The ‘Garden of Legends’ or Aithihyamala is a collection of ancient stories and considered one of the first classics of the Malayalam language. The book was composed by Kottarathil Sankunni, from over a hundred stories from all walks of life.

The first letter in Malayalam
The first letter in Malayalam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of the famous stories include the beginnings of the ‘tharavad’ Arakkal. It seems the daughter of the Chirakkal Raja was taking a bath. Not knowing swimming yet young enough to be dumb, she ventured into deeper waters and started to drown.

A Muslim youth just happened to be around. The smart lad, on hearing the cries of ‘Help, help’ ( Rakshikoo, rakshikoo) dived into the pond to rescue the damsel in distress. He also generously gave her his ‘mundu’ to cover herself.  Just the right thing to do. Oh No! All hell broke loose.

Remember, this was an extremely conservative time and caste ruled all aspects of society. Giving a long cloth to an unmarried maiden was an invitation to marriage. The Rajah, though confused, gave in to tradition and married his daughter to the Muslim youth, who not only rescued her, but gave up his dignity ( read mundu) to protect hers!

This,and a thousand other tales, are part of the combined literary culture of Kerala and should be restored and reintroduced to the modern day Malayalee.

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