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October 6, 2010

1766 AD, Thirunavaya, Kerala:

The 16 year old kid, on the verge of adulthood, went through the basic stretching exercises as he stood on the banks of the great Bharathapuzha; the most important river in the Malabar region; the lifeline of thousands. Short and stout, he was built like a bull yet thanks to years of training, he was nimble footed and strong.

His guru often told others, “The Kalari Gods have personally blessed this kid!”

It was in his blood and he led the warrior’s life with pride!

The din from inside the temple thanks to the chenda-melam, kept increasing gradually as the 28-day mighty Mamankam festival reached its feverish climax that night. Oddly enough, that music helped him concentrate. Deep in meditation, he was actually praying to the Gods for success. He just hoped that he could have his vengeance and redeem his family name in the fight that would later on, break out within the temple premises.

Shortly later, he then picked up his favorite weapon, the urumi and started practicing. Putumanna Kandaru Menon was in total awe of this weapon. Sharp, long and flexible, the Urumi was one of the toughest weapons to master but he had done remarkably well in his training. The urumi was also one of the deadliest weapons in the world but not many used it due to its sheer unpredictability.

As Putunamma put it, “When you choose the urumi to be your weapon, then the sword alone decides your fate!”

As the 6 foot blades, whizzed through the air close to his body, he felt mildly comforted. He went through the basic motions with his urumi; movements which he had done over a thousand times. It was more for relaxing his mind; letting it go blank. As he whirled the blades faster and faster around him as he practiced his moves on imaginary foes, he could only catch glimpses of the blade from time to time. He did not need to see it; coz he knew his weapon well and the path that it would take.

And soon, he was joined by a group of men, all masters in their chosen art. Together they stood there outside the temple near the western gate, on the banks of the great river; each with his head held high, silent as the night itself.

Twelve long years, they had waited for this moment; their chance for vengeance; their chance to redeem their family name. Each one of them has personally volunteered to be a part of the “Chaver-pada” (suicide brigade). It was a matter of honor for them; for their family.

Inside the temple, on a high platform, stood the Samoorthi of Kozhikode, surrounded by his overwhelming brigade of personal bodyguards. All the Chaver-pada had to do was to somehow get to him and kill him before they were all killed. This ancient tradition, which played out every 12 years had been going on for centuries but they had never ever succeeded in their quest. For the past month, they had all been discussing their strategy and they knew that their best chance to win would be to somehow create a diversion and get Putumanna close to the king and let the urumi do the rest, due to its superior reach.

Also in the group was Putumanna’s uncle; his guru who had taught him everything about life. Putumanna bent down and touched his guru’s feet.

At once, his uncle gave him a big hug and said, “Putumanna, look at the coils of metal that you have in your hands. Limp, it is now but when striking the enemy with it, there is nothing as strong as the urumi. The blades do not differentiate between an ordinary soldier and the king; so do not let the hand waver when the time comes!”

Putumanna nodded his head in acknowledgement. He felt choked because his family had given him such an important assignment.

Shortly later, the music stopped, and an unnatural silence spread throughout the temple. It was almost time for them to meet their destiny.

And at that moment, the Samoorthi lifted his sword, signifying that it was time!

Putumanna lifted his urumi, high in the air and asked the others, “Do you know the difference between victory and defeat?

The others remained mute; waiting for a response.

He replied, “Nothing; the lines of demarcation do not apply to us. Either way, we are blessed!

And they all stormed into the temple through the western gate! They fought like men possessed; inching their way towards the centre. Putumanna’s urumi sliced through anything it encountered and anyone within range was in danger! The king stood there on the citadel directing his troops; so close yet so far!

“Chavers”, they had truly become……………….

PS: In ancient Kerala, in a place called Mallapuram, there existed a tradition that played out every 12 years. On the last day of the Mamankam festival, 4 families got a chance to kill the king of Kozhikode (against a bigger force) at the sacred Thirunavaya temple due to a blood-feud that had existed for centuries. In 1766 AD, the above mentioned kid almost killed the king, and from that day onwards, this tradition was stopped.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2010 4:46 am

    First!!! 😀
    OG: yes!

  2. October 6, 2010 4:51 am

    Nice…felt like I had gone back to ancient kerala while reading it :-
    Chaver pada … The term itself takes me back into history 🙂 anyone worth his salt in kerala shud be aware of this…
    OG: I just got to know about this sometime back 😛 😛 😛 and it really was intriguing, hence wrote about it
    BTW where exactly is this temple? Never been to the ponnani side…so never seen this either. Was checking it out on the net. Shud check it out next time I am in ottapalam side.
    OG: temple is near Mallapuram I guess, never been there

  3. October 6, 2010 6:06 am

    WOW !! Thats a splendid writeup on history… 🙂 Liked it so much…Could feel in your words, the urumi going round and round…written very well. 🙂 🙂 OG, you relate well with history…you ought to write a book….come on. 🙂 🙂
    OG: 😛 thanks ums!!!!!!!!!

  4. October 6, 2010 12:31 pm

    That was fascinating, OG! You narrated it so well!
    OG: Thanks smithus!
    I had no idea about this legend, although I have heard a lot about the temple.. This was fascinating! Would love to read more of this sort!
    OG: check the link I have provided 😛

  5. October 6, 2010 8:05 pm

    I second Smitha.. That was truly fascinating , OG, u are very good at this sort of history based fiction. Very well done!

  6. October 12, 2010 5:08 pm

    If they evr decide to make a movie on tht hero,Thers only one hero who could have done justice to tht role!

    Who else but our ever green…Mr Prem nazir !!
    😛 😛

  7. Apz permalink
    March 28, 2017 11:36 am


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