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"Manthravaadam" (Conjuration / Sorcery)


Legend has it that after Sage Parasuraaman raised the land of Kerala from the Arabian sea, divided it into four "Thalis" and 64 "Graamams", and set up temples, he assigned six Namboothiri families including Kaattumaadam, Kalloor and Soorykaalady for treating the mentally deranged. The Sooktham : "Mananaal Thraayathe Ithi Manthram" connotes divine protection of the chanter and the persons for whom Manthram is chanted.

Among Braahmanans, only Namboothiris have taken up "Manthravadam" (sorcery) as a profession, with mainly "Bhadrakaali" as their traditional deity ("Adhidevatha"), while non-Braahmanans have "Chaathan", "Arukula", "Karinkutty" and other "Saaktheya Moorthys". Manthravaadam is not considered by the Namboothiri community as "Uthama-karmam" (spiritually elevating), and the performer is believed to get the curse of the evil spirits ridden or eliminated through the sorcery.

Manthravaadam may be classified into two types: "Sadmanthravaadam" (noble) and "Durmanthravaadam" (evil).


This traditional "Thanthri" family holds that position in several of Chirakkal Raja’s temples, like Cherukunnu, Katalaayi, Maataayikkaavu, Kalarivaathukkal and Vatakandam. They also hold "Ooraayma" of Pallikkunnu temple near Chirakkal, where their "Paradevatha", Durgaa-bhagavathy, is consecrated. Their ancestral home was near Kannur (present central jail site), but moved to a 5-acre land gifted by the British in Perumpadappu of Malappuram district, and later branched into two: Moothedath (elder) Kaattumaadam at Vanneri, and Elayedathu (younger) Kattumaadam near Thiruvegappura. The oldest member in each generation of Moothedathu Kaattumaadam is said to be the most powerful "Manthravaadi".

It was an early ancestral member and a practitioner of "Sree-vidya" who made Bhadrakaali as their "Prasannamoorthy", though their traditional Paradevatha (family deity) was Durga ("Vaishnavam"). This is peculiar to Kerala, as Durgas of the North are all "Saivam" (Bhadrakaali). Imbalance of mind is believed to result from imbalance (and displeasure) of Saiva- (Rajogunam), Vaishnava- (Sathwagunam), Saaktheya- (Thamo- gunam) Moorthys. It implies that relief is also found by balancing the three through meditation. While they perform "Thrikaalapooja" to goddess Durga, Kaattumaadam worships also Bhadrakaali, and even the tribal god, Chaathan, but done alone and in secrecy.

Kaattumaadam Namboodiris practice only Sadmanthravaadam. In order to reduce impact of the curse of freed evil spirits, Kaattumaadam spends half their "Prathipphalam" (earnings) for divine purposes and other half to alms and gifts. Children of the eldest do not survive in Moothedath Kaattumaadam Mana, perhaps due to the effects of the strong compensatory rituals.

Sources : 1. "Kaattumaadam Aithihyathil" - Article in "Vanneri Naadu" (Published by Sree Kaattumaadam Narayanan Shashtyabdapoorthy Smaaraka Samithy, March 1994)
2. "Relevance of Manthravaadam in the Treatment of Mental Disorders" - by Kaatumaadam Narayanan Namboodiripad


Originally, Kalloor Mana used to be located in Kottakkal (British Malabar), but owing to some minor differences with the Samoothiripad, they moved away to settle near Chenganamkunnu Bhagavathy temple close to Pattambi, and later when that also became unacceptable, they were taken to Tripunithura by the Maharaja of Kochi. The Chenganamkunnu temple and lands continue to be in their possession. Their "Paradevatha" is Durga, but their family Paradevatha is Chenganamkunnu Bhagavathy. There is a story behind this.

Once, pleased with the long and intense devotion of a Kalloor Namboodiri at Vadakkumnaatthan temple at Thrissur, Sivan’s consort, Sreeparvathy appeared and gave him a "Granttham" describing how "Bhagavathy-seva" is to be performed and containing some secret "Thanthrams". She also assured her divine presence in their family temple. Soon thereafter, a "Swayambhoo" idol rose from the ground in his Illam at Chenganamkunnu, and this Bhagavathy became their Paradevatha.

The Bhagavathy-seva they perform based on the divine Granttham is called "Valiya Bhagavathy-seva" (elaborate Bhagavathy-seva). All Kalloor Namboodiris after their "Samaavarthanam", do a one-year meditation in Thrissur Vadakkumnatthan temple, only after which they start learning Manthravaadam. They can invoke "Prathyankari", a fierce demigod ("Ugramoorthy") of Manthravaadam, once they offer "Nivedyam" to Chenganamkunnu Bhagavathy. However, their Valiya Bhagavathy-seva is itself enough to rid most evil spirits ("Baadha"). Although for generations, Kalloor Namboodiris have worked wonders in this field, the present-day environment is not conducive to the proper execution of Manthravaadam, taking longer periods and concentration. Some mental cases cannot be treated through Manthravaadam alone, in which case, certain herbal medicines were also administered.

Kalloor, like Kaattumaadam, practice only Sadmanthravaadam. Long ago, once one of them stepped on the idol of Chenganamkunnu Bhagavathy and was cursed that the second son of each generation will be afflicted with polio (limp). This has turned out to be true till the previous generation, but not yet in the present one.


According to an ancient "Granthham", "Kerala Maahaatmyam", in the chapter "Maanthrika Nayanam", Kaalakaatt Namboodiri was brought from Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu by Sage Parasuraaman. But it is another story that is locally popular.

One pious Kaalakaatt Namboodiri while returning from Kottiyur after prayers stopped at dusk for Sandhyaavandanam at Manathana Kundena temple. While bathing in the temple pond, he could recognize the young lady in the adjacent bay as Bhadrakaali. When she offered "Thaali" (herbal shampoo), but knowing that showing his head will be his end, told her that anything the divine Mother gives is "Amruthu" (nectar) for him, drank the Thaali. Kaali, being quite satisfied by the devotion, blessed and gave him a spear, a "Vaalkannaadi" and a crown ("Kireetam"). He consecrated the spear at Neeliyaar-kottam near Mangattuparamba of Kannur district, the Vaalkannaadi at Pulikkal-Raayara-mangalam, where tigers and cows graze together, and the crown in his own Illam.

This Illam was originally at Naarkkalam, 7 kilometers north of Kanhangad, later moved to Chandrol (Chandranelloor) in Peringom village, and thence to Perunthatta (Purakkunnu), about 20 km east of Payyannur, its present location.


Once, when there were no male successors, one Namboodiri performed a Yaagam in front of their Paradevatha - Chandranelloor Bhagavathy. From the fire ("Yaagaagni") rose a "Manthramoorthy", "Kuttissaasthan". There is a story that later, when a Kaalakaattu Namboodiri was returning from Kudagu (Coorg) after performing Thanthram in one of their several temples there (they are Thanthris in many North Malabar temples too), he was stopped at Irikkoor and ridiculed by local thugs. Grieving, he invoked Kuttissaasthan, who appeared and pushed them down into the mud in Irikkoor river - an anecdote recounted in "Thottampaattu" a local ballad.

Kakkara Bhagavathy

One of the Namboodiris was performing Pooja in the "Padinhaatti" (click) when his concentration was disturbed by the loud cries of his little son from the "Vadikkini". His shouts to his wife to stop the child from crying were heard instead by Kakkara Bhagavathy (of whom he was a devotee); the poor boy never cried thereafter! Furious that his dear son was no more, he picked up the idol of the Bhagavathy and threw it away. It fell into the river to the east. Poonthottathu Namboodiri, while bathing in the river, found and took the idol home, and consecrated it. Kakkarakavu Illam exists even now, and Kakkara Bhagavathy continues to be Poonthottathil Paradevatha.

The crown is indeed the main "Prathishttha" in Kaalakaatt Illam. Pooja is performed as if it is Durga, though it is actually Bhadrakaali. Their main "Upaasanaamoorthy" is, of course, Kuttissaasthan. Only on the first day of the 3-day annual "Utsavam" (festival) during Dhanu 26 - 28 (second week of December), Pooja and "Guruthi-tharpanam" are performed for Bhadrakaali. On the other days, "Theyyam" and "Thira" of the "Panchamoorthys", like "Bhairavan", are performed. But Kuttissaasthan Thira is the most prominent.


There is a story about how Thirumaandhhaamkunnu Bhagavathy temple in Angadipuram (Malappuram district) came into existence, and how this Illam got its name.

Seer Maandhhaathaavu Raajarishi performed long meditation at mount Kailaasam, where upon Lord Sivan appeared and gave him a "Sivalingam", which would satisfy the Rishi’s request and bring peace and prosperity to the suffering masses. The "Maharshi" travelled south till he finally found the scenic site at Angadipuram. The Sivalingam was consecrated there and a "Paksha-vratha Dhyaanam" performed, whereupon the spirits of Sivan and Parvathy entered and stayed in the idol.

Soon thereafter, two Brahmachaari Braahmanan boys who were brothers, accompanied by a "Soodran" boy, while travelling that way, heard the sound of conch ("Sankhu") [Biological name : Xancus] and smelt the fragrance of Pooja rituals. They found and paid obeisance to the Maharshi and his group, whereupon he entrusted the deity with them. Since they were brothers, he performed "Pulamuri" and separated them into two families. The Illams were named "Kaattilaamuttam" - since some forest ("Kaadu") was cleared for Pooja purposes and formed a yard ("Muttam") - and "Panthalakkottam" - where a shed ("Panthal") to protect from rain, and a fort ("Kotta") around it were built. They were both assigned as Thanthris and the Soodran boy as the "Sankhumaaraan" of the temple, and regular annual Utsavams were initiated. Kaattilaamuttam today is left with only an old Antharjanam.

Panthalakkottath Illam though originally did not possess any divine "Maanthrikasiddhi" used to rid evil spirits through "words" and "Yanthrams" (protective wear, "Deha-raksha"), by writing Bhagavathy’s "Moolamanthram", and "Bhagavathy-raksha", etc. It was only recently with the present-day Sankaran Namboodiri’s father, that the prescribed procedures of "Maanthrika-vidya" were learned, and started inscribing "Yanthravidhis", and performing "Vishnubali’, "Muttirakkal", etc. He had, inorder to satisfy his ego and for fame, performed some very drastic methods like chanting Manthrams and throwing "Bhasmam" (ash) on the afflicted person who will be seated on "Chakram" figures drawn also with Bhasmam. Canes and red-hot nails would be kept nearby. The noise of whipping on the floor and the sight of nailing on a wood ("Murukku") (coral tree) (Erythrina variegata) plank are believed to rid any evil spirit. Into a "Kaibali" made of plantain stem peels ("Vaazhappola") and coconut palm leaves ("Kuruthola"), the evil spirits would be coaxed through a lighted wick ("Thiri-uzhiyal"). Such freed spirits are often transferred and left under "Paala" (devil tree) (Alstonia solaris). Torches ("Pantham") are not lit since these are performed during daytime, and "Guruthy" is taboo for Angadipuram Bhagavathy. After the ridding process, if red or black water is demanded, only water purified with "Sankhu-theerthham" is offered.

People with mental disorders or fits, or afflicted with evil spirits used to be treated as in-patients, using special herbal hair oil, ghee, tablets and herbs. Astrological diagnosis and solutions to problems, and inscribed "Thakidu" to rid evil spirits, were also part of their treatment methods.

This particular Namboodiri has authored a few books - "Sthambhanam", "Bandhanam", "Vasyam", "Vaseekaranam", and "Aabhichaaram" are some of them. Three kinds of Maanthrika rituals - "Uthamam", "Madhyamam", and "Adhamam" - and over a hundred Yanthrams and their impacts are all described in these books. Yet, he believed that good results required the worship of the gods ("Daiveekopaasana") too.

Though it is said that members of this family are immune to poison, there is no history of their detoxifying anyone of snakebites.

| Article No:17 | Last update of this article:5th July 2008 |
Article by: P M Sankaran Namboodiri, Panthalakkottathu Mana, PO : Ongalloor - 679 313, Pattambi, Palakkad Dist. Phone - 0466-2233421

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