If one is moving from Kuttikanam towards Pallikunnu, enroute Kattapana, between Kuttikanam and Pallikunnu, you will come across a cross (kurissu in Malayalam) near a bridge, the aanappaalam (elephant bridge). On either side of the road, there are tea estates, some working and some closed. But there is greenery everywhere. Students and nuns from the nearby St Pius X School and Marian College frequent this place very often.
This cross has a very tragic history / legend behind it. Many years ago, on either side of the road, inside the estates, there were line houses. A line house is a typical cheap, one room accommodation provided to the estate employees, consisting of houses, usually seven or ten, in parallel. Each house consists of a verandah, a room and kitchen. The common bathroom shared by the inhabitants of these line houses. These line houses were built by the estate owners for their employees and families to stay. These line houses also gave enough security to the estates from encroachment by people and attacks by wild animals. Living together, the employees too were guarded against attacks from wild boars, wild elephants etc which were plenty in that area.
Diseases have always been a scourge of human beings and at a time when science and medicine had not advanced as much as today, most of the diseases were fatal. Small pox (vasoori in Malayalam) was one such disease which never had a medicine. There was no treatment available and the only precaution was to isolate the patients to prevent it spreading to other healthy people.
The surrounding areas of Aanakurissu was the place fifty years or so back, where people who contracted smallpox were brought for solitary confinement , away from the healthy population. (Like in the famous movie 'Island of Shadows', leprosy patients were isolated and were made to live in colonies inhabited by other leprosy patients). A care taker used to give food to these patients at regular intervals. People were scared to come to these places and the people who were brought here, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and close relatives, never got to see their relatives and friends again, as these people died a very sad and painful death here. Neglected and despised by the society, the local people never came to these places.
Legend has it that the dead souls of these people who died a painful death in the line houses were wandering these areas as ghosts and scaring travelers and people staying nearby. A cross was brought from Mattanchery, near Ernakulam to this place and erected by the catholic priests in this area. With frequent prayers at the cross, it is said that the scourge of wandering dead souls scaring people disappeared.
Motorist traveling long distances also make a stop at the cross these days to pray for a safe journey. Often the prayers are accompanied by some offerings which are collected by the Catholic church at Kuttikanam which looks after the maintenance of the place. Local people around here say that the prayers at these places also yield results which is evident by the large groups of people who come to this place every Friday for prayers and requests. If these prayers are repeated for five or seven weeks, called as niyogam by the local people, it is believed that the prayers are heard. These days, it is also seen that infertile couples have started tying small toy cradles on the cross for blessings of fertility, and more often than not, it is granted.
If you are interested in offering prayers at this place, visit it on Friday at 5 PM for prayers there and place your wishes and requests. More often than not, it shall be granted.
George Easaw (As told to George Easaw by Jiji, of MBC College of Engg, Peermade on 17 Aug 07..)