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Saturday, February 8, 2014

WOMEN OF KERALA: BY MOLLY VARGHESE PAZHANCHIRA

( We are truly lucky to have many eminent...talented...writers like Molly Varghese Pazhanchira who contribute the best articles, stories and Poems . This publication is always looking for new subjects also and following article is an excellent one. Here we have a very important and wide subject"Women Of Kerala" which is written by our Molly Varghese Pazhanchira after a lot of research, studies and also based on some personal experience. It is a very educative and valuable article with a lot of interesting information and we are hopeful that our respected readers will enjoy and appreciate it ) New World

W O M E N O F K E R ALA
(Molly Varghese, Freehold, NJ)

“Kudamulla poovinum Malayalippenninum udukkaan vella pudava……”
Keralite/Malayali women are always compared to the mullappookkal (jasmine flowers). The white color and the wonderful fragrance of the Jasmine flower symbolizes the purity, dedication and selflessness a Keralite woman possesses. Malayali women are hardworking, sacrifice their own pleasure for the benefits of others whom she loves or cares about. She struggles through her duties and responsibilities contributing to the family income by working outside the house, in the field or an office or by collecting eggs and vegetables and selling them. She performs her duties as a mother, wife, servant, big sister, good friend and neighbor. After all that, she finds time to help others. A very special characteristic of the Malayali woman is that she always keeps extra food in her house and is ready to feed any unexpected/unannounced visitors. She never expects any appreciation or reward. Kerala women are praised by many travelers who visited Kerala in ancient times, such as Huan-Tsang, Marco Polo etc. in their records. Ibn Bathootha is one of those travelers who wrote elaborately about the women of Maliankara (land of hills and valleys) in his journals and also about the ‘rope tricks of Kerala’.

At one time, women of European countries had chastity belts put on and locked by their men, as they went away on tours. Where as, Keralite (Indian) women wore their charithrya shuddhi (virginity) and pathivrathya (chastity) as a sacred ornament. They even used that purity as a weapon to fight or curse the evils off and even against Gods to save their mates (Savithri & Sathyavaan).

From research, we learn that, in the period towards the end of the B.Cs and in the beginning of the Christian Era, main religions of Kerala were a kind of Dravidianism, Buddhism and Jainism. May be by the influence of these religions, we inherited the non-violent, peaceful and harmonious attitude and tolerance in to our culture. During this period, the Kaadars, the Thodars , the Nairs, etc. were the local people and some Brahmin families also were present in Kerala. Gondaphorus was a Keralite king of this time who ruled from Kerala to Kashmir.

As ancient Kerala had trade relations with phinitians, Arabs, Jews, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, etc. Many foreigners migrated to Kerala. Unlike the rulers of Gujarath and other parts of India, the people of Kerala and their rulers accepted those immigrants unconditionally with open arms. There was a large settlement of Jews in Kerala since the 3rd century B.C. We had a Roman warehouse in Kochi. Our legends tell us that St. Thomas, the Apostle reached Mussiris (Kodungalloor) by 52 A.D. and that he was assassinated in A.D. 72 in Madras. According to our belief, families of a lot of Jews, local people, some Brahmins and the king Gondaphorus became Christians.

In the 6th- 7th century, there was an influx of Brahmin families to Kerala. By their contributions and the work of Kaladi Sree Shankaraacharyar, Hinduism became a dominant religion in Kerala too. With that caste system came into practice. Prominent communities like Kadars and Thodars became low casts. Women lost their status in the society. As Islam came in, a lot of people converted to be Muslims to get away from the caste system.

Still, the women were always very active and well respected in the Kerala society. Marumakkathaayam (Matriarchal system) used to be the way in many communities. Family names, wealth and even the crowns were carried on through the women of the families. Women could learn in the gurukulam (school in the teachers’ homes) academically as well as kalaripayattu ( today’s karate).

Kerala women were quite brave and gutsy at all times through out our history. Unniyarcha, a Nair woman, fought against evil men to protect women and gained a place in our history. The bravery of the Pulayathi, who cut her breast and gave it to the tax collector, who came to collect the ‘mulakkaram’ ( yes, there was a tax for big breasts in Kerala at a time!) is praiseworthy.

In the present times, Malayali women go out and work in the fields, offices and also go abroad to earn and help in the family income. It will be true if I say that the present economy of Kerala is achieved because of the help of many Malayali women. It is appropriate to say that the Malayali communities (their organizations, churches, etc.) in other countries (like the U.S) are also supported mainly by their women. There are many prominent women as poets, writers, community leaders and political activists in the recent past and at present in Kerala as well as abroad. Balamaniamma, Madhavikutty(Kamala), Nirmala (Torento, Canada), Elsie Yohannan Shankarathil (NY), Rosamma Chacko, Aisha Bivi, K.R.Gauri, Merci Ravi, Sugatha Kumari, etc. are some of those who achieved immortality in the Malayali history.

The Malayali woman is unique in her own way, wherever she is. She is Parvathi when it comes to her children or her people. She tries to protect them as a mother hen will, when her chicks are attacked by the hawks (parundu). She is a Sathi to protect her husband’s reputation and pride even if she has to go through physical and mental pain every day of her life. (Remember Mrs. Mathews of NY?) She is Radha when it comes to romance with her husband. Keralite women are very fond of arts and crafts. If they cannot achieve that ability, they try to give their children a chance to learn some kind of art. Doesn’t that remind us of Saraswathi? The Malayali woman is the Lakshmi of her family in every sense of the word. She is the Durga, who bears the bulk of the works inside and outside of her home, rearing and taking care of her children and husband, carries all the stress and worries of her family, friends and relatives, fights for fairness and justice whenever she finds the need, and still find time to help others. Most of the Malayali men will admit that they have seen Bhadra kaali at one time or other in their lives!!
I wonder, if all these Goddesses, Sathi, Parvathi, Radha, Durga, Kaali, Saraswathi and Lakshmi are the concept of different characteristics of the Dravidian ‘Mother Goddess”. Or, are they the different personalities of A Malayali woman?!!

A real leader serves others sincerely and unconditionally. The Malayali woman is the leader of her family as well as her community, as she enjoys serving them in which ever way she can. She should never be kept under the feet and she does not wish to be kept on a pedestal or on top of the head. But her place is not just the kitchen either. She should be kept in a place where she deserves to be.

1 comment:

raji1022 said...

Very interesting! Keep writing.