Monday, March 10, 2008

2. Chalussery Community-based Field-study Reports

The three- day Community Living Camp of the academic year 2007-08 of Govt. College of Teacher Education, Calicut, was held in February [13th to 15th] at Chalussery, Thrithala, Palakkad district, Kerala State. The main theme of the camp was ‘Education and Social Change’. One of the objectives of the camp was “to enquire the legacy of a community- its cultural, social, scientific, educational and environmental aspects. Given below is a report submitted by the English optional students after their field study . The five areas of study for which reports were submitted are :

1. Colony Settlement
2. Environmental issues related to Nila
3. Pakkanar Family
4. Nattarivukal and Medication
5. Ayurveda : A Way of Life

The names of the trainees who took part in the field study and contributed to the writing of the report follows each topic

Ps. The reports were submitted as assignments. On receiving the assignments, I corrected them and made slight changes to make it readable for a global audience.

1. Colony Settlement

Colonies are a common phenomena through out the world. Each colony is distinct in its own ways. This distinction comes from the unique life style of the people. There has been a number of studies carried out in this field.

A detailed study conducted in two colonies, Koolath Colony and Kunnatheri colony at Chalisseri in Palakkad district brought forth valuable information about colony settlements.

These colonies together comprise 42 houses, which are roofed with tiles. Some of them are thatched too. All the houses are electrified. In addition to that they have water, telephone and transport facilities. They are acutely conscious of maintaining a clean environment . The Panchyat authorities and some clubs functioning within the colony, work hand in hand for the progress of the colony.

Educational background
The old generation residing in the colony are illiterate but are eager to give the new generation what they have missed out in life. Hence education for the new generation is a top priority for the elders. One of the clubs named ‘Punchiri’ conducts coaching classes for colony members, for various Public examinations. A number of them get through these exams. There is an ‘Anganvadi’ running in the colony which attends to matters of health and pre-schooling education of children of the colony .

Economic status
Economically, the families are not well off and is mostly below average. Most of the people are coolies or daily wage workers. Some women of the colony work in small scale industries. Private vehicles and fashionable life style is simply beyond their reach..

Health condition
The health condition of the colonists is satisfactory even though the houses are placed closely. Their attention to cleanliness have s kept them free from epidemics. Hospitals are not located near .But medical camps are conducted periodically under the leadership of various clubs.

Social customs
No special customs are observed in these colonies except Samadhi. Samadhi is burying the dead bodies in the yard itself. They set up a monument on the burial ground and every evening they light lamps near the monument.

Life Style
They lead a simple life, people believing in different religious faiths live together harmoniously. There appeared a healthy cooperation between neighbours.

Their life is a typical example of simplicity and secularism. They make us think that in this competitive world, there are some others who lead calm and satisfying life despite many . Besides the acute consciousness about cleanliness , there is quite a lit of things that city dwellers can learn from them .If there is one lesson we can learn from them it is this : ‘unity is strength’.
[Submitted by Ameer Ali, Roshin Mathew & Shameera K.M]

2. Environmental issues related to Nila

Where is the Nila that gushed along its path in its full glory and power?What happened to Nila , the cradle of cultures, the reservoir from which writers drew inspiration? What led to the ‘near-death’ state of Nila and what are its after effects- that was our mission when we set out to the banks of the once longest river in Kerala.

One glance at the docile body of water not even capable of flowing properly told us the sweeping , swirling Nila has become a thing of the past-immortalized in some old Malayalam films. As we let our eyes span the river we saw a well-like structure leaning precariously to one side. We were told that the well was constructed as a Pump House and that the well started leaning as a result of sand mining which was rampant in that area.

In the opinion of the local people, the demise of Nila started with the construction of Malampuzha dam, which resulted in the depositing of vast amounts of silt on the banks of Nila. Soon disappeared the vast banks which were glorious stretches of pristine white sand. Instead, the banks were filled with needle like thick shrubs. Gone were the playgrounds, the meeting place of friends… While this affected the strength of bonds between the people, a much more serious issue was looming up viz; water scarcity, a thing unheard of in the past.

Where as Nila flooded the roads during the rainy season before, even the heaviest of monsoon now fails to quench the thirst of Nila herself, let alone wet her banks. Wells dry up and people run about for water by the middle of February just as summer sets in . The people who came to talk to us kept looking at Nila with nostalgia in their eyes and we could almost feel their grief.

Sand mining, a necessary evil as described by the elderly people whom we met, has been gnawing at the very soul of Nila. The banks of Nila disappear faster than ever and Nila is sinking deeper and deeper as if it is trying to move as far away from the lives of people as possible. This changed the bio-diversity of Nila and the surroundings. Earlier there were many varieties of migrating birds during the season, but now they see only cranes .Fish wealth has also decreased drastically.

The people seemed resigned to the evils of sand mining which, prompted us to ask about laws against it. We learned that ineffective laws and a strong mining mafia together with the support of a few locals who make a livelihood from this has made sand mining a necessary evil.

With the choice of the lesser evil heavy on our minds, we left the banks of Nila, a tigress trying hard to retain the vestiges of its old glory, refusing to succumb to the powers trying to destroy her.

[Submitted by Neetha, Sajna & Sindhu ]

3. Pakkanar Family

‘Parayi Petta Panthirukulam’ is one of the famous legends of Kerala. The story goes a Brahmin of the upper caste named Vararuchin married a a ‘paraya’(1) girl , panjami. Out of her husband’s compulsion, Panjami abandons their eleven children. Vaacuchi’s argument was that the children will be fed by the same God who has given mouth to them. The last child was mouthless and was idolized by his parents. That idol came to be know as Vayillakunnilappan. The abandoned children were Melathol Agnihothri, Perunthachan, Pakkanar, Pananar, Rajakan , Uppudootan, Vallon, Naranath Bhranthan, Akavoor Chathan, Vaduthala Nair and Karakkalamma. They were brought up by different people in different parts of Kerala.

Pakkanar lived at Eerathingal in Pallakkad district. Now seventeen families of Pakkanar’s descendants reside around Pakkanar Temple at Eerattingal. Though their traditional occupations were veterinary and sift plaiting, now only a very few old women are engaged in sift plaiting. As usual, the new generation is engaged in white collar jobs. The ‘mana’(2) of Melathol Agnihothri, the elder brother of panthirukulam is near pakkanar’s residence. The intimacy which existed in the past between the two families is seen to be ruptured.

“Pakkanar Thottam’ is a popular festival of panthirukulam(3) and it is celebrated in alternate years in the month of Kumbham.(February –March) All the descendants of panthrikulam except Vayillakunnilappan participate in this festival. Five performances known as ‘peedam’ are staged by the accompaniment of instruments like drum, horn etc. Only these art forms were present earlier. But today we have the modified form of pakkanar Thottam including drama, concert and elephant show. The festival is now deeed to be a part of the cultural heritage of Kerala
We found that all arrangements have been done for celebrating Pakkaner Thottam commencing on 4th April 2008. Its expense is roughly Rs.2 lakh, and this expense is met from the income of Pakkanar Temple.
(1) Paraya: a lower caste
(2) Mana : former residence of upper castes
(3) Panthirukulam: family belonging to 12 members

[Submitted by Ayisha, Remadevi & Sangeetha]

4. Nattarivukal and Medication

When we consider ‘nattarivukal’ (1) and its convictions , it is believed that no plant in our premises is nugatory. Each and every plant is a herb and has got a medicinal value of its own. It thereby holds a very admirable position in our lives. Most of the chronic diseases, especially skin diseases can be cured by these local herbs. We can prepare ‘Kashayas’(2) and medicinal ghee out of its juices and extracts. In ancient times, we could procure herbs from forests but now the major problem we confront is the scarcity of herbs, for dense vegetation has vastly disappeared .

Some of the herbs found in our surroundings and its corresponding uses are listed below:

1. ‘Kattarvazha’ (Aloevera) can be sued as a good conditioner for hair and also as a pain killer.

2. ‘Somalatha’ an orchid like plant which uses little water, is very effective for skin diseases.

3. ‘Chittaratha’ (Alpinia Calcarata) is a good tranquilizer and earlier it was used in women’s post delivery treatments.

4. ‘Iruveli’ (Colius Vetiveroids) is good for fever.

5. ‘Adalodakam’ (Adathoda Vasica) can cure asthma.

6. ‘Chakkarakolli’ ( Jimnima Silvestra) can be useful for diabetic patients.

7. ‘Changalam paranda ‘ (Vitis Quadragularis) is good for bone and helps to rejoin broken bones.

Treatment based on ‘nattarivukal’ is now nearing its predicted end. It has many impediments in its path, like scarcity of herbs and lack of experts in the present generation. Allopathy has always turned its back on traditional treatments, christening it as unscientific. But if these extremities are brought under a scientific roof, it will bring about incredible revolutions in the field of Medicine.

(1) Nattarivukal: it is the knowledge that is transferred orally from one generation to another

(2) Kashaya : It is a medicinal syrup made out of herbal extracts

[Submitted by Ragini, Rakesh & Sreeja]

5. Ayurveda : A Way of Life

Ancient India had the blessed Vedas, and the present India gets rejuvenated by the spirit of the Vedas. Atharva Veda still makes its presence felt among the people in the form of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is the compendium of two terms ‘ayur’ and ‘veda , rightly meaning knowledge of life. Ayurvedic treatment had flourished since time immemorial in Kerala and so it is one of the well sought after destinations of people all over the world .Over the years Ayurveda has to gained an envious status mainly because its treatment goes in close amity with nature.

A few pioneers in ayurvedic treatment in Palakkad district in Kerala are CNS Ayurvedasala, Raja Health Acres and Vaidyamadom. They treat incurable diseases like Alzhemers, Cancer etc. C.N.S Ayurvedasala for instance is credited with having cured the deplorable condition of ‘pollunna Unnikal’ ( a diseases which necessitates children to be soaked with water every hour owing to the failure of the functioning of sweat glands). Ancient Ayurvedic practitioners is believed to have performed complex surgeries too.

To keep pace with the changing scenario and for meet competition from other forms of treatment , most of the ayurvedic centres in Kerala offer treatments like Uzhichil Swedanam, Ksheerasanam, etc. Body massage is a common treatment common in all the ayurvedic clinics as it rejuvenates both body and mind. Most of the centres offer state of the art facilities . For instance Raja Health Acres comprises certain well furnished and air conditioned rooms something quite uncommon in normal ayurvedic clinics.

Treatment is based on place, time and state of the patient . Primal importance is given to body, mind and spirit respectively. Medicines are prepared strictly following the traditional prescriptions in ancient ayurvedic texts. Milk is called the nectar in ayurveda, as it is an essential ingredient of most medicines. Strict abstinence from eating certain food items is an inevitable part of the treatment.

In Kerala most of the hospitals have the facility to prepare and store medicines in underground cellars for years. And most of the hospitals, plant and tend the herbs they need in their own premises. Each hospital is credited with having state of the art libraries, where ancient and valuable books are preserved. In a way it is a traditionally followed treatment in which it is taught and transmitted from generation to generation.

It has been found that Ayurvedic treatment is unsuitable when the patient requires immediate attention owing to pain or discomfort . But the fact remains that Ayurveda is an appropriate treatment for the body and mind if given under the guidance of an adept doctor. Perhaps it greatest merit is that it can have no after effects as in allopathic medicines . This could be one reason why Ayurveda continues to be popular among many both in India and abroad.

[Submitted by Aiswarya, Roby, Samad & Vidya]

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