Saturday, February 14, 2009

ghost world

Ghosts are big business. For entities that may or may not exist, they seem to be everywhere, especially during Halloween.

They are in books and on television shows, such as CBS's "The Ghost Whisperer" and NBC's "Medium." Dozens of "ghost hunter" organizations exist across North America, small groups of self-styled ghost buffs who lurk around reputedly haunted places, hoping to glimpse or photograph a spirit.

The most famous ghost hunters are two plumbers who moonlight as paranormal investigators, seen in the popular Sci-Fi Channel reality show/soap opera series "Ghost Hunters." They go to haunted places and find "evidence" of ghosts such as cold spots, photographic anomalies called orbs, and other such spookiness.

The two featured investigators, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, are proudly blue-collar workers, not egghead Ph.D. scientists, which adds to their strong "regular guy" appeal.

Where are the ghosts?

While one doesn't need to be a scientist to search for ghosts, the pair (like most ghost hunters) could benefit greatly from a little critical thinking. They claim to be skeptics but are very credulous and seem to have no real understanding of scientific methods or real investigation. (Audiences don't seem to wonder why these "expert" ghost hunters always fail: Even after two seasons and over ten years of research, they still have yet to prove that ghosts exist!)

Though most ghost investigators' worst crime is wasting time, sometimes they make nuisances of themselves and even break the law.

In October 2005, three ghost hunters in Salem, Massachusetts, were arrested for trespassing on private property in search of ghosts. They had entered an abandoned hospital reputed to be haunted. The group was so busy looking for spirits they failed to notice the police station across the street; all three were arrested, fined, and sent home. Trespassing or vandalizing ghost hunters have also been arrested in cemeteries in Illinois, Connecticut, and other states.

Ghost detectors

When it comes to searching for ghosts, you'd think that only the most reliable methods would be used in an attempt to get solid evidence for something as mysterious and elusive as a spirit. Yet in ghost hunting, often the less scientific the methods and equipment, the more likely a researcher is to find "evidence" for ghosts.

Ghost hunters use a variety of creative—and dubious—methods to detect their quarry's presence, including psychics. Psychics not only claim to locate ghosts but also to communicate with the spirits, who unfortunately don't provide any useful or verifiable information from the afterlife [see a séance].

Virtually all ghost hunter groups claim to be scientific, and most give that appearance because they use high-tech scientific equipment such as Geiger counters, Electromagnetic Field (EMF) detectors, ion detectors, and infrared cameras [and sensitive microphones]. Yet the equipment is only as scientific as the person using it; you may own the world's most sophisticated thermometer, but if you are using it as a barometer, your measurements are worthless.

Just as using a calculator doesn't make you a mathematician, using a scientific instrument doesn't make you a scientist.

Devices that don't work

In 2003, while I was investigating a haunted house in Buffalo, New York, the owner of the house asked me what equipment I planned to use. He had glanced in my duffel bag, which contained two cameras, a tape recorder, notebooks, a tape measure, a flashlight, and a few other items. Perhaps he was expecting to see a Negative Ionizer Ghost Containment backpack like the kind Bill Murray wore in Ghostbusters.

An EMF meter is among the most common devices used by ghost hunters today. I spoke to Tom Cook, of, a British purveyor of "scientific" paranormal kits for the enterprising (and gullible) investigator. Starter kits begin at £105 (US$180) and reach up to £500 (US$850) for a custom ghost-hunting kit. (Negative Ionizer Ghost Containment packs were not listed.)

I asked Cook what, exactly, the scientific rationale was behind the equipment he sold.

"At a haunted location," Cook said, "strong, erratic fluctuating EMFs are commonly found. It seems these energy fields have some definite connection to the presence of ghosts. The exact nature of that connection is still a mystery. However, the anomalous fields are easy to find. Whenever you locate one, a ghost might be present.... any erratic EMF fluctuations you may detect may indicate ghostly activity."

In the final analysis, Cook admitted, "there exists no device that can conclusively detect ghosts."

Uncomfortable reality

The uncomfortable reality that ghost hunters carefully avoid—the elephant in the tiny, haunted room—is of course that no one has ever shown that any of this equipment actually detects ghosts.

The supposed links between ghosts and electromagnetic fields, low temperatures, radiation, odd photographic images, and so on are based on nothing more than guesses, unproven theories, and wild conjecture. If a device could reliably determine the presence or absence of ghosts, then by definition, ghosts would be proven to exist. I own an EMF meter, but since it's useless for ghost investigations—it finds not spirits but red herrings—I use it in my lectures and seminars as an example of pseudoscience. The most important tools in this or any investigation are a questioning mind and a solid understanding of scientific principles.

The ghost hunters' anti-scientific illogic is clear: if one area of a home is colder than another, that may indicate a ghost; if an EMF meter detects a field, that too may be a ghost; if dowsing rods cross, that might be a ghost. Just about any "anomaly," anything that anyone considers odd for any reason, from an undetermined sound to a "bad feeling" to a blurry photo, can be (and has been) considered evidence of ghosts.

I was even at one investigation where a ghost supposedly caused a person's mild headache. Because the standard of evidence is so low, it's little wonder that ghost hunters often find "evidence" (but never proof) of ghosts.

Reality check

The whole idea of ghosts runs into trouble as soon as a little logic is applied.

There's not even agreement on what ghosts are—or might be. A common claim is that ghosts are spirits of the dead who have been wronged or murdered. Let's inject some real-world statistics into that assumption and see what we get.

If murder victims whose killings remains unsolved are truly destined to walk the earth and haunt the living, then we should expect to encounter ghosts nearly everywhere. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly a quarter of all homicides remains unsolved each year. (In fact, fewer homicides are solved now than in the past; in 1976, 79 percent of homicides were cleared, down to 64 percent in 2002.) There are about 30,000 homicides in America each year.

Using the most recent numbers, that's about 11,000 unsolved murders per year, and 110,000 over the course of only ten years, and probably well over million over the course of the twentieth century in America alone.

Where are all the ghosts?

And why aren't they helping to bring their killers to justice, with so many crimes unsolved? Why would they hang out in scary mansions instead of directing police to evidence that would avenge their murders?

For that matter, why are ghosts seen wearing clothing? It's one thing to suggest that a person's spirit has a soul that can be seen after death; but do shoes, coats, hats, and belts also have souls? Logically, ghosts should appear naked. The fact that they don't suggests that people's ideas of what ghosts are—and what they look like—are strongly influenced by social and cultural expectations. (For an excellent discussion of this, see Richard Finucane's book "Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead & Cultural Transformation.")

If ghosts exist, why are we no closer to finding out what they really are, after so much research?

The evidence for ghosts is no better today than it was a year ago, a decade ago, or a century ago. Ultimately, ghost hunting is not about the evidence (if it was, the search would have been abandoned long ago). Instead, it's about having fun with friends, telling ghost stories, and the enjoyment of pretending you are searching the edge of the unknown. (It's also about making money selling "Ghost Hunters" T-shirts, books, and videos.) Ghost hunters may be spinning their wheels, but at least they are enjoying the ride.

Friday, February 13, 2009

invisible forces around us

Since creation, people have been aware that there are certain forces around us that are invisible and cannot be detected by our five senses . They cannot be seen, smelled, tasted, felt or touched, yet we know that they are there only because of the effect they have on things around us. Some have been known since ancient times, while others have first been discovered in the last few hundred years.

While some of these forces are part of nature, others are produced by man. While sometimes they seem to be extremely beneficial, they also can be very dangerous.

Let's begin by examining these invisible forces and learn a little about them.

The force of gravity was certainly known since man was created. When Adam took his first jump up and came back down, he certainly must have realized that there must be an invisible force which pulled him back down to earth. It wasn't till years later that Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) explained the laws of this mysterious force called gravity. He explained that all of matter, no matter how small or large, exerts a pulling force on each other. He even figured out the mathematical formula for the strength of this invisible force. With this he was able to explain the exact paths the heavenly planets take when they go around the sun or the earth. While no scientist has ever seen gravity, we sure know lots about it. Yet, so far, no one has ever discovered a way to block this invisible force. It seems to penetrate through everything. If only man could find a way to block it, then we would easily be able to fly!

Another force that has been known to us since ancient times is magnetism. These stones, also known as loadstones, are found in the earth. They either attract one another or push away from each other ,depending on how they are placed. A magnetic needle left to turn on its own always points in a north-south direction. There obviously must be an invisible force around the world that is responsible for this happening, yet no scientist has ever seen this invisible force. We know it is there only because of the way magnets behave. We call this force a magnetic field.

It was a Danish physicist named Hans Oersted who first observed, in 1820, that a current flowing through a wire created an invisible electro-magnetic field all around it. Yet it took man thousands of years to make a most remarkable discovery. When a metal wire cuts through an invisible magnetic field, it creates an electrical movement in the wire called a current. Man had finally discovered the secret of how to produce electricity. (While Voltaire had made a battery some years earlier, it was still not strong enough for much practical use.) Now that the electric motor was born, Thomas A. Edison would use it to invent the light bulb (in 1879) which would light up the world. Electricity would change life forever as more and more uses would be found for it. This brilliant discovery was first made by a English physicist by the name of Michael Faraday in the year 1831. Others credit Joseph Henry, an American physicist, for this discovery.

Magnets produce electricity and electricity can produce an electro-magnet. Yet surprisingly, even the average person today doesn't seem to realize that around every electric current there exists an invisible electromagnetic force. Amazing! Electricity is only around for a little more than 170 years and look at how it has changed the world! Can you just imagine how advanced man would be today had Adam made this discovery some five thousand years ago?

And while Henry built the first electromagnet, it was Samuel Morse who actually learned how to use this new discovery to send sound hundreds of miles away. He built his telegraph in the 1840's.

It didn't take much longer for Alexader Graham Bell to accidentally discover how to transmit a voice through these same wires, and the telephone was born in 1876. People could speak to each other even though they were thousands of miles apart. What a small world it became!

It was first a Scottish scientist, James Maxwell, who in 1873, worked out mathematical equations that indicated that electric circuits radiated electromagnetic waves that traveled at the speed of light, and it was Heinrich Hertz who produced such waves in the late 1880's. But it took an Italian by the name of Guglielmo Marconi to learn how to generate Hertz's and Maxwell's invisible electromagnetic waves and make words fly through space. Radio was born in 1898, just a little more than 100 years ago. Broadcasting as we know it today was established by the BBC in 1922.

Within a few more years people discovered how to use these same invisible forces to send pictures through space.

Man was beginning to discover some of the deep secrets hidden in G-d's universe. Electric motors, electricity, light, cars, trains, airplanes, sound, radio, telephone, tape recorder, video cameras, television, computers; Electromagnetism had created a new dreamworld that one could never have thought possible in ancient times. One wonders what the world will look like in a hundred years from now!

In 1895, Professor William Roentgen accidently discovered how to make rays that could penetrate through solids, and called them x-rays. These remarkable rays had many medical uses. They could be used to study the structures in the body and the body organs, to detect foreign bodies or to help repair broken bones. For many years they were a major diagnostic tool in reducing the threat of tuberculosis.

It took a scientist by the name of Bacquerel to soon discover that there were certain elements in nature that gave off natural radioactivity. Pierre and Marie Curie then began to isolate the actual sources of this radiation and in 1898 they announced the discovery of radium. Soon after, scientists learned how to use the radioactive element of uranium to set off a chain reaction that would release the enormous power Hashem had hidden inside each atom and thereby build an atomic bomb that could easily devastate all of mankind.

At about the same time scientists discovered that the entire world was constantly being bombarded by all sorts of strange radiation from outer space. They named these invisible strange rays infared, ultraviolet, cosmic rays, gamma rays etc. Scientists stand baffled to try to explain what all these strange radiations are all about and what effects they have on our world. Obviously if G-d created them, then they must serve a purpose. G-d does not create things for no reason.

As scientists have discovered how to generate these invisible forces to benefit mankind, they have also discovered that some of these electromagnetic forces can be extremely dangerous. While x-rays can be very beneficial, they can also kill man. While an atomic reactor can be used for the benefit of mankind, it can be used to destroy it as well. They are a double-edged sword. They can do much good, but also cause great harm.

Even today, with all that we know, we still cannot determine what effects all these strange forces have on man. Scientists have found that these electromagnetic forces affect our cells, especially our DNA. While we now use electromagnetic radiation to kill the deadly cancers, one wonders if they themselves may actually be the cause. About this, there exists much controversy.

While some studies seems to say that all is okay, there are others that prove that some of this man-made radiation may be very dangerous. Some studies show that cellular phones can cause brain cancer. Some warn that electromagnetic radiation from microwaves, cell phones, mobile phones, TV screens and other strong sources can damage cells in a way that is potentially cancer causing. Even too much ultraviolet rays from the sun have been shown to cause skin cancer, and must therefore be avoided.

It may still be too soon to answer these questions. Much more time and information is needed to be sure of the answer. We simply don't know enough about these strange forces since we are just beginning to learn about them. It will take years before we can be sure of the answer, so in the meantime it would only make sense to take precautions.

Yet we must be extremely careful not to allow any personal bias to enter into our search for the answer to these difficult questions. That's because there is always the great danger that we may not want to face up to the truth. After all, what would we do if it were positively proven without the shadow of a doubt that electromagnetic waves are definitely a serious health hazard .Would we then be willing to shut down all radio, cell phone and television transmissions? What would we do with all the power lines next to our homes? Yes! There is always the danger that we may not be willing to stare the truth in the face! The answer to this question may simply be to frightful to contemplate!


As scientists dig deeper and deeper into the secrets and mysteries of creation, they realize more and more the great wisdom that lies hidden within. The amazing order and complexities that lie hidden in every cell, molecule and atom are astounding and defy the imagination The more they learn , the more wondrous it all seems. As they study the DNA, they realize how wondrous the entire process is. Surely the time will come for them to see Who has created it all, and what purpose lies in all of it.

While scientists stand baffled at all they see happening around them and try to find answers to these most difficult questions, perhaps we Jews ought to take a good look at what our chachomim have to say about some of these phenomena.

The Chofetz Chaim in his sefer on Shmiras Ha'loshon, brings a most frightening Zohar found in parshas Pikudei. Let me just summarize it in brief.

"When someone speaks loshon ho'rah, one's words travel into the heavens above and cause a powerful force to descend upon the earth which is extremely destructive, causing great harm and damage."

Yes! Perhaps the best way to prevent these terrible forces of destruction is to carefully watch every word we say. Only if we take this Zohar Ha'kodosh to heart, will we realize how careful one must be not to speak loshon ho'rah and certainly never to be motzei shem rah!

I must also note that there are other invisible forces which have not been discussed in this essay since they have still not been detected by man and we only know of their existence because the Torah tells us so. Take for example the two opposing forces of kedusha and tumah. While Geiger built a machine called a geigercounter that can detect radiation, we still have no instrument that can detect tumah and therefore we still can't prove its existence.

Perhaps some day in the future, as scientists keep learning more of the earth's secrets, they will understand the reasons for Hashem's chukim such as not wearing wool and linen, or not eating milk and meat etc.

One can think of the Torah as being the instruction manual that comes along with the world Hashem created. It tells us how to use His world without causing any damage. We'd better follow its guidelines very carefully in order that we don't upset things. The Zohar says that with every sin we do, we cause unbelievable damage to distant galaxies that may be light-years away.

Let's remember that scientists have just begun to scratch the surface of knowledge. We're first beginning to understand a very small bit of what's happening around us. The more we learn, the more questions it raises and the more we realize how little we actually know and how much more we still have to learn.

In the meantime, let's follow the instruction manual very carefully lest we cause irreparable damage to ourselves and the beautiful world we live in.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Yakshi is a female earthly spirit symbolizing fertility. Her references are found in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythologies. Her sculptures have even been found in the excavations done in the site of the Indus Valley Civilization. She is often referred to as mother goddess. She is also referred in some mythologies as a guardian spirit appointed by Lord Indra to take care of the treasures buried in the earth and the roots of trees. She along with her male counterpart, Yaksha, are revered as deities protecting the cities, lakes or wells.
Her sculpture embellishes numerous temples and stupas (religious stone pillars) around the country. It is said that even if she simply touches a tree it will bear fruit, which indicates her power in imparting fertility.
A Yakshi is always portrayed as a woman with a well-endowed body, which symbolizes the fertility of earth. She is often shown in sculptures holding to the branch of a tree. This famous pose called ‘tribanga’ (three-bend) shows her bending at neck, waist and hip. It depicts the act of giving birth. There is a combined essence of beauty and maternal instinct in this pose.

chathan seva

Chathan Seva and Kanady Madom
The Trichur district which is the cultural capital of the state,can rightfully claim pre-eminence above all its neighbouring districts in the state for its abundance of famous and old temples.
Over and above there are many magicaly spiritual and famous Chathan Seva Madom which are well known for a variety of reasons. One of the famous of these the Kanadi Madom was established by the famous Konnacharya. Who was initiated into spritual and vedic studies in his early days by the Naga saints and Rishies of North India. In the evening of his life, Konnacharya wanted his vast plethora of spritual knowledge and study to be made available to the people of Kerala at his own birth place.
Konnacharya succeeded in bringing his Upasana Murthi Bhagavan Sakshal Chathan Swami to his birthplace and in establishing the premises of his house at Peringottukara near Thrissur as the abode of his lord.Bhagavan Chathan is an incarnation of Lord Siva. He is said to be born as a child of Lord Siva. His birth has a purpose and it has been extolled in legends. He was begotten our to anmihilate the demon Bringhasura out of the incessant requests and prayers of the Devas in the heaven. According to legends Bhavagan Chathan at his seventh year killed the demon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Stories about ghosts and spirits have been heard and recorded through the centuries. It is a fact that every culture has its own collection of stories and histories about the existence and interaction with non-physical entities. Although ghosts are sometimes 'seen', more often their presence is noticed by something else than any of the 5 senses. In spite of all the witness evidence and extraordinary psychokinetic phenomenon observed, there is still no conclusive proof for the existence of ghosts, spirits or any other non-physical entity.
Many well known stories not only inform us about the existence of non-physical entities, but as well about the communication, interaction and involvement of these beings with our world. Many Religion for instance believe in a some sort of direct communication between humanity, gods and angels.
The popular belief that humans can directly communicate with non-physical entities exist over thousands of years. Every culture and civilization knows of ways to communicate or interact with their spirit world, often using terms like praying, meditation or séance.
Further to the possible existence of pure non-physical entities, there is the belief that each human being has a spirit, often referred to as the soul. Although two physical objects cannot exist in the same space-time, a non-physical entity (a soul) and a physical entity (a body) could possibly share the same spot.
Although there is no proof that humans indeed may have a soul, religions treat it as an important part of being alive. Often indicating that life on earth is only a short stop on the road of existence, and that the journey of the soul continues in the after life. The soul is believed to be immortal, time has no effect on it.

black magics

Belief in Supernatural and the Pracitces associated with it are in broad terms, the same in Kerala as in the rest of India.

But they differ in specific details and actual forms of expression. A survey conducted among College educated people revealed that 65% believe in supernatural phenomenon and more than 80% believe in God.

Evil Eye:

Belief in the effects of the evil eye is very strong, Buildings under
construction are fully covered to protect it from the public view and an effigy is placed to divert the attention of onlookers.

villages, some of the persons are often identified as 'Karinakku' (Evil Tongue). And it is believed that their attention or remark on some object or person can cause an almost immediate destructive effect.

Fire Walking and Other Rituals:
Fire Walking is fairly common in Kerala. It is mostly associated with temple festivals, but the Shia Muslims also perform the same during Muharram. The walk is an offering to some god or goddess and is performed after a period of penance. Another ritual requires devotees to pierce needles, spears or hooks through the skin to propitiate the deity.

'Thookam' and 'Koottiyattam' supposed to be remnants of rites involving human sacrifices, are spectacular offerings at Kaali Temples. In Thookam, the devotees would hang suspended from a big wheel or bow by metal hooks that pierce the skin.

In 'Koottiyattam' young children would wound themselves with knives and circle the temples in high religious fervour. These days however, devotees are bound to the thokkam wheel with cloths instead of metal hooks and the children performing Koottiyattam do not hurt themselves.

Kuttichattan : A Poltergeist God
'Poltergeist' is a German word meaning ' mischievous god' and refers to temporary disturbances of a minor sort, often involving psychokinesis and usually around a troubled adolescent.

The phenomenon follows a strikingly similar pattern all over the world. In Kerala too, such disturbances are attributed to a mischievous child god, 'Kuttichattan' . Chattan is probably a derivative of Sastha , a popular deity , and Kuttichattan represents a child version of the god.

Snake Cult

Kerala is a natural habitat of a variety of snakes. A dread of snakes could have perhaps contributed to serpent worship. Snake idols are housed in the 'Sarpakkavu' or groves where the natural vegetation is kept undisturbed.

Snakes are believed to have powers to curse a man who kills them and cause misfortunes and diseases, especially of the skin. There are two namboothiri houses (Pambummekkattu and Mannarsala) famed for worshipping the snakes and which specialise in treatment of illnesses caused by serpent ire.

With the exploding human population, snakes are increasingly going rare. Snake charmers, who make the cobra dance to the movement of their 'Makudi' (modified flute), are becoming an extinct tribe.

In ancient times, there were native doctors who specialised in treating snakebites. The belief is that they were able to foresee a snakebite victim being brought to them and upon their arrival, predict the cause of the poisoning.

They were also credited with the power to lure the very snake, which bit a person and command it to suck its own venom from the wound. Certain stones and herbs were used in snakebite treatment.

Witch Craft

'Manthravadam' or performing rites for propitiating supernatural forces (a type of native 'voodoo') is popular in Kerala. This comprises general 'poojas' performed for house warming, before embarking on any new venture, tiding over evil astrological influences, or for overcoming diseases.

The rites involve chanting mantras (magical prayers), preparation of a diagram usually using coloured powder, offering flowers, throwing offerings into the sacred fire and so on. Exorcism is also practised as a healing technique. Even Ayurveda accepts the possibility of a human being possessed by evil spirits.

At an exorcism ceremony, the patient usually starts shivering and dancing ('Tullal'). 'Manthravadam' is used to influence or entice somebody ('vashyam') and in its malignant form is practised as 'black magic'.

Sunday, February 8, 2009



ghost true or fake

Pretham (Ghost): The Element of Air
The pretham (soul) of a person who commits suicide hovers around the place where he took his life or by the side of his house. The marine Hindu fisherfolk believes that when a pretham enters the body of a person he begins to act like a lunatic. When such symptoms appear, the Kaniyan (village astrologer), is immediately consulted, to identify the pretham and locate his abode. The astrologer, after identifying the spirits, directs the next of kin to contact a particular Mantravadi (sorcerer) for conducting a Homam (propitiatory rite) in order to get rid of the pretham. Accordingly, the Mantravadi is invited to perform the Homam. The Mantravadi draws a kalam (cabbalistic figure) in the courtyard with coloured powders. The figures of the supposed Pretham, Gandharvan and his wife Yakshi are drawn in the kalam. The Homam is performed after this. The belief is that once the propitiatory rites are conducted the pretham is consigned to flames. Sometimes an amulet is prepared for wearing around the waist of the possessed.
Akasa Gandharvan: Personification of the Sky
The supernatural power of Akasa Gandharvan, an ethereal goblin of the Mappila fisherfolk of Tanur, is described in my monograph, The Mappela Fisherfolk of Kerala. The Hindu fishermen believe that the Akasa Gandharvan is responsible for causing dissention between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Krishna Kunhu, my Araya informant, said that Akasa Gandharvan possessed supernatural powers. Once when Krishna was offering prayers taking water in his right hand, the Gandharvan appeared in the sky in his chariot and disturbed the Lord’s mind. The Lord’s prayer stopped as froth from the Gandharvan’s horse’s mouth fell on his palm, thus polluting the water. Krishna became infuriated and vowed to teach the Gandharvan a lesson for his misbehaviour, and kill him before the sunset. Hearing this the Gandharvan was distressed. In order to save his life, he approached Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, but they did not oblige. Meanwhile, Narada appeared on the scene and advised the Gandharvan to seek the help of Arjuna who was spending his life incognito in the mountains along with his brothers. Narada then informed Krishna that the Gandharvan had gone to Arjuna’s abode and decided to bring about a solution. He appeared in disguise before Arjuna and told him to go to sleep when Krishna killed the Gandharvan. He promised that he would restore the life of the Gandharvan. Krishna killed the Gandharvan before sunset as promised, but his life was restored by Brahma at once. Thus, the Hindu fishermen believe that the Gandharvan is still at large.
Kadutha: Ethereal Element
The Aryans of Cochin believe in a large number of spirits like Kuttichathan, Karumkutty, Pookutty and Kalladimuthan. The spirits of the dead wizards belonging to different castes like the Nairs, Irvas and Cherumans or Pulayans are also capable of making mischief, it is believed. For instance, the Aryans of Elangkunnapuzha propitiated on all important occasions Kadutha the spirit of a dead Nair sorcerer of the village. The spirit is housed in a shrine. This Nair sorcerer is believed to be a great devotee of Lord Ayyappan, whose shrine is at Sabarimala Kerala. Thus, Kadutha is worshipped by the Aryans for getting bumper catches and warding off diseases. Special propitiatory rites are performed in Kadutha’s honour. The oracle of Kadutha dances before the shrine and predicts whether or not there will be good catches and about the recovery of the sick.
Marutha: Ethereal Spirit
The Aryans of Elangkunnapuzha believe that Marutha, the spirit of a Pulaya woman sorcerer, has supernatural powers in curing incurable diseases and preventing capsizing of boats at sea and getting bumper catches. Sometimes the Aryans worship her by making special offerings of liquor and meat ostensibly for getting ownership in fishing units. During the Mandalam (fast days from first of Vrichikam to the tenth of Dhanu), Marutha is offered beaten rice, puffed rice, molasses, plantains and camphor. It is interesting to note that although Marutha is the spirit of the Pulaya woman (scheduled caste), she is housed in a special shrine by the Aryans and propitiated on all important occasions, besides offering special worship.
Kotha: Ethereal Element
The Aryans of Elangkunnapuzha say that the spirit Kotha possesses miraculous powers in curing illnesses and saving the fishermen from hazards of the sea. Kotha is the spirit of a departed woman sorcerer who belonged to the Pulaya caste (agrestic serf). She is believed to be the sister of Marutha. The spirit is frequently worshipped by the Aryans by offering liquor and meat. A shrine has been built in her honour in the village for offering worship to her. During the Mandalam period only vegetarian dishes are offered to gods and goblins.
The spirits of the ancestors are propitiated by Hindu fishermen on all important festive occasions. The Aryans of the Elangkunnapuzha village have installed three unhewn stones in a shrine representing three ancestors, namely, Chemban Muthappan, Unnikka Muthappan, and Suranat Kaimal. Chemban Muthappan and Unnikka Muthappan belonged to the Arya caste whereas Suranat Kaimal was a Nair. These three spirits are propitiated for 41 days during the Mandalam days by making an offer of vegetarian dishes.
The Thottam Kazhikkal ceremony is performed on the last three days of the Mandalam. Pullavans and Velans are commissioned in the performance of the Thottam Kazhikkal ceremony. They draw cabbalistic figures using coloured powders, five in number. They also draw human figures of deities like Vigneswara and Yessaswari. Pulluvans and Velans beat their drums and sing songs in praise of the deceased sorcerer. The she-oracles possessed of the spirits of Chemban Muthappan, Unnikka Muthappan and Suranat Kaimal dance before the Kalam (the figures drawn on the floor) and circumambulate the shrines. The ceremony lasts for about six to eight hours. The oracles predict the future welfare of the fishermen. The Pulluvans and Velans are paid from ten to fifteen rupees for their services.
Munnodi Appan, the spirit of the dead ancestor of a family belonging to the village of Tarayakadappuram in the Alleppey district, is propitiated by the Aryan fishermen. The spirit is housed in a shrine and it is worshipped as a devan (male deity). The local tradition is that long ago the fishermen offered their prayers to different Gods for getting bumper catches to meet their livelihood. Munnodi Appan, and Aryan, employed his magical powers and got bumper catches for the entire villagers. Thus, he saved the villagers from starvation. A shrine was built in his honour by the villagers when he died. Whenever the Aryans of Quilon, Alleppey and Trivandrum do not get good catches, they take a vow to offer special pujas in honour of Munnodi Appan either at home or in the shrine. They make votive offerings consisting of meat, liquor, fried fish, etc. when their prayers are heard. Now, vegetarian dishes only are offered in the shrine of Munnodi Appan. When Munnodi Appan is propitiated at home, the species which the fishermen want to haul, are offered to him. Avoli and Ayala (Mackerel) were relished by Munnodi Appan. Apart from fish and meat, liquor and pappad are offered to this spirit.
Hindu fishermen of the erstwhile Travancore state particularly those of the Alleppey district make periodical offerings and perform special rituals in the honour of Munnodi Appan at his shrine, if they get bumper catches or if serious illness is cured within a given time. Once their wishes are fulfilled, they conduct the special ritual at his shrine spending as much as Rs. 500. The mode of worship at the Munnodi Appan’s shrine is very interesting. The office of the priest is hereditary in the family of Munnodi Appan. The women folk are forbidden from entering the shrines and have to keep a distance of a furlong during the propitiation of Munnodi Appan. The priest is not allowed to wear any cotton clothes when he performs the worship. His dress is made of banana leaves (ada). He has to observe vegetarianism and celibacy. Neither liquor, nor meat is offered to Munnodi Appan now-a-days. The Aryans of Travancore generally set apart three-and-a-half per cent of their day’s catch for Munnodi Appan’s worship. When the amount increases to Rs. 500 the special ritual at Munnodi Appan’s shrine is conducted. Sometimes, when they are enable to save Rs. 500 for his worship in the year, they borrow funds from moneylenders to propitiate Munnodi Appan.
Hindu and Muslim fishermen of Malabar send their votive offerings to the Parassinikadavu Muthappan. His shrine is at Parassinikadavu, a village in the district of Cannanore, and belongs to a Thiyya family. The local tradition says that once Siva, under the spell of Shani (Saturn), went to the forest of Parassini for penance. He attained moksha during his penance. A structure was raised by a Thiyya family in his honour at Parassinikadavu, then in a forest, and later on it came to be known as Parassinikadavu Muthappan’s shrine. This Muthappan is a non-Sanskritic deity. Meat, fish and liquor are offered to him. It is noteworthy that the members of almost all castes in this region propitiate the Muthappan. His devotees are generally given free boarding and lodging. Even Nambudiri Brahmins and Nairs are sent offerings to the Muthappan in fulfilment of their wishes and vows. The Hindu fisherfolk of Malabar, Mukkuvans and Mogayar (Mukkuvans) propitiate the Muthappan at home as well as in the shrine for getting bumper catches, relief from illness, protection from the hazards of the sea and for becoming owners of fishing units. His favourite dishes are a mixture of fried millets, pappad (wafers) and katala (bengal gram). Hindu fishermen frequently vow to set apart five per cent of their daily haul before launching if they are blessed with good catches. They exhort the Muthappan thus: "Oh Muthappan: Let our net be filled with bumper catches; we shall send our offerings to you." Sometimes a fishing unit has workers from both the Hindu and Mappila communities. In that case the expenses in connection with the propitiation of the Muthappan are borne by the entire crew.
The Muthappan is worshipped daily but special offerings are made once a week, once a month and once a year when his festival is celebrated. He is frequently propitiated at home by the fishermen for getting bumper catches and for getting relief from sickness. The propitiation of the Muthappan is called pazhamkuttivekkal. Another important offering to the Muthappan is called vellattam or tiruveppu. Two or three mannans (washermen) impersonate the Muthappan for vellattam and perform the dance in front of his shrine. This performance of dance is conducted as the main vazhivadu (votive offering) for getting bumper catches and rid of incurable diseases. It costs Rs. 13 for conducting this ceremony. On the other hand, only one Mannan is required for tiruveppu who assumes the guise of the deity and dances before his shrine. The Mannan’s fee for performance of this rite is Rs. 1.25. Vellattam is performed at night.
Gulikan: Ethereal Element
Gulikan or Mandi is propitiated by the Hindu fishermen all over Kerala. The Gulikan is connected with diseases and death. Horoscopes are cast by every Hindu of Kerala in which the position of the Gulikan is clearly indicated. The Gulikan’s position indicates when the person will die. When death occurs in a fisherman’s house, it is customary to plant a stone outside the house representing the Gulikan. An informant informed me that stone representing the Gulikan will never be installed in the room reserved for ancestors or in any of the house. However, the fishermen believe that once the Gulikan is propitiated by installing a stone on the earthen platform, it will prevent death. The Gulikan is generally worshipped to get big fishes like etta and avoli. They vow to conduct a special puja in honour of the Gulikan by offering etta and avoli. They fulfil their vow by making votive offerings when they get these species of fish. The Gulikan is periodically propitiated by the offer of kuruthi (water mixed with turmeric and lime), today, bananas and flowers. A wick lamp is lighted for the worship. A red fowl and a ram are sacrificed in the Gulikan’s honour on important festive occasions like Omam and Vishu. Sometimes, the oracle of the Gulikan, in trance, directs the fishermen to handle times of crisis. The oracle reveals the causes of illness and discloses the remedy.
The Mukkuvans of Malabar believe that there are four kinds of Gulikans: Brahma Gulikan,Vishnu Gulikan, Abhimanyu Gulikan, Asura Gulikan. They further believe that if the Asura Gulikan is displeased tensions in the family are bound to arise, besides infights among the members of the crew. In such cases the Mukkuvans consult the kaniyan (village astrologer) and seek their advice to ward off the wrath of the enraged Asura Gulikan. The kaniyan prescribes the remedy in the form of a magical rite called Puramneekkal which is similar to Uzhinhu Vangal. A magician is invited to conduct this rite. The articles required for the purpose prescribed by the magician and the astrologer are: a cooked fried fish (etta, aikkora, and narimeen), coconut oil, potato, lady-finger, bengal gram, beaten rice, puffed rice, etc. A thigh of the cock is roasted in the fire and given to the Asura Gulikan. The total expenditure for conducting the rite comes to Rs. 100.
Brahma Gulikan: Ethereal Element
The Brahma Gulikan is worshipped for getting bumper catches and also for warding off the misfortunes and illness caused by him. Sometimes the Mukkuvans call the Brahma Gulikan as Brahma Yakshasu, the spirit of a dead Brahman. The Mukkuvans believe that the Brahma Gulikan is capable of causing separation of a husband and wife. An amulet is prepared by the magician and given to the patient to wear or a Puramneekkal ceremony is conducted to appease him. Sometimes the mantram ‘Oh Gulika, Brahma Gulika, Vishnu Gulika, Asmara Gulika and Abhimanyu Gulika’ is chanted for 21 times over a string for putting on the waist of the patient. The same mantram is written 21 times on a copper plate and an amulet is prepared for wearing. Sometimes rice powder mixed with molasses is given to the Brahma Gulikan to appease his wrath. The Mukkuvans say that the Vishnu Gulikan and Abhimanyu Gulikan are not wicked. The Abhimanyu Gulikan is the spirit of Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, who died in the Kurukshetra war.
Pottanmar: Ethereal Element
The Mukkuvans of Malabar believe that Pottanmar are the bodyguards of the Goddess Bhadrakali. They are propitiated on festive occasions like Mandalam, Karkitaka Sankranti and Sivarathri. Pottanmar are offered vegetarian dishes consisting of balls of rice, jaggery and coconut. The ordained oracle of the Pottanmar speaks a mukabhasha (gesture language) in their frenzy and declare what offerings would please the Goddess. They predict future events that affect the fishermen and divine the causes of illness in their families.
The Mukkuvans of Malabar hold that Kandakaranan is the defence minister of Bhadrakali. They say the deity does not like meat and liquor. It seems he has been elevated as a Sanskrit deity. The main offerings of Kandakaranan consist of boiled rice, jaggery and coconut. He is worshipped for getting bumper catches, getting rid of illness, particularly, smallpox, and for protection from the hazards of the sea. The Izhvas of Palghat propitiate this deity by sacrificing a fowl.
Kadalamma: Water-element
The Aryans of the Kanjirachera village, Alleppey district, perform an annual festival called Ponkala in honour of Kadalamma (mother or Goddess of sea). It is reported that this ceremony is also conducted by the fishermen of Trivandrum Quilon and southern parts of Ernakulam. Ponkala the cooking of rice or pudding in the open air by women is an offering to Kadalamma, who is worshipped daily. A mandapam (open shed) is erected for this. The offerings consist of flattened rice, puffed rice, jaggery and navadhanyam (nine pulses), ghee, camphor, benzoin, sugarcane and coconuts. The mandapam is decorated with tender coconuts and mango leaves before the actual ceremony. Fisherwomen who have reached their menopause assemble on the morning of the forty-first day at the sea coast with ponkala pots containing the necessary rice, jaggery, coconut and firewood. The ladies cooking the ponkala should abstain from sexual intercourse and observe vegetarianism for the day. Two kinds of ponkala are prepared, one with rice, jaggery, coconut shavings and plantains, and the other without jaggery. Forty-one women participated in the festival of 1971 at the Kanjiranchera village in Alleppey. Each lady cooked the ponkala in a new earthen pot and propitiated the Kadalamma jointly. Formerly, the ponkala payasam (pudding) was thrown into the sea in sealed pots. This practice has been discontinued in recent times. However, it is reported that this custom is still in vogue in the Azhikkal village, Alleppey district. Charms and sacred formulas are uttered while throwing the pudding into the sea. Krishnan Kunhu, my informant, told me that in olden days, the ponkala pots thrown into the sea used to return the following day to the ovens on which the pudding was prepared. Many of his ancestors, he claimed, had seen such miraculous deeds of Kadalamma. A few coins and a little rice pudding are the only items thrown into the sea today instead of ponkala pots. A night long nadaswara cutchery (a music concert played with Nadaswaram — a snake pipe with 12 holes and other accompaniments) is held on the occasion.
The Akasa Gandharvan, Gulikan, Kadutha Kotha, Munnodiappan, etc., represent the cosmic element of sky, ether, air, etc. Kadalamma is the proeification of the cosmic element of water. The rituals connected with the propitiation of various gods and goddesses represent the element of fire and water.
Iyer, L.K.A., 1912. Tribes and Castes of Cohin. vols. I and II.
Mathur, K.S., 1964. Caste and Ritual in a Malva Village.
Mathur, P.R.G., 1978. The Mappila Fisherfolk of Kerala.
Mathur P.R.G., (forthcoming) The Hindu Fisherfolk of Kerala.
Menon, K.P.P., 1934. History of Kerala.
Pereira, J.J., 1989. Narayana Guru: A Social Educator.
Saraswati, B.N., 1977. The Brahmaic Ritual Tradition.
Swami Sarvananda, 1973. Taittriopanishad.