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The banyan tree

Sunday, October 23, 2016

FUTURE lies in the PAST

Wherever I go I’ll always be a Keralite and that's who I will always be. The influence your hometown and its culture and customs emboss on you would be unmistakable in any crowd. From the time immemorial, we kept a bit of weirdness in the way we live, the beliefs and customs we cultivated and the ideologies we followed and the ideals we loved. This 600kms long shoreline of Arabian Sea have stories to tell dating back up to 3000 B.C. Microlithic artifacts as old as 3000-4000 B.C has been unearthed at sites near Calicut(Kozhikkode), northern Kerala. At that time we have been doing trading with Indus Valley people and the rest of the world. We were the Spice Capital of the world.

When the time passed by, this small chunk of land spectated lots of changes. Buddhism came to Kerala around 260 B.C and it was there to stay for a long time. After that till 9-10th century A.D, Sangham literature and the great Sangham Poets influenced and inspired the soul and mind of people. At this time many travellers like Huan-Tsang(Chinese), Heppalus(Roman) visited Kerala thus initiating trade relationships. At the starting of the Christian era, Kerala has been ruled by Chera dynasty one of the most ancient dynasties of India. From that time onwards Kerala tolerated a mix of religions like Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. It is believed that in A.D 52 St. Thomas himself landed in Kerala at Crangannore and preached Christianity here. The Jews were given refuge here when they were made to run for their life by the Romans, by destroying the Jerusalem temple. Islam reached Kerala sailing through the Seas, from Arabia in the form of merchants around the 7th century A.D. Some of them chose to settle here and thus introducing a new form of faith to this land. The Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kodungallur, is believed to be the very first Mosque built in India. In a version of the story, Cheraman Perumal who was the first Muslim ruler and the last of Chera Kings was believed to be converted to Islam and pilgrimaged to Mecca. Thus when the rest of India looked Islam with scepticism as Islam’s introduction to them were a bit dramatic and aggressive through wars, Kerala’s perspective were a bit different. This tiny elongated snake guard shaped piece of land at the southern tip of Indian sub-continent became a blender for various religious belief from all around the world and cultivated a new version of the multicultural society of its own.

In India, nationalist movements gained momentum under the strong leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. At this time many social movements against the supremacy of upper class were fought under the leadership of social reformers like Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamikal etc. After Independence, when Congress under Nehru, became the common political ideology throughout India, Kerala started to shift its colour from white to red by accepting Marxism as its leading ideology along with other states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Thus after San Marino, It is here in Kerala in 1957, where a communist party has voted to power through election. Marxists or Congress,Keralites are basically socialists in nature, might be a cultural inheritance happened after years of cultural blendings occurred throughout the land.
Even our religious festivals and celebrations have this socialist approach. Kerala’s main festivals are Onam(state festival), Christmas, Ramzan and Vishu. All these festivals are so localised that all people end up participating in every religion’s festival. Onam is Kerala’s state festival, even though it’s customs are Hindu in nature because of the time it was started to celebrate, the festival is celebrated to commemorate the return of a mythological King named “Mahabali’, to see his subjects, who has happened to be procrastinated to the underworld by the Hindu god Vishnu, during his “Vamana” avatar. The region always tolerated foreigners and their customs. It always made adjustment in its culture to make space for everyone. Differences bring colour and life in as ociety.

If you put the land and its past under a lens then it will start to reveal itself that Kerala society have always undergone swift changes without loosing the hold on their social values which created a social morality in which tolerance plays a pivotal role. But things are changing slowly. Kerala was never stubborn against changes, it's just that we accepted and perceived it in a different way. Change is inevitable, it all depend on how we want to take it, whether it is on changing cultural or religious flavours. If we want to go with the crowd without scrutinising, then we are lost. We have hundreds of years of legacy to uphold, who have lived before us. Whether we live up to the mark or not, only time will tell.