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Angakali

March 10, 2011

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Angam: Duel between two people in ancient Kerala in the age of “Heroes”; a highly ritualized fight to the death, complete with a raised stage and an audience.

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The urge to fight was clouding his thoughts, playing with his emotions and disturbing his concentration!

It is my karma. But when is this vicious cycle going to end?

He knew the answer to that question, but he had to flirt with death one more time that day. After all, he, Thacholi Chandu, nephew of the famous Thacholi Othyenan, of the Thacholi Tharavadu had a certain reputation to live up too.

It was still early morning and the morning dew had still not disappeared as the Sun had just started making its way upwards. The ancient fort stood tall, majestically against the backdrop of the vast jungle of the Western Ghats. The massive rock blocks had withstood the elements of nature as well as the attempts by warring men to scale it for a long time and the wear and tear on them were visible. Long thick roots grew around the base of the fort; nature’s own way of correcting an aberration and a thick layer of moss covered the walls of fort. The fort had never been conquered until that day; until the day that Thacholi Chandu had decided to kill the warlord, Kandar Menon who lived within the fort.

For unlike other warring men before him who did it for of power, prestige, riches and fame, he did it for love! Kardar Menon had been mad enough to kidnap his wife a couple of days back!

He stood tall in a corner of the raised platform which had just been constructed outside the walls of the fort that morning; his burly, chiseled brown physique shined in the morning light as the sweat poured down his back even though it was not warm. Anger clouded his visage; his visage with those deep striking eyes, a thin nose and a strong jaw, which was a typical trait of those hailing from the Northern Malabar region. The fingers which held the sword were long and almost feminine in nature. People had often mistaken him for a performing artist but he actually was an artist; an artist of the sword. His long hair, which would have generally been combed neatly into a bun to a side, was at that moment, let loose giving him an unkempt look but it was also, his disguise which gained him his entrance into the fort.

He was tired; tired of all the blood that had been spilt over the last couple of hours but he knew that he had to be in top form for the upcoming fight. He could see the seething rage in the man’s eyes; the man who stood on the other corner of the ankathattu; patiently waiting for the rituals to get over. The large audience who had gathered to witness the contest also waited, in silence. It would a fight to the death. After all, blood had to be shed on the sacred ankathattu to please the Gods.

From the corner of his eyes, Thacholi Chandu could also see his wife standing there with the audience; stoic in expression, inscrutable in emotion. She was a brave woman.

The very sight of her transported him to another nostalgic world. He still vividly remembered that day he first saw her……………………

A few years ago, he found himself returning home by the banks of the Kabini River through the mountainous Wayanad jungle. The river was in spate due to overnight rains and it had a brownish shade to it as it washed down silt from the mountains. On the other bank, a herd of elephants were busy frolicking around, enjoying themselves and he knew that there was no immediate danger of flooding.

“The animals always knew!

Even though he enjoyed taking those long walks through the jungle, he knew that he had to be cautious and alert for any sign of trouble. People seldom realized that the main threat in the jungle were not the tigers or the leopards but the snakes.

As he kept walking along, enjoying the view, he chanced upon a clearing on the banks, where a young woman was practicing her Kalari along with her group of friends. She looked like an apsara; a devatha, and her Kalari technique was impeccable. It was love at first sight and he felt compelled to go up to the group and strike up a conversation. Their eyes met and the rest was all history!

———

The ringing bell brought him back to the present, wiping away the pleasant memories of the past and his eyes focused upon Kandar Menon. And soon the duel started. The two warriors rushed towards each other and what followed was a clash of steel against steel; will against will! Kandar Menon was a highly gifted warrior! His movements were hard to predict, his reflexes were lightning fast! The sword, at times, came close to striking Thacholi but his deft movements saved him.

But eventually in a few minutes, the tide of the duel turned to Thacholi’s side! His superior technique and training worked in his favor. He waited for the correct moment and delivered the finishing blow!

The duel ended and a wild cheer spread around the ground! With tears in his eyes, he looked at his wife and one look at her smile was enough to dose the fire within him and vanquish the “angakali” within him!

A look was all that was required! “It is my karma after all,” he thought to himself as he walked up to her!

PS: Thacholi Chandu played a prominent role in the “Vadakkan Pattukal”; a collection of poems, songs probably composed around 1600/1700 AD glorifying the tales of a few heroes who lived in that era. This is one such story.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 10:30 am

    WOW !!! Another brilliant story….u make the whole thing come alive in front of my eyes, with those words. 🙂 Loved the part where he meets his wife…. 🙂
    OG: danks! ums!

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