In the heart of Trivandrum,next to the Pagoda of Sree AnanthaPadmanabhaswamy stands the turret clock popularly known as the Meshan Mani *1.Its stands as a silent spectator,a veritable witness to changing times ticking away unperturbed,by the tumults around.
Participation in the Annual Satsanga Series by 'Parama Shraddheya' 'Brahmasree'*2 Nochur,Venkataraman held at Abhedashramam Balakrishnaswamy Temple precincts gave the gracious chance for the writer to listen to the chimes of the clock.It once used to be heard from miles away and now goes unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of the city.That indeed prompted this short article which explores the
‘jataka’*3 of this unique piece of work, which has seen Travancore in all its glories from the days of HRH Maharajah Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma to the present day benevolence of HRH Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma; who might be in robes different from those of the former Vanchipalas, but indelibly graced by Sree Padmababhaswamy.
An e-version of this clock incarnated in the cyber world,created by CDIT under the stewardship of Dr Achyutsankar S Nair who is a key academic of Travancore History of that period especially the days of Swathi Thirunal. It is available for download at the said website.
Installed in 1833 during the reign of Maharajah Swathi Thirunal,the Meshan Mani (clock) is ensconced in the middle of the Karuvelappura Palace facing the Padmatheertham Pond towards the North, in front of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.It has on its dial, a man's face with two goats on either side. The rams
clobber the bearded cheeks when the clock clangs its bell.
The writer on the Northern side of the tank;the long Karuvelappura Palace and the pagoda in the background – Photo by Editor Synonymous
A Pandy Craftsmen(Sketch by Sharat Sunder-Courtesy- www.sharatsunderrajeev.blogspot.com)
Crafted from mahogany by an artisan called Kulathooran, every time the clock completes an hour, the man opens his mouth and the goats hit his cheeks.Kulathooran hence came to be known as ‘Soothram Asari’- 'Innovative Architect', for designing this unique vicissitude.
The machine is believed to have come from Madras.Records indicate the purchase of two clocks from Madras.One was fixed in the city and the other at Padmanabhapuram(still seen in the Darpakulangara Palace,Thuckalay,Kalkulam ).The proposal was made by the then commercial agent of Travancore, Mr John Caldecott.
Early Turret Clock mechanism
It is an old mechanism which comprises of two boulder weights attached to the needles. They are in turn conjoined to a rod behind the clock. There is a lever mechanism to trigger the goats to collide with the ‘Methan’ every hour, equal to the number of chimes.
The Word Meshan(Or Methan?)could either come from the presence of Two goats- ‘Mesha’ in Sanskrit for goat or according to some it comes from the face of the Muslim Man or ‘Methan’- a word seldom heard today as it may be considered by some as offensive but used by the old-timers.The word clearly has no offensive meanings as the kings even gave honorary titles of ‘Methar’ to Muslim Nobles.
There is also a story that the clock symbolizes Travancore's successful repulsion of the attack of Tipu Sultan, which is of good news to me since my ancestors commanded the war against the ruthless villain from Mysore known for his cruel inhuman ways indicated by the persecution and large scale religious conversion by ordeal,looting and rapes perpetuated by his Moplah *6 forces.People who falsely call him a ‘freedom fighter’ as well as those who spend their lives establishing this lie must remember that he even burned down the Guruvayoor Temple and looted it to an extent that even Sree Guruvayoorappan *4 had to be taken away by the Brahmans to Travancore, later to be re-installed.
The Methan Mani may not be as high as the one overlooking the Lord Kaabalishwara’s Shrine *5 at Mecca surrounded by praying ‘methars’(Mecca,Saudi Arabia around the "Hajre Aswad" or Sanghey Ashweta(non-white stone) which is the largest clock tower in the world) but stands still amazing the traveller as a subtle reminder of Travancore’s past.
The Clocktower,the Karuvelappura Palace and The Padma Theertham Tank overlooking the temple as seen today
- The Clock
- Titles –Esoteric Titles
- Jataka-Horoscope/Life History
- The Deity at Guruvayoor Temple/ Lord Krishna
- The Hajj/Pilgrimage Site of the Mahomedans
- The Adherents of Islamic religion
Thank to my dear friend Sharat, who himself is from an illustrious family of master craftsmen and has been a great companion in my study of Travancore History, for the use of his sketch of the Tamil Asari; the best of my knowledge and belief confers that the ‘Soothrakaran’ Craftsman was a Vishwakarma Achari from Pandy(Tamil Nadu)
Thanks to my editor synonymous who wish to be known so,for unflinching help.