“Aravinda Ganapathy has been a part of our family for the past many years. This Ganapathy is seated on a lotus and hence carries the prefix, ‘Aravinda.’ The obstacle remover and the bestower of prosperity has been finely crafted in silver by an unknown master craftsman. It is a general belief that silver wards off black magic. Therefore, our elders would ensure that silver was found in every household.
The four-armed Lord is found seated on a fastidiously crafted lotus. This Nagaas icon epitomizes the finest level of craftsmanship. Aravinda Ganapathy was always welcoming and blessing the visitors who came to our shop on Big Bazaar Street in Coimbatore. I remember him and the stories associated with his Itihasa from my childhood days.
My great-grandfather P. A. Raju Chettiar was an iconic jeweler and his products have made his name immortal. Several aristocrats and eminent persons were his clients. He was trusted by the entire cross-section of the society and therefore, he knew several Itihasas. The story of Aravinda Ganapathy is amongst the most auspicious.
The silver department in our shop consisted of few long serving staff. I still remember the systematic, Ponnappan and the interestingly talking, Krishnan. My father Govindarajulu would narrate interesting stories connected with our shop during my visits to the shop. I used to visit our shops on Saturdays to spend some time with the books belonging to my father. Our shop used to contain a lot of old relics and I would examine each one of them.
Many years ago, I happened to visit the shop on a Ganesha Chaturthi day. I noticed the special attention being given to the ancient Aravinda Ganapathy. I prayed to him and inquired about his origin.
Ponnappan told me that Aravinda Ganapathy had originally decorated and added to the prosperity of the cashbox belonging to Kavalappara Mooppil Nair, an aristocrat from Malabar. Krishnan supplemented by stating that the aristocrat had used the Jari from his Dothi and made a silver cashbox. The Kavalappara family had been part of landed nobility in medieval Kerala and were sworn to the service of the kings, first that of Palakkad and later that of Cochin. The noble family was said to own vast tracts of land and property. But the Communist rule and the land reforms post-independence had greatly reduced them.
The sudden change in status forced numerous aristocrats to liquidate or restructure their assets. The Mooppil Nair family had chosen to follow this path and they had given away their silverware at P. A. Raju Chettiar’s shop and moved forward.
The Kavalappara Mooppil Nair was known as, Karakkattu Kumaran Raman. The family was one of the four chieftain dynasties or Perumpata Nayar of ancient Nedunganad. They became independent from the chieftainship of Nedungethiri in the 15th century, which was soon after the arrival of the Zamorin of Calicut. They were based at Eruppe Desam near Karakkat in Nedunganad and their landholdings included 96 villages.
Nedunganad was one of the 17 districts during the Chera regime from Kodungalur. It was situated betweeen Kaladdikkodan hills to the seashore villages of Ponnani – Purang. Nedungethirippad was the designation of the chieftain, and he was known to be inefficient. Kavalappara Nair, Thrikkatiri Nair, Vattakkavil Nair and Veettikkad Nair became extremely powerful.
Nedungethiri had once sort the help of the Zamorin of Calicut in connection with the procession of the Eralppad known as Kottichezhunnallathu. The Zamorin built a place at Karimpuzha around 1487. It was the same Zamorin who later met Vasco da Gama in 1498. The Zamorins processions had reached Karimpuzha and the Nair Chief of Nedungganad came and received him. However, Kavalappara Nair had refused to attend the meeting of Eralppad at Karimpuzha. Kavalappara Nair declared independence and sort the help of Cochin. He was lucky for his land as it was situated on the banks of river Nila which was adjacent to the boundary of the King of Cochin.
The Mooppil Nair family's claim to be the descendants of Karakalamma who was a child of Vararuchi (Brahmin saint) and a Pulayar woman. This association has enabled them to share kinship with the Kadambur Brahmins and the two communities recognized their shared ancient heritage in occasional rituals. The Kavalappara Mooppil Nairs were part of the depended, landed aristocracy who served under the Rajas of Palakkad and Cochin. The family was smart enough to take advantage of the clashes between the Zamorin of Calicut and the King of Cochin. By around 1760, the Nairs of Kavalappara reached a deal with the kingdom of Travancore and they gained independence thereafter. This led to the construction of a Kottaram and this was a physical symbol of their independence. These residents took a form common to the royal family of Travancore and different from the Kovilakam palaces that traditionally belied the status of Malabar rulers.
The association with the Travancore family helped them to seek refuge during the invasion of Mysore. Eventually, Kavalappara joined hands with Kesava Pillai (Diwan of Travancore) and the forces of the East India Company. Kesava Pillai reinstated them for he was also acting for the Bombay Presidency. However, this contradicted the agreement between the Madras Presidency and the ruler of Cochin. Several changes took place at a time when the Janmi system was in place. Very few families owned much of the land and this system was later modified by the Europeans.
The Kavalappara family managed to continue for some time, but they were reduced to just being landed aristocrats. They, however, retained control over their temples thereafter. The cashbox of Kavalappara Mooppil Nair has thus been part of this ancient legacy. Aravinda Ganapathy, the Lord who presided over the cashbox has been responsible for putting down this story to all of you.”
Miniature replicas of Aravinda Ganapathy made of Silver & Gold with the aid of latest technology can be made available based on a minimum economic size. Orders can be placed with Rajesh Govindarajulu (Ph: 9244403188, [email protected]), Chief Curator of the www.theverandahclub.com and they will be clustered for the convenience of the manufacturers. People desirous of acquiring the same are welcome to place an order.
The Story of Aravinda Ganapathy is also being made available, on a medium of your choice (Framed-photos, wall-hangers, etc.)
May Aravinda Ganapathy bestow health, wealth, and happiness during the times to come!
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