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Parayi Petta Panthirukulam - Wikipedia

Parayi Petta Panthirukulam: A Malayalam Folklore of Twelve Castes


Parayi Petta Panthirukulam is a Malayalam phrase that means "twelve castes born of a Pariah woman". It is a popular folktale in Kerala that narrates the story of Vararuchi, one of the nine wise men of Emperor Vikramaditya's court, and his wife Panchami, a woman belonging to Paraya, a lower caste. The couple had twelve children who were abandoned at birth and adopted by different families from various sections of society. These children grew up to become illustrious figures in their respective fields and contributed to the culture and history of Kerala. This folktale is not only a fascinating tale of adventure and romance, but also a powerful symbol of social harmony and diversity in Kerala.



The Twelve Children of Vararuchi and Panchami

According to the folktale, Vararuchi married Panchami out of love and set out on a long pilgrimage with her. On the way, they were blessed with twelve children. Upon each delivery, Vararuchi asked whether the baby had a mouth. If Panchami said "yes", he would say "God will appease the one with mouth" and would ask her to abandon the baby then and there and proceed. Eleven children were deserted, since they had a mouth. The twelfth child was born without a mouth, as Panchami lied to keep him with her. Vararuchi consecrated this child as a deity on top of a hill and continued his journey with Panchami.

The eleven abandoned children were adopted and brought up by eleven different families from various castes and communities. They were:

  • Mezhathol Agnihothri: He was adopted by a Brahmin priest who performed fire rituals. He became an expert in Vedic scriptures and rituals and was revered as a great scholar.

  • Pakkanar: He was adopted by a Parayan family who cremated dead bodies. He became a famous poet and social reformer who challenged the caste system and advocated for human dignity.

  • Rajakan: He was adopted by a washerman who cleaned clothes for others. He became a skilled astrologer and mathematician who could predict future events accurately.

  • Naranath Bhranthan: He was adopted by an Ambalavasi family who performed temple services. He became a saint who pretended to be mad and roamed around rolling huge stones up hills only to let them roll down again. He symbolized the futility of worldly pursuits and taught detachment.

  • Karakkalamma: She was adopted by a royal Kshatriya woman who was childless. She became a beautiful princess who married King Cheraman Perumal and ruled over Kerala with justice and wisdom.

  • Akavoor Chathan: He was adopted by a farmer who cultivated rice fields. He became a loyal servant and caretaker of Karakkalamma and her kingdom. He was known for his honesty and bravery.

  • Vaduthala Nair: He was adopted by a Nair soldier who fought for Karakkalamma's army. He became a valiant warrior who defended Kerala from foreign invaders.

  • Vallon: He was adopted by a Pulaya family who worked as agricultural laborers. He became a prosperous farmer who cultivated various crops and fruits. He was respected for his generosity and kindness.

  • Uppukottan: He was adopted by a Muslim trader who traveled across seas for business. He became a wealthy merchant who traded spices, silk, gold, etc. He was admired for his intelligence and diplomacy.

  • Paananaar: He was adopted by a folk musician who played drums for festivals and ceremonies. He became a master musician who composed songs and poems in praise of gods, kings, heroes, etc. He was loved for his creativity and humor.

  • Perumthachan: He was adopted by an engineer and architect who built temples, palaces, bridges, etc. He became an unparalleled craftsman who carved exquisite sculptures and structures out of wood, stone, metal, etc. He was honored for his skill and innovation.

The Cultural Significance of Parayi Petta Panthirukulam

The folktale of Parayi Petta Panthirukulam has a profound cultural significance in Kerala. It reflects the diversity

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