Monday, May 28, 2012

Crossing over the little stream (a tributary of the Kabanni river), we enter into the forest. Here in ancient times the Vani tribe ruled, being the traditional lords of the forest, who were hunters. We went through the forest to the site of an ancient fort where the Vani tribe had their seat. The legend goes that one day a prince coming from the plains near Calicut ventured into this part of the Wyanad on a hunt, and met a princess of the Vani tribe, who was very bold. In fact the Vani tribe was matriarchal, and the women of the tribe had an initiative which was not to be found among the plains folk. She fell in love with the handsome prince of the plains, and proposed to marry him. He agreed, and messages were sent to his Father that a marriage would be celebrated here in the forest, to which he and his courtiers were invited. The king of the plains was furious, and got together with two other neighbouring kings, and came to the Wyanad ostensibly to attend the wedding. They were met by Vani leaders, and the welcoming small drums used for feasts were played. However, hidden in the forest was the army that the three kings of the plains had mustered, and soon the great war drums were heard, as they came out to attack the Vanis, who were unprepared, and quickly fled from the invading army. The princess who had offered her hand in marriage to the prince from the plains felt deeply insulted, and decided to become a Jaina nun. She used one of her diamond ear rings to commission a small Jaina temple to be built on the site of the Vani fort, while throwing the other diamond ring into a well in the forest. The little Jaina temple that was constructed, probably around the 12th century, resembles the chaitya model of shrine as we see carved out of a solid lump of stone in Mahaballipuram on the Tamilnad coast. One might suggest that this model of a barrel roofed structure goes back to tribal dwelling places, like the Toda houses in the Nilgiri hills,  which were also functioning as holy dairies for buffalo herdsmen. The detailing of these stone structures, made in this case out of soap stone which must have been brought here from Karnataka, show that the original model for these forms was a wooden building, probably with a thatched roof.

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