As the saying 'Better late than never' goes, the time has come to explore the route Lord Rama and his entourage followed in Kerala. Revival and rejuvenation of all spots related to Sri Rama in the state is the need of the hour. Making all these spots as centres for spreading the message of Sri Ram to the masses should acquire importance.
The 'Parashurama Kshetra' as Kerala is known from time immemorial, lying almost in the lap of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri) in the East and frequently patted by the waves of the Arabian sea in west, is a short and narrow stretch of land in the Indian peninsula. It carries a spiritual and virtuous history of traditions and heritage peculiar to Kerala. The long time memories of the past lies in hibernation in each grit of the soil here. It has become the duty and rather responsibility of each of us to unravel and introduce them to the present generation.
A glance across the state would reveal that at each place lively memories of the past events still remains in the minds and psyches of the masses. The aesthetic enjoyments shared by the festivities, artistic presentations and inherited expressions all reflect the vivacity of our rich culture.
Kerala has been witness to a number of historical events right from the ancient times and one among them was the travel across the state by Sri Ramachandra. The legendary spots reminisce the people of the everlasting memories of Sri Rama’s sojourn in Kerala during the Lord’s forest stay.
The role played by the Devotional (Bhakti) movement in Kerala’s renaissance is very important. Sri Rama hymns sung as 'Rama katha songs' have percolated in the psyches and minds of the people and that in turn has paved the way for emotional unity. Ramanattam, reciting of Rama hymns and Rama story-telling etc has shared earthly experience of spiritualism.
With a land area of 38,863 sq.km stretching 580 km in length and 30.130 km in breadth, the state forms only 1.2 per cent of the total area of India (3,287,263 sq. km). Three percent of the country's population inhabits this land of incredible scenic beauty with a history of spiritualism and social and religious renaissance. Social injustices, social in-equalities and the resultant vices that plagued the society have been removed to a great extent by the Bhakti movement which has united the masses on the basis of spiritualism.
The Land of Spiritualism
The state, according to legends, have been reclaimed by Parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu, from the Sea. And thus, the state’s creation itself is embedded in Spiritualism. Kerala’s presence in the Ramayana epic explicitly heralds the state’s strong spiritual and religious foundations. By giving birth to Adi Shankaracharya, the 8th century Indian philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of 'Advaita Vedanta', Kerala becomes one of the main centres of spiritualism in the Holy land Bharat. Adi Shankara is credited with unifying and establishing the main currents of thought in Hinduism.
At the same time many are not aware of Kerala's share in the Ramayana Epic. To the surprise of many Kerala has a number of places named after Sita and Sri Rama. They include places such as Ramapuram, Ramakkalmedu, and those like Seethathodu, Seethakuzhi, Seethamudi mala and Gurunadhan mannu etc., just a few to mention.
Then comes Sabari Ashram and Sabari Peedom, revered by millions of Hindus on the trekking path to the Holy shrine of Lord Ayyappa nestled high in the Sabari Mala in the forests of Kerala. According to the legend Sri Ram on his way to Sri Lanka trekked through this forest where Sabari was undergoing arduous and austere penance anticipating the arrival of Sri Rama to release the devotee from all her sins. Thus, goes the list of places relevant to Ramayana epic and Kerala. Before reaching Sabarimala forests, Sri Ram along with Lakshman, arrived at Jatayumangalam, in the Kollam district of the present day Kerala which also has a legacy to unfold.
A demi-god in the form of vulture, Jatayu was an old friend of king Dasharath, father of Lord Rama. Jatayu was the first person who tried to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana while he was taking her to Lanka. He fought valiantly with Ravana who had clipped his wings besides inflicting severe injuries. The injured Jatayu fell on the Jatayu para(rock) at Jatayumangalam and waited for the arrival of Sri Rama to pass on the information. Even as he was battling for his life, he managed to inform Lord Rama about Sita's abduction. Sensing that Jatayu won't survive, Lord Rama, a Vishnu incarnate, decided that Jatayu must attain salvation
Wayanadu district of the state also has a deep connection with Ramayana. Each of the many tribes in the region has its own unique beliefs pertaining to Ramayana. The Epic is said to be playing a big role in the belief systems across the different sects and classes of the Hindus here. The Valmiki Ashram and Lav-Kush temples in Wayanad are popular pilgrim centres.
The famous temples of Sri Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrugna in the Thrissur and Kottayam districts are major pilgrim centres and speak volumes about the Sri Rama Bhakti in Kerala. Elaborate description about the Holy river Pampa in the Ramayana also substantiates Sri Rama’s travel through Kerala.
Ramayana in Malayalam
The 14th century ‘Kannassa Ramayanam’ authored by Rama Panikker the youngest among the Kannassa Trio known as Niranam Poets, who lived between 1350 and 1450 C.E, revived the Bhakti school of literature and reasserted the seriousness of the poetic vocation.
'Adhyathma Ramayanam' by Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan (1495 – 1575), Malayalam devotional poet and linguist, known as the father of modern Malayalam language has spread Bhakti movement among Hindus across the state. There may be no households in Kerala which do not possess a copy of Ezhuthachan's 'Adhyathma Ramayanam'. It is recited daily during the rainy month of 'Karkitakam' (Mid July-mid-August) by the Hindu families without fail.
Another prominent medium that had cemented Sri Rama culture in the State is Ramanattam, a temple art of Kerala. The dance drama presents the story of Rama in a series of eight plays and was created under the patronage of Veera Kerala Varma (AD 1653-1694) alias Kottarakkara Thampuran.
Ramanattom is based on a story from the epic Ramayana, covering the incarnation of Rama to the Rama-Ravana War, Ravana's defeat and Rama's crowning at Ayodhya. Ramanattam is widely believed to be the immediate stem of the well known classical art form of Kerala, Kathakali.
Jatayu Rama Temple
As the saying 'Better late than never' goes, the time has come to explore the route Lord Rama and his entourage followed in Kerala. Revival and rejuvenation of all spots related to Sri Rama in the state is the need of the hour. Making all these spots as centres for spreading the message of Sri Ram to the masses should acquire importance. It is with this objective the Jatayu Rama Temple on the Jatayu rock is being constructed along with an international Sri Rama Cultural centre in the lap of the rock below the temple.
The Rama temple on the Jatayupara is constructed not because that there is any scarcity of Rama temples in the state. But because of the ideals for which Jatayu stood for, such as, the moral values of life, and the ideal worth following and the staunch devotion are the basis for raising a Rama temple here. Thus, it has to be developed as the main hub for percolating the message from the life of Sri Rama to the whole world and to spread the meaning of Rama Rajya. For achieving these objectives an action plan has been drawn up. The changing religious demography of the state also beacons the necessity to spread Sri Rama culture.
The state has, of late, been witnessing significant changes in its religious demography with a sharp decline in the population of the Indian Religionists. Such a scenario has emerged as a result of the high level of tolerance and hospitality (Atithi Devo Bhava) practiced by the Hindus as their culture. The demographic change has reached such an alarming stage that this phenomenon has deprived the Hindus of installing a statue of the Father of the Malayalam language, Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan even at his birth place in Tirur Town in Northern Kerala.
Jatayu had sacrificed his life for protecting the honour of Sita Devi. Jatayu through his martyrdom upheld the Bharateeya moral values of life that the pride and honor of women should be protected. The Hon’ble Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi invoking the mythological character Jatayu in his address at the Dussehra event in Lucknow in October 2016, told the huge gathering about the prevalence of terrorism in the ancient times and described Jatayu as the first to fight terror (read Ravana). Considering the great ideals upheld by Jatayu a social welfare centre to spread the message of his life is included as a component in the project.
The temple and the centre attaches utmost priority to women’s safety, empowerment and, therefore, it would become an integrated women’s welfare centre. In the present circumstances, given the ever increasing atrocities on women, the momentous attempt attracts contemporary relevance.
Protection of Nature
It was here, Mother Earth provided drinking water to Jatayu who had fought with Ravana to protect her daughter and thus, it points towards the need to protect the habitation and environment as it is of great importance. Thus, Jatayu turns out to be the custodian of water, earth and the birds.
At this juncture, when the rhythm of the nature has been disturbed by global warming and the climate change the ideals of compassion upheld by Jatayu become an emulating factor for the present generation. For which the Jatayu Rama temple must become an inspirational pilgrim centre.
Jatayu is a lofty example of staunch, selfless and sincere devotion (bhakti). Jatayu fought with Ravana with vigor, courage and valour to save Sita Devi from him. It was a selfless fight by a warrior. The greatness of Jatayu was that he took on Ravana for no personal gains and the sacrifice was merely for protecting the honour and pride of Sita Devi. Thus, he did it with complete surrender to the Lord and thus became a manifestation of selfless devotion.
While he was breathing his last, Jatayu did not place before Lord Rama any personal demand. And instead, he was talking about the essence of Vedanta and that is an important chapter in the Ramayaya as 'Jatayu Stuthi.' Propagation of this 'Stuthi' is also one of the main objectives of the Jatayu Temple.
International Sri Rama Cultural Centre
An International Sri Rama Cultural Centre (ISRCC) will be set up here aimed at providing a platform for conducting research, studies on propagating and conserving the ideals and ideas for which the Jatayu Ram temple stands for, apart from carrying out charitable activities
The centre will have divisions to cover the following spheres of activities:-
1. A 'Nirbhaya' centre for the protection and empowerment of women.
2. For the conservation of the Nature an Institute of Eco protection and sustainable development (Prakruti Samrakshana Susthira Vikasana Institute).
3. A Centre will also be in place for tracking the trekking path of Sri Rama through Kerala and the memorable spots related to Sri Rama’s visits besides carrying out studies and research of the subject. Based on the findings a 'Ramayana Circuit' will be drawn up for organizing pilgrimmage on the Ramayana path.
4. Prepare suitable projects for Reviving and Developing of all the memorable points related to Ramayana tales in the state.
5. Spreading of Ramayana philosophy by conducting four-temple visits and setting up of Ramayana learning centres besides creating awareness among the people.
6. Rama emotionalism is Kerala’s heritage. Its revival will strengthen the forces of Kerala’s renaissance. The main objective of the Jatayu Rama Temple and the International Sri Rama Cultural Centre is to make it possible to rebuild Kerala through the revival of its heritage.
For achieving the objectives enumerated above an integrated and time-bound action plan has been chalked out. Based on this a dedicated work plan has also been drawn up for implementation.
The vision that a new Kerala can be built by embarking upon developmental projects by enhancing an environment for a gainful materialistic life is not going to be in the right perspective. All the renaissance movements and social reforms launched by the sages like Chattampi Swamigal and Sri Narayana Guru, Ezhuthachan and many other preceptors were purely based on spiritual and moral ethics.
It was the Great Sri Sathyananda Saraswathi Swamigal who had, in fact, stirred Kerala and carried forward the renaissance efforts of the order of the Preceptors to the second half of the 20th Century without being outshone. Swamiji was in the fore-front of the agitation to liberate Ayodhya. He was a senior Sannyasi at the Kendriya Marga Darshak Mandal besides being the Madhadhipati of Sri Rama Dasa Ashram at Chenkottukonam in Thiruvananthapuram. He was the founder of Kerala Hindu Ikyavedi.
Swamiji has undertaken protracted and arduous penance near the 'Rama padham' (foot print of Sri Rama) for long at Jatayupara. After performing Sadhana and Upasana of Lord Sri Ram, Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi consecrated a 13-feet tall Sri Rama Idol on the Jatayu Rock on February 8, 1974.
The desire of the Swamiji that there should emerge a new generation which understands the Vision of Ramayana, is the inspirational source of flow for this great endeavour. Sri Parvati performed arduous penance by standing on one leg on a rock at Kannyakumari keeping her eyes at Kailas in the North. And, it was at this place Swami Vivekananda went into deep meditation and thus, it has become the Vivekananda Rock.
Sri Ramachandra has granted salvation to Jatayu by standing on one leg at Jatayu rock where at His foot print Swami Sathyananda Saraswati had gone into profound mediation and, thus, as the modern Vivekananda, he kindles in the minds of the masses in Kerala. The Jatayu Rama Temple and the Cultural Centre are the offerings before the splendid memories of the Swamiji who has been the driving force of the Hindu renaissance in Kerala.
Undoubtedly, building of a new Kerala would become possible by kindling the Rama emotionalism which has been the inspirational and motivating force that has been instrumental in the social transformation of Kerala completely and thoroughly. Revival of the heritage is the path to renaissance. And hence, Rama’s path of consciousness and moral ethics are inevitable for Kerala’s liberation.
- Kummanam Rajashekharan