On the trail of a legend

Manu Remakant follows the path of Naranath Bhranthan in Rayiranellur

The trip to the Rayiranellur mount is a journey into the heart of a myth. The genesis of one of Kerala’s most enduring folk tales, that of Naranath Bhranthan lies here.

Rewind to a few centuries ago. People saw a man relentlessly pushing or trying to push a large rock up a hill. The hill was very steep and the stone too big; every time he pushed the rock a foot up the slope it would roll back two feet. Like Sisyphus, he kept going on. The only difference is that, unlike Sisyphus, Naranath Bhranthan succeeds in pushing the rock up the hill. But, instead of savouring the fruit of his labour, he kicks the rock and sends it rolling down the hill. He then starts laughing and clapping his hands in glee. And starts the process all over again. He comes to be known as Naranath Bhranthan. This is the legend.

Cut to the present. If you want to trace Naranath Bhranthan’s path, the best place to start is 500 feet above sea level, at the summit of Rayiranellur. The journey begins at Rayiranellur Junction or rather a small road off the main road. A flight of broken steps leads you to the Rayiranellur Devi Temple.

Devi’s abode

 It’s noon and the temple wears a deserted look. There is no hope of finding a pujari who will tell the story. Therefore it is better to follow Naranath’s path, to continue the Rayiranellur pilgrimage.

One cannot help but admire the Naranath Bhranthan’s physical strength. Even without a boulder to push uphill, you take enough breaks and breathers. The path, lined with boulders of different sizes is an ideal place to rest, but not for the climb. There is hardly any vegetation to talk about. Rocks, rocks everywhere. As you go higher, you get your reward… .a treat for tired eyes!

At a distance you see the green paddy fields of Palakkad. You will be tired and sweating by the time you reach Rayiranellur’s summit.

Bhranthan’s hangout

 Once you reach the summit you realise that it is more of a plateau than a hill. If you are looking for some shade against the scorching sun, there is a small temple and a sprawling banyan tree on one end. This temple too seems abandoned; the shade of the banyan tree is too tempting and too welcoming to resist a quick nap. Surrender to the urge to nap, the cool breeze does wonders to beat the heat.

Making the pilgrimage, following Naranath Bhranthan’s path, from Rayiranellur Devi Temple to the top of the hill is considered auspicious. Thousands of people from Kerala and outside make the pilgrimage on the first day of the Malayalam month of Thulam every year. The belief is that it is auspicious to climb the hill on that day.

Coming back to the plateau, do you see a large stone sculpture on the other end that faces the valley? The sculpture is walled in by an iron mesh. It depicts Naranath Bhranthan and he is about to send the rock rolling down the hill once again. Follow his gaze, you see the verdant valley and the rectangular plots of cultivated land covered by a shimmering veil of mist. The beauty of Rayiranellur is serene, the sight of peacocks on the way back to the base of the hill adds to the charm of the place. But the trip to discover Naranath Bhranthan and his obsession is incomplete without a visit to Bhranthachalam, supposedly the chief dwelling place of the great seer.

Bhranthachalam is two km from Rayiranellur Junction, you can hire an autorickshaw to get there. Bhranathachalam is located on a ROCK…

Sixty steps lead you to Bhranthachalam, at the top are the temples of Lord Shiva and Devi. Beside Lord Shiva’s shrine there is a kanjira tree. The pujari is only too happy to show the remains of iron chains coming out from the tree. Legend has it that Naranath Bhranthan was chained to this tree. Myth and fact seem to merge at Bhranthachalam.

The journey seeking the trail of a legend turns out to be a fantastic experience. Make the trip to challenge your notions of what is real and what is not.

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How to reach there

It is a 55-km journey from Palakkad to reach Pattambi. Take a bus that goes to Valancheri. Make sure that the bus takes the Koppam route. It is another 18-km journey. Alight at Rayiranellur bus stop and what remains is a one-and-a-half km climb to the top of the mountain.

Source: The Hindu

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About Manu Remakant

Manu has written 288 stories in Rum, Road & Ravings. You can read all posts by here.

Still quiet here.sas

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