Lore and Legends of Kerala

Item Code: IDL190
Author: Kottarathil Sankunnis
Publisher: Oxford
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9780195698893
Pages: 204 (52 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5" X 6.6"
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Book Description
Back of the Book

….Collected with diligence narrated in style the abilities of a master story teller are one display.

Kesavan Veluthat Professor and Chairman Department of History mangalore University the richness and complexity of Kerala a choice selection of stories from Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala, the definitive resource of the myths and legends of Kerala published nearly a hundred years ago gives a glimpse of traditional Kerala society and culture.

Peopled by sorcerers spirits yakshis snakes and elephants the themes of tehse 48 stories translated by T.C Narayan are as varied as the characters that animate these pages. From the Majesty of temple elephants to the origins of the most important temples of Kerala form recounting the lives of warriors learned priests and accomplished artists to the exploits of the Robin Hood of Kerala Kayamkulam Kochuni the stories are a window to this multicultural society.

Including full page illustrations by leading Malayali illustrations C.N Karunakaran and Namboodiri, Lore & Legends of Kerala will appeal to young readers and also to general readers and tourists interested in Indian and culture.

The stories are fascinating and highly convincing by that I mean I can why people believed and loved such things …this is a new world for me and I loved being into it. Jonathan Mirsky noted China export and former East Asia editor The times.

About the Author

Kottarathil Sankunni (1855-1937) was Vasudavan Unni’s pern name. though Sankunni had no formal schooling, her was a scholar of Sanskrit classics and Ayurvedic treaties. He knew enough English to tutor many European missionaries in Malayalam which led to his appointment as the Malayalam munshi at MD Seminary School at Kottayam.

This was where he met Kandathil Varughese Mappilli who was the Manager of the school and who went on to become that Sankunni joined the newspaper as its first poetry editor.

Sankunni was a prolific writer who contributed to a variety of genres of literature. He wrote thirteen manipravalakrits translated three Sanskrit plays mythological stories some short stories and songs written for specific kinds of dances and performances like Kaikothikali, Kiliputtu, thullalpaattukkal, and vanchi paattukki and also contributed to prosody.

No poet was more recognized or rewarded than Kottarathil Sankunni by the royal houses of Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi as also by the British rulers of the time.


Kerala successfully branded as God own country draws huge numbers of foreign and Indian tourists. More than two lakhs nearly ten percent of foreign tourists who visits India every year make Kerala their destination. A larger number of domestic tourists are also said to visit Kerala. It is appropriate that Malayala Manorama should have decided to promote the wider propagation of at least a selection of the Aithihyamala stories and give the tourist something to take back as a valuable reminder of their Sojourn in God’s Own country”.

The credit for the birth and promotion of the Aithihyamala series should go to the founder of Malayala Manorama Kandathil Varughese Mappillai who encouraged Kottarathil Sankunni to compile his various articles into a series of books. The ready acceptance and enduring public interest in Aithihyamala are reflected in the number of edition published and copies printed since 1909 till as recently as 2003,

For many reasons the translation of a selection of stories from Kottarathill Sankunni’s Aithihyamala has been a rewarding and challenging task. I was never an ardent student of history. In fact in my younger days I viewed from them and discards the textbooks themselves. However there were two women who entered my life one by divine grace and the other by my distorted view of history did not become a dogma. It is a coincidence that I am now privileged to translate one of my few concessions to history –Aithihyamala and thereby hangs a tale.

My grandfather had a well stocked library of English Malayalam and Sanskrit books. In my childhood my mother herself one of the earliest women post graduates in Sanskrit from Kerala and Madras university read out from Aithihyamala the stories of miracles, Gods legendary persons and elephants as my sister and I listened open mouthed. Then came the time when I began to the read from the Aithihyamala as my mother listened. That was my entry into the world of Malayalam literature during the days when those brought up outside Kerala and influenced by teachers form the West considered it fashionable to display a deliberate inability to read write or speak Malayalam. I was fortunate in that I was encouraged to do all three as well as read and write fortunate all of which I have nurtured over the years. Then I made a quick foray into teresting. It was perhaps my history textbooks in school and the compulsions of asking examinations that perverted my attitude history.

In later years another women entered my life and brought with her a passionate love for history. With a remarkable capacity for storage and ability to retrieve this women my life regaled me with stories of the courage of the Mewari principles the exciting escapades of the European royals and nobles or and tourist interest in India and outside occupied a part of every holiday itinerary and each visit was preceded by intense study. I soon learnt to show visible and audible signs of appreciation as we stood in front of monuments often badly maintained and months going down. I got over my dislike for history.

I have spent the last many months going through the arduous process of planning selecting structuring and translating many stories from Aithihyamala and I have done this willingly happily and with genuine interest. The full turn of the wheel has been rewarding and satisfying.

To revisit the persons the elephants and the temples and to fall under the spell of miracles and magic and relive my childhood days when I read and re-read Aithihyamala was fascinating experiences. However to try and reproduce the mystery the excitement and the thrills evoked in the original was testing challenge. Mere translation however faithful would not only have not conveyed these emotions but on other hand it would have rendered the product flat and soulless. I have drawn on all the linguistic resources that I have in order to reflect in English the distinctive flavour and the culture of the periods in which the stories originated. I hope that I have not been unjest to Kottarathil Sankunni and that I have adequately fulfill the aspirations of the publishers.

I wish to record my appreciation for the willing the splendid support the project has received from the Malayalam Manorama management with whom this project was launched. Shri K.C. Narayanan Editor in Charge Bhashaposhini In particular deserves this venture with his characteristic courtesy patience and professional wisdom.

Oxford university press which is now publishing this book has brought being a bit writer into writing a major endeavour such as this. She has always espoused the theory that translations rate the same as the original work as they have to bring in new skill and technology to sustain the original flavour of a particular culture in a new language which represents a different culture. Experience tells me that there is much truth in the theory. I was persuaded into translation work by mini at the most stressfull point of my and this new occupation has not only introduced me a new skill but has also often me a fresh aim In life.

My dear friend Mini Krishnan is the one person who steered from being a bit writer into writing a major endeavour such as this. She has always espoused the theory that translations rate the same as the original work, as they have to bring in new skill and technology to sustain the original flavour of a particular culture in a language which represents a different culture. Experience tells me that there is much truth in this theory. I was persuaded into translation work by mini at the most stressful point of my life and this new occupation has not only introduced me to a new skill but has also given me a fresh aim in life.

I cannot afford to forger Jayagovindan Meon who gave us much time, advising who play different roles that contribute to its eventual emergence as a complete product. In my case I have been supported by my major asset in life that I record their assistance and encouragement.

My constant unobtrusive friend Maya Jayapal herself a travel writer of no mean repute acted as my sounding board on man occasions when I chopped and changed the structure and content of my writing to arrive at an optimum level of satisfaction. Her frank and prompt response was invaluable.

My cousin and close friend, Ranjini Gopinath become a self appointed monitor of my project schedule which I took on while still bereft and dazed. She constantly repeated the Aithihyamala enthayi? Mantra (how is Aithihyamala going), coaxed, nagged and cheered me out of occasional bouts of hopelessness and purposelessness.

In an effort the structure, format and content of my work right from the foreign readers perspective, I sent samples of my translation to overseas friends, some of whom had not lived in India and has been taken into account in the final product.

I cannot but express my gratitude to the friends mentioned below who gave me their time and advice above and beyond the call of duty?: Sir Anthony Hayward former Chairman of the Shaw Wallace group my mentor and associate of many years in India and aboard now retired in the UK, and his family who have all looked upon India as their second home; Nikki Mohan travel writer and editor in Eaglemoss Publications in the UK Glenys Londala, much traveled formerly of the British High commission in New Delhi and now a senior corporate executive in the UK; Dr Jonathan Mirsky prolific writer noted china expert former China correspondent of The Observer and East Asia editor of The Times a former winner of Britian’s “International Journalist of the Year award and David Wolff who lives in Australia and is an India watcher.

I conclude with the hope that this book will truly serve its original purpose and carry the scent and flavour of Kerala beyond the broaden of the state and indeed of India.


Acknowledgements ix
Aithihyamala A Garland of Legends Xii
A Hindu Princess and her Islamic Dynasty 1
The Arithmetic of faith 6
From poverty to Royalty 10
Sanke power13
Born to Win 20
The Martial Arts Teacher 24
When the Rulers Spar 29
Cascade of Genius 32
The Tradition of the Magic Herb35
A wife’s Strategy 38
The Ant hill temple 43
Neelakantan of Panthalam 45
A Fiery penance 48
The power of mime54
God vs. God 57
A Kerala style Robin Hood 60
Fate Changed by Faith 63
The power of Simplicity 71
The Dilemma of Bigamy 73
A Foreigner’s faith 76
The Hill Temple of Kerala 80
Sanghakkali An Ancient Dance Form 83
The Chinese Jars and the Mango Pickle 93
Divine Protection, Divine Justice 97
The Mango of eternal life 103
The temple of the Snakes 106
Reading the future 110
The Raja’s Future 113
The Lake Temple 118
Thripunithura Festivals 122
A voice Muted by Pride125
The Kottarakkara Cow Shelter 128
A Brahmin in Muslim disguise 130
The power of Faith 134
The Origin of a great poet140
Gopalan the Chosen one 148
an ideal Wife 151
Kozhikode Market 154
The Spitting Habit 155
Loyalty is where power is 158
Devotion vs. Erudition 162
The Saint of Vilwamangalam 167
The priest of Katamattam 171
Two Royal Personalities 182
Through Faith to Fame 184
The Invisible family 188
Glossary 191
About the Author 193
About the Translator 194
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