The Malayalam title meaning ‘my grandfather had an elephant’ by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer has significance for me as my grandfather had an elephant.
The family with about 500 registered units hold the annual get-together called ‘kidumbayogam’ on Boxing Day December 26 every year in one of the ancestral houses.
The day starts with church prayers and I arrived (as usual) early in the church and found no other family member. I was thinking about the fact that the family contributed in constructing seven churches (some of them including my parish fully), but didn’t bother to engrave the details for generations to see.
A gentleman approached and asked where I am from. I said Ernakulam and he ‘ok you may be staying there but aren’t you from Vettimuttikkavil?’
That’s the sub family name of Vellukunnel assigned to my grandfather. Seeing my amazement he said ‘it’s written on your face,
Then he told me how he and his mother used to come to the roadside along with other villagers to see my grandfather coming on his elephant to Aruvithura every Sunday with the entourage to hold his darbar.
Stories narrated by elders say that the family had 2000 strong army to protect the assets and the local king used to seek army assistance to thwart raids on the kingdom before the Travecore Maharajah could send his army to protect.
Each assistance was rewarded and the family became largest landlords with 10 hills.
Liberal in giving, donations included fully setting up the monastery in Mannanam. When my great grandfather died the superior of the monastery of the rank of archbishop placed his ceremonial cap called methrapolita thoppy on my great grandfathers head. The photo occupies a pride place in my collection.
I think I will write stories around this and others later.
I have heard family claims of Namboothiri background and a recent mention/ finding that section of vellur illam who were baptized by St.Thomas in first century migrated to Aruvithura becoming Vellukunnel.
Recent acknowledgement and recognition to my grandfather for finding the school in Thidanad came from the public. I hope a family history will get written.
But then like my inlaws say- it’s an ottakappal now (ship with a hole)
And I remembered- the difference between inlaws and outlaws- ‘the outlaws are wanted’.
Just kidding. But proud of the background even at the risk of ‘boasting’.