Her mesmerising, expressive eyes turned ferocious as she vividly translated injustice happening to women and social inequalities into a language of hand gestures (mudras), eye movements and emotions. It was more than a mere substitute to the language of words we speak; the raw outpour of emotion tugs on your heart. Just when I was about to tear up, she shifted to expressing how women are also worshiped as a Goddess/Devi (which coincidentally happens to be her name). Kathakali is an ancient art form- half mime and half drama. It is more than just a traditional dance form, it’s a way to bring social issues, challenging circumstances, human values, spirituality and history to light on stage. Kathakali plays are windows into the artist’s soul.
I was at the late Shri Raman Kutty’s home, visiting the family who are the only people who make Kathakali costumes, along with Devi and her crew. “It takes more than a month to make one Kathakali headpiece”, said the principal of the neighbourhood school who came over to translate for me. ”This panchayat has more than 70-80 renowned and aspiring artists. The roots of learning this dance form go way back to Olappamanna mana and the ancestors of your host family, who used to run a dance school (kaliyogam)”, he said.
Olappamanna mana is a 500-year-old feudal home with a golden history. An year ago I learned of this place when I stumbled across a 1988 edition NatGeo magazine with an article about it. A few days ago, I again happened to read about it again via Neelima valangi. I considered it a sign from the universe and made my way to the sleepy village of Vellinezhi in Palakkad district, Kerala.
The now silent and quaint premises of Olappamanna mana were once very lively with ever-ongoing rituals, Kathakali artists practicing the dance form, Carnatic music students practicing ragas with their gurus, and craftsmen learning different kinds of art forms in the family run school – Kaliyogam. The area flourished with scholars, poets, and social reformers.
After the feudal traditions came to an end post-independence, the Olappamanna family could no longer be the trustees of the dance school and it eventually closed up. In 2006, the late Mr. Damodaran and his wife Sridevi chose to convert one of the buildings into a homestay. What surprised me was that though the buildings were hundreds of years old, there is no sign of dilapidation. The heritage opulence is still intact.
The Nila river silently flows across the Vellinezhi village and legend says that Nila blesses the people with creativity and passion. I can see the truth in the saying- people here learn art not just to make a living, but they make art a part of their lifestyle, to keep it alive and to continue the legacy. This may have influenced my decision to spend time by the Nila river, letting the gentle waves sway my feet while I plead the river to accept me as its own and bless me with creative powers 😉
”It’s already a blessing to witness Authentic cultural experiences like this in the age of Staged culture”
Things to do In and Around Olappamanna mana
Olappamanna mana is a destination in itself. The old ancestral building has interesting stories, wonderful architecture, and artifacts. The hosts are humble, friendly and respectful towards everyone. Navneeth (host) patiently shows around his ancestral home and re-visits his profound childhood memories.
Sit by the Nila river, visit the Kali Kadavu, and climb up the cliff to get panoramic views of the vegetation around the Nila (5 km from the Mana, the hosts can help you with the directions)
Meet the artists of Vellinezhi and its surroundings
Kathakali costume makers:
Less than a km from Olappamana mana is Kopu Nirmanam center and the residence of late Shri Raman Kutty’s family, who are the sole makers of Kathakali costumes. It’s an interesting place to see different types of Kathakali headgears, to know elements and the intricate details of the costumes and to the hear stories of their past generations.
The Adakkaputhur kannadi (metal mirror):
Nope its not a regular mirror. The Adakkapathur kannadi is Krishnakumar’s family trade secret. It takes relentless hours of hard work around special metallurgy techniques to make one mirror. Krishna Kumar is as of now the sole practitioner of this art and the only person who makes handmade metal mirrors in the world. ”Unlike the normal glass mirrors there is no secondary reflection in my metal mirror and it’s considered very auspicious to use this mirror in rituals and weddings” said Krishna Kumar.
His son wants to pursue engineering and is not interested to take the family legacy forward. He’s now willing to pass the family secret to anyone sincerely interested and dedicated but given the hard work and monotony this generation is not interested he complained, there is not much money either he added.
When I asked him what keeps him motivated he says its the recognition. ”You came to Adakkapathur to visit my house while there are more than 500 houses in my neighborhood. I feel very proud when writers, historians, researchers, artists, well-read people from all over the world come to my place to know my story and see my mirrors. That’s what keeps me motivated” he said 🙂
The weaving street of Karimpuzha (near Dakshina Ayodhya):
The heartbreaking fact is that 90% of the handloom labeled sarees/fabrics in the stores are not handloom. Unless you buy from a verified source.
In karimpuzha, weaving street pure cotton sarees are weaved at the artisan’s homes.
I buy fewer fabrics and wear it for a long long time and choose very consciously and ethically. When I know that the money I am paying is going directly to the weaver’s hands then its a good buy according to me 🙂 Handloom is a little expensive but the hand weaved fabrics have life in it.
Silent valley national park:
I don’t have adjectives to describe this place. But am still attempting to without any adjectives. Here you go!
Nilgiris mountains, tropical evergreen rain forest, Unesco recognized nature wonder, Hanging bridge across the Kunti river that flows inside the national park, open grasslands, 130+ species of birds, 30+species of mammals (a lot of elephants), a thousand varieties of flowers including rare orchids, and a hundred other indigenous flora and fauna.
It’s about 60kms for the mana (house)
The below list is curated by Olappamanna mana
Kalpathy Radhotsavam(42Km away) – Falls between 14th November and 17th November, every year
Kanthallur Utsavam (500Mtrs Away) – Falls between November 15th and December 15th, every year.
Puthanalikkal Makarachovva( 6Km away) – Falls between 15th January and 22nd January, every year
Olappamanna Mana Kalam Pattu (0Km away) – Starts on 15th January and ends on last Sunday of February, every year
Pariyanampatta Pooram (10KM away) – Falls between February 13th and March 15th, every year
Chinakkathur Pooram (25km away) – Falls between February 13th and March 15th, every year
Ayyappankavu Utsavam(7km away) – Falls between February 13th and March 15th, every year
Olappamanna Mana Thalappoli (0 Km away) – Falls on last Sunday of February, every year
I couldn’t go there but heard great things about the velvet green mountains, the breathtaking views, tea gardens, and the hiking trails. It’s about 100kms from Olappamanna mana
Getting there: The nearest Airports are Kozhikode and Coimbatore. The nearest railway station is Shornur. Kerala has decent public transportation. Cherpulacherry is the nearest town…from there one can reach Olappamanna mana, Vellinezhi either by a connecting bus or an auto-rickshaw.
Getting In and Around: Again the public transport is great! The hosts can also connect you with the local taxi/auto drivers.
Climate: It’s a tropical area and is warm throughout the year. It cools off a bit during the monsoon season however it’s humid all year round, so carry your cotton clothes and an umbrella.
Food: Olappamanna mana is food heaven. The host Sridevi curates a selection of delicious and traditional Kerala food. One of my fondest memories was discussing the elements of every dish and its specialty over the dinner table and with her 🙂
Ps: I overate almost every day.
This is Kerala at its best! There is a lot waiting to be explored. Palakkad district is off the radar when it comes to tourism in Kerala but it has untouched nature, offbeat expereinces, rich culture and a glorious history.
Categories : Offbeat Kerala travel, Things to do in Kerala away from the tourist crowds, Pallakad travel stories, Kathakali in kerala
Website: Olappamanna Mana