The legend of Parayi Petta Panthirukulam is one that has been retold from generations to generations among people in the Indian state of Kerala. But its fascination and relevance are not just in the story itself, but also in how it brings out a beautiful picture of communal harmony and togetherness. It talks about the Brahmin scholar Vararuchi and his wife from the lower-caste Parayi community and their twelve children who were brought up by twelve different kulams or clans.
The legend goes that Vararuchi, a scholar and philosopher, was challenged by his half-brother and close confidante King Vikramaditya to say the most renowned verse of the great epic Ramayana. At a loss for the answer, Vararuchi traveled far and wide, met with literary experts, yogis, and teachers, all to no avail. He chanced upon a conversation between fairy Goddesses who were discussing this very verse. During their conversation, they also prophesized that a newborn baby girl from the Paraya community who they recently visited is destined to be the wife of Vararuchi. Though elated to get the answer to his quest on the verse, he was worried about the prophecy of marrying the Paraya girl who was a low-caste. He arranged to get rid of the girl, but she was saved by a Brahmin couple who brought her up as their own daughter. As fate would have it, Vararuchi eventually met the same girl and married her after being impressed by her sharp wit and intelligence, not knowing that this was the same Parayi girl he had tried to eliminate years back. Later, upon knowing the reality, he became convinced of the power of fate and decided to spend the rest of his life with her on a long pilgrimage.
During their travels across the region that later became known as Kerala, Vararuchi’s wife gave birth to twelve children during the course of twelve years. Upon Vararuchi’s insistence, she left eleven of her newborns in the forest. Each time, Vararuchi asked her the question on whether the just-born child had a mouth. If yes, then the child’s cries were bound to be heard by someone and will be found and taken care of. Each time, his wife left her child as advised by him, but with a heavy heart. But, after her twelfth delivery, she wanted to keep that child with her. When Vararuchi asked her the question, she lied that the child did not have a mouth. She was allowed to keep him with her. But, after walking a few steps, she found with horror that the child really had become mouthless. Realizing what happened, Vararuchi consecrated the child on a hilltop and this later became the famous and all-powerful deity of Vayillakkunnilappan (deity of the mouthless God on the hill). Vararuchi and his wife continued on their pilgrimage and finally attained salvation.
These twelve children born to the couple together came to be known as Parayi Petta Panthirukulam. As Vararuchi has predicted, the first eleven were found by people of varying communities and were brought up by them in their respective traditions. The children were Mezhathole Agnihotri, Naranathu Branthan, Uliyannoor Perumthachan, Akavur Chathan, Pakkanar, Vaduthala Nayar, Karaikkalamma, Uppukoottan, Thiruvarankayathu Pananar, Vallon, Rajakan, and Vayillakkunnilappan. It is believed that all the children except Vayillakkunnilappan would meet every year at Agnihotri's illam (residence) to observe the death anniversary of their parents. They had a great affection for each other in spite of their different upbringings and each possessed divine powers. The strong bond between these siblings is a great example to follow in today’s world. It goes to show that every community has a common ancestry and the difference in their behaviors and attitude is due to the difference in their upbringing and the surrounding environment.
To be continued…..