The Tulu Brahmins – Limelight on The beginnings
– Abhijith R. Shastry,
There are numerous controversial stories that spell the tale of Brahmin inhabitants in the Malabar region of Southern coast of India (Kerala). The present day Karnataka coast was also a part of this region in the history. However, this belt of land was a bit different from that of the Kerala coast, due to the language of its inhabitants, Tulu. The region was hence called, the Tulunaadu.
But when did the Tulunaadu come into existence? When did Brahminism come to existence in this region? Why are the Brahmins of this region important to the cultural history of South-India? There would be appropriate answers to all these questions, somewhere in this planet, but I have got some approximate answers. Thanks to the preservation of historic tales of various temples of the region, I could conclude on a few things about the questions above.
There is an astonishing ‘Purana’ behind the flourishing of Brahminism of this region, which is closely related to a famous ancient temple in the town of Thiruvalla, in Kerala. The temple is none other than, the Srivallabha Sudarshanamurthy Temple, attributed to Lord Vishnu. This temple is one of the largest in South India, covering 8.5 acres of land boxed up with 12 foot high walls built during B.C. 57 approx. (2050 years ago). There are many unique customs in this temple, whose uniqueness is described as below (Ref: Wikipedia)
“Vishnu at Srivallabha Temple is being worshipped his cosmic, original and transcendental form, Purusha which can be understood from –
- Using different Moola Manthra (fundamental hymn) for different aspects of Purusha contrary to the strict usage of only a single fundamental hymn in all temples,
- Sanctum-sanctorum is built in such a way that the top and bottom of the deity can’t be seen as Viratpurusha has no origin and end,
- Peetha Pooja which is mandatory in all Vaidika temples is not done here as Purusha is devoid of origin and end,
- Dressing up the deity only with white or saffron clothes contrary to popular yellow clothing used for Vishnu temples of Vaidika Sampradaya which suggests the eternity of Purusha and,
- The rituals and customs followed in the temple include all Shaiva, Vaishnava and Shakteya worshipping that are now in practice in Vaidika Sampradaya because Purusha being the ultimate and others being only aspects of Purusha. Generally all Malabar temples follow Vaidika School of worship based on the book Tantrasamuchayam. But Srivallabha Temple doesn’t follow Tantrasamuchayam and follows its own School called ‘Pancharaathra Vidhaanam’.
The worship protocols were set by Durvasa Maharishi, when the Srivallabha Idol ascended to earth from the hands of Vishwakarma and Samudradeva during Dwapara Yuga. It is to be noted that the temple has never changed its worship protocols since 59 BC and it is doubtful that any other temple follows such an ancient system.”
With the above brief description of the Srivallabha temple, we can now get into the story of how this temple and its deity are connected to the existence of the Brahmin society in the Malabar and Tulunaad regions. The story of the Srivallabha idol being installed in this place is a really fascinating one, which would provide answers to questions mentioned above.
Purana: During the Kritha Yuga, Viratpurusha of Lord Vishnu appeared to Brahma during the process of ‘Srishti’. He understood the Lord as he could and later on continued worshipping Purusha in an idol created by Vishwakarma from energy concentrated out of extreme power and vehemence of Purusha. This idol was then handed over by Brahma to Samudradeva (king of Oceans), to worship as per his protocols. The idol was worshipped by Sreedevi, Samudradeva’s daughter, to such an extent that Lord Vishnu promised to marry her and install her in his heart. This sacred idol is none other than the Srivallabha (Lakshmi’s Husband) idol. This idol was then gifted to Lord Krishna by Samudradeva during the Dwapara Yuga during the construction of the Dwaraka city. It was installed in the presence of Satyaki by Vedavyaasa, and Vishwakarma built a large temple for the same. But when Dwapara Yuga came to an end, the idol was handed over to Garuda by Satyaki, to hide it safe, for the humans in Kaliyuga to worship. Garuda went to Ramanaka Island and worshipped it there. When the time for Garuda to leave the earth reached, he had hidden the idol in the ‘Bhadra’ deep of ‘Netravathi River’ (in present day Dakshina Kannada Dist., Karnataka). It’s high time to understand the importance of Tulunaadu from this incident – for thousands of years the waters of Netravathi had protected the solemnest, foremost and the invincible form of Lord Vishnu created by Vishwakarma, worshipped by Parabrahma, Vedavyaasa, Samudradeva, Krishna, Durvasa and Sreedevi. Perhaps, the Srivallabha Idol is the first of its kind when it comes to Idol Worship in Hinduism…!!!!
History: Approximately, 5000 years ago (B.C. 2998), there were 3000 Brahmin families in a place called Mallikavanam (presently the town of Thiruvalla, Pattanamthitta District of Kerala. These Brahmins were stringent followers of Lord Vishnu and they had a very dedicated approach in following the Ekadashi Vratha. A prominent female in this society, named Sreedevi Antharjanam was also a stringent follower of the Ekadashi Vratha throughout her life. During her old age, she found it very difficult to follow the Vratha since the Brahmacharis, (to whom she had to perform Paada Pooja ceremony on the final day of Vratha) were then killed by a demon (man slaughterer/dacoit) called Thokalaasuran. No Brahmachari could either enter or leave Mallikavanam due to this demon. Hence, she cried in front of her idol of Vishnu requesting not to break her custom that she had been following from many years. Immediately a Brahmachari boy appeared in front of her house and Antharjanam became glad to see him and asked him to come after bath since she needed to complete rituals of Ekadashi. The boy silently went to the place of the demon and killed it using the Sudarshana Chakra. Antharjanam performed the rituals in harmony and paid respects to the Brahmachari. The residents of Mallikavanam were surprised to know how the demon was killed. Then the brahmachari removed his ‘Uthareeyam’ (dress covering his chest) showing his chest adorned with Sreevatsam and goddess Lakshmi residing there, for Antharjanam to be confirmed that he was lord Vishnu only and on showing his Vishwaroopam, Antharjanam along with her servant and servant’s son got salvation by merging with Him. This incident happened on ‘BC 2998’ and thereafter Mallikavanam became famous as Chakrapuram. As per Antharjanam’s wishes a temple was built for the Sudarshana Chakra in this place.
Around 2900 years after this incident, approx. B.C. 57, King Cheraman Perumal visited the temple and his wife Queen Cherumthevi expressed her wish to build a shrine for Vishnu also attached with it rebuilding the whole structure. They ordered a Vishnu’s idol from Tamilakam after the temple construction. One night the Queen had a dream in which Garuda disguised as a Brahmin informed her about Sreevallabha’s idol and asked to install it there. With the help of Tulu Brahmins, King Cheraman brought the idol to Chakrapuram from the Netravathi River Bank where Garuda had hidden it during the end of Dwapara Yuga. But during installation ceremony, the idol didn’t fit to its Peetham or seat, the priests felt something supernatural and everyone came out near Jalavannthy. Then they heard celestial instruments being played and chanting of Vedic hymns from inside. As they rushed and opened altar door, they saw the idol installed at right place with blazing light everywhere and a couple of bananas in an arecnut palm leaf in front of the idol. Two celestial beings came out of the sanctum-sanctorum and disappeared on eastern bank of Jalavanthy and they were Durvasa and Vedavyasa. The completion of the temple was then performed by the then Architectural Legend, Uliyannoor Perumthatchan. The Pooja Samskaaram was then assigned to the Tulu Brahmins who brought the idol to this place. The set of handful of such Brahmins have not left this place for generations, till now. These Brahmins have now converged into the Malayalam sect of Brahmins and do not speak Tulu anymore.
It is told that, the first of the priests who worshipped the Srivallabha Idol in the temple had their Mantra Upadesha from the sages Durvasa and Vedavyaasa, themselves.
[Ref. : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Vallabha_Temple; http://srivallabhatemple.org]
It is now evident that both the Tulu and Malabar Brahmins had their roots dating back to 3000 years (or more), contradicting to the Aryan history of migration to this region 2500 years ago.