Spirituality


The present day definition of Spirituality may be all-embracing, to mean a reality which is different from material reality, an inner truth recognized only by meditation, prayers and contemplation. Hindu spiritual leaders define spirituality as the ‘realization of the soul’ and the ‘realization of the absolute’. The process may be lengthy and unattainable. This was a quest even during the Vedic and Upanishad periods.

The Perumals, the first rulers of Malabar ( of present day Kerala) were recruited by the Namboodiris who had already settled in gramams (or tiny villages). The Namboodiris being Brahmins, needed a Kshatriya King to rule and administer the lands and hence,invited the Perumals to take charge of the land. The Perumals followed a Matrilineal system of inheritance, also called the Marumakkathayam.  The Namboodiris had promised the Perumals that they will marry the women of the Perumal family and will uphold the Matrilineal system.One of the ploys they had suggested was to have a Vedic ceremony of marriage while the Kshatriya female was still a child, and a social arrangement of Sambandham for nuptial life and procreation.

Ref: Arthrassery Agnisarman Namboodiripad. 

CLICK HERE for an excerpt of an interview with Arthrassery Namboodiripad  
 
The last Perumal who divided the Chera Kingdom was also  following Matrilineal system or Marumakkathayam. The first King of Perumpadappu Swaroopam was the son of the Perumal’s sister and her husband Perumpadappu Namboodiri. So, there was a close and intimate relationship between the Namboodiri community and the Royal Family. The Namboodiris followed the Advaita Philosophy, so did the members of the Royal Family. Perumpadappu Swaroopam, which later came to be called the Cochin Royal Family, was rooted in Vedic beliefs.  They were paractioners of the Rig Veda and belonged to the Vishwamitra Gotra. If you examine the tenets of the Rig Veda, you can see how the family lived their life for centuries following that tradition. 

According to Sanatana Dharma, spiritual progress is the ultimate goal of every individual. For this progress to happen, the Vedas prescribe a code of conduct including the ten ‘yamas’ (restrictions) and 10 niyamas (observances).


The ten yamas are :  
 
  1. Ahimsa – Non-Injury; Non-Violence; Non-Abuse; possible when you perceive everything as a manifestation of the divine.
  2. Sathya – Truthfullness in thought, word and deed.
  3. Asteya – Non-Stealing.
  4. Brahmacharya – Observance of abstinence; celibacy under certain circumstances.
  5. Kshama – Patience.
  6. Dhriti – Steadfastedness : maintain constancy, firmness and power in character.
  7. Daya – Compassion.
  8. Arjava – Honesty with self and others.
  9. Mitahara – Moderate eating habits.
  10. Shaucha – Purity : cleanliness of self and environment
 

The ten Niyamas are: Hri – Remorse
  1. Santhosha – Contentment
  2. The virtue of generosity or giving.
  3. Astikya – Faith : To develop confidence in the path of spirituality and religion.
  4. Ishwara puja – Worship.
  5. Sidhanta Shravanam – Listening to scriptures.
  6.  Mati – Cognition : daily sadhana as advised by a Guru.
  7. Vrata – Sacred vows or commitments.
  8. Japa – Recitation of God’s name, mantras and chants
  9. Tapas – Austerity : Following a frugal lifestyle, without indulging in excessive luxuries and extravaganza.

The Family has adhered to these principles . These core beliefs underlie and directonalize their lifestyle to this day.  

Vedic Knowledge and Sanskrit Prowess  
The Rajas, after Sakthan Thampuran, Rama Varma ( 1805-1809 ) and his brother, Veera Kerala Varma (1809-1828)  were scholars and composers who devoted time to study the Sastras. They were also followers of Madhavacharya’s Dwaita philosophy.  Veera Kerala Varma, especially, was the most ardent devotee of the Poornathrayeesa ( The prathishta in the Tripunithura Temple)  and that legacy continues to this day.   Rama Varma wrote the 'Sundarakandam Paana', a poetic treatise from the Ramayana and the famous 'Sree Poornathreyesa Sthuthi',a prayer.

Kerala Varma wrote over 50 'Aatta Kadhas' ( Lyrics to the vocal accompaniment of Kathakali), the 'Poornathreyeesa Shathakam' and the 'Dashavathara Shloka'.
 
Pareekshith Thampuran's 'Sadassu' (Sanskrit scholastic meet)Sanskrit prowess of the abdicated Raja (1895-1914) and his brother; the expertise in Ayurveda of Rama Varma, who died in Madras ( 1914 - 1931) and his brother Kerala Varma (1941 - 1943);  as well as the eminent scholarship of the Last Raja of Cochin (Parikshith )(1948 - 1964) are testament to the fact that the Vedic knowledge was continued on.
Cochin State Panchangam ( Almanac)

Almanacs and panchangams are based on astrology.    In Vedic Astrology, the basic tenet of astrology was integrated with celestial events and thus was born various branches of Vedic Astrology and the Panchānga. In simple terms, " Panchānga" means the Day, Nakshatra (Star), Thithi, Yoga and Karana every day. It is a mirror of the sky. The document used as Panchāngam has evolved over the last 5000 years. The theories propounded in the two scriptures, Surya Siddhanta and Grahalaghava formed the basis for the plethora of calendars or Panchāngas in the past in different regions of the country - a culturally complex system. reference wiki

Cochin State used to issue its own panchangam which was discontinued after 1947. Recreated here is a Cochin Panchangam for the year 2014 - 2015 by S. Anujan Rama Varma.
For panchangam CLICK HERE 

'Gothra' refers to the progeny of a particular sage of antiquity. There are 7 or 8 'Rishis' ( sages ). In the Gotra of the Sage Vishwamitra, the heritage is Matrilineal because Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya King who became a sage ( Rishi).

According to the Vedic Concepts, a man and a woman belonging to the same Gotra are considered to be brother and sister and therefore, Inter-Gothra marriages were forbidden. Perhaps, anomalies in the progeny was a concern during the Vedic Times. The contention that Inter-Gotra marriage was illegal, was thrown out by the Bombay High Court in 1945.

An excellent review and a socio-anthropological analysis of various Matrilineal aspects have been dealt with in the scholarly volumes by K.T. Ravi Varma, titled 'Marumakkathayam.'  Particularly noteworthy, is the discussion about the Cochin Royal Family. Exceptional situations, as it happened in the case of Kanipayyur Sankaran Namboodiripad and A.K.T.K.M Vasudevan Namboodiripad were interesting.


Alathur Narayanan Namboodiripad gave an identical account of his marriage with Ikkavu Thampuran in 1933. The difference was that Alathur Namboodiripad had exposure to formal education and he was given a bank job by Midukkan Thampuran, who was the Elaya Raja then, in the very first week of his arrival in Tripunithura. He retired as a Bank Manager after 35 years and enjoyed an exceedingly long life.
Click Here for the Video Interview by Kocha Varma

Desamangalam was one of the Namboodiri Illoms ( the name of the joint family system of the Namboodiri Brahmins of Kerala) that insisted on modern education at least two decades ahead of the rest of the Namboodiris. It was understandable that Vasudevan Namboodiripad who was independent and wealthy, preferred the Patilineal System and going against tradition, took his wife to his Illom. [ See ' Kovilakangalum Kottarangalum ' - Murali ]


There were several Namboodiri suitors who came to Tripunithura and attended school after their marriage. Education was indeed a significant factor in the 1930’s and 40’s. Most of the Namboodiris who married in the 1950’s to the Royal Family members were well-educated.  

The waning of Namboodiri influence started in the 20th Century.  Educated Namboordiris preferred to marry Namboodiri girls.  The Family members started marrying from their own caste.  The first inter-Kshatriya marriage was between Kochammini Thampuran of the Cochin Royal Family and Rama Varma of the Kodungallur Royal Family. Since then, marriages between the women of the Cochin Family and Namboodiris dwindled.   During the last 50 years, inter-Kshatriya alliances have been the accepted code of conduct. Basically, similar cultural ethos have made their interaction smoother. The so-called Sa-Gotra negative has not been an issue and no conspicuous defects have been noticed. But then again, so much inter-mingling amongst Gotras have occurred over generations.   Indian scientists, Azad Kaushic, immunologist, psychiatrist P.D. Sharma and, molecular biologist Dr Lalji Singh is raising concerns about marriages between close relatives. However the experience of the Cochin Royal Family does not bear this out.  The practice of Cochin Royal Family males marrying maternal uncle’s daughters has been there for almost 100 years. Except for an isolated genetic related defect in the offspring no consistent pattern has manifested. Marrying the first cousins has also occurred frequently with no deleterious effects so far.


The semi-religious rituals that were practiced in the halcyon days of Royalty were unmistakably Namboodiri. Santha Thampuran has been brilliant in dealing with these in her book   'Acharanushtanangal'  (Malayalam)and is a must read. Reminiscences of the Royal town Tripunithura during the same time period has been presented by R.T.Ravi Varma in his recent book  ‘ Rajavamsam’  ( in Malayalam ) in his inimitable humorous style.

RELIGIOSITY and RITUALISM Religiosity or religiousness may refer to numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication and belief.
The saga of Perumpadappu Swaroopam started in a place called Vanneri in the 11th or 12th century where their Kula Devata was ‘Koipilly Thevar’. This may have been the temple of the Perumpadappu Illom. The deities were both Siva and Vishnu.  Close by there is a large field with coconut trees and a huge well, built long time back and it is claimed that it belonged to the Perimpadappu Mana.  During Samudiri’s aggression in the 13th  century, the whole family had to leave their long time establishment, and move further south. The escape had to be by water and probably to Pazhayannur, since Pazhayannur Bhagavathy is also considered as Kula Devatha of the family. Similarly there was a time when the deity of the Thiruvanjikulam temple wrds throw only a dim light in this regard. Their administrators have repeatedly complained about the generosity of the Cochin Rajas and the expenditures incurred for religious causes.

In the Biographical classic of Sri Puthezhath Raman Menon one gets a glimpse of the expense and details involved in the ritualistic religiosity of the 18th century.

Ref: Shakthan Thampuran by Puthezhath Raman Menon

This has been and is the hallmark of Cochin Royalty especially for the female members for generations.  As long as they are under maternal control, the children have been instilled the idea that they are the servants of Poornathrayeesa representing Vishnu in the local temple.                   

For almost 200 years the Cochin Royal Family’s Vedic traditions were well preserved.  They were following the Advaita philosophy.     After Sakthan Thampuran, during the reign of his cousins Rama Varma and Vera Kerala Varma there was a remarkable change in the religiosity of the Cochin Royal Family.  Rama Varma ( 1805 -1809 ) and his brother Vera Kerala Varma ( 1809 - 1828 ) were followers of Madhwacharya's Dwaita Philosophy.  Traditionally Advaitic and Saivite influence of the Namboodiris was replaced by the Dwaita  philosophy of the Madhwas and in the process embraced the Vaishnavite practice. This resulted after significant discussions with visiting Madhwa scholars and Swamis to Tripunithura. The importance of Tripunithura to the Cochin Royal Family was established at this time and Lord Poornathrayeesa ( The idol or Prathishta in the Tripunithura Temple ) became the Para-devatha. The establishment of Sodaya Mutt and later the Mutt for Embrans or Embrandiris ,( the Tulu Brahmins ) occurred during the same time. Both these Rajas were scholars of Sastras and excelled in poetry and composition in Sanskrit. Ref: munro, ullur, Narayanan Poornathreyesa Temple at Tripunithura and Cochin Royal Family This temple belonged to the Kuru Swaroopam.  This Swaroopam amalgamed or merged with the Elaya Thavazhy of Perumpadappu Swaroopam by adoption in 1639- 40 period.  The ‘ Melkoima title’ got transferred to Elaya Thavazhy and later to the Cochin Royal Family.  The Kuru Swaroopam had ruled Kuriyur area from the Kurikad Palace. 

The last member of the Elaya Thavazhy, Rani Gangadhara Laxmi Amba Koviladhikarikal in 1655 gave Valandakattu land for the temple, beginning the ritual of ‘ Devadanam’ , to be repeated by many of the later Rajas of Cochin.  Dutch records indicate that in 1703, land near Maradu Desam was given as Devadanam.  Kanayannur Palace that once belonged to the Kuru Swaroopam later  assumed importance as a seat of Cochin Rajas. Those days, the Temple Sangethams had enormous powers.  The Rajas had Melkoima but that did not prevent the Sangethams from reprimanding and sometimes fining the Rajas.  Raja Rama Varma ( 1698 – 1722) who ruled with a strong hand, alienated many feudal Landlords by usurping their power.  He adopted his niece from Chazhiyur branch to Cochin Royal Family and she was destined to be the sole female ancestor of the present Family.  He was known as Shakthan, perhaps the first Cochin Raja to be nick named that way.  The Sangetham had to resort to “ Pattini” on multiple occasions.  As a protest against the Raja in 1703, the Sangetham people sold an elephant calf that had been given as Devadanam by the Valliamma Thampuran.  The latter pleaded with the Raja to acede to the wishes of the Sangetham.  The Rajas who came after Rama Varma also had to give private properties to the temple.   Starting in the middle of the eighteenth century, when Marthanda Varma of Travancore consolidated power and defeated the Dutch, Cochin state was at a low ebb.  Travancore- Cochin treaties stabilized the condition to a small degree.  However Sangetham also lost its power.  Alangad and Parur became part of Travancore.  The Parur Raja who traditionally had the Akakoima position at Tripunithura temple lost out and that privilege was given to the Raja of Cochin.  The Sangetham protested but had no power to fight the Raja anymore.


During the time of Colonel Munro, ( 1811 – 1818), the Devaswam administration was taken over by the State and the Sangethams ceased to exist.  By this time, Cochin Royal Family had become permanent residents of Tripunithura.  Rajas of Cochin had been given credit for building the Western Gopuram.  Oottupura, Sreekovil, Mandapam, Kodimaram and Eastern Gopuram etc from 1772 – 1882.   Ritualism   Ritualism  can be a part of religiosity in a narrow sense. Practice of rituals, keeping certain myths and traditions according to certain doctrines are then ritualism.


 

A namam japam or day of prayer at Lakshmithope Kovilakam
Bhakthi movement in India as followers of Sri Sankaracharya, the proponent of Advaita philosophy and the followers of Sri Madhvacharya of the Dwaita philosophy has influenced the ritualistic religious traditions, particularly in South India.   There are prescribed rituals from birth to cremation in the vedic tradition. Prenatal rituals include Garbhadana, Pumsavana and seemantonnayana which advises hymns and prayers for conception , for begetting a virtous son and to ward off eveils. Post natal rituals start with Jatakarmam.  This is for long life, and good character of the baby..  Birthdays from thence forth are auspicious days. This is followed by namakaranam ( naming the baby), Nishkarmana ( baby’s first outing which would be to the temple), anna prasanna ( baby’s first meal which is Prasad from temple), ear piercing ceremony, and shaving head ceremony. Vidyarambham marks the day the alphabet is introduced to the baby.  By age twelve, the young student is ready for upanayanm ( the sacred thread ceremony), Ved arambham, the beginning of the study of Vedas, and samavartana which denotes the end of the vedic learning.  The young man is ready to take on householder duties after the Vivaha ( wedding) ceremony.  Death anniversaries of ancestors are followed with care.  The cremation and after ceremonies will of course be done by the following generation. These and more were discussed by S. Anujan Rama Varma at the 2014 Symposium organized by the Cochin Royal Family Historical Society.

Modern education, beginning in the early 20th century, seems to have caused lot of changes. The Vedic injunctions have become rather ritualistic. The daily Vedic prayers and scriptural practices have been done without understanding the meaning or the significance. It is also possible that the devotional type of religiosity may have taken preponderance over the Vedic Spirituality. Certainly, scholarship in   Sanskrit became a rarity. In 1864, with a new Raja of a new generation, the family returned to the tradition of Advaita, once again with Smarta influence. During this Raja’s reign, a new bungalow and an attached private temple (Puthen Bunglavu temple) was built. Since the Raja was disabled and unable to walk, he could not visit the Poornathrayeesa temple. Poornathrayeesa and Pazhayannur Bhagawati idols were installed by Vedic experts here in addition to various other Gods including Siva. Royal Family members continue to pray here.  The temple is preserved but unfortunately the bungalow and the premises are in ruins.


Soon after the Family moved to Tripunithura and adopted Poornathrayeesa as their savior they maintained a private facility for prayers and pujas in the very place they lived namely the Amma Thampuran Kovilakam. Here again there are different deities installed and daily worship continues.  
Interview of Lakshminarayanan Embrathiri  CLICK HERE

Interview of Appama   CLICK HERE  

In addition, there are prayer rooms in other Kovilakams in Tripunithura where the Royal Family members live.