India is land known for its great hermits. The word meaning of a “Hermit” is “a solitary person”, or “loner”. Hermit is different from another monk in that, a hermit stays alone, far from the society. He does not stay with a group of monks. He either goes to a forest or to mountain top for prayers and meditation. In syriac, they are known are Ihidayakar. The monks who stay in an established ashram/dayara, along with other monks are called dayarayuso.
The Malankara Orthodox Church in its glorious history has been blessed with a number of hermits, whose prayers in here and in the father’s house after they depart, has kept the walls of the Church strong despite many trials and tribulations. The most famous among them is St Gregorios of Parumala, who lived as hermit in his days in Vettickal dayara. There was a generation of monks who got inspired by Parumala thirumeni’s prayer life and devoted themselves to God. HG Kuriakose Mar Gregroios, former Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese, better known to us as Pampady Thirumeni belongs to that generation. He chose the uninhabited Pothenpuram Hills, as the place for his interaction with his Heavenly Father. The Pampady dayara and Chapel was thus established in a place donated by Madathil Asan, the Hindu teacher of Pampady Thirumeni.
Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasius, who was the first Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese and later was given the charge of Angamaly, once visited Pampady Church. The Metropolitan was walking in the verandah of the Church. He was able to see three boys coming towards him. On the way to the church someone had tied a cow and there was some cow dung on the way. When these boys reached near it, two of the boys jumped over the cow dung and went to the Metropolitan and kissed his hands. The third boy, who was with them, stopped in front of the dung. He looked around and found a plantain and went to it and brought a plantain leaf along with him. He took away the cow dung, with the plantain leaf and dropped it beneath the plantain, so that it could be manure for it. The boy then went to the church well, washed his hands and came near to Kadavil Thirumeni. Thirumeni was seeing all his actions. He asked the boy about his whereabouts and then in a stern voice ordered to bring his father with him tomorrow. The boy brought his father along the next day. Kadavil Thirumeni said to the boy’s father, “I want this boy”. Thirumeni brought up this boy from that day on through the various stages of his spiritual life. That boy is none other than Pampady Thirumeni. The quality in the young boy that Kadavil Thirumeni admired was what the people of Pampady Thirumeni’s generation, and one like us after that admire. It was that he cared. As a young boy coming to visit Kadavil Thirumeni, he cared about those people who are going to visit Thirumeni and the difficulty that they may face while come through the dirtied road. Not only did he remove that difficulty but also made use of it productively, by using the cow dung as manure for the plantain.
When he was a Remban, he stayed sometime in Pampady church. Some of the maintenance and construction works happened when Remban was there. He was very particular that those who come for work, be it workers or parishioners, should be given food after their work. It was his quality of love towards his fellow being that is again reflected here.
Another incident of his love and mercy towards his brethren was when he handed over a milking cow, which was the only source of milk for Pampady Dayara, to an unemployed person who came to Thirumeni for help. When the individual was reluctant to untie the cow and take it along, Thirumeni himself untie the cow and gave it to the reluctant individual.
Thirumeni was a man who not only preached what his Master in heaven did, but also practically followed the same. Once, a beggar, affected by leprosy visited Pampady Dayara. But he didn’t have the courage to come inside. He stood by the gate. Thirumeni, seeing this beggar, asked him to come in. He stilled didn’t come in. Thirumeni walked towards the beggar, caught him by his hand and led him into the dayara. He gave food, and later some money when the beggar left.
The epitome of his love for mankind was seen by the Church and the general public when Pampady Thirumeni visited Kunnamkulam, when the region was reeling under the disastrous epidemic of plague. The news of the epidemic also reached HH Geevarghese II Bava. His Holiness wanted someone from the Church leadership to go to Kunnamkulam to give support to the people. But no one dared to go. Bava Thirumeni seeing that no one is willing said that if no one goes then he himself will go. But this was when Pampady Thirumeni heard about the news and quickly informed Bava about his willingness to visit Kunnamkulam. Thirumeni started for Kunnamkulam eventhough many of his well wishers discouraged him from going, but Thirumeni said “If I die, then let it be”. In Kunnamkulam he visited homes, without any distinction of caste, creed or religion, and offered prayers. All those who were affected in those homes were cured. Processions (Pradikshanam) were taken out by Thirumeni in affected areas.The Bethany Church in Kunnamkulam was converted into a healthcare unit for serving the ill. Thirumeni returned only after the situation was well in control. The people of Kunnamkulam still hold Thirumeni in high regard, as even now a large contingent from Kunnamkulam attends the Feast of Thirumeni in Pampady.
Thirumeni’s compassion was not only restricted to the human beings but also animal and birds. Thirumeni used to regularly feed crows. The reason that Thirumeni gave for this was that, it was these beings that fed Prophet Elijah. It is said that the when Thirumeni’s funeral service was going on there were many crows in the compound of the dayara, but all of them were silent, as if grieving on his departure.
The two faithful servants or shall we call them friends
Not far from Pampady, there is place called Erumeli, which is famous for the shrine of Vavar (Vavar Swami), a close friend and devout of Lord Ayappa of Hindu Mythology. It is a custom for all Sabarimala pilgrims to visit Erumeli before they visit Ayappa in Sabarimala. Like Ayappa’s story will not be complete without mentioning Vavar Swamy, any write up about Pampady Thirumeni will not be complete without mentioning two of his most faithful servants or rather friends. One took up the monastic order of Priesthood, and the other remained a laity.
The former is none other than the Late lamented P C Yohannan Remban. He came into dayara when he was very young. Pampady Thirumeni took care of his education. His first role in the dayara was to read newspapers to Pampady Thirumeni. All the institutions that we now see in and around Pothenpuram are results of the Remban’s tireless efforts. HH Mathews I Bava (Vattakunnel Bava) invited him to bishophood, but Rembachen refused because he felt that he was less qualified for the post and also as he can’t stay away from offering prayers in Pampady Thirumeni’s tomb for long.
The latter is Thomas, better known as Pottan.He couldn’t speak or hear. But he understood everything that Thirumeni wanted. Most of the coconut
trees that we see in Pothenpuram were planted and watered by Pottan Thomas. He was also in charge of the dayara’s kitchen. Once, a few inmates of the Dayara played a cruel joke on Thomas. They made him believe that it was his marriage that day and asked him to be dressed like a groom and go to the church. He did the same. When Thirumeni came to know about it, he scolded the inmates for this cruel joke. He called Thomas and said to him that there is no marriage and he is destined to lead a similar life to that of Thirumeni, that of a monk. Thomas never missed any of the canonical prayers and Holy Qurbanas. Usually he was the first person to turn up in the Church. He was known for his anger, especially if he found anything in the dayara misplaced. He used to take care of all the inmates of the dayara. He was very close to Pampady Thirumeni. When Pampady Thirumeni passed away, he was inconsolable. He wanted himself to be buried with Thirumeni. Thirumeni used to say to Yohannan Remban “you should look after him when I am dead. I wish he passed away before I did. He would inherit heaven, no doubt.” After Thomas died he was buried inside the dayara compound, in a place where his tomb can be seen from the room having the tomb of Pampady Thirumeni.
The Holy Church has started the processes required for canonizing Pampady Kuriakose Mar Gregorios Thirumeni, on the occasion of his 50th Dukharono. But for years since his departure thousands flood into Pampady during the days of the feast and also on other days. Whether Thirumeni is canonized or not, he is living as a saint in everyone’s minds and is still seeking intercession for his beloved children before the LordSeeking his Intercession