the spot is now marked by a slender coconut palm tree amidst rubber trees. Ambadi is only about a kilometer from the Seemattimukku immediately north of Kalluvathukkal in the NH47 ].
Surprisingly, when we gate crashed at “Ambadi”, (18-01-100) the generally busy and active Manager Vikraman Pillai was very much at his home, never expecting our visit. Hence, he too was sort of stunned and surprised by our visit. In fact the duo (viz., SMK and TKP), never faced any road block in the quest or the research efforts for the Bhuvanendran Book Project.
Initially the stocky, fully grayed and grandly bald but clean shaven man with a prominent thin but long mustache appeared to be quiet reserved. When we declared the purpose of our mission, this man (manager) became very eloquent and slowly but steadily poured out several anecdotal details, on the life and journey of his eldest brother, VRP who was frequently quoted by the nick name saami.
In fact when we parted with Manager Vikraman Pillai, as he was popularly known in t he immediate and distant neighborhood, we were fully and completely happy about close to 5 hr we had spend with this man, who was practically dominating the discussion. He in fact kind of stopped us from poking questions when he was pouring out the anecdotal narration. This covered practically the various facets of life and character of VRP.
Now for some more details of Saami.
Saami or VRP was the eldest son of the Shri Narayana Pillai of Kallada and Smt. Kalyani Amma of Vettikkalariyam.Though she, Kalyani Amma delivered 14 children only 8 lived through and grew up. Other siblings of the family are Varinjam Gopinathan Nair (A high School teacher etc.), Varinjam Vasupillai (A Janatha Dal leader). Saraswathy Amma, Kunjukrishna Pillai, Kamala Devi Amma and Varinjam Vikraman Pillai (Manager of KKPM UP School).
Mr.Narayana Pillai was the karydarsi or Trustee of the now famous Chittumala Devi Temple Kuthirakettu or building larger than life sized and costumed horses, with scrap cotton waste, gilded paper and such other easily and locally available materials, is an important ritual and offering to the god mother or deity of Chittumala temple. The horse, built on a wooden frame, is set on a nearly A-frame like poles and is carried through the streets in and around the perimeter of temple by a group of strong and young men who share-carry this burden of god (symbolizing god mother. Kuthirakettu marks the grand finale of the special festivities of the Chittumala temple in which there is the participation of 18 built-horses from the 18 karas or communities out of which one will be polled as the number one.
Though the legal ownership of the Chituumala Devi temple was originally vested in a group of Brahmin families in Trivandrum, the day to day running of the temple along with the rights to own, safe keep and control the income as well as other landed wealth of the temple was entrusted by the original Brahmin owners to Shri Vasu Pillai (the maternal uncle) of Kallda near Chittumala. .The temple festivities were the sole right of 18 Karakkars. Kettukuthira display was the chief item of the festivities. Such Kuthiras came by canoes as well as on land by the shoulders of devotees from each of the Karas or let us say the families
Education and Freedom struggle
Saami was an embodiment of compassion to poor, and needy, synonym of unselfishness, brilliant in studies at college and earned scholarship from the government, recalls manager Pillai. Though Shri Gopinatha Pillai was equally brilliant in studies and earned a government scholarship at College, was opposite of VRP in many other respects – like for example, very selfish, stingy, and self promoting and not worrying about others trials and tribulations. Both these brothers studied for college in Trivandrum. Shri VRP studied to become a lawyer – the closely guarded and nurtured desire the dad.
Shri Vasu Pillai used to utilize part of the temple income for one’s own needs including the educational expenses of the children who were going to college in Trivandrum. Shri Vasu Pillai was also very close to the Dewan of Travancore, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer. The dad Pillai desired and sincerely hoped to make use of the Dewan connection to make the eldest son (VRP) a Judge in the state soon after completing the law degree.
With this noble dream in mind, Shri Vasu Pillai after orally asking the permission of Chittumala Devi, as and when need arose took money or gold from the temple vault for use in connection with the studies of the children in college. Shri Vasu Pillai also made the solemn promise to the Devi that all the sums he owed to Devi will be returned once the son reaches the Judges Chair and earns an income from the judge’s job. In fact the dad used to maintain a register about all the sums and gold the former owed to the Chittumala Devi.
One day in a Horse Buggy Shri VRP reached Chathannur to participate in a slogan shouting march and picketing to protest against the Dewan’s and British rule. VRP shouted slogans like “Mahathma Gandhi Ki Jai; Bharathamatha Ki Jai” and so on. Then VRP was taken into police custody. The egg buying/vending shop owner was the one who informed dad about the various deeds that happened on that day. Before joining the strikers, VRP had a meal of cooked rice and butter at home, which he served on his own without informing mother. Mother caught this self service when she saw the rice pot standing right side up in the kitchen. In fact the water in the pot had not completely drained.
Then dad came home and quickly departed to Trivandrum to meet with Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer, to plead for the release of Shri VRP from jail enabling to appear for the final examinations. CPR insisted that due to the anti-state actions .VRP will not be allowed to go away, but instead agreed to let VRP to take the examinations in the jail cell. But VRP declared that he will not take any examination in the Jail. The intensely and deeply agonized dad came back home and in desperation started rolling over and kept rolling over in the front yard of the house. When the mom enquired it was the sons adamancy about not taking the examination in the jail that made him roll over again and again in the front yard of the house. Dad died on the seventh day of this incident. VRP was allowed to go home from jail with police escort to perform the last rites to the departed soul and then was taken back to jail.
V Vasu Pillai (Janatha Dal leader later) took over the management of the house hold and the properties to help the siblings to attain whatever they attained later.
Para Raghavan, Harijan Postman was a good friend of VRP. These friends on one day sat in the same mat ready to eat lunch to be served by the mom. Mom served rice and other curries to both fellows. In fact at some point, when there was excess rice served to Para Raghavan, mom had to make the potion smaller, by removing some from the brass plate, which mom later promptly served others. Mom never had any clue to the origins of Para Raghavan.
The VRP asked if mother had any objections in serving food to Para Raghavan – a person who shouldn’t have stepped into the house in the first place due to the bane of untouchability. Mom promptly replied “For me he is also like you only”
Never, kneel down to the British police was a slogan by the spirited N.Srikantan Nair, which attracted VRP to team up with Srikantan Nair. When Srikantan Nair jumped the prison, he promptly went VRP’s house and started a hidden life in the attic of VRP’s house. Srikantan Nair was a voracious eater.
VRP was arrested again and sent jail.
To express the opposition to British rule VRP and Srikantan Nair decided to follow a policy of not rising up at the sight of any member of the British police. Once it so happened, that VRP did not rise on his feet when a police party arrived. The angered police started beating up VRP. This made Srikantan Nair to jump up on ones feet to escape the wrath of the British Police.
When British administration ordered killing of Netaji, VRP started publication of a Magazine (monthly) called “Netaji”. Unfortunately, the magazine never saw the light of the day. Copies were bundled together and kept away without circulating it.
Soon one man came rushing to the house asking mom to put away all copies of “Netaji:” away from and out of the house so that police party supposed to come for home search will not get any clue or any copy of the magazine. In fact, Chathannur Vasu Pillai came that evening and removed all copies of the magazine.
CP ordered confiscation of copies of “Netaji” from everywhere. Police came in search of copies to the VRP house where mom was living with Vikraman Pillai. In fact when Police came to search the house, mom was sweeping the front yard with a broom and Vikraman Pillai was towing behind amma. Police searched for the magazine everywhere in the house. Angrily police loaded all the furniture in the house. Mom went and lied down in the only remaining piece – a cot in which Vikraman Pillai and mom slept together every night. There was no lady police those days. Out of fear, Vikraman Pillai held on to a limb of mom and police started pulling the boy clinging to the mom so that both will fall off leaving the cot behind. The clever amma kicked the dear son who fell off the cot so that police became helpless and left without the cot..But then on in the evenings mom and Vikraman Pillai as usual slept in the cot
This furniture on auctioning was purchased by congress veteran TM Vargheese but did not go back to VRP house in spite of the strong desire to do so by Pattom Thanu Pillai.
Though the moneys taken from Devi temple were taken on the promise of prompt return that part did not happen. “Devi probably was angry at this and as a result all such untoward things happened” mused manager Pillai.
VRP was allotted the Kottarakkara seat at the time of elections after independence.. At the time filing nomination papers for the election VRP strayed somewhere else and could not participate in the primary step of the election process, i.e., filing the nomination papers .
There was a picketing organized under the leadership of VRP in the Gun court of Kollam. The styagrahis were lying in a row blocking the path of speakers. Some of the speakers literally stepped on the bodies to reach the dais, while only Pattom Thanupillai carefully tiptoed between the bodies. The meeting however ended without the usual speech making.
Then VRP starated publishing a daily called “Jai Hind”. The editorial used to attract a wide readership, yet the daily did not survive for long.
VRP and VGP used to go around the taluk for reciting Bhagavatham. One would read or recite and the other would explain. Many a times the sessions appeared to be a wordly fight between them which also divided the listeners to take sides and argue. The poor crowd never knew that the guys were only a team of brothers. Similar incident happened once at Varkala on a sivarathri night.
Where ever he goes VRP will be in the first row.
Kumbalam was a leading figure in the Karunagapally taluk. If anybody spoke against this man, the thandars will teach those guys a lesson.
Narayana Pillai used to be in charge of Chittumala Temple for 18 years and conducted the festivities very precisely and promptly. Narayaana Pilla used to accept and obey only the Devi and nobody else in the world. However, Shri Pillai no longer was favored by or acceptable to the Karakkar or the important families that participated in kuthirakettu. In fact, some Karakkars at the time of Kuthirakettu, wanted a different route for the procession carrying the Idol of Devi. In fact, some wanted the Devi procession to stop and allow one particular Karakkar to offer puja and related rituals, practically violating the order that was in place for a long time. This was a trick played by and managed by Kumbalathu Sanku Pillai. But, Narayana Pillai’ had a ferocious brother who loved only own brother and no one else. He secretly asked the Potti, if any altercation regarding the route of procession and the first stop arises, just keep the idol on the floor at the place of dispute and not take it up again to continue with the procession. If it was not carried out elder uncle will finish off the Potti. The celebrations went on without any dispute coming to the fore. Chittumala Temple keys were formally taken away from Narayana Pillai, and with that act Devi was too much angered resulting in the down trip or decline of the temple and Karakkar. Currently the Karakkar and the temple have come back to limelight again.
Devi told dad “Whatever you said have all been fulfilled” and continued “what about your promises to me that you wrote and kept”
“VRP published a small book “Prathyaksha Pathram”. VRP wrote, “Pattom Thanu Pillai had only one longing and desire, that is to become the chief minister of the state” VRP was a failure in politics – a field where just and principle individuals totally fail or become utter failure.
VRP also published a news paper “Jai Hind” which also turned out to be a failure. VRP also wrote two books – “Hridayanjali” and second one “Kairali”. Sir CP came under severe criticism in one of the books.
Saami made a trip to Kolkotha to meet Shri Sarachandra Bose, Netaji Subhash Chandra’s bother. Unfortunately the day saami reached Kolkotha, the news of demise of Sarchandra reached him.
Later Saami without any ones knowledge went Himalayas to seek sanyas and asceticism. There was a blackout for a longer while about saami. Later say after six months or so, saami reappeared in Varinjam with fully matted hair, long black beard. He traveled all the way back home in trains without a ticket .Once reaching Kollam, someone funded saami to get back home by bus. After reaching home, saami completely shaved off the matted hair. Then saami went away to Trivandrum. And from Trivandrum went to Cherukol Bhuvanendra sadanam. Stayed there, observed the various happenings and events that appeared around Sri Bhuvanendran.
During the stay at Cherukol, Saami gifted all his landed wealth to sisters and to Vikraman the land where now Ambadi is built. The copyright of the books of Saami was given away to a nephew (sister’s son)
Varinjam Gopinathan Nair, a teacher brother, was those days a staunch communist.
Later, Saami came to the varinjam homestead along with Bhuvanendran of Cherukol or athbhuthasisu and a party of devotees. There was an altercation then at the house. Vikraman Pillai intervened and declared that “each and every one has civil rights” No one can trespass into those rights. Then Saami went back to Cherukol (Thiruvattar). Saami then joined with Sri Bhuvanendran and made a trip to Guruvayoor. Vikraman Pillai, Manager, recalls “the showering of flowers offered to idol in the temple slowly descending on Bhuvanendran which surprised everyone present inside the temple”.
Due to blessings of Choittumala Devi VRP came back, recalls Manager.
One of these days, Saami’s amma was bitten by a snake and she died of the complications due to snake bite. Saami did not come to see the dying or dead mom. When asked, Saami answered that:” he knew in advance that thakshakan will finish off mom”. Mom was a god fearing and a devoted individual to god. There was a bumper crop of cow pea around the homestead in that season. Mom was harvesting the cow pea. A snake without mom’s notice was following her. And one day she was bitten by the snake. This strong willed mom, tore off a piece of cloth from her own dress and tightly tied it above the bitten spot on her leg. She was in coma for about two days before breathing her last breath.
Manager Pillai, then a student in highschool, was due to speak in the school on a weekly public speaking classes, that mom’s death was taken to school to fetch the boy back home. When the time of speaking came up, his class teacher with over flowing eyes went to Pillai to ask him to go home without going to the presentation. Pillai did not know the cause of sudden change in the schedule. At home Pillai saw the dying mother showing convulsions. My uncle Vasu Pillai shouted “ my sister is gone and gone forever”
During the Vimochanasamaram, Saami joined the picketing of Kollam Collectorate.
KKPM UP School was sanctioned at the instance of Saami by taking up the case with Pattom Thanu Pillai, the CM. School opened on 1962 May 25th. Vikraman Pillai with the company of a friend, Thankappan Pillai walked on a wet mid night over to see Saami at the latters hermitage at Velinallur. Thankappan Pillai wanted Saami to intervene in the quick sanctioning of the school which is named after his deceased ascetic brother Kunjukrishna Pillai for which Saami agreed. Only then Vikraman Pillai appeared in front of Saami. Saami offered a late night dinner of pineapple to both and offered to see both at Trivandrum to see the concerned people, i.e., the CM. School is named KKPM UP School- after late Kunjukrishna Pillai who died of an enlarged heart in a Bangalore. Hospital. The body was brought back home by a party to which Vikraman Pillai too was in.
Saami died toward the end of 1995 at a hospital/home of nephew in Trivandrum. The body decorated with then wreaths placed by leading congress men like Oommen Chandy and others were taken back to the Velinallur and later to Varinjam and was cremated in the presence of a large crowd of friends and followers. We saw the burial ground now marked by the ritualistic and traditional coconut palm tree in the distant backyard and among rubber trees of Ambadi homestead.