Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala


Kaanikar is one of the tribal settlements in Thiruvananthapuram district that stands out to be an important place in the history of Travancore. In history it is said that, it was the kaanikar who saved Marthanda Varma from the attacks of Ettuveettil Pillai (Nobles of the Eight Houses - a group of nobles from the eight Nair houses in erstwhile Venad).

Kaanikar have their own distinct rituals and they worship Maladaivangal and Chamundi as their deities. They possess a rich repertoire of songs for their cultural tradition and rituals and are commonly referred to as Kaanipattu. The songs are rendered in a peculiar manner and the theme varies from praising Gods, evolution of the earth, activities of the souls, and prayers for mental peace. They have harvest songs also. The instruments used for Kaanipattu are para and kokara (kuzhal).

The kaanikars believe in black magic. Chattupattukal (chattu songs) are used in black magic. By the word ‘Chattu’, they mean ‘to purify’. There are various Chattu pattukal for various rituals among them. ‘Pini chattu’ is sung to escape from diseases; ‘Thudi Chattu’ for providing relief to pregnant women; ‘Rasivetti Chattu’ to avoid dangers; ‘Karinkali Chattu’ to propitiate Karinkali (Goddess Bhadrakali) and so on.

The most famous story among Kanipattu is that of Veerappanarayan. Veerappanarayanan is a kaanikar who is supposed to have received the title of Veera Marthanda Narayan from Attingal Thampuran. In order to strengthen the dam to conserve water from Pandinadu, Veerappanarayan sacrificed his own sister’s life. The main theme in such songs describes Veerappanarayan’s heroic deeds and his contributions to society.

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