Legendary thief now a deity at Kerala temple

The Hindu shrine in Pathanamthitta district is dedicated to Kayamkulam Kochunni. Photo: Leju Kamal

The Hindu shrine in Pathanamthitta district is dedicated to Kayamkulam Kochunni. Photo: Leju Kamal

The devout from various Central Travancore districts who make a beeline to this shrine seldom think of it as a part of a unique manifestation of religious harmony.

This shrine is dedicated to the 19th century Muslim brigand, Kayamkulam Kochunni, installed and venerated inside a popular Hindu temple, in Kerala’s highly literate Pathanamthitta district.

The shrine, drawing a significant crowd of the devout from neighbouring districts as well, is attached to the Edappara Maladevar Nada temple at Karamvely, near Kozhencherry. It is, perhaps, the only one of its kind in the country dedicated to a burglar’s spirit, Hindu or Muslim.

Kochunni lived in Central Travancore region of the erstwhile princely State of Travancore.

Generations had believed him to be a crafty but lovable highwayman who revelled in robbing the rich to help the poor – a full-blooded local Robinhood. Over the centuries, the legends about his exploits had become part of folklore in God’s own country.

Finally caught and incarcerated for his deeds, Kochunni died at the Poojapura jail in Thiruvanathapuram, in 1859.

Local villagers still maintain that Kochunni was a big-hearted giver. They like to believe that Kochunni used to go out of his way to help any needy man who went to him for financial help for a genuine need, like for marrying off daughters.

And so, Kochunni is up among the venerable pantheon of Hindu gods, and the temple holds monthly rituals (pooja) for him. A dedicated priest conducts the special, elaborate rituals.

The Kochunni Nada has a typical Muslim touch, with its tomb-like structure painted in green. The offerings the devout make for Kochunni are also unique. These include everything from candles and agarbathis, to betel leaves, pan, arecanuts and tobacco, right up to liquor and ganja (Marijuana).

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 1:28:34 am |