Glimpses of a glorious heritage

‘Olappamanna Mana’  

There is a dearth of books on families of Kerala who patronised and promoted traditional performing arts of Kerala such as Theyyam, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam with missionary zeal. In south Malabar, Olappamanna Mana has been hailed for its contributions to the literary, social, cultural and artistic developments for nearly two centuries.

In his latest book titled, Olappamanna Mana, N.P. Vijayakrishnan makes an earnest effort to summarise the multiple facets of the Mana’s contributions in terms of Vedic wisdom, knowledge of Sanskrit, involvement in language and literature, interest in Kathakali and inclination towards vocal and instrumental music.

In M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s preface to this book, he remembers his short yet warm affinity with poet Olappamanna and scholar O.M.C. Narayanan Namboodiripad. In the 15 chapters that follow, the Mana is described in all its details - location and property, structure of the house; transformation from thatched roof to tiled roof, its architecture, beginning of the Kathakali Kalari, its sustenance, patronisation of titans in the Kalluvazhichitta of Kathakali, the goddess of Thirumandhamkunnu as the family deity, family-temple festival hailed as Thalapoli and so on.

While referring to the historic existence of the Mana, the author notes that its patriarchs were pro-Valluvakonathiri and anti-Zamorin resulting in the rejection of Krishnanattam and the heart-felt acceptance of Kathakali. This is interesting in the light of the reading of art historian K.P.S. Menon, that one of the reasons why Kathakali did not flourish in and around Kozhikode is due to Manaveda’s apathy towards it in his zest for promoting Krishnanattam for which he had written the play ‘Krishnageethi’.

Narayanan Namboodiripad is renowned for his translation of the Rig Veda based on the interpretation of the same by Sayana. The translation in eight volumes, Vedarashmikal, is his monumental work. Vijayakrishnan has devoted a full chapter for upholding the Vedic tradition of the Mana highlighting O.M.C. The chapter on the ‘literary tradition’ of the Mana is comparatively well written. Since Vijayakrishnan is more conversant with Malayalam language and literature, he appraises the poetic insights of Olappamanna by citing several poems from a vast collection. The references to Utakudom and Dahanam Pathanam are most befitting. O.M. Anujan, poet and scholar, and Sumangala, the children’s story writer are also briefly evaluated here through their published works and cultural concerns.

The border between history and hagiography becomes thin if one does not make an attempt at critically analysing the subject at hand.

While dealing with the two chapters – Namboodiri Renaissance and Social Works–the author’s incertitude is sporadically revealed. Repetition of lines and an abrupt shift from one topic to the other is something the author could have avoided by means of meticulous editing. And he, at times, quotes poorvapaksha (anticipated counter-arguments) and terms those as ‘unworthy’ in order to safeguard the protagonists in the book.

In the closing chapter of the book, the family-tree of Olappamanna Mana is detailed sans lapses. It is a bit tiresome to read the whole though there are a few lines in it that touch upon the stark realities the family has had to face with the passage of time. In the appendix, O.M. Anujan candidly portrays an unadorned history of his family in few words. All said and done, the book underlines the place of Olappamanna Mana in the cultural and artistic map of Kerala. Artiste Namboodiri’s expressive illustrations as well as the black and white pictures lent charm to the content of the book.

Olappamanna Mana

Dr N. P. Vijayakrishnan

Devi Prasadam Trust

Rs. 200

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 5:26:56 PM |

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