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April 23, 2010

May, 1498 AD:

It had all the making of a brilliant day. The cool morning breeze gently caressed everyone as it roamed about unhindered, uninterrupted as it meandered along without having to pay allegiance to any particular state. The Arabian Sea looked unusually sedate with no indication of any pre-monsoon showers and the coconut trees on the side stood tall and regal as if in defiance to Lord Vayu. For many early morning risers, this was empyrean. The only sounds that could be heard were the rhythmic play of the waves as it crashed onto the beach and the music that emanated from a busy group that had gathered on the shore.

Yes, the fishermen were busy getting ready for another day of work humming their favorite tune. An impressive array of Kettuvalloms in different sizes lay sprawled across the beach primed and ready to go and the fishermen folks were busy organizing the nets. May was a very important month for them because June would bring in the monsoons and their catch would considerably reduce during that period.

So the God’s judged,” they would have happily replied and rowed into the sea had anyone asked them; pagan worship in its very purest form. The religious upheavals up north had still not ravaged their lands.

It was also the perfect time for Ashaan Thacholi Othayanan, to personally teach his young warrior disciples the intricacies of his art. And so he made his way to the Kappad beach with his students following him. For him, everything in the world, the very order in it was art for him. His Kalaripayattu was art; his favorite Koodiyattam was art and the perfect view of the sea from the beach front was also art for him.

As he strode his way to his usual spot on the shore, the onlookers respectfully gave him a wide berth. The heroic tales of Thacholi Othayanan were legendary. The king himself, Manavikraman Raja, the Saamoothiri of Kozhikode had given Thacholi the title, “Ranadheera Thacholi Othayanan” for his exemplary actions during the “Great Wars”.

Fearless, bold and always first into combat, Thacholi had lead by example and had restored the prestige of his Zamorin empire by defeating the warrior clans of the Kochi kingdom and when he brutally suppressed the revolt of the powerful Mapillas, a little to the north.

The 43 monsoons that he had seen had no effect on his body. Except for a touch of grey here and there and a few wrinkles around his eyes, he very much still looked the part of a warrior. Massively built with a powerful trunk and big arms, he towered over most of his countrymen. The Kalari was his temple, Kalaripayattu was his very own identity, the reason of his existence and even though he had killed countless men in combat, it still retained that special meaning it had in his life.

He was a man who liked everything spelt out clearly before him in black and white. That was also one of the reasons he loved his Koodiyattam; especially the navarasas; the nine distinct emotions. Out of the nine, his favorite was “Roudram” (anger), an emotion that he had used extensively to good effect in his kalari.

A good kalari warrior needs to have complete control over the navarasas,” he had always educated his students.

Shantam (peace), when you are meditating; Veeram (valor), when you prepare for battle; Roudram (anger), when you are on that battlefield; Bhayanakam (terror), the image you want to convey to your enemies; Karunyam (kindness), which is needed always; Bibhatsam (disgust), if you see anyone break the rules of engagement; Hasyam (laughter), just to enjoy the lighter moments in life and finally, Adbhutam (amazement), if you see perfection in anything; even in death.

The past few years of political stability in his kingdom had made him a different man. No more was he itching to fight, no more did he practice as much as he used too earlier. He was now merely content in imparting his knowledge to his pupils and by watching Koodiyattam performances in the evenings. “Shantam” had now become the dominant emotion in him and he was still getting used to it.


And so, under his tutelage, the young students practiced hard for the next couple of hours on the beach. Also among his students was the king’s son. Thacholi Othyanan was happy with the way his students were shaping up especially the king’s son. He had all the right attributes.

Suddenly, from far away came a cry, “Oyeeeeeee”, breaking the tranquility of the moment and all eyes automatically turned towards the shore.

Out on the horizon, gleamed three monstrous ships; the likes of which they had never seen in their lives. Those three ships, it seemed were directly making their way to the beach. Thacholi could feel a familiar twinge in his stomach, one that he had always felt just before going into battle. Taking charge of the situation, he immediately ordered one of his students to inform the barracks and the king’s son to notify the court about this.

By this time, a small group had gathered on the beach watching, waiting for things to unfold. The three ships grew in size as they closely inched closer to the shore. Once they were within 500 feet off the beach, a small boat was launched with a few blokes, totally pale in complexion, resembling the devil. Thacholi knew that such barbarians lived far away, but this was the first time that he was seeing them in person.

The important court officials had arrived by this time and his garrison as well, all armed and ready for any unexpected contingency. Thacholi, held his sword closer to him, feeling the comforting cold hard metal.

And they all waited for the boat to come ashore and pretty soon, it did. The first thing that they all felt was the stench, the pervasive stench that accompanied these barbarians. The court officials, who according to Thacholi were the “clowns of the kingdom”, started speaking to these aliens and they responded too animatedly. Neither Thacholi nor the others could understand a single word of what they were saying but it soon became apparent that they had come in peace.

The court officials soon whisked them away to the palace and Thacholi was given charge of securing the ships and the remaining crew as well.

As he and his garrison rowed their way to the ships anchored off the coast, he could feel the “Shantam” in him give way to his favorite familiar emotion, “Roudram” and his brow puckered up into a frown and his eyes gleamed red with the Sunlight bouncing off it.

He somehow knew that the world as he had always known would never be the same again; he felt it in his guts; an instinct that he had honed through years of practice. He knew that it was time again to reinstate the “Roudrabhavam” in him, and it was time to be extra cautious in maintaining the harmony and security of his Zamorin Empire. If he had his way, he would have cut down the barbarians the very moment, they landed on the beach but unfortunately, the decision was not in his hands.

By the time they reached the three ships, he had turned into an avatar of Rudra himself.



1. I have always wanted to paint a picture of the innocuous day when “Vasco da Gama” made his way to the Kappad beach (Kozhikode), an epoch that would soon alter the very course of history in our country. I am sure that there would have been people who were not that happy with the events that unfolded that day. This story is just a humble attempt to portray one such story.

2. The name and character of the protagonist is inspired by this man. This is a tribute to him.

3. Art played a major part in the ancient world, hence the fusion of Kalaripayattu and Koodiyattam in this story. I initially wanted to use Kathakali in the story but as I did more research on this, I realized that Kathakali as an art form only evolved in the 17th century.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2010 12:38 am

    First!!! Wah wah! Felt like I was watching a movie.. a classic 🙂 The description of the place, the lifestyle, culture … everything was just perfect. What I liked best was the way you brought out the ‘control’ over navarasas. Very good writing, OG.
    OG: Thanks!!!!!!!!!! pal!!!!!!!!!!! my kinda first attempt at “painting” a scene 😛

  2. April 24, 2010 12:53 am

    Hm..m felt like i was witnessing a historical event. . . Loved the idea. . I have heard that Kalaripayattu is almost a lost art as its gyaan was imparted by Guru to Pupils and no written records of its notes exist. . Is that true?
    OG: haha 😛 nope, it is not yet a lost art……….. it is witnessing a resurgence nowadays………… the movement started right after independence actually………………

  3. April 24, 2010 12:55 am

    Hm..m felt like i was witnessing a historical event. . . Loved the idea. . I have heard that Kalaripayattu is almost a lost art as its gyaan was imparted by Guru to Pupils and no written records of its notes exist. . Is that true?

  4. April 24, 2010 7:12 am

    aliya enthanithu…….enthu patty…are U possessed by some Nagavally
    OG: hahahahahah 😛 no nagavally dude
    U did lot of research before writing it…right…anyways superb buddy
    OG: yeah, I did a bit of research 😛
    Now also Kaliripayatttu is very popular .Here in tiruvanmayoor and adayar lot of techies are going for kaliripayattu classes for getting relief from problems like back pain and poor concentration.And also recently one mallu movie called Nayagan came.In this one story progress through this various navarasams((Like protagonist in this story is a kathakali artist and he is taking revenge or something like that…anyways check it out))
    OG: yeah, I saw the film….. the only emotions he goes thru is roudram…. not the others………… but interesting that u mentioned it…… the title of this post is directly inspired by the title song of the film……

  5. April 24, 2010 8:13 am

    Its fantastic !!! OG !!! You are just damn good. Very well written.
    OG: 😛 thanks!!!!
    Loved the historic background – the kalaripayattu – the description of that protagonist – the 9 bhavas and how he used the Rudra bhavam the most.

    Yes, had he stopped them that day, history would’ve been different.
    OG: yeah, maybe it would have been………….. I kinda like doing this kind of thinking………

  6. April 24, 2010 7:39 pm

    I was just imagining this whole sequence being written in malayalam .. to give that proper effect if u know I mean… 🙂
    OG: hahaha 😛
    Beautiful language though, OG 🙂 Improving in leaps and bounds at imaging/visioning an incident/story…!
    OG: yo! thanks!

  7. April 25, 2010 12:06 am

    This is what I call a classic OG. Our Princely states (now Kerala) followed “athithi devo bhav” to the T. 🙂
    OG: good one sols 😛

  8. Kanagu permalink
    April 25, 2010 5:28 pm

    Wonderfully written OG… So good… The historic point of view adds more value to this 🙂 🙂 loved it 🙂
    OG: Thanks machi 😛

  9. April 25, 2010 6:11 pm

    Rafty’s emotions for the post –

    😈 Bhayanakam – The devil has posted again, just when I took respite in his retirement

    😯 Adhbhutham – It actually is one of Ezhuthukaran’s best!

    🙂 Shantam – It’s was quite a read, and no traces of his otherwise devilish self

    😀 Karunyam – To write a nice comment for him
    OG: ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The plot, descriptions, fleshing out of the scenes (I personally love the fisherman’s bit, pagan worship at its truest form!) reminded me of a vintage movie “Chemeen”; I never tire seeing it!

    The historic view of the episode is really brilliant EOG!! I’d call this book-worthy, along with my other favs from here 😀

    And now, for my last emotion:

    👿 Veeram (valor) – ready for battle, coz even if Ezhuthukaran writes the story, the comments are replied to by the devil himself 👿

    To end, this post has all the makings for a brillaint narrative!!!!

    The post had all the makings of a brilliant narrative 😀
    OG: thanks devil 😛 😛 😛

    • April 25, 2010 6:13 pm

      why have i written the last line twice? That’s a darn good question… I’ll go get my glasses and rest on my rocking chair… don’t disturb me… old people need their sleep, you know it well apoopan! 🙄
      OG: yeah, I am used to it all the time 😛

  10. April 25, 2010 6:19 pm

    BTW, that song is simply out of this world!!! Am an illiterate where malayalam folk songs and classical music is concerned. In return for this song, this is the best ghazal I can manage 😛

    OG: great song crafty 😛

  11. April 26, 2010 11:45 am

    Tell me one thing……..are you back in blogging or what ????
    OG: semo retired 😛

  12. May 7, 2010 3:37 pm

    Hey!!! Terrific post! Imagination at its best I must say! You really shouldn’t semi-retire yourself!!! Take a break but come back! 🙂
    OG: thanks nivedita but I am semi retired 😛

  13. May 11, 2010 6:43 pm

    hey !

    wonderful narrative ….
    OG: hey Thanks!
    btw, the navarasas reminded me of jagathy in udayananu thaaram 😀 😀
    OG: ROFL!!!!!!!!!!!! classic!!!

  14. May 11, 2010 7:06 pm

    Beautifully written OG. Need I say more?:)
    OG: aaha, so u here 😛 I think u said more 😛 hehehe
    I think it was JP sir who said a long time back that he was amazed that you were an engineer and yet had the soul of a poet and writer as well. I echo his words.

    Once in a while you show us a glimpse of the old OG ..the ‘quintessential’ one. and leave us mesmerized by your writing.
    I had no clue about most of the historical aspects but put the story into any place, any era, any country..change the names of the characters
    and STILL the magic of your words will remain. 🙂

    Dont ever stop writing.
    OG: thanks indy!!!!! thanks!!!!!!!!

    Dont let that pen (or your keyboard:P )get rusty.
    OG: will not 😛

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