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Jagathy ramblings

Jagathy is a well-known part of the city and has been home to many prominent personalities.


THE PLACE, Jagathy, has come to be recognised by Malayalis the world over ever since the film actor, Jagathy Sreekumar, established himself in Malayalam cinema. Sreekumar is popularly known as Jagathy by everyone. His father, Jagathy N. K. Achari, was also known as Jagathy in literary and dramatic circles. Achari had authored several successful plays such as `Umminni Thanka', `Kayamkulam Kochunni', `Kadamattathu Kathanar' and `Elayedathu Rani'. These plays were staged by the professional theatrical company, Kalanilayam. Achari was also associated with All India Radio (AIR), Thiruvananthapuram. From producer of radio plays, Achari rose to become the Station Director.

Another writer who has immortalised the place of his birth is Prof. Jagathy Velayudhan Nair, distinguished scholar and poet of yesteryear.

Today, the citizens of Thiruvananthapuram know Jagathy for landmarks such as AIR (which was the former Bhakti Vilasom Bungalow), DPI office (earlier Free Masons Hall), the Ulloor Smaraka Library and Sarada Nilayam (the house where mahakavi Ulloor lived). Contemporary landmarks include the School for Deaf and Dumb Children, the School for Mentally Retarded Children, police quarters and several apartment buildings.

Situated to the west of the River Killiyaar and wedged between Vazhuthacaud and Edapazhanji, much of Jagathy once comprised marshlands. Pazhanji is an old Malayalam word that denotes low-lying marshes. The existence of Edapazhanji supports the view that there must have been a place near by known as pazhanji-pana or simply Pazhanji. In all probability, the earlier name of Jagathy must have been Pazhanji.

It is also possible that its name was derived from the Sanskrit word, Jagathy (meaning the earth or bhoomi), since it was reclaimed from the marshes. These are only conjectures, with no conclusive evidence to support the views.

In Jagathy, there were a number of old, aristocratic Nair families of `Paanam Pazhanji', `Mele Veedu', `Panniyerthala', `Chengazhasseri' and `Charuvila Veedu'. The ancestral roots of these families could be traced to different parts of southern Travancore, Neyyoor, Neyyattinkara and Kulasekharam. They must have been the trusted warriors of Dharma Raja Karthika Thirunal and would have accompanied him to Thiruvananthapuram after the capital was shifted from Padmanabhapuram.

Many illustrious personalities who occupied distinguished positions in public life were born into these families. If `Panniyerthala' could boast of an able administrator like Ayyappan Pillai or a renowned physician like Dr. Krishna Pillai, `Mele Veedu' was proud of the great educationist, Janardhanan Pillai, while `Paanam Pazhanji' had a distinguished engineer in Chandu Nair.

Old-timers of Thiruvananthapuram remember two well-known contractors, Narayanan and Chellappan who also prefixed Jagathy before their names.

Quite a few men of letters also made Jagathy their home. In the 20th century, these included the mahakavi, Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer, the biographer and essayist, Prof. P. Ananthan Pillai, and the novelist, T. Raman Nambisan. Other prominent inhabitants were the founder of the Kerala Granthasala Sangham, P. N. Panicker, the well-known jurist and social reformer, Changanassery Parameswaran Pillai, and Justice Kukkiliya.

There are also a few temples at Jagathy. The Sree Krishna temple is perhaps the most widely known. Till recently, the Koopakara Pottis who constitute one of the ettara yogam, traditional custodians of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, managed it. A sculpted relief of an un-identified ruler of Travancore standing with folded hands can be seen on one of the pillars of mukha-mandapa, in front of the sanctum sanctorum. This testifies to the antiquity of the temple. Three smaller temples, all affiliated to different Nair families, can also be found at Jagathy.

Dr. Krishnan Nair, retired Superintendent of the General Hospital and a member of the `Panniyerthala' family, recalls flying kites on vast stretches of paddy fields in front of the Sree Krishna temple. The River Kochar, which was an artificially created rivulet, flowed alongside the fields, carrying water to the Padmathirtham in front of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. But around 50 years ago, it was diverted into an underground tunnel and the area covered up to widen the road. The river today flows into the stagnant and filthy waters of the Amaezhanchan canal.

M. G. SASIBHOOSAN & BINDU SASIBHOOSHAN

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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