Kadavallur Anyonyam is a platform for the
richest and versatile kind of Vedic chanting and Vedic debate in the world. As the organisers of this grand spiritual event rightly claim, it is the only annual traditional debate for Vedic scholars in Bharat.
As the term ‘Sanatana Dharma’ connotes, it is “natural, eternal and ancient” way of life. It is anadi (without beginning). However, it is widely accepted that the history of Hindu Dharma spread over 5,000 years. Over time, many phases and diverse factors have contributed to the evolution and growth of profoundly rich Hindu culture and heritage. Every nook and corner of Bharat has its own unique contribution to the grand narrative of Hindu civilisation. Beyond all, the relics of our Vedic legacy can still be seen in every part of Bharat, even apart from the outer peripheries of Aryavart. Exploring the marvel of such esoteric tales of Vedic tradition, Kerala stands testimony to this magnificent attribute of Bharateeya tradition.
Kadavallur is a hamlet situated in the interior of Thrissur District in Kerala. For the past two centuries, this small village has been known for a debate of Vedic scholars which is held every year, called ‘Kadavallur Anyonyam’. Kadavallur Anyonyam is an annual event where two schools of Rigveda Namboothiris belonging to Thrissur and Thirunavaya Brahmaswam Madhoms (Vedic Institutions) of Kerala meet at the Sree Ramaswamy Temple, Kadavallur for scholastic debate on Rigveda chanting. Anyonyam, literally means ‘towards each other’. This traditional debate started over 200 years ago. As the organisers of this grand spiritual event rightly claim, Kadavallur Anyonyam is perhaps the only example for the annual contest of traditional scholars in Kerala, in Bharat, or even in the world.
In Kerala, only the Rig Veda used to have an institutionalised teaching system whereas Yajur and Sama Vedas were traditionally taught in Namboothiri homes. The two institutions of Rigveda at Thrissur and Thirunavaya were patronised by the Zamorin of Calicut and Cochin kings respectively. Some say, Anyonyam dates back to 15th century CE as Kadavallur is part of Panniyoor Gramam (one of the places of Namboodiri settlements in Kerala) which started its downfall by the end of 15th century. A list of winners of debate from 1774 is still available in the archives of Kadavallur. It is said that during the Tipu Sultan’s conquest of Malabar many of the documentations got destroyed or found missing. A lot of water has flown through the Bharatapuzha River since the beginning of Anyonyam, still it stands tall and unmoved as one of the richest and versatile kinds of Vedic chanting in our country.
In Kerala, Namboodiri boys are initiated into the Vedic traditions by sending them to Brahmaswam Madhoms after Upanayana (wearing of sacred thread by Brahmins), at the age of around 7 years. They have to spend around 5 years to complete the basic course of Rigveda which is called as ‘Samhita’ in a fully residential system at the Madhom. Those who completed the Samhita patha successfully started studying the higher studies like Pada patha, Krama patha etc. The two schools send around 16 aspirants each to take part in the prestigious Kadavallur Anyonyam, who are selected from the rigorous competitive internal examinations held in the respective Madhoms. This will ensure that the best young Vedic students are made part of the annual event.
Anyonyam is conducted in the first ten days of November (Vrischikam) which considered as auspicious for Hindus. The first 8 days are generally devoted for examining the proficiency in chanting the portions from each Astaka of the total 8 Astakas of Rigveda. Each of the two schools gets 4 days for showcasing their performance. The remaining two days are devoted for the ceremonial chanting of Yajurveda and Samaveda of Kerala Tradition.
There are mainly two categories of tests for the aspirants. The first test is for the basic form (that is Prakruthy) of Veda, which is called as Vaaramirikkal. Examiners will ask the aspirant to chant the portion which is decided by them. The examiners will be from the opposite school. That means if the contestant is from Thrissur Madhoms, the examiners are from Thirunnavaya and vice versa. In the section ‘Krama Patha’ is followed. There will be two scholars from own school to help the contestant. They will help him if required. But the help is through ‘Hastha Mudra’ ( hand gesture) only. This exam is conducted late in the evening that is just after the sunset. Even a small slip of tongue is not allowed during this session and if something goes wrong, either ‘Akshara or Swara’, they are considered as disqualified. There are total two Varamirikkal on each day, one each from both sides. The first one is called as Munpilirikkal, means seating in front and the second one as Randam varam, meaning second Varamirikkal. A person who completes the Munpilirikkal successfully is treated very warmly at every Veda related stages.
The next phase of examination is for the Vikruthy, that is the higher versions of chanting. For this two persons are needed. The style of chanting is totally different from the basic swara during this session. The order of chanting is very complex here which follows some certain rules for ascending and descending the recitation. Here two persons are chanting in a particular form so that each one has to chant half of the total. So the synchronisation is very important. Here the voice modulation ability, concentration level etc are really tested. The technical names for this exam are Ratha and Jata. In the first one that is Ratha, the chanting method is similar to the motion of a wheel of chariot (Ratha). Each point on the wheel has to follow back ward and forward motion, and at the same time the whole assembly is moving straight forward. Similarly, the contestants follow a particular style in which they follow both ascending and descending order.
With the passage of time the Rigveda chantings crossed the walls of Kadavallur. It is now a venue for Vedic scholars across the world to share their intellectual prowess. National seminars, workshops, lectures, discussions, cultural programmes etc related to Vedic studies are organised along with the event. The seminars and lectures are conducted in the evening session so that the participants will have an opportunity to be part of traditional Rigveda chanting examination.
The canvas of this divine chanting has covered all the spheres of Kadavallur village resulting in the enhancement of various cultural and traditional art forms like Sanskrit dramas, musical instruments like Chenda, Thimila etc. Kadavallur is being renowned as a paradise of Sanatana Dharma where the rich nectar of creativity and talent can be churned out and nourished. Let the divine rays emanating from this holy place spread the message of integral humanism throughout the universe. As Bharateeyas we can be optimistic that this rhythm of God bestowed upon us by our ancestors with all of its purity will with stand the ravages of time.
Sankaranarayanan (The writer is an assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, dept of Sreepathy Institute of Management and Technology in Palakkad)