Naranath Branthan (The madman of Naranam) is a character in Malayalam folklore. He was considered to be a divine person, a Mukhta who pretended to be mad. His chief activity consisted of rolling a big stone up a hill and then letting it fall back down. Unlike Sisyphus, he acted on his own volition rather than under the influence of a curse. There is a large statue of Naranath in Pattambi, Palakkad district of Kerala where he is believed to have lived.
Naranathu was born as the son of Vararuchi, the famous astrologer who adorned the court of Vikrama. Naranathu was one among the twelve offsprings or the Parayi petta panthirukulam(12 children born from the Pariah woman), of Vararuchi and was brought up in the Naranathu Mangalathu Mana, situated at Chethallur in Palakkad. Naranthu came to Thiruvegappura for mastering 'Vedas'. Thiruvegappura and the nearby Rayiranelloor Mountain, which is known as 'Branthachalam', became his usual abode. Due to his strange behavior and odd activities, people perceived him as 'mad'. At Rayiranellor Mountain he had the vision of the Devi (Goddess), and later for the benevolence of the people he enshrined Devi in the Mountain and started his worship there. No clear descriptions have yet been received of Naranath's last days.
The most famous facet of Naranath's life is his apparently eccentric habit of rolling big stones up the hill and letting them roll down back, and laughing thunderously on seeing this sight. However this act has been often considered allegorical and has been applied for social critiquing for myriad contexts.
The Naranathu Branthan Mala (hill) is located at Rayiranelloor in Palakkad district on the Valanchery - Pattambi road after Thiruvegappura Shiv temple. It takes 1.5 hour to climb the hill. Many climb the hill during 1st of Thulam (mid October). On top there is a statue of Naranathu Branthan. The nearest rail head is Kuttipuram in Malappuram district on the Shornur - Kozhikode route.
Stories of Naranath Bhranthan
Story of Sri Rama Temple at Triprayar
One day Naranathu came to worship at the temple of Triprayar. He was surprised to see the movement of the altar stone, yet fathomed the reason through his yogic powers. He called the temple Tantri and had a nail driven on the stone, chanting mantras. The movement stopped forthwith. The portion where the nail was thrust can be seen even today.
In order to prevent any decline in the power of the idol on account of the change in its location, Naranathu also arranged to install two goddesses on either side of the deity -Sri Devi on the right and Bhumi Devi on the left.
Story of Naranath Bhranthan and Bhadrakali
Another of the popular stories which is associated with Naranath goes as follows. Once Goddess Bhadrakali appeared before him and offered to grant boons to him. But Naranath declined to accept the offer. But the goddess persuaded him to ask something for her satisfaction. He then asked the Goddess to make his lifespan increase by one second. The goddess told him that she didn't have the power to do so. Then he asked her to decrease his lifespan by one second. The goddess was unable to grant that too. Frustrated by this, Naranath asked the Goddess to shift the Manth(Malayalam) from his left leg to right leg, which the goddess readily did.
In yet another story a man wanted Naranath to be his Guru and followed him. As a good disciple he wished to do everything his Guru did. Naranath told him to go away but the disciple stuck on. After walking for long their mouths were parched and there was no water source nearby. Naranath spotted a blacksmith and asked him to give him molten metal to drink, and he drank it. The disciple was sure that he himself couldn't do it. And Naranath told him to go away.
Story of Naranath Bhranthan and Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple
The swayambhu idol of Lord Sri Krishna installed in Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Swami Temple, Ambalappuzha, in Alappuzha District of Kerala is said to be installed by Naranathu Bhranthan. The story goes like this: The swayambhu idol of Sri Krishna was installed by some other Brahman initially and the temple poojas used to go on as usual for only a few days. Each day for nirmalyam the melshanthi, the chief priest of the temple used to open the nada (door of sanctum sanctorum) with a fear in mind if the idol would be intact or if he would see it fallen. Once found fallen reinstallation would be conducted after a ritual. Frustrated with the repeated incidence the temple authorities decided to know the reason behind it and conducted a devaprashnam before reinstallation and in the devaprashnam it was observed that only Naranathu Bhranthan could install the idol permanently. The authorities sought for him and got him though with half mind because he was always in a dirty upkeep and attire and chewing pan. As it came up in devaprashnam they had no option. Naranathu too tried to fix the idol on the platform but each time it used to fall off. When it happened over and over again and meanwhile his mouth was full of pan spit he spat into the slot on the platform and uttered, ‘irikkeda pulayadimone avide’ meaning: ‘sit there you, son of a pulayi’ and the idol got fixed. The slot full of beetle leaf (taamboolam) spit spilled over the slot and hence the place got the name ‘Taamboolappuzha’ which later got distorted to ‘Ambalappuzha’. It is believed that there was no change in the installation after that and this also confirms that Naranathu was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Naranath Branthan is the title character of an acclaimed poem by V. Madhusoodhanan Nair.
- A tribute to Naranath and Branthachalam Temple at Kaippuram
- Story of Naranath Branthan
- Bhagavathi Temple situated near Naranathu Branthachalam Temple