The glorious life of Mozhikkunnam to be preserved for posterity

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Mozhikkunnam Brahmadathan Namboodiripad was a prominent figure in the freedom struggle who was arrested on charges of conspiring against the government and destroying the Kakkathode bridge at Cherpulassery. After his arrest in 1921, Mozhikkunnam was tied behind a horse and dragged 14 km along the road from his ancestral house (illam) near Cherpulassery in Palakkad district. His mother Savithri Pathanady, who saw the sight through the window of the Mozhikkunnam 'illam,' could only weep helplessly.

Now, this remarkable episode in the Independence movement is being transformed into a wall sculpture at Cherpulassery Govt Higher Secondary School. The 'Wall of peace' is aimed at creating awareness among the future generations on Brahmadathan's sacrifice for the motherland.

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The wall art is being created by a team led by Suresh K Nair, a noted artist and professor at Benaras Hindu University. Suresh belongs to Adakkaputhur in Palakkad. As many as 15 students of Suresh are part of the effort.

The artwork is taking shape in cement under the shade of peepal trees. A 700-feet-long wall has been divided into 14 panels for the purpose. The traditions and culture of Cherpulassery are also being depicted on the wall.

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The word 'peace' has been engraved in 250 languages on the wall to spread the message of 'Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu' (May there be happiness for all beings in the world).

Apart from highlighting Mozhikkunnam Brahmadathan Namboodiripad's life, the wall sheds light on Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Cherpulassery, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bose's right-hand man P S Kuttikrishnan Nair.

The other panels will familiarize youngsters and others with the artistic tradition of Cherpulassery, the cattle race at Puthanalkkal, the football culture of the area and history of Cherpulassery school.

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The wall art project is being realized under the 'Space' initiative at a cost of Rs 20 lakh. The school will be raised to international standards as part of the initiative. P V Shaheen, a school alumnus who is now an NRI, took the lead in launching the art project.

Life sketch of Mozhikkunnam

Mozhikkunnam 'mana' (house) played a major role in the freedom struggle and also the reformation movement of Kerala. Hailing from Peruvanam village, inmates of Mozhikkunnam enjoyed several Vedic rights. Many of them earned titles like Somayajipad and Akkithiri. They had great command over Vedas and Sanskrit. Brahmadathan was born as the son of noted Vedic scholar Narayanan Somayajipad.

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Brahmadathan followed the traditions of his family including Upanayanam (initiation into Brahmacharya by wearing sacred thread) and learning of Vedas. He also earned the recognition of other Vedic scholars.

At that time, the freedom struggle was gaining strength. Along with it the youths belonging to Nampoothiri caste launched efforts for social reforms. Brahmadathan also joined them in their fight against social evils. When the Cherpulassery unit of the Indian National Congress was formed, Brahmadathan was its president.

However, the authorities were uneasy that a member of a family that owned a large area of land had chosen the path of rebellion. During a meeting organized to remember Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the venue chosen was Puthanalkavu Temple, which was the family shrine of Mozhikkunnam mana. This made Brahmadathan the target of the authorities, who waited for an opportunity to arrest him.

At that time, the Khilafat movement gained strength in Malabar. The Muslim community organized itself against the British rule at the national level. The Khilafat activists announced their support for the national movement and their struggle became part of the fight for Independence. Efforts were made to brand it as Mappila rebellion and its supporters as traitors.

The authorities found that Brahmadathan could be sent to prison on these grounds. He was soon arrested and dragged behind a horse carriage for 14 km from his house to Kulam market. From there, Brahmadathan and his supporters were made to pull the bullock cart instead of the animals. Later he was bayoneted on the leg and taken to Shoranur police station. Brahmadathan, in his autobiography, has written that he faced this ordeal in front of the Puthanalkal Bhagavathy temple near Cherpulassery.

He was accused of treason and exiled by the court. Brahmadathan had to undergo severe torture at the Coimbatore and Bellary jails. In 1922, the trial court exonerated him and Brahmadathan returned to his native place. However, he faced excommunication there.

Brahmadathan was accused of polluting the caste and was made an untouchable. He was not allowed even to participate in ceremonies conducted in the family.

During this time, Brahmadathan's elder brother Narayanan had left the place and never returned. As a result, the family responsibilities fell on Brahmadathan's shoulders. However, the elders refused to accept him and Brahmadathan could not even take part in his mother’s last rites. This made the rift with his family complete.

'Manorama' on the banks of the Nila

Brahmadathan shifted his area of activity to Pattambi and sought a place along the banks of the Nila. The young generation of the community, especially the progressive thinkers, supported Brahmadathan. With their help he built a house at Pattambi. It was named 'Manorama' by the legendary poet Vallathol.

Manorama soon became a meeting point for stalwarts like V T Bhattathiripad, EMS Nampoothiripad and Premji during their youth. It is believed that EMS ceased his work for the uplift of the community and entered the broad political horizon from this house.

Brahmadathan held posts like Pattambi panchayat president and Malabar district board member and continued his public service. He passed away on July 26, 1968 and was cremated on the premises of Manorama.

Though he represented a glorious chapter of the freedom struggle, not even a single memorial was set up for Mozhikkunnam Brahmadathan Nampoothiripad anywhere in Kerala. Recently, his family donated a plot where the office of the Indian National Congress came up. It was named Mozhikkunnam Brahmadathan Nampoothiripad Memorial Congress Bhavan. With the wall of peace, his memories will last forever.

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