The Original Aarachar[hangman of Travancore]

The Original Aarachar

With the debate over whether or not capital punishment should be abolished in India still raging on, it is interesting to recall that capital punishment was dropped from the rule books by the princely State of Travancore three years before India became independent.
However, the death by the noose returned to Travancore after the princely State’s integration with the Indian Union in 1947 and eventual formation of the State of Kerala.
Travancore had then followed the model of some progressive nations in the West when its last ruler, Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, decreed abolition of death by hanging.
Travancore, comprising most of the southern districts of the present Kerala, is perhaps the only place in the world where the death penalty returned as the harshest form of punishment, though awarded only in the rarest of the rare cases.
Archival material says it was on November 11, 1944 that Chithira Tirunal, a visionary ruler, abolished capital punishment in his State.
Before that radical step, he had already earned a reputation for progressive decisions such as the Temple Entry Proclamation, which opened Hindu temples to all castes.
Diwan's role
Historians says it was C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer, who was the powerful Diwan (Prime Minister) of Travancore in a tumultuous phase in its history, who persuaded Chithira Tirunal to ban the death penalty, citing examples of European States such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland and many states in the U.S.
K. Rameshan Nair, police historian who has made extensive studies on the policing and legal system of Kerala, said executioners of Travancore hailed from a family in Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu, which was earlier part of Travancore.
Records say the family was entrusted with the responsibility of executing the capital punishment during the time of Chithira Tirunal.
Later, a person from Malappuram donned the garb of executioner in the State, Mr. Nair said.
When a person was being awarded death sentence in Travancore, the king would send a ‘Villu Vandi,’ a special vehicle, to the executioner’s home to bring him to the central prison here to carry out the hanging. Royal guards would make a public announcement about the execution of the convict by going around beating the drums.
During those days, the executioner’s job had some ritualistic aspects about it. Days before the hanging, he would observe penance or ‘Vratha.’
The rope for hanging the guilty would be provided by the government and a new rope was used for each hanging.
The executioner’s job also had a stigma associated with it. The executioners were considered representatives of Yama (god of death) on the earth and ordinary people, especially women and children, kept away from them as far as possible.
Shadow kill
The agony and isolation of an executioner in Travancore was the theme of the renowned director Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s 2002 film, Nizhalkuthu (Shadow Kill).
The film revolves around the mental struggle of Kaliyappan, the official executioner of the kingdom of Travancore in the 1940s, brilliantly portrayed by the late Oduvil Unnikrishnan.
The film subtly portrayed the realities confronted by the executioner, such as eagerness of the authorities to keep the ‘death man’ away from their immediate environs, neighbours’ contempt and his recurring hallucinations.
In Kerala
Alexander Jacob, Additional Director General of Police (Prisons), says the last executions in Kerala were done in 1993 when Muthukkutty Chandran, alias Ripper Chandran, and one Balakrishan were hanged to death in separate cases.
Nearly 50 people had been executed in Kerala in the post-Independence period and 14 others are now on the death row in various jails, he said.
“After the retirement of the last ‘Aarachar’ (executioner) in 1983, other prison employees had carried out the hanging as nobody, including the last executioner’s successors, has shown any interest in the ‘killing job,’” Mr. Jacob says. — PTI


Travancore had followed the model of some progressive nations in the West.
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The Original Aarachar



June 10, 2017, 7:00 am IST
in Tracking Indian Communities | Malayalam, Roots & Wings | TOI
“Bless me, O Lord! Forgive me for what I am going to do. May the one who dies at my hands find peace….” These were the words of Nata Mullick, as he waited to hang Dhananjoy Chatterjee, a rape and murder convict, at Alipore Central Jail in West Bengal on June 24, 2004. These words, barely audible as the octogenarian hangman muttered under his breath, were recorded by documentary filmmaker Joshy Joseph who was there to capture the event on film.
Joshy was part of a visual media bandwagon that had assembled for this rare occasion, when they could record a hangman live, a hangman who was set to monetize it by taking money and booze from each reporter according to their audio-visual requirements.
Joshy managed to talk to the hangman and record that day’s developments, which became a feature-length documentary film, One Day in the Life of a Hangman, which was to inspire K R Meera to write her highly-successful novel ‘Aarachar’ (Hangwoman).
Though the 83-minute documentary shot in the dingy, cell-like room of the hangman did not have a screenplay, it had a narrative that could be read like fiction. Now, it has been published in book form in Malayalam, ‘Aaracharude jeevithathil Ninnu Oru Divasam’. “This is not the screenplay of the film; it is more like retelling the narrative in the film… the life, anguish, humour and silence, thus heralding the dawn of a new genre of writing,” says Joshy. Since he did not want to write it, the job was assigned to television and media personality M S Banesh, who wrote the text based on the film, catching the life depicted in it.

“Incidentally, when my friend Hari, who runs Fabian Books, suggested to me to publish the screenplay of the film a few years ago, I discussed this with Meera, and she agreed to write it. But since she faced some creative block in retelling the visual narrative, the idea was dropped, but it inspired her to write the novel,” says Joshy.
The making of the film without a script, that too in the frenzy air of media glare, was a different experience, says the director. Goddess Kali too was part of the show, caught between the hangman and the convict. Fervent pleas from cell No 3 of Alipore jail sought an extension of life, while the executioner asked for the salvation of soul of the convict through elaborate rituals. His children, who had helped him since 1991, were ready, but there was uncertainty, which comes to life in the book as well.
“Are you ready?” asks a reporter.
“I’m always ready for the job… I’ll be always ready for such persons… I have never made a noose to slip on a real human being… I have hanged such devilish men, who ruined whole families…” says the hangman, alcohol in his breath and cigarette smoke around him.
What gave the documentary a new twist was the unexpected stay on the eve of Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s execution, an anti-climax for the media crew. But Mullick was confident that Dhananjoy would never escape the noose. As the filmmaker took his leave, the hangman said, “You will have to ‘return’… my belief is that this man is not going to escape… Now you can reduce the payment you offered to me by half, but the next time you will have to pay me more…”
And exactly that happened on August 14, 2004, on Dhananjoy Chatterjee’s birthday, and the noose fell on his neck. Immediately after this, the hangman fainted; he was taken to a nearby hospital in an ambulance. And from there the ambulance went directly to a television studio, says the book with an undercurrent of black humour.
Writer N S Madhavan, who wrote the foreword to the book, said he experienced a similar feeling while reading the Czech novel ‘The Hangwoman’, written in the 1970s by Pavel Kohout. But to bring to life the body language and silence of the hangman in a book is a difficult task, according to Joshy, who said the authorship of the book should go to Banesh. “You read it along
with Aarachar, and you will get a new experience that is visual and literary at the same time,”
says the man who captured one day from a hangman’s life.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.
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Aarachar


The judge pointed out that a family belonging to a particular community in Nanjil Nadu (presently Thovalai and Agasteeswaram Taluks in Kanyakumari district) worked as Aarachar who carry out execution of convicts sentenced to death. The erstwhile King of Travancore had provided lands to the family members on condition that they should continue their service.

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Aug 8, 2014 - The erstwhile King of Travancore had provided lands to the family members ... 1963 subject to the condition that the Aarachar service should be .
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Aarachar


Aarachar | Novel By K R Meera | Dc Books

onlinestore.dcbooks.com/books/aarachar
Aarachar--Executioner is a story based on the Indian culture of caste and religion. The story illustrated in Kolkata narrates about a family's culture and profession ...

Aarachaar - Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aarachaar
Aarachaar is a Malayalam novel written by K. R. Meera. Originally serialised in Madhyamam ... Jump up ^ "Sahitya Akademi award for Meera's 'Aarachar'".

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Aarachar

Keralacharithram - DC Books-Online BookStore

onlinestore.dcbooks.com/books/keralacharithram
KHASAKKINTE ITIHASAM. VYAASA MAHABHARATHAM [6 Volumes - Pre Publication]. RANDAMOOZHAM. Sravukalkoppam Neenthumbol.

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Aarachar



Shadow Kill

A hangman in a southern Indian village who has spent his life carrying out politically motivated executions is now old and so wracked with guilt that he takes to heavy drinking and praying to the goddess Kali to forgive his sins. Veteran director Adoor Gopalakrishnan sets the film in 1941, ... more