15 May Re-dedication of Bhuvanendra shrine at Cherukol, Kanyakumari dist.
Rededication of Cherukol Bhuvanendra Bhagawan Shrine
I (Thrivikramji), had paid only infrequent visits to the Cherukol homestead in the late 50’s (especially after the most “sad” , untimely and unexpected end of Bhuvanendran and other eight souls in Prayag, on the night of Jan. 11, 1951), 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, or even in later decades. I could not assign any specific reason for this personal neglect only on my pre-occupation with my studies in the earlier decades or professional commitments in the decades that followed. Yet, soon after my marriage to Geetha (Aug. 18, 1969), we made a formal trip to show off the new bride to the relatives in the village. We visited the Bhadrakali Amman temple near Cherukol and in fact to the Cherukol homestead. My mom briefly narrated all the highlights of saga of legendary Bhuvanendran and Jatadhari and how it all converged at the end in Praya to Geetha.
Soon after the sad, sudden and unbelievable demise of Bhuvanendran, and eight others of the party, at Prayag (Jan, 11, 1952), my eldest brother Valsan chettan (one among the four survivors in spite of sleeping in the same room) slowly and steadily came out of the shock and trauma and limped back to routine life. However, he was sort of a two-year college drop out. Yet, had the grit to recover from the shock and finally gathered enough strength to restart a new life- a life perhaps Valsan , the young adult once and for all decided to quit in favour of a ascetic life in and around Bhuvanendran. .
In the early 50’s I was in the Veeyannor Primary school, where my dad (Parameswaran Pillai was the head teacher). I was doing the fifth class there and I distinctly remember my brother Valsan teaching me in the fifth class. I was a 10 yr old lad. And yet another event I distinctly recall is the demise of my gandma (Thanakkattu Ammoma). In those days the demise of a grand old woman in a middle class family was a sort of celebration for sixteen days. During these days the immediate family members will gather in the house of deceased and on certain days of the week their will be a beeline of visitors to convey in person or to express and share the grief due to the loss. All the members and visitors will enjoy decent meals served either as breakfast, brunch or lunch. The son-in-laws were supposed to foot all bills and my dad was happy that his own and Valsan chettan,s pay put together easily met the my dads financial share and obligation.
After my 5th class, in 1953, to begin my middle school as a First form student, I shifted school to Samiyarmadam Government Middle School, from where by third week of Oct. 1955, when I was in the second Form, our family moved to Trivandrum simply for the sake of rather cheap and better education in the city. The specific advantage was one could stay home and for a smaller tution fee get school and college education. My dad Parameswaran Pillai, himself a primary school teacher earned a transfer and posting in the Primary School, Nanthancod and in fact retired from the same school in March 1956, when I was enrolled for my High School in the SAHS, Kawadiar.
My initial memories of the Bhuvanendran was for one the sprightly boy running around the home and the yard around till he retires for the evening before the evening pooja, in the pooja room of Padippura- the classical bedroom in the Cherukol homestead, and where now the rebuilt masonry and concrete shrine stands boldly.
The pooja-bed-room in Padippura where all evening poojas with aarathi dedicated to Bhuvanendran were offered, had been renovated by Shri Krishanan Nair (brother of Mrs.Sulochana akkan) a cousin of Bhuvanendran. The Padipura with redtiled roof, new brick and mud walls and a large portrait of Bhuvanendran and arathi until his departure to Pandarpur and finally via Dwaraka, Mathura and Prayag. The padippura is a non-discript, matted palm leaf roofed, lean and long along north-south building. The east side veranda overlooks a narrow valley of paddy fields across, the northern slopes of Kuttakkuzhi potta and the Chanikulam to the southeast.
In the padippura, bedroom of Bhuvanendran stood sandwiched between a little larger room or azhippura (to the south) and a relatively smaller windowless room to the north. The eastside veranda of Azhippura was wide enough for two persons to sleep alongside. In fact, for me and my dad, veranda was the place to retire for the night when we were at Cherukol with my mom for a overnight stay so that we catch the gospel and/or the visit by Jatadhari and friendly conversation between Bhuvanendran and Jatadhari. The azhippura had two doors opening to the west and east and placed very close to the northern wall of the room. It had only one window at the middle of the west-side wall. The bedroom too had a similarly placed window and two doors opening to the east and west respectively. The room to the north of bedroom had no windows and had a door opening to a kitchen or rather kitchenette with a lower level floor. The entrance to kitchen was from the west and hearth placed near the opposite wall.
Now more about the bedroom. This bedroom a part of the Padippura stayed almost intact for a long time after the heavenly departure of Bhuvanendran in Prayag, sometime during the night of Jan.11, 1951. Despite the shocking end of Bhuvanendran, after 41 days of observance of death related rituals, a bold decision was made in the maternal family, to continue with some form of worship like daily lighting of a wick lamp at least once every day in the evenings in the bedroom at the Atmalingam and Jatadhari kovil founded under the very eyes of Bhuvnendran as well as observance of birth anniversary of Bhuvanendran. The family of Sulochana akkan, a cousin of Bhuvanendran, struggled hard to continue the practice. This has been continuing for the last 60 yr.
Sometime later (I do not exactly know the year etc) when Sri (late) Krishnan Nair, an elder brother of Sulochana akkan resolved to give a facelift for the Bhuvanendran’s bedroom in the Padippura. The structural changes in the Padippura sort of separated the Azhippura from the rest, eliminated the kitchennete, and replaced it with a series of three steps leading to a wide hall from where believers can have a look at the large colour portrait Bhuvanendran as well as Atmalingam placed to the east side. Portrait pictures the young boy wearing a pyjama, and bare torso seated in a stool, looking pointedly at the eye of any visitor. Truly, Bhuvanendran rarely had any haircut and hence roughly half of his long thick hair is combed upward – and tied together with a ribbon at the crown of the head as a tuft. The veranda of Padipura stayed as well as the doors on the west and east walls and window in the west wall. One important modification was the raising of the four walls of sanctum and placing of pyramid like roof.
Story has it that, one Kumar a blacksmith neighbor residing immediately to the north of cherukol homestead was called in to perform the pooja related rituals. cousin of Bhuvanendran Shri.Krishnan Nair decided to modify the lay out of the padippura, by separating the bedroom from the azhippura, converting by compacting and raising the height of the height of four walls of bedroom to place a pyramidal tiled roof, and by knocking off the east-west walls of the portion of padippura to the north of the erstwhile bedroom. Mr. Thanappan Nair (of Kaithamukku, Trivandrum) donated a large “false” colour portrait of Bhuvanendran, to adorn the sanctorum of the modified bedroom. In fact my infrequent visits to Cherukol homestead gave me opportunities to keep track of the structural changes taking place in the padippura of Cherukol. walls raising the nephealso had only entraccommodate where Bhuvanendran lay like a statue when Poojari Janardanan uncle performed the eveing pooja. The Atmalingam and Jatadhari kovil poojas were either under the overseeing of Bhuvanendran or Bhuvanendran himself performed the pooja. First arathi will be for Jatadhari, and was followed by arathi at Atmalingam. Finally, Bhuvanendran retires for the evening after a glass of milk or some very light dinner. Bed is arranged in such a way that the head end is toward south and facing north. Atmalingam had a place on some low platform to the SE corner of the bed.
The tipping point was the Nov 1, 2011, when the old house which was part of the red tile roofed shrine with walls of red bricks, lime mortar, wooden struts etc were demolished giving way for the laying of foundation stone. The ceremony was attended by at least fifty odd people who held a revered feeling and fond memories of Bhuvanendran or otherwise in close contact with the fractioned Bhuvanendran family of Cherukol.
I, Thrivikramji, placed a dressed black granite piece that Gopan brought in specially for the function, in the foundation trench trench at SW corner to mark the auspicious laying of foundation stone. The most uniquely suitable time for laying the stone was picked up by Prof.S,Mohanakumar, following the traditional astrological basis.
Late Baby annan’s son Gopan was entrusted with the responsibility of onsite work. Vishnuvilochanan (son of Kunnathukal Achu annan) voluntarily contributed immensely for the successful completion of the renovation project.
Though a rough design was provided by a “thachan” or designer –in fact a namboodiri from Suchindram – some appropriate modifications were incorporated to make the temple esthetically attractive and at the same time without any sacrifice of basic layout etc. For e.g., instead of solid masonry walls all around and a door opening into the sanctum, both the side walls to the east and west were replaced with wrought iron grills; so was the north facing front end. Of course even the front door also was constructed out of wrought iron.
The roof was made of reinforced concrete and pyramidal in shape. But the sunfacing side of the roof was covered with decorative tiles cast or carved on the cement mortar. The interior, the back end wall and floor were covered with modern floor and wall tiles- all milky white in colour. From the apex of the pyramidal roof down to the basement were all painted with white weather coat paint. On any brilliant day the entire structure will glow in snow white.
The three steps leading into the sanctum is covered with white decorative tiles. on decorated decorative tiles and curved parapet. Around the plinth of the structure a rather narrow-cemented-walk way was added.
A open air shrine was constructed at the SW corner of the Bhuvanendran shrine for relocating the icons of Jatadhari kovil, that stood abreast the breadfruit tree to the SW of the conventional Thekkethu of Cherukol homestead. In the Godly astrological quest, an enquiry was made if the relocation of the Jatadhari shrine would appropriate and in order. The Astrologer after thought and calculations pronounced that it will only fitting if the Jatadhari shrine is moved from the foot of the dying breadfruit tree to a site closer to the proposed Bhuvanendran shrine. Secondly when moved to the new site it has to be at the SW corner and the icons shall be facing east instead of facing south in the original site.
The wrought iron work was entrusted to Mr. Kumar a brilliant craftsman, who lives to the immediate north of Cherukol homestead. Finally the renovated structure inside out was painted ultra white. A well-wisher of Cherukol family donated a Thazhikakudam to be placed on the apex of the pyramidal roof and to crown the sanctum. Obviously, the Thazhikakudam called for a Kumbhabishekam anyway.
Mohan, Thrivikramji and Appu annan team performed the Kumbhabhishekam at the appointed time, i.e., during the auspicious hour of 10:00 and 10:48 am Jan 28, 2012), which was immediately followed by a pooja with arathi at the feet of Bhuvanendran portrait by Appu annan.
The construction work picked quickly and in fact at least one week before the day of placing, the portrait and related ceremonies. During the time of construction, the portrait stayed in the Thekkethu – the traditional place of worship in the homestead of Cherukol. Mohan was the in house poojari. But, Thrivikramji carried the portrait to the Thekkethu before demolition started. Appu annan, one of the living legends who kept in memory sweet and exciting anecdotes of Bhuvanendran and Jatadhari was on hand to perform pooja at the portrait Bhuvanendran in the thekkethu.