Creating a myth. The story of 
Poothapattu, the most popular of 
Edasseri Poems.

a few sketches on
a poem by edasseri
by artist namboodiri
unni on way to
pootham (the poltergeist)
the frightened pootham
nangeli giving
solace to pootham
on parting

continuing the story of the Poem Poothapattu - Song on the Poltergeist.


Unni is seven years old, and it's time he went  to Pallikkoodam (school). Nangeli is dressing up her child with a pulliyilakkara mundu (a plain piece of cloth with a narrow border, distinctive to Kerala), and his long hair is tied on top with a  strand of creepers.  Unni holds a Ezhuthani (a sharp iron scribe used for writing on scrolls and palm leaves).  The young fellow is in great enthusiasm, because he  is going to pallikkoodam (school) for the first time.  


Unni on his way to the "pallikkoodam" (school). The poet gives a vivid account of the various sights that caught the imagination of the child, the sights of nature. He is holding the ezhuthani (iron scribe) in his left hand and the cut-to-size treated palm leaves to write on and Olakkuda (an umbrella made of palm leaves) in the right hand .

He walks past the Parayan's temple,  on to the rocky hillocks and reaches near the hideout of the Pootham. Astonishingly, at that very moment Pootham opens its pigeonhole window to see Unni walking down. Unni looks so likeable and the poet describes him variously as a water-lily drifting down the current, as the crescent of moon making its gradual appearance, soft like a rare variety of fruit and shining like a golden vessel .  Pootham is fascinated by Unni, an irresistible presence for her, so much so that watching the boy, Pootham gets goose pimples and she feels a sensation in her bosom - a feeling mothers feel when they feed their children. Pootham  wants to take away Unni and possess him. Now she is trying to attract the attention of Unni by making herself presentable.


With its magical powers the Pootham turns herself into a pretty girl and stands under a  tree in full  bloom.  But being an evil spirit, she cannot touch Unni as he is carrying a scribe made of iron, a metal which repulsed evil spirits . When Unni comes near she asks him to throw away the iron-scribe, since she can't touch him so long he is carrying anything made of iron.  Unni doesn't  relent because he feels that the "Gurunathan" (teacher) will scold him if he did anything of the sort.  She, however,  lures him with the  promise of various gifts of nature like the soft mango leaves and jasmine bud to write on instead of palm leaves and iron scribe. She also suggests that Unni may happily spend his time with her in the cool shadows making garlands of flowers . The temptation is so strong, Unni throws  away the iron scribe and lo and behold! Pootham takes hold of  his hand and walks away taking him along. (Meanwhile Nangeli, becomes highly anxious on not finding her son back  in  time and starts searching for him in all the possible places, darkness slowly envelopes the sky; making the task even more hard on her.)


The scene is powerful and charged with tension, showing a confrontation  between the emotional mother who wants to retrieve her child and the evil Pootham who wants to extend her new found sense of happiness and ecstasy with Unni, a bundle of joy,  and is in no mood of returning him. Nangeli finally finds the Pootham and pleads for releasing her son.  The unrelenting Pootham refuses, because she was enjoying the company of Unni and was playing with him making garlands of wild flowers.  The perseverant  mother refuses all the riches in the world offered  by Pootham in lieu of Unni. In fact she, scoops her eyes out of  the sockets  and offers them to the Pootham saying that Unni is more precious to her than her own eyes.  Now that Nangeli has become blind Pootham plays smart. She takes a piece of  "Thechi" shurb, chants her Mantras (utterances  to invoke her evil powers)  and  creates  another boy which look exactly like Unni and offers him to the mother to take along.  Nangeli, the mother kisses the boy's forehead and promptly realizes that she is cheated.  She raises her hand to utter a curse, since  Pootham has cheated the womb that gave birth to the child.


On the verge of a curse that is going to befall on her, Pootham is frightened and quickly releases Nangeli's son and also restores her eyesight.  One may question  why such an evil being like Pootham should be intimidated by a powerless Nangeli. But one must realize that a mother's curse was considered the most powerful, even feared by the Gods, such was the force of this curse. Weeping sorrowfully, she pleads for mercy.  It was heart rending for the Pootham, because she loved  Unni so much.  Seeing Pootham's agony Nangeli softens her attitude and takes pity on Pootham. She tries to pacify the Pootham by asking her to come down to their house every year, when the harvest is over and the "pathayam" (Granary) is full of rice, to bless Unni.  Pootham agrees immediately and Nangeli greatly  relieved  leaves with her son.  Poor Pootham; in that hurry she forgot to ask Nangeli where she lived. Nangeli also did'nt volunteer the information either for fear of losing her son again or by sheer forgetfulness. No body really knows. It remains a mystery till date. Any way every year when the harvest is over and the "pathayams" (granaries) are full in every house, Pootham looks for the house where Unni resides, but to her sorrow she  fails to find him out as Nangeli had not told her where she lived. It is a sad sojourn for Pootham. Even if Pootham asks for help from different people she meets, no one is really helpful; on the contrary, even misdirects her with a sense of mockery. Perhaps they are scornful of Pootham despite her present sad state, as  the memories of  her past evil ways haunting them are difficult to be erased from their minds. The beat and short pipe music that accompany the Pootham resembles her sighs of grief.

P.S. The text in red is edited by Sreedevi Manoj, Edasseri's grand daughter. (Daughter of E. Madhavan and Susheela.)





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