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Initiation of a ‘Brahmin’ instrument

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Ceremonial: The ‘upanayanam’ ceremony for the instruments in progress.
Ceremonial: The ‘upanayanam’ ceremony for the instruments in progress.

George Jacob

An upanayanam, complete with all the rituals, was performed for mizhavu at a ‘madhom’ on Sunday.

Kottayam: The priest was chanting Vedic manthras, tolling the bells, offering flowers and sprinkling the holy water, even as the smoke from the burning of incense at the temporary homakund, filled the interiors of the naalukettu. An upanayanam ceremony was in progress at Pothiyil Chakyar Madhom at Manganam on Sunday. However, this was not a rite-of-passage ritual for a Brahmin boy, but a very rarely performed ‘sacred thread ceremony’ for a percussion instrument.

Mizhavu, one of the oldest percussion instruments in the world, is apparently of ‘brahminical’ origin. Considered sacred, the instrument is used only as accompaniment to ritualistic performances inside the temples.

“Being considered a Brahmin, all holy rituals connected with Brahminic tradition should be accorded to the mizhavus — including upanayanam, the ritualistic ceremony converting “one into a ‘brahmanan’ and initiating him into the life of a ‘brahmachari,’” said Pothiyil Narayanan Chakyar.

When ‘death’ calls…

“Mending and reusing the instrument is forbidden,” he said. “When it becomes unfit for performance after some time, the Mizhavu is considered dead and we have to perform all solemn rites connected with the death of a Brahmin.”

According to him there are eight stages in the upanayanam of a Brahmin boy. “In the case of the upanayanam for Mizhavu we skip the ‘upanishkramanom’ phase,” Mr. Narayanan Chakyar said.

The rituals

The day commenced with Ganapathy homam at 5.30 a.m., followed by Kalasaabhishekom. The crucial ceremony of ‘poonool upanayanam’ was performed after the Kalasaabhishekom. The rituals concluded with the ‘deepaaradhana.’ Following deepaaradhana, priest Jayasuryan Bhattathirippad of Suryakalady Mana handed over the two mizhavus for covering their narrow mouth with animal skin, to Kalamandalam Gopinathan Nambiar, noted Mizhavu exponent. When the rituals were over, it was almost noon.

The Pothiyil Chakyar Madhom has a long history of teaching chakyar kooth in the traditional gurukula system. The tradition, which was disrupted for a quarter of a century since 1968, was renewed in the 1990s. The ceremonies were held within the old Madhom building on Sunday. It also marked inauguration of a new Kalari building for training students.

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