Posted by Maddy Labels: , , ,

The legend of the Zamorin’s sacred anklet, a mystery

A popular legend stated that the powers of the Zamorin were attributed to the blessing he received from the goddess of Thiruvalayanad and specifically the bangle/anklet or anklet he obtained from the Devi, which the family treasured and worshipped since that event dating back to the 13th or 14th century. Since then, the Valayanad Devi has been the family deity of the Zamorin (the only female among the 12 family deities). And of course, the loss of that ornament when it happened, was considered to be the worst of omens, of terrible times ahead, and as prophesied, spelled disaster and the decline of the dynasty. The legend is the tale of a betrayal, quite an enthralling story.

Tradition associates the erection of the Sri-Valayanad temple at Calicut with the Tirunavaya Valluvanad wars. The Zamorin was initially not successful in his efforts in subduing the valiant Velathiri. His soldiers narrated that at the critical moment of the battle, the Tirumanthankunnath Bhagavathi (Bhadrakali, Adiparasakthi or Parvathi), the household deity of Arangot, descended in their midst in the shape of a frightful demoness, smiting them with terror and dismay. As KVK ayyar says - The Zamorin at once retired to the woods to invoke the favor of the goddess. Pleased with his austerities she made her appearance before him and promised to be at Calicut on a certain day. On the appointed day very late in the evening the impatient Zamorin heard that a lovely paragon of beauty had just passed through the bazaar. He tracked her to the mound of Valayanad. She was about to disappear into a house when he rushed forward to take hold of her hand. But the apparition had disappeared and the Zamorin found himself holding a bracelet in his hand. On this spot a pagoda was built. The bangle/anklet was then placed among the many ‘lares’ daily worshipped by the Zamorin (presumably together with the Cheraman sword, Conch shell etc). KVK Ayyar explaining the above in an early booklet on the Zamorins, attributes the original legend to the Kannambra Nayar’s work Kerala Charitram (History of Kerala).

Some historians mention that the Valayanad Devi was the one who helped the Zamorin win the earlier 48-year war with the Porlathiri and the subdual of Calicut itself.  There are a couple of variants to the tale narrated by KVK Ayyar above, and the most popular is the one where the Tirumandham Kunnu Devi accompanies the Zamorin to Calicut on condition that he never looks back to see her. After a while, the Zamorin could not hear the sound of her anklet and despairing that she had gone back to her homestead, turns back to check, The smiling Devi then states that he had broken the promise and so she has to return to Valluvanad, but agrees that the anklet had created some confusion, so disappears after tossing it away and announcing that her powers will remain where it lands. The bangle/anklet spun round for a week and landed in a mound near todays Valayanad (in an area called Azchavattom as it spun for a week, an azcha). Note here that the Tiruvalayam - bangle/anklet or bracelet is purportedly the Devi’s anklet.

No ceremony or major event concerning a Zamorin goes without a visit to the Thiruvalayanad temple while the idol was brought to the palace for other occasions such as ‘pattu’ music festivals. The temple even had a goat sacrifice with music thereafter (atuvettum, pattum). Varthema provides a detailed account of a visit to the temple, concluding that after Mecca he had never seen so much people gathered for an event (as it was on that day at the Valayanad temple).

It was considered that the Bhagavathy blessed the Zamorin with half her powers and consequently, the Zamorin always carried the bangle/anklet during his marches, not failing to build a temple propitiating the goddess, after he had annexed any new territory (e.g., Koduvayur (Naduvattom-Palghat), Thottakara (Ottapalam) and so on. Anyway, the Bhagavathy’s Tiruvalayam and the Tiru Valayanad temple became the secret of the Zamorin’s success. Now you can imagine, what the loss of that legendary bangle/anklet would mean to the power of the Zamorin. The first of the Zamorins from the second dynasty did feel the twinges of an impending catastrophe, when the Zamorin and the young Eralpad were worshipping at the Valayanad temple. A scornful act of the young prince resulted in the family getting cursed (so they believed), and the story goes thus.

We read previously that the original line of Zamorins could not continue any further due to lack of heirs in the family and that they finally decided to adopt some princes and princesses from Neeleswaram. The elder of the brothers eventually became a Zamorin and as the story goes, was at the temple praying to the goddess, accompanied by his younger brother. The priest gave them the Nivedyam, and prasadam after the prayers, containing the usual flowers and holy water (theertham). As is customary, the holy water poured in the palm is sipped by the devotee and the Zamorin did exactly that. The haughty Eralpad, did not, just pretended to, and threw the holy water over his shoulder. The Zamorin watching this from the corner of his eye was aghast, and muttered “Sacrilege, young man, this kingdom is going to be lost in your time!”

This was the boy who was the reigning Zamorin during the attack of the Haider Ali. Besieged with a number of problems, difficulties with his relatives, being unable to get along with them, facing violent squabbles with the Moplahs of Calicut, financial crunch and what not, he was in despair. Deeply troubled and virtually bankrupt, he had little strength financially, politically and he was not blessed with great wisdom. When faced with a demand for a large amount of money and a huge mounted cavalry manned by professional and war-hardened soldiers and generals from the North, he was not sure of what action to take. Also, he was under mounting pressure from the Cochin raja and other chieftains not to cede lands or surrender to the Mysore army. While the Zamorin himself was more worried about caste humiliation, he also knew that Haider Ali was really after money, getting ready to unearth and seize all the family treasure. The Ali Raja had joined the Mysore forces and some had surrounded the palace, the end was near!

In utter desperation, he decided to commit suicide and blow up the palace, informing about his plans in advance (Vellayude Charitram) to his courtiers. Perhaps he assumed that the Eralapad and other senior members could recoup later. After three days of prayers, he entered the magazine chamber and blew himself and the palace (kovilakom) up.  But before he did that, he entrusted the Tiruvalayam to a faithful servant, asking him to deposit it at the Valayanad temple. The servant sped through a tunnel that connected the palace at Kottapuram (starting from Mananchira and ending at the Tali temple near Chalappuram – I don’t know if such a thing existed) heading to Tali and thence Valayanad, near Mankavu. Neither the servant nor the sacred bangle/anklet was ever seen again.

The Zamorin was gone, the bangle/anklet or Tiruvalayam was lost and the younger princes bereft of a leader, and the support of their Kuladevata, were left downcast and abandoned. All that the Zamorins had built between 1062-1766 would soon be stripped away by the hungry vultures hovering around – the usurpers from Mysore, the greedy public who forgot their suzerain, the British who came later and any other opportunist who chanced by.

But then, here is where the mystery starts. The last we heard was that the faithful servant entered the tunnel and headed towards Tali and onward. Unbeknownst to the common man who believed that the bangle/anklet was placed at and worshipped at the Valayanad temple, the real bangle/anklet was as you read, stored at the palace. It was wrapped in silk and kept in a gold box encrusted with diamonds and many other precious stones, this was further encased in a silver-lined sandalwood box together with a rare salagram (a sacred stone) and the sacred bundle was always kept and worshipped at the private temple within the Zamorin’s palace. It was further believed by the insiders who knew of this that the box always accompanied the Zamorin whenever he proceeded to a battle.

As the story goes, Mangat Achan and other members of the Zamorin’s cabinet, watching the advances of the Mysore army with alarm, entreated the belabored Zamorin to move the sacred box quickly away for safekeeping. News reached Calicut that the Aarakkal Raja and 800 wild Moplah fighters had already reached Calicut in and were waiting in the palace environs. Accordingly, they agreed to entrust the bangle/anklet for safekeeping either to the British resident at the Tellicherry factory or at the factory of the powerful Chovakkaran Moosa from the Keyi family (see my article on the Mopla Por, detailing the Keyi clan). They decided to select a faithful and brave courier who could advance speedily through Thamarassery, Wynad, Kottayam and get to Tellicherry.

That was the first man, the Zamorin’s servant who sped out and into the tunnel with the parcel in his hand. Not far behind, ambled along a second person, also deputed by the Zamorin, to follow and ensure that the courier care of his obligations, properly. The courier was none other than the Pallipaat Panikkar and the spy who followed stealthily behind, the Zamorin’s trustworthy accountant Shamu Pattar.

The Pallipat Panikkar certainly knew his way around and had mastered the tricks to stay undetected, while on the run. Very soon, he reached Tellicherry and headed to the factory or godown of the Chovakkaran Keyi (our source MRKC mentions Koyi, I assume it is Keyi). Keyi was apologetic and explained that he was in deep trouble with Haider Ali, for he had sent the Kolathunad princes, their family and their wealth to Travancore in his ships when Haider arrived and was already facing the wrath of Haider. If Haider came to know that Keyi helped the Zamorin after all this, Haider’s fury would result in a massacre of his entire family. Expressing regret, he asked Panikkar to hasten towards the British factory (it was already 8PM in the night) and entrust the package to Col Mcleod. That was the last Shamu Pattar, who was following, saw of Panikkar. But he decided that things were in control and went to rest for the night, in a nearby chatram.

The person who stood guard at the Tellicherry factory gates on that particular day was one Sankaran Nair. If one observed carefully on that dark and moonless night, he could see Nair marching back and forth across the fort gates, ready to accost any intruder. Out of the night appeared another armed soldier, but from within the factory, and it was Moosan Kutty. Moosan Kutty told Nair that he had information from a friend working at the Keyi godown, that a courier was on the way from Calicut to entrust a valuable object with the British but that the British resident himself did not have any advance information about it.

What happened next was anticlimactic, a stranger appeared to rush towards the gates and Moosan Kutty without any hesitation, rammed him hard in the head with his rifle butt, dropping him to the ground, killing a bewildered Pallipat Panicker, on the spot. Sankaran Nair, seeing all this was aghast, but understanding the gravity of the situation, helped Moosa bury the box and mark the spot within the fort. The gruesome twosome then threw the lifeless body of the hapless Pallipat Panicker over the walls, and into the raging seas.

As the next day dawned, Shamu Pattar arrived at the fort to meet the Colonel, only to hear from the astonished Brit that nobody had arrived from Calicut or handed over any treasure. Shamu Pattar insisted that he had seen Panikkar heading to the fort, at which point somebody came in to announce that a lifeless corpse had washed ashore and that it was Panikkar’s. An investigation was launched and the guard Sankaran Nair was quickly imprisoned as a potential suspect. In the interrogation, he kept his mouth shut, not revealing any detail behind Panikkar’s fate or the involvement of Moosa Kutty, who by this time had absconded. Col Mcleod, suspecting Nair’s collusion in the murder and theft, dismissed him from the army and closed the case.

By now the news of the Zamorin’s demise, and the sacking of Calicut had spread far and wide, and the public muttered about the terror unleased in the region by the marauding Mysore army. Shamu Pattar also vanished from public view, nobody was too interested in an accountant. Only a few in the Zamorin family knew that the Tirivalayam had been lost.

Some 30 years passed, the 19th century was dawning, with the British East India Company firmly instated as the lords and masters of Malabar after the demise of Haider and defeat of his son, the tyrannic Tipu Sultan. Shamu Pattar had meanwhile reappeared and established himself as a prominent money lender in the Kalpathy Agraharam at Palghat, where he hailed from. Nobody really knew how he acquired so much wealth, but they assumed that he had obtained a good pension for his services from the Zamorin’s coterie.

Back to the present, at Palghat, Shamu Pattar had not been feeling well lately, he had been hearing strange noises at night, and was perpetually fearful of the slightest noise or movement after dusk. It appears that a disheveled Moplah living at Sultanpet had visited him and after that meeting, Shamu Pattar had at first fainted and had then taken ill. Upon waking up, Pattar enquired were the Moplah was, but nobody knew. A couple of days later, Pattar was found dead, stabbed to death and his house robbed. News spread that an idol and a box on which it rested upon, had been spirited away by the thief and murderer.

Sankaran Nair, after leaving the British services at Tellicherry, and leading a nondescript life near the Tiruvilwamala temple, not far away from Kalpathy, heard the news, put two and two together and sped to Palghat to check. He heard from Pattar’s servant that the Moplah who robbed and killed Pattar was spotted on the run near Mannarghat and seen headed towards Angadipuram. It took Nair some quick legwork, following the murderer through Pattambi, finally catching up with him at Tritalla where the Moplah had just boarded a boat, probably headed to a northerly port. Of course, it was Iruttadi Moosa on the run.

Nair clambered on another boat and asked the boatman to catch up with Moosa. After some furious rowing coupled with noisy exhortations by Sankaran Nair, their boat caught up with Moosa at the Ponnanai river mouth. The two colleagues from Tellicherry were then in animated conversation. In reality, they were and catching up, after a span of 30 or so years, on the period which had gone by. Moosa explained that he had been on the run, that Shamau Pattar had caught up with him near Tamarasseri and seized the box from him (How the wily Pattar managed that is not very clear, perhaps he had some armed Nair escort). Sankaran Nair tried explaining to Moosa that the sacred box would be useless to a Muslim and that he should hand it over to him. But Moosa would not budge, he knew that the gold bangle/anklet and the valuable stones were worth a lot of money.

As fate would have it, just at that very instant, another boat passing by rammed into them and the two men and the box with the Tiruvalayam were tossed out, only to be caught up in a maelstrom at the confluence where the furious waters of the Nila River met to with the Tirur (Ponnani) river.

Nobody ever saw the Thirvalayam, Sankaran Nair or Iruttadi Moosa, they all perished at Ponnani and were lost, forever. The Tiruvalayam sank to finally rest at a place closer to Thirumandham Kunnu where it had originated.

That my friends, is the legend of the Tiruvalayam as told by one MRKC (wo could that be?), in a 1087 (1912) Mangalodayam magazine. It narrated the lore and legend related to the anklet, as prevalent during that period. I must admit that I added some meat to the story, explaining the background, adding some more information about the places, here and there, to provide some perspective.

I could not help but wonder about the Shamu Pattar, what if he was not really murdered by Moosa?  What if he were the same Shamnath (Swaminatha – Shamu) Pattar who became a trusted employee in the British EIC? If you recall, the Zamorin’s clan - the Ravi Varma princes and some others had accosted him at Tiruvalayanad temple and tried to stab him to death in 1793 (27 years after the collapse of Calicut and attributed to a dispute over some tax matters over Neriganad), but failed in the attempt. What if it was also related to the bangle/anklet? We also know that Shamnath survived the attempt and also that after 1766, had worked as a tax collector and advisor for the EIC, but then again, I could not obtain any more information about Shamnath Pattar’s personal life at Palghat. Maybe I will, someday and the story will be complete.

You must of course remember that this is part of lore and legend, and only loosely cast around reality. But it is always interesting to delve a little deeper to pick at some of the aspects. Many parts of the story match the time line, for the Arakkal raja and his troops had arrived at Calicut on April 11th, 1766. Calicut surrendered to Haider on the 20th and the Zamorin immolated himself and set fire to the Kovilakom on the 27th. While most people agree that the Zamorin could have saved himself and the country if he had done some clever negotiation, since Haider was not really interested in any territorial gains, and only needed money. The Zamorin took the drastic step, as a culmination of his own hopeless situation, perhaps a depressed mind, due to the many quarrels and difficulties with the junior princes and having nobody else to turn to.

MKRC mentions a Col MacLeod as the person in charge at the Tellicherry factory (fort) in 1766. Col Norman MacLeod came much later, towards 1783 or so as its commanding officer, during the Tipu epoch, and was not in Tellicherry in 1766. At that time, the factory just had some English residents or factors. I think the resident in charge was one William Hornby.

Tali tunnel and the palace – This is something I have never heard about, both Ayyar and MRKC mention it, so there must have been something to it, all eroded and filled up now, if at all it had existed. As you know the Kottaparambu and the old palace area is now home to all kinds of commercial buildings and the SM street area between the court and the bus stand and down to the offices in front of the mosque.

Keyi family – we know that the Chowakaran Moosa and many other Moplah merchants refused to support Haider and moved their business interests to Tellicherry, while the Ali Raja cast his lot with Haider and Tipu. Moosa was closely aligned with the British and there is an incident I had narrated in the Mapla Por article about how Shamnath was threatened by Musa with violence, if Pattar tried to venture into Moosa’s timber trade. This also evidences Moosa’s animosity towards Pattar and shows us that the Pattar had in a few years increased his financial fortunes, now trying to venture out into big business. Interestingly, the wealthy Moosa had to bail out the Arakkal Ali Raja family who was in cahoots with Haider and Tipu, when their fortunes dived south!

Iruttadi Moosa – I smiled when I read that name, for I had always thought that it was a usage from the films, so it appears iruttadi was a sly technique prevalent many centuries ago, something that Moosa practiced, after absconding from the army!

As you will recall, some years ago we talked about a related Aitihyam or legend about the prosperity at the Calicut marketplace, from Kottarathil Sankunni’s Aithihyamala. The legends of Valayanad and the Devi at the big bazar are not similar, but the misfortune with the wet towel can be connected to the Eralpad tossing the thirtham over his right shoulder, perhaps?

Finally, the answer to another mystery – Who is MRKC, the narrator of this legend? He is none other than Rao Saheb Chenkalath Kunjirama Menon, who started the first Malayalam newspaper Kerala Patrika in 1906. This tale was narrated by him over 110 years ago, after he joined to manage Appan Thamburan’s Mangalodayam. Velluvakkamaran, the story of Hayat Saheb was a novel written by him (MRKC was originally from Chirakkal and spent long stints at Trichur and Calicut) and this is one of his many articles and short stories. A fascinating character, the fearless journalist and congressman with a rubber leg, he needs a page for himself, which I will pen, another day.

Some wise guy may pipe up to ask – is there any truth to this legend? Ah! Who knows? Arkariyam? But I have to say this to those who believe – If the bangle/anklet was indeed encased in a gold casket, it will still be down there at the Ponnani confluence, deep in the mud banks, in pristine condition!!


Managlodayam Masika 1087 – Tiruvalayam by MRKC, acknowledged with thanks

Zamorins of Calicut (early version) – KV Krishan Ayyar

Zamorins and the political culture of Medieval Kerala – VV Haridas

Samoothiri Rajavinte Bhakti Samrajyam – Chemboli Sreenivasan

Kozhikode Vamozhi Charitram – Ganghadharan Puthukudi

Mapla Por

Shamnath pattar

Zamorins demise

Prosperity at the Market place – Calicut 

Pic – anklet (a teyyam anklet depicted by, just to give an idea – not the tiruvalayam)



  1. Calicut Heritage Forum

    What a delightful blend of fact and fiction! The fiction was provided by MRKC and you have tried to fit in the facts through meticulous research.
    The entire narrative is centered around the bangle (valayam). Did such a valayam exist? Local tradition and earlier historians have not mentioned the existence of the bangle. The belief is that as the Devi reached a place called Tharakkal (from where Azhchavattam locality starts), the King noticed that the sound of the anklets had stopped and turned back to look at the Devi. She stopped there and told the King that she would not follow him as he had violated her condition but would stay at Tharakkal. From there, she removed her bangle and threw it. The bangle was supposed to have spun for a week (hence Azchavattam) and landed on a hillock at the eastern end of Azhchavattom. This was where the Zamorin built the Valayanad temple. As far as we know, the bangle was not installed in the temple. The idol consists of a Srichakram (on a gold leaf) embedded in the wall and a granite statue of the Devi and saptamatrukkal.
    Your story says that the Zamorin picked up the bangle and carried it as a talisman. What one had heard is that the Zamorin used to carry with him the 'Pallimaradi' which is a piece of a door frame. Maybe he was carrying the bangle as well.
    There is a twist in the story as prevalent in Mankavu. Remember that the Devi had refused to proceed beyond Tharakkal. There is a temple of Bhagavati in Tharakkal. The Mankavu version is that the Devi was not alone in her journey from Thirumandhamkunnu. Three sisters had, in fact, set out from there. At Tharakkal, the younger sister felt tired and decided to stay back at Tharakkal. The youngest sister went up to Mankavu (where the Patinhjare Kovilakam came up later) and was enshrined in the Baladurga temple there. The eldest went up to Valayanad and settled there. She had promised her sisters that she would visit both of them once a year.
    Accordingly, on the final day of the Utsavam at Valayanad temple, the Devi proceeds to Tharakkal, and from there, both the sisters travel to Baladurga where the Aarat ceremonial bath takes place in the Thrissala tank. The sisters return around midnight and one could hear the plaintive beating of a single drum (the reverse side of the chenda) to indicate the sadness at separation. There would be no paraphernalia and the Devi would return to Valayanad with just one torch (deevetti) and no chenda melam. That's the belief and practice around Mankavu.
    About Swaminatha Pattar, what you mentioned could be true. He must have amassed a lot of money due to the double-dealing he indulged in. I know personally about a large piece of land that our Tharavad had acquired in Mankavu somewhere around the 1870s where the owner was shown as one Suppu Pattar of Kunisseri gramam in Palakkad. This Suppu Pattar had his madhom in Bilathikulam (The plot is still called Vayanali Madhom). It is possible that this Pattar was the progeny of the Shamu Pattar in the story.
    Anyhow, an interesting diversion from hard facts!!

  1. Maddy

    Thanks CHF..
    I guess your comments complete all known legends about the Tiruvalayanad Devi. I was planning to tackle the Pallimaradi separately, later.
    yes, you are right. Even though the main intent was to retell the fiction, a lot of interconnections got explained, such as the connection between Moosa and Calicut, something to sink my teeth into, later. One avenue I tried hard to pursue reached nowhere, i.e. to check if the Calicut EIC resident Mr Day left any memoirs or accounts. Could not find any.
    Kunisseri is next door to our Palghat village of Pallavur. Have to check if anybody knows Suppu Pattar from Calicut.