Friday, March 2, 2012

Sabarimala and Kerala’s Buddhist Tradition


The 1931 Census Report of Travancore states: “The famous Sastha temples now existing in Sabarimala, Thakkala and other places in Travancore were originally none other than temples dedicated to (the) Buddha. Besides these temples, several remains of Buddhist viharas and chaityas are still seen in different parts of this country. These are indications of Buddhism having been once the common religion in Travancore”. (Thakkala is now in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu).

The Census Report of Travancore was not written by a British official or Marxist historian. The Census, though part of the operations conducted by the British rulers throughout the continent, was conducted by the government of Travancore. The state was ruled by a family which had accepted Vedic servitude unreservedly. Most of the Dewans who presided over the administration were followers of the Vedic tradition. The senior members of the bureaucracy also belonged to that tradition. The Dewan at the time of the 1931 census was V. S. Subramanya Iyer, whose name itself certifies his Vedic connection.

A report dated June 5, 1881, submitted by the Peishkar (head of the district administration) of Trivandrum, V. Nagam Aiya, to Maharaja Visakham Thirunal, pointed out that the temple at Chitaral in Vilavancode taluk (this place too is now in TN) was a Buddhist place of worship. The Maharaja recorded this comment on it: “Your description is correct. The Brahmins have appropriated and adapted this Buddhist temple as they have done with many others. What you call muni is nothing but the figure of Buddha Gautama”. (Nagam Aiya, well-known as the author of the Travancore Gazetteer, belonged to a Telugu Brahmin family living in the Thirunelveli area of TN)

The Sabarimala deity was given a Hindu identity by the Vedic community by fabricating the fib about the Raja of Pandalam finding the abandoned son of Vishnu and Siva in the forest. The Raja’s family, a remnant of the Pandyans of Madurai, did not reach Pandalam until the 11th century. Sabarimala’s history goes back farther than that.

The Vedic community could not even fabricate a credible lie for the origin of the temple it took over. It didn’t need a good story because there was a slavish population ready to swallow any lie it dished out.
The quotations above are taken from the book “A Social History of India” by Dr. S. N. Sadasivan, a distinguish academic who taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration , New Delhi, and the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

The book appeared in 2006. Dr. Sadasivan (1926-2006) was with us for six years after its publication. The book is priced Rs 2,000. For our present purposes, it is only necessary to look into the chapter titled “Buddhism in Kerala”, which can be accessed on the Net at

It appears the intellectual honesty that Visakham Thirunal, Nagam Aiya and V. S. Subramanya Iyer displayed is lacking in the followers and apologists of the Vedic tradition today. Instead of repeating fabricated stories and shouting slogans, let them come out with facts and counter Dr. Sadasivan’s account.

Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, in an interview to Kalakaumudi a few weeks ago said the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple had a collection of about 300,000 documents. A reader, in a letter the weekly published subsequently, suggested that the public should be given access to these documents. Another reader stated that the documents had been transferred to the State Archives. A history of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple, written by a member of the former royal family, who had access to temple documents, contains references to past connections of some of the non-Vedic communities to the temple. Let other scholars, belonging to other traditions, also study the documents and come out with significant facts they can find in them.

The Thazhaman family and the former Pandalam raja’s family may have in their possession documents which can throw light on the history of the Sabarimala temple. If so, let them throw them open to scholars to study.

A newspaper feature of the period when poet Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri performed priestly functions at the Thiruvalla temple said that temple also had a collection of ancient documents. Let all documents kept under lock and key in temples by the Vedic community be accessed and studied by scholars with different backgrounds so that a truthful account of the past can be reconstructed.

sourse: kerala

No comments: