METRO PLUS

The saga of Oruvathil Kota

The Durga Devi Temple at Oruvathil Kota

The Durga Devi Temple at Oruvathil Kota  

IF YOU hope to find a fort or even the remnants of one in Oruvathil Kota (which means a fort with a single door), you will certainly be disappointed. Neither history nor archaeological evidence has been able to shed light on the place name and it continues to intrigue toponomists.

Location

Oruvathil Kota, located on the north-western periphery of the city, was once an isolated area, which could be approached only from Pettah via Kadakampally and Anayara. But the construction of two bridges (one connecting Veli to Oruvathil Kota and the other linking Kuzhivila to Oruvathil Kota) and the new by-pass connecting the National Highway has increased its accessibility greatly.

The of the Veli backwaters and the Aakulam lake form a natural boundary for Oruvathil Kota on the north and the northwest. The Uloor thodu, which joins the Aakulam lake at Oruvathil Kota, is to the east. The artificially created river, Parvathy Puthanar, which opens into the Veli kayal, demarcates the western boundary of Oruvathil Kota.

Before the construction of Parvathy Puthanar (undertaken during Colonel Munro's period), Oruvathil Kota was the quickest and nearest entry point for those who used the Veli waterway to reach Thiruvananthapuram from Varkala and Kollam.

But in those days, it also had a reputation as a place where people feared to linger even during daytime. Much of the area was thickly wooded and uninhabited, inspiring a lot of superstitions. Its close proximity to Pulayanar Kota, which lay beyond the Ulloor thodu and was also densely wooded, only added to Oruvathil Kota's reputation. Time has repaired all that and today, both these places are densely populated.

When Oruvathil Kota became habitable, many noble families belonging to the Ezhava and Nair communities settled here.

The aristocratic Thiruvattar Amma Veedu once had extensive lands in Oruvathil Kota. The old Nair houses of Oruvathil Kota include Thoppil Veedu, Chavadi Veedu and Mampazha Veedu, while the Ezhava families include Meda Vilakom, Kanjira Vilakom, Valiya Vilakom, Kunnathu Vilakom and Thannichaal Vilakom. Old timers would not have forgotten dancer Chandrasekharan and his sister, Saraswathi, who founded one of the earliest dance schools in the city. They belonged to Chavadi Veedu in Oruvathil Kota.

Temples

It is not sheer coincidence that there are several Bhagawati temples in and around Oruvathil Kota. Most of these shrines must once have been kavus. These simple temples enshrined the benign as well as the fearsome aspects of the Mother Goddess, worshipped variously as Durga, Kali and the different forms of Chamundi. Perhaps the oldest of these shrines is the Venpalavattom Bhagawati temple. The two shrines of this temple are situated on either side of the road that leads to Oruvathil Kota. The temple is managed by the Thannichaal and Valiya Vilakom families.

There are also more than a hundred Kudumbi families today in Oruvathil Kota. The ancestors of at least some of them are believed to have been immigrants from Alappuzha and thereabouts.

They may have settled here during the mid-19th century. They were mostly engaged in making pappadams and were also entrusted with the job of supplying beaten rice (aval) to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. They, too, have their own Durga temple at Oruvathil Kota.

In the 1920s, winds of social change also blew through Oruvathil Kota. A small primary school was set up for children of the backward communities here on land donated by a member of Thoppil Veedu and the initiative of other prominent people of the place.

The school, `Thoppinakom Pula Pallikoodam', was opened by none other than Ayyankali (1866-1941). To mark the occasion, a mishra-bhojana sadya was conducted on the school premises at the initiative of Meda Vilakom Neelakantan and Thundathil Velu Pillai. Members of the upper castes and the lower castes sitting down for a meal together was quite unthinkable in those days.

Modern influence

The lush stretches of paddy fields on the banks of Parvathy Puthanar in Oruvathil Kota have disappeared.

The fields have been reclaimed and coconut groves planted. This was necessitated due to the menace of a particular species of water weed (African Payal), which has choked many of our water bodies.

In the 1950s, the Oruvathil Kota Coir Society was set up and it proved to be a boon to women belonging to the weaker sections of the society. Today, the topography of Oruvathil Kota too has undergone a change.

A few relics of the old culture can still be seen in the retention of Padipuras (roofed gateways) and Kayalas (low mud walls capped with palm thatch). But, above everything else, the quaintness of the place name still continues to be a riddle.

M. G. SASIBHOOSHAN & BINDU SASIBHOOSHAN

Photo: S. Gopakumar

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