Chattu songs: Tribal wisdom for posterity

Published: 23rd September 2012 09:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2012 09:24 AM   |  A+A-

We owe our colourful tales and fables of Panchatantra and Jataka to generations of story tellers, until finally someone decided to write it down.

Chaattupaattu, a form of poetry of the Kani tribals handed down the generations through oral traditions,  has finally been written down by famed medicine man Easwaran Kani Vaidhyar of Njaruneeli, near here.

“This is the first time anyone has done it and this book  (published by Upasana Publications) is a dream come true for me. Even among us, most people know just bits and pieces of chaattupaattu. I wanted to keep the tradition alive,” said Easwaran Kani, who has preferred to use the name Ravikumar Kani for the book, a name that was given to him in school. ‘Easwaran Kani’ is the name given to him by his innumerable patients.

It is believed that chaattupaattu, parts of which describe ancient healing methods, were passed on to the Kani tribals by Sage Agastya.

The language of the chaattupaattu is a mix of Malayalam and Tamil.

“Singing the chaattupaattu is almost like arguing a case. Here the patient is the defendant before the court of valapithiran or Brahma and the medicine man is the advocate, arguing the patient’s case to the creator,” explained Easwaran Kani.

Before rendering the chaattupaattu, the medicine man has to follow a series of mandatory rituals and poojas to purify himself.

However, chaattupaattu, is not just about traditional medicine and healing. There are different chaattu songs, of which pinichaattu is the one for healing a person.

Then there is vilachaattu (for the protection of crops), manneyichuchaattu (for the healing of people on their deathbeds), patturuvi chaattu (to overcome extreme hardships) and chaavupattu (for the solace of the dying).

“Actually there are two others which I have not included in the book - the valaketti chaattu or the puliyadakkichaattu for protection from wild animals and the vayattukettarthu chaattu for safe pregnancy,” he said.

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