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In the land of Othenan

Travel back in time to get a feel of the place that is considered to be the home of Kalaripayattu, says Manu Remakant



TEMPLE OF KALARIPAYATTU Thacholi Othenan is believed to have offered prayers at this temple in Lokanarkavu PHOTO: MANU REMAKANT

This is the home of Kalaripayattu, one of the most exciting martial arts in the world. The name Lokanarkavu evokes images of a distant past shrouded in mystery.

The heroic exploits of warriors like Thacholi Othenan and Unniyarcha are legendary and one can almost hear the clash of swords and metal in this now sleepy place that is steeped in legends.

Thacholi Meppayil Othenan was a legendary warrior of North Kerala. Lokanarkavu Temple has an important place in the folklore of the land. It is said that Thacholi Othenan sought the blessings of Lokanarkavu Bhagavathy before each of the 64 duels he had fought.

Lokanarkavu is a short form of `Lokamalayarkavu,' which means `lokam' (world) made of mala (mountain), aaru (river) and kavu (grove). It is situated nearly four km from Vadakara in Kozhikode district. The big temple boasts the presence of three presiding deities - Siva, Vishnu and Bhagavathy. The large premises include a big pond that also figures in the Othenan legend. The mossy, broken steps that lead to the pond was where Othenan met his girl, Kunki.

The many banyan trees in the temple might have witnessed many crucial battles fought on the premises of the temple. It was under the shade of one such banyan tree that Mathiloor Gurukkal took the decision to challenge Othenan to a fight. It eventually resulted in the death of both the challenger and the challenged. Today, two festivals are celebrated here annually in the months of Vrishchikam (November-December) and Meenam (March-April).

Thacholi Manikkoth

The Othenan trail is not complete without a visit to Thacholi Manikkoth, the kalari and home of Othenan.

Three km from the temple, towards Vadakara, is Janatha Road Junction. Since there are no buses, one has to take an autorickshaw to reach the kalari.

The country road is deserted most of the time. There are no boards that announce the presence of such a structure nearby. Soon the kacha road meanders before a couple of steps that lead down to a small building painted in a loud yellow."

This is the legendary Thacholi Manikkoth house where Othenan once lived," says Radhakrishnan, a local resident. It was here that Othenan practised his martial feats and spent long days in deep meditation before each poythu (duel).

The building seems too small to be the home of such a great warrior like Othenan. "Poor maintenance. The main part of the building has already been pulled down. The Manikkoth house opens its doors to the devotees only once a year during the festival (kumbhamasam).

"If you come then, you can see the cot of Kunhiraman (Othenan's brother), the sword of Othenan and also his chair," says Radhakrishnan.

On the premises you can see a temple coming up. The deity is `Pulluvan' who killed the disciple of Mathiloor Gurukkal who had shot Othenan.

Although the doors are locked one can walk around the structure to get a feel of the place where titans once lived.

How to reach there

Thachili Manikkoth is nearly one km from the new Vadakara bus stand.

Alight at Janatha bus stand and seek the help of the local people to reach Thachili Manikkoth.

Lokanarkavu Bhagavathy temple is four km from Vadakara.

From the new bus stand there is always bus service to Lokanarkavu Bhagavathy Temple.

Alight at Kuttothkavu Road and walk the remaining one km.

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