Kandanar Kelan: The god who embraced fire

Theyyam is fundamentally performed based on customs and rituals. Each theyyam form has its own traditional practices. These practices are mainly derived from their life stories. It is based on this ritual, theyyam performer jumps into the fire once he acquires the soul strength of God “Kandanar Kelan”.

This is the story of a common man “Kelan” who rose from his ashes to become the Fire God.

Meledath Chakkiyamma was a renowned landlord who lived in Kunnuru, Ramandalli situated in the outskirts of Payyanur. She had acres of land across Kerala and one day while she was taking a walk through her property in Wayanad, she found an orphan boy lying beneath a tree, pale and cold. Chakiyyamma decided to take him home and keep him as her son; she named him Kelan. In every phase of his growth, the mother felt proud. Years passed and he turned into a hardworking young man who converted drylands into profitable solid grounds. The region of “Kunnuru” which was under the control of Chakkiyamma flourished due to the dedication and commitment of her son, Kelan. This aroused in her the thought that Kelan could help her convert the drylands of Wayanad into a sprouting one. When she revealed her wish, Kelan was much obliged to do that for his mother.

With his tools and weapons, Kelan reached Wayanad and he started clearing the “Poombunam” area which is the intersection point of four dense forests. Starting from the first, Kelan cleared all the four forests regions but left behind one gooseberry tree from the fourth because it was the living habitat of two ferocious snakes named “Kaali” and “Karaali”. To clear the scraps, Kelan decided to set fire. He started to light the fire from all the four corners of Poombunam. The first forest got lit and Kelan adventurously jumped through the fire and escaped. Kelan did the same thing with the second forest and he enjoyed the fun of escaping. But when he tried to jump out of the fourth forest, fire and wind aggrieved and the place felt as hell with flames and heat. Kelan couldn’t make out of the fire this time and he was stuck in the middle of the raging fire waves. The only ray of hope was the gooseberry tree which he left uncut. Kelan immediately climbed the tree before the fire engulfed him. Feared of getting attacked kaali and karaali bit on both sides of Kelan’s chest and gradually all the three fell back into the fire and ended up being ashes.

When “Vayanaattu Kulavan”, a tribal head (who later turned into God) was passing by, he saw kelan who turned grey with two snakes on his chest. Kulavan kicked the ashes with his right leg and when he did that Kelan raised up holding his legs with the snakes on his chest. Kulavan named him “Kandanaar Kelan” and from then, Kelan was worshipped as God who embraced fire and returned from the ashes.

“Udalil Paambina cherum mukil varnan, aathmapaarithil pukazhpetta Kandanaar Kelan”

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