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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Revering Nature and Culture (keyword : Puttari)

Appeared in the Deccan Herald, Spectrum Supplement, Tuesday, 6th of December, 2016 : 

Revering nature & culture

Mookonda Kushalappa, Dec 06, 2016,
Harvest festival

Puttari Polud (also called Huttari), the rice harvest festival of Kodagu, is perhaps the grandest and most elaborate festival in the Kodava calendar. The word putt-ari means new rice and the festival is celebrated on the full moon day during the Kodava month of birchyaar. One day before the Puttari feast, the Kaladcha festival is observed in the Padi Igguthappa Temple. Igguthappa is the god of the rice crop, harvest and rains. 

Preparations for Kaladcha and Puttari are commenced around 15 days in advance. The Pardanda family of Padi village, who are the deva thakka (temple caretakers), the parupatyagara (temple officials) families and other prominent families of Padi, Nelji and Perur villages are summoned in writing. On a particular day, they bring rice, coconut, jaggery, banana and areca nut to the shrine. Astrologers from Ammangeri village determine the date of Puttari feast. They arrive at the temple and convey the exact time for Puttari ceremonies, as determined by the stars.

Traditional fervour
In the afternoon, astrologers, priests, caretaker families, musicians and other devotees go up Malma hill (Igguthappa Betta which is a few kilometres away from the temple), and announce the auspicious time at a shrine in the midst of a sacred grove. Then they will go to the Pardanda Ainmane in Padi and announce it again.

At Malma, the temple caretaker announces the deva kattu (religious restrictions) to be observed by the people of the neighbourhood for the next 14 days. Accordingly eating meat, consuming alcohol, physically or verbally hurting animals or humans, pulling out plants and cutting trees are forbidden in the period. Marriages and funeral ceremonies are not to be conducted during the period. No special puja, except Satyanarayana Puja, is performed in the temple during the period.

Afterwards the astrologers, caretakers and others go to the Makki Sarthavu Temple in Bethu village near Napoklu and announce the date and time again. The astrologers continue conveying the auspicious time to various families of the region. At each house, they are given thambutt powder, rice, jaggery, banana, salt and pepper, sufficient for a meal. Thambutt powder, prepared from boiled rice which is fried until it is golden brown, is used with mashed bananas and finally seasoned with sesame seeds and grated coconut to prepare the thambutt sweet dish. Kodava people gather in their ancestral house, called the ainmane, to celebrate the festival.

On Kaladcha day, the deva thakka goes to Malma again and announces that the deva kattu need not be followed thereafter. This is called kattu muripo, or removing the restrictions. During Kaladcha, the temple deities are embellished with ornaments, and chendas (a percussion instrument) are played. Yetherata is also performed on the occasion. Decorated oxen are made to dance with bags (often rice bags) on their backs.
Puttari Polud is first observed in the Padi Igguthappa Temple and the village of Padi. Hence, the first day is called the Padi polud (Padi celebration) or deva polud (divine celebration). The following day, the festival is celebrated in the rest of Kodagu and it is known as naad polud (public celebration).

While the rituals at the temple are presided over by the archak (priest), the deva thakka performs the rituals. On both days, the first evening near the temple and the second at ancestral houses, the nere kattuvo (tying of certain leaves) and the kad edpo (cutting of paddy sheaves) rituals are performed. At the temple, these two ceremonies are followed by prasada (devotional meal).

After dusk, a designated male family member ties together certain leaves around bits of the inoli creeper with pieces of achchi fibre into bundles. Each of these bundles, called a nere, is placed in a basket. Then an unmarried young lady from the family carries a small lit lamp upon a plate. She leads the family members to go down to the fields.
A designated man ties a nere from the basket to the base of a sheaf of paddy and pours milk from a kutti (bamboo container) onto it. He cuts that sheaf (kad) with a sickle while the other family members cry out ‘Poly, Poly Deva!’ (Let us prosper, let us prosper, O God!). A gun is then fired into the air. Five, seven, nine or 11 sheaves of paddy are cut and given to the assembled family members. They carry these sheaves to the prayer place in the house.

The nere bundles are then tied in various places around the house and the farm. Later, the thambutt sweet dish is consumed by the family. Firecrackers are burst in the night.
On the day after naad puttari, the mane paado (house-singing) ceremony happens. Four folk singers of the village carry small hourglass drums, each called a dudi, and go from residence to residence. While all four strike the drums with cane sticks in rhythm, two of them take turns to sing verses praising the members of the family. A few days later, the villagers gather at the village greens (mand). The village musicians blow their horns and beat their large drums. The men dance in circles beating small rattan cane sticks called kola as they skip around in rhythm with the music. This is called the kolata or the stick-dance.

Festival of arms
There are two other major Kodava festivals — Kail Polud and Kaveri Sankramana. Kail Polud is the festival of arms for the Kodava martial community, now observed on September third every year. Before this festival, naati (rice seedlings) grown in a small area is transplanted across ploughed and puddled fields.

The Kodavas worship traditional farmhouse weapons such as war knives and long guns. They are cleaned and decorated with flowers and vermillion in the puja corner on the Kail Polud day. Sports such as shot-put and shooting at coconuts are arranged that afternoon. In the ancient times, this polud (celebration) marked the commencement of the hunting season, during the Kodava month of Chingyaar, when the Simha Rashi (Leo zodiac sign) is in prominence. While in the past people kept arms to use in wars, now they are kept as cultural symbols, to guard the crops and to ward away wild creatures.
Kaveri Sankramana is a festival dedicated to the river goddess Kaveri, the patron of the Kodavas. It happens on the first day of thulyaar, when the sun seems to enter the Libra zodiac sign. Ritual water is obtained from Talakaveri, the source of the river, and distributed among the natives of Kodagu.

A kalasha is worshipped in the houses and a vegetarian meal comprising dosa and pumpkin curry is prepared on that day. In the following month, pinda (ritual rice balls) is offered to or uttara kriya (last rites) is performed for deceased family members upon the banks of River Kaveri at Bhagamandala.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

For a green escape (keywords : Coorg tourism)

My article 'For a green escape' was published in the Deccan Herald newspaper's Spectrum supplement on August 2, 2016. the link is given below.

Given below is my original draft:

In Kodagu, Igguthappa is venerated as a hero god and especially remembered during the Puttari harvest festival. While the river Kaveri is called the Kula devi or patron goddess, Igguthappa is known as the Mahaguru, or chief preceptor. Igguthappa is revered as Lord Subramani incarnate, the war-god who commands snakes as well. According to a ballad, he was one of six brothers and a sister, reincarnations of various deities. Born across the celestial milky ocean, they arrived as children upon the Northern Malabar coast. 

The eldest brother, a reincarnation of Lord Vaidyanath, settled down in Kanjirath near Tali Parambu. Known as Kanjirathappa, he is associated with the Vaidyanath Temple of that place. Kanjirathappa sent his younger siblings further inland. But the second brother, a local manifestation of Sri Krishna, settled a little distance away at Thiruchambara and came to be known as Thiruchambaratappa. The third brother, a reincarnation of Lord Rajarajeshwara, came to live in  Bendre Kolur and hence became known as Bendru Kolurappa. 


The remaining four siblings walked onward and crossed the Western ghats of Kodagu. Lead by Igguthappa the eldest among them, they came near a hill in the village of Kakkabe. There, being born as humans, they felt hungry and hence came to a halt. They were upon the family property of Nambimada Muthanna, a local farmer and landlord. Muthanna had the Padi Igguthappa temple built. His descendants became the hereditary managers of that temple. 

The elder among the remaining two gods was an avatar of Lord Mahalingeshwara. He settled down in the village of Palur along the river Kaveri and came to be known as Palurappa. Pemmayya, the last of the brothers went southward dressed as a yogi. He crossed the Brahmagiri hill range and settled down in Thirunelli, Waynad. His temple became known as the Janardhana temple, named after the deity whose avatar he was. 

The Padi Igguthappa temple is located in the town of Kakkabe and is accessible by road. One can go there either by means of private buses which ply to and fro from the temple to Virajpet and Madikeri or by hiring cars for the trip.

The main annual temple festival of Padi Igguthappa happens around April during Minyaar, or the month of Pisces. During the inauspicious month of Kakkada, or Kakartaka, the month of the crab, certain pujas are not performed. Four other festivals are also observed in the temple. They are the Chingyaar festival, held on the tenth of the month of Leo, the Tholyaar festival, held on the tenth of the month of Libra, the Birchyaar Kalladcha festival, held during the month of Scorpio and the Kumbyaar Kalladcha festival held during the month of Aquarius. The Birchyaar Kalladcha  festival, held around November or December is also called Puttari, or the harvest festival. The date of the Puttari festival is decided in the Igguthappa temple. The festival begins in the temple and the crop is first offered here. Then the people of Kodagu celebrate the festival the next day onward. During the harvest festival the people invoke Igguthappa, Mahadeva and Bayathurappa (the deity of Vayathur).

Monsoon Places

A scenic place nestled in the Western Ghats, Kodagu is known for its hills and waterfalls, rivers and forests. There are a number of lesser known places of interest to visit in Kodagu during the monsoon season. Trekking, water sports and nature watching are some of the common activities indulged in.

Chelavara falls

The Brahmagiri hill range of the Western Ghats is in the western and southern parts of Kodagu. Some of the highest peaks of Karnataka, such as the Thadiyendamol are found here. Near Thadiyendamol and on the way west from the town of Virajpet towards the temple place of Talakaveri is a beautiful natural cascade called the Chelavara falls, beside the village of Cheyyandane. This falls is within a forest and on a stream which eventually joins the Kaveri. Chelavara is also called Embepare, or Tortoise rock, colloquially. There is a beautiful hill called the Choma Kund a couple of kilometres away. Chelavara is accessible from Madikeri and Virajpet by road. It is around 16 kilometers from Virajpet town.

Nishani motte

Nishani motte is a hillock near the temple town of Bhagamandala which is known for the Triveni Sangam, a confluence of tributaries, on the River Kaveri. Also nearby are the Talakaveri wildlife sanctuary and the Thadiyendamol hill. During the monsoons the road to Bhagamandala is sometimes cut off virtually turning it into an island and boats ferry to and fro the town. Nishani motte is good for trekkers but one must seek permission from the forest department and follow a 'leave no trace' policy. Part of the trail is by jeep. If one is lucky then they can spot elephants grazing below the hills. One also needs to watch out for leeches. 

Kadnur mud race

During the monsoons and after the paddy saplings are transplanted, races are organised upon the muddy paddy fields of Kodagu. One of the more famous of these runs is held in the Kadnur village of South Kodagu. 

Bara pole

The Bara pole river near T. Shettigeri, accessible from Virajpet in South Kodagu, is a good site for white water rafting and has a number of rapids with strange sounding names such as Grasshopper, Morning Coffee, Wicked Witch, Frame Head and Milky Churn. It takes birth in the Brahmagiri hills, meanders through forests and coffee plantations and then disappears into the Brahmagiri Wildlife sanctuary in Kodagu. The greenery on either side is infested with reptiles and insects, so the traveller needs to take precautions. The rivulet eventually goes west into Kerala until it descends into the Arabian Sea. 

Irupu falls

The Lakshmana-Thirtha river takes birth in the Western ghat forests and flows through Kodagu and Mysore until it merges with the Kaveri at the Krishna Raja Sagara in Mandya. Near Kurchi village in the Brahmagiris of South Kodagu, this tributary forms the Irupu waterfall which gracefully slithers down the black rocks. 

Legend has it that Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman had come to the place. Some say that when Rama was thirsty Lakshmana shot an arrow into the hills and hence the Lakshmana-Thirtha was born. Some others say that when Lakshmana had once unwittingly insulted Rama he attempted to immolate himself in repentance. In order to douse the fire and save Lakshmana, Rama shot an arrow into the rocks and the stream was formed. A Shiva linga was installed by Rama to aid his prayers. Nearby is the Hanuman Betta. One will be pointed out a crescent shaped depression on that hill and told that it was formed when the powerful Hanuman wound his large tail around it in an attempt to heave it. The Irupu falls can be reached by road from the towns of Virajpet or Gonikoppal and beyond Srimangala.

Nati otta races held in Kodagu

During the monsoons, races called the 'naati ota' are organised upon the paddy fields of Kodagu. A long strip of land upon a paddy field is left uncultivated. Both sides of this strip have three parallel rows of paddy seedlings, called naati. These rows are also called 'Darae naati' as they show the way to the runners. The track is set in the night. It is usually the farmers themselves who get together and organise the ota, or race. Traditionally the runners would gather from the neighbouring villages. They race across the track and through the slush, stumbling along the way. The winners would be given prize money. After the race the track will have seedlings planted in them. One of the more famous of these runs is held in the Kadnur village of South Kodagu.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The sword of the Diwan (keywords : Diwan Meriyanda Medu)

Near the tenth mile from Virajpet is the traditional Ainmane homestead of the Meriyanda extended family. This is the ancestral house of the former minister M C Nanaiah and of the owners of the law firm Poovayya and Poovayya who also own a popular resort elsewhere, which bears the same Meriyanda name. Some distance away from this residence is another homestay resort run by one Meriyanda Somaiah. The sword of Diwan Medu, who was an ancestor of this clan, was kept in this homestay. Also, a place formerly known as the Meriyanda Angadi (store) is located nearby. 

Inner courtyard of the ancestral house

It is reported that several generations ago an unmarried lady, addressed only as Balliavva ('Elder Mother'), brought up her brother and sister-in-law's children. The descendants of the boys among them are part of the Meriyanda clan today. Balliavva had a place of worship known as the Mandana Murthy stana set up in the family farm. According to Gappu Ganapathy, a member of the Meriyanda clan, one historical family member who was called Maanichcha Moli (master), had two wives (probably his first wife died and then he married a second time) and six sons. The eldest among the boys was Meriyanda Medappa, affectionately called Medu, whose mother was from the Marichanda family. Four of his five younger brothers were known as Chettichcha, Kunjappa, Aiyappa and Ponnappa.

The war knife of the Diwan
Medappa, who was a government official, was made a Diwan under Linga Rajendra, the Raja of Kodagu between the years 1811 and 1820. It is said that Medu was a Diwan only for eighteen days. During a particular battle when Medu was stationed at the Nalnad palace, he sent his brother Chettichcha to the western border of the Kodagu kingdom. In the mean time Medu's rival had rumours reported to the Raja that Medu had sent his brother to the enemies in order to sell them official secrets. As a result a Panya (government farm), supposedly in Murnad and sanctioned to Medu's family, was immediately cancelled by the king. Medu was then charged with treason and made to run around the palace. The intention was to make him run into the king's Oidekatthi, a traditional sword also known as the Ayudha Katthi, which was positioned in the courtyard in a manner that it would slit open the runner's neck. But Medu ducked while he ran into the sword and so instead only his scalp was cut off. This then made him fall unconscious and he was taken out of the courtyard. Assuming that he was fatally wounded and hence would succumb to his injury, the palace servants reported to the Raja that Medu was dead. 

The 'Lin' seal of the Raja
Meanwhile Chettichcha won the battle and the news made the Raja regret his decision. However, in  the meantime, Medu was rehabilitated by a toddy drawer who applied medicinal herbs upon his head. It was only when Medu recovered, after some days, and returned to the palace that the Raja discovered that the Diwan had indeed survived. Diwan Medu was then honoured with the Raja's Oidekatthi bearing the small, embossed, golden 'Lin' seal of the Raja stamped upon it. This sword, made peculiar by the rare stamp, originally had an ivory hilt but ever since it broke it has been replaced by a wooden handle. The most commonly found seals of the Kodagu Rajas bear either of the Kannada syllables 'Vi' or 'Lin'. While 'Lin' belonged to Linga Rajendra, the 'Vi' belonged to his elder brother and predecessor Dodda Vira Rajendra. A number of Oidekatthis, bearing such seals had been presented by the respective Rajas in the past, but very few of them have actually survived. 
The first painting

Three paintings of Diwan Medu and the Kodagu Raja were commissioned in the early nineteenth century. While the recipient (Diwan Medu) looks the same, the Raja appears to be different in each of the paintings. We can speculate that Linga Rajendra himself adopted different styles as he aged, unless the patrons were actually different Rajas, probably Dodda Vira Rajendra (r.1789-1809), Linga Rajendra and the latter's son and successor Chikka Vira Rajendra (r.1820-1834), under whom he would have served as an official and advisor. In these paintings Medu wears a red cloth head-dress, which has projections in front, and a thin 'kombu mishe' handlebar moustache, kept by the accomplished brave men of those times. He wears ear rings and is dressed in a white coloured Kuppya (a traditional long sleeved tunic) with an ornate knife, called the piche katthi, secured in his chele waistband. In the second painting he holds out a bird to the Raja, probably offering it as a gift. In the third he holds a bow and some arrows. 
The second painting
Even the Rajas seem not to be spared by rules of propriety; in this case they had to have something held in their right hands when seen in public. They are either holding hunting falcons or holding what appears to be some sort of a flower or a jewel in their right hands. The Raja is seated in a chair placed upon a platform on which Medu also stands. This platform is covered from above by a canopy. In the first painting the Raja is seen sporting large side burns upon an otherwise clean shaven face, long before Elvis Presley would popularise this facial hair style. Two turbaned and moustached attendants stand behind the Raja. One seems to be a flag bearer while the other holds up an Oidekatthi. In the second painting the Raja is clean shaven and has a leashed dog beside him. In both the paintings the Raja wears light coloured head dresses and floral tunics. In the third artwork the Raja dons a cocked hat and has a moustache similar to what Medu has. The Raja also wears a dark, close-collared coat and what seems to be a beaded or pearl necklace. Two attendants stand behind him, one of them holding an upright Oidekatthi. While the original paintings have been kept elsewhere for safekeeping and preservation, black and white copies have been put up for display in the ancestral house. A spear of the olden days, known as a Barchi, has also been kept there.
The third painting

Family heirlooms, such as these paintings and swords, which are part of a heritage, are to be preserved for posterity. A number of similar beautiful paintings had been commissioned by the Kodagu Rajas, especially between 1792 and 1834, and given to different families across Kodagu. It is however unfortunate that we are not aware of the identity of the artists who drew them. These paintings give us an impression of how the Rajas and how their officials and attendants appeared. Likewise, the Ayuda Katthis issued by the Rajas bear their respective syllabic regal insignia. One good specimen of a sword with the 'Vi' syllable has found its way to the London Museum in the United Kingdom, where it is on display today.

The spear

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Story of a Hero-stone (keywords : Kannanda Bane)

Image 1- Kaimada (Landscape)
Since the ancient times the Rajas would dedicate hero stones, called Bira Kall, to the memory of martyrs. Many hero stones were found in North Kodagu, especially around Somwarpet. These coarsely sculpted granite tablets, often issued by the rulers and otherwise commissioned by affluent families, were also known as Kolle Kallu, stones of the killed. A number of them have been lined up around the Government Museum within the Madikeri Fort.

Image 2 - The Bira Kall within the Kaimada
Often the hero stone comprises of two or three panels. Usually at the top of the hero stone is inscribed a circular sun and a crescent moon. At the bottom are the carved figures of men and women holding weapons such as swords, shields and bows. Some sculptures were in the classic style found elsewhere in Karnataka, such as in Mysore and Shimoga, until as north as Belgaum, and in parts of Tamil Nadu to the South. In such hero stones the topmost compartment, underneath the etched sun and moon, would have a Linga and a bull with worshippers around them. The second would show the hero ascending the heavens with apsaras on either side fanning him. The third would have the hero battling other warriors during his life on earth. Sometimes there is a fourth, the bottommost, compartment which might have a horse and an elephant etched.

Image 3 - The Bira Kall of Kannanda Doddayya
The most well-known of these Bira kall in Kodagu, also one of the more recent ones made in 1768, has an image representing Kannanda Doddayya the Dalavayi, or army general, wearing the traditional Kuppya Chele costume with an early gun in one hand and a native Oide katti war knife in the other. When Hyder Ali unsuccessfully attacked Kodagu, Doddayya stood before Muddu Raja II on the eve of the battle and declared: “Twice before have I returned after defeating Hyder and bowed to you but this time I shall not be back”. Indeed in 1767 Doddayya was fatally wounded near Kajur Bagilu even as his army returned victoriously. Later, his house was destroyed and twenty four members of his family were killed by Hyder's son Tipu Sultan. According to G. Richter, in the 1870 book 'Manual of Coorg', Doddayya's Bira Kall was first placed in a paddy field, upon a hill slope and opposite the Mercara Central School.

Image 4 - Bira Kall of other Kannanda family members
A Kaimada, a small sanctuary built in remembrance of ancestors, was built a few decades ago and the Bira Kall was shifted into it. In front of this place, which is also called the Birappa sanctuary, and to its right is a shrine dedicated to Vishnu Murthy (Vishnu's image). To the left of the Bira sanctuary is a shelter, called the Pavali, where a number of devotees can sit within. Behind the sanctuary and to the left is a Trishul, planted upon a raised platform. There are two raised stone seats, one behind the other and facing the Birappa sanctuary.

Image 5 - The Birappa Temple shrines
The Kannanda family has three more memorial stones, featuring some more family members, placed inside another shrine. While one stone has a male ancestor with younger members, the second has a woman with children around her and the third shows two male ancestors holding weapons. Beside this second shrine is another Pavali with stone benches inside.
Image 6 - Figures etched on hero stones
When I paid a visit to this Bira Kall site Mr. Kannanda Suresh, his wife Mrs. Kannanda Ashwini and a clan elder Mr. Kannanda Pookunhi narrated the legend of Doddayya. Accordingly, Doddayya's Kodagu army had successfully defeated Hyder Ali's army and were returning back victoriously. But unfortunately Doddayya was struck and wounded on the way. The Raja, initially pleased upon seeing the return of the victorious army, was dismayed when he heard of the dying general. Doddayya was led up the walls of Madikeri fort and all the lands that he looked upon were then granted to his family by the grateful Raja. Part of this was what is today called the Kannanda bane (land) in Madikeri, the area beyond Mann's compound and Ajjamada Devaiah circle. Doddayya passed away and a Bira Kall was made for him. Some more land grants were made to the Kannanda family by the Rajas. Thus the family came to own lands in seven places: Bavali, Madikeri, Haleri, Poramale, Kajur, Noorokkal and Katakeri. At one point the Kannanda family owned half of Madikeri. Family members sold away most of their lands over the years. Now only three of the original seven places exist with them.
Image 7 - Herostone figures
A week after the festival of Shivaratri the Pade Bira (war hero) Kannanda Doddayya is remembered and a two-day festival is organised. Dance and enactment performances, called There, are arranged. On the first day Prasada is prepared and the Guru Karana, an ancestor who was the preceptor as well, is remembered. The Bhandara, money offered at the temple, is moved that evening. Throughout the night the Anji Koot Murthy (five spirit deities) There is held. At dawn the next day the Vishnu Murthy There is held. In the finale the Pade Bira There has a performer imitate Kannanda Doddayya and the Nari Pooda (tiger spirit) There has another performer emulate a tiger. The Pade Bira and the Nari Pooda performers together dance frantically around the place but while the Pade Bira sits upon the seat near the temple, the Nari Pooda sits upon the seat away from the temple. The Nari Pooda performer leaves early while the Pade Bira performer is the last one to remain.
Image 8 - A couple etched on a hero stone

Image 9 - A figure weilding a primitive gun
Image 10 - Hero-Stones
Image 11 - A standard hero stone