Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sabarimala and Kerala’s Buddhist Tradition


The 1931 Census Report of Travancore states: “The famous Sastha temples now existing in Sabarimala, Thakkala and other places in Travancore were originally none other than temples dedicated to (the) Buddha. Besides these temples, several remains of Buddhist viharas and chaityas are still seen in different parts of this country. These are indications of Buddhism having been once the common religion in Travancore”. (Thakkala is now in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu).

The Census Report of Travancore was not written by a British official or Marxist historian. The Census, though part of the operations conducted by the British rulers throughout the continent, was conducted by the government of Travancore. The state was ruled by a family which had accepted Vedic servitude unreservedly. Most of the Dewans who presided over the administration were followers of the Vedic tradition. The senior members of the bureaucracy also belonged to that tradition. The Dewan at the time of the 1931 census was V. S. Subramanya Iyer, whose name itself certifies his Vedic connection.

A report dated June 5, 1881, submitted by the Peishkar (head of the district administration) of Trivandrum, V. Nagam Aiya, to Maharaja Visakham Thirunal, pointed out that the temple at Chitaral in Vilavancode taluk (this place too is now in TN) was a Buddhist place of worship. The Maharaja recorded this comment on it: “Your description is correct. The Brahmins have appropriated and adapted this Buddhist temple as they have done with many others. What you call muni is nothing but the figure of Buddha Gautama”. (Nagam Aiya, well-known as the author of the Travancore Gazetteer, belonged to a Telugu Brahmin family living in the Thirunelveli area of TN)

The Sabarimala deity was given a Hindu identity by the Vedic community by fabricating the fib about the Raja of Pandalam finding the abandoned son of Vishnu and Siva in the forest. The Raja’s family, a remnant of the Pandyans of Madurai, did not reach Pandalam until the 11th century. Sabarimala’s history goes back farther than that.

The Vedic community could not even fabricate a credible lie for the origin of the temple it took over. It didn’t need a good story because there was a slavish population ready to swallow any lie it dished out.

The quotations above are taken from the book “A Social History of India” by Dr. S. N. Sadasivan, a distinguish academic who taught at the Indian Institute of Public Administration , New Delhi, and the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

The book appeared in 2000. Dr. Sadasivan (1926-2006) was with us for six years after its publication. The book is priced Rs 2,000. For our present purposes, it is only necessary to look into the chapter titled “Buddhism in Kerala”, which can be accessed on the Net at

It appears the intellectual honesty that Visakham Thirunal, Nagam Aiya and V. S. Subramanya Iyer displayed is lacking in the followers and apologists of the Vedic tradition today. Instead of repeating fabricated stories and shouting slogans, let them come out with facts and counter Dr. Sadasivan’s account.

Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, in an interview to Kalakaumudi a few weeks ago said the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple had a collection of about 300,000 documents. A reader, in a letter the weekly published subsequently, suggested that the public should be given access to these documents. Another reader stated that the documents had been transferred to the State Archives. A history of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple, written by a member of the former royal family, who had access to temple documents, contains references to past connections of some of the non-Vedic communities to the temple. Let other scholars, belonging to other traditions, also study the documents and come out with significant facts they can find in them.

The Thazhaman family and the former Pandalam raja’s family may have in their possession documents which can throw light on the history of the Sabarimala temple. If so, let them throw them open to scholars to study.

A newspaper feature of the period when poet Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri performed priestly functions at the Thiruvalla temple said that temple also had a collection of ancient documents. Let all documents kept under lock and key in temples by the Vedic community be accessed and studied by scholars with different backgrounds so that a truthful account of the past can be reconstructed.

(Facebook note dated 22 April 2011)


Sunny Joseph said...

Well written Sir.

babu said...

Dear Sir,
read your write up on sabarimala dharma sastha.
Sadasivan whom you have quoted cannot be treated as the final authority on temples of south india.An argument can be accepted only on the basis of the logic behind the point. such details are not given.
It is a pity that respectable persons like you make comments on hindu gods with out verifying the facts.
Though the devottees call sastha in different names like ayyappa etc the diety is dharma sastha which is different from budhist sastha.
Dharma sastha has definite moola mantras like any other hindu gods.
The parama purusha mentioned in vedas is sastha. Prasastha is directly mentioned in rig.
There are lot of people who worship their diety as god which is beyond time and space.What you try to find out with history would be a human being subjected to time and space.
hindu gods might have born as human beings which is irrelevant. the god whom they worship is not human beings but a sankalpa given life with mantras and connected rituals.
according to hindus in the begining only asath existed. out of it everything surjed out of the sankalpa. even the human beings.( narayana guru) so before pooja you invoke your god in the idol. searching for his history is absolutey fruitless as it cannot be measured with history. but your theory of measuring god with history is all right for roman gods.
it is beautiful to have a god.
your allegation that hindus converted a budhist god to hinduism you are on a weak wicket as bhudhist has no such allegation . they also worship him as dharma sastha.
you will find dharma sastha a source of strenght for your fights againstr adharmas in the society.

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R.Sajan said...

Please see my Comments [in two parts] on your other Post: Does Thazhamon family have a better story than Cheerappanchira and Malayarayans?

devaprathapraja said...

Mr.Sadashivan was an ezhava chauvinist, don’t take his word as final. but we know that kerala have Buddhist tradition and later along with Shaktha, Shyva, Jyna and dravida dharma, Vaishnavisam swallowed or accommodated all the believes and present day so called Hindu dharma originated

devaprathapraja said...

Mr.Sadashivan was an ezhava chauvinist, don’t take his word as final. but we know that kerala have Buddhist tradition and later along with Shaktha, Shyva, Jyna and dravida dharma, Vaishnavisam swallowed or accommodated all the believes and present day so called Hindu dharma originated

dr sajan said...

hello, i think it is time for us to do scientific research by going crbon dating, modern excavations and prove the authenticity of these caims.

Hai Baji said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vijayan said...

Nothing wrong in pursuing a link. Scholars need to have patience and will to overcome chauvinism which determines everything in present day Kerala. Let academics take precedence rather that a doctoral degree which is seen as an end in itself.
It is common knowledge that a Keralaite can answer questions about his parents and grand parents but not his/her great grand parents or the ones whose family tree to which he/she is an entity.The reason , simply put is, our approach to history. We would rather deface the cave walls on which our ancestors etched some pictures.We would rather pursue a career in Medicine or Engineering and leave History for the parallel college goers.We would take up cudgels if someone threw a question on a mosque, temple or a church.
B R P gave us a thread; that too an important one..and look at the responses. Better to throw up B R P

Unknown said...

Looking at the chants " Saranam volume" of Sabarimala pilgrims, it resembles Buddist chant like " Sangham saranam or Buddam saranam gachami etc " . Also the tradition of permitting all casts to Sabarimala
temple which is in opposition to the other big temples of Kerala where only so called upper casts of Hindus permitted to enter and worship. This division of right to enter a temple and worship was common in Kerala till the recent proclamation on temple entry. But sabarimala temple showed different culture allowing whey one to enter and worship, keeping Chathur varna tradition away from its premisis, which may be due to Buddist principles. Also the posture of ideol resembles normal buddist ideol . Hence I feel, this Temple, it's practices and accommodation of people from all casts from earlier time shows a difference from normal Kerala Hindu temple.

bedibhavani said...

Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

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