MANGALURU: A pilgrim centre with a syncretic name — Bhagavati Ali Chamundi Kshetra — draws Hindus and Muslims in huge numbers to a village near here.
The coast is famous for bhootaradhane (spirit worship), and people in Arikady near Kumble worship two spirits, Ali Bhoota and Chamundi Bhoota.
Who is Ali? The legend goes that he hailed from Andaman and Nicobar Islands and had come to Arikady, 40 km from Mangaluru, for business. Ali was adept at black magic but was also lustful. The village women prayed to goddess Bhagavati to save them from him.
Since Ali wears a talisman, no one has the power to vanquish him. Bhagavati disguises herself as a beautiful woman, lures him and then transforms herself into the fearsome Chamundi. She makes him recall all his mistakes, and is set to kill him. However, Ali repents and expresses his wish to be Chamundi’s devotee.
Chamundi consents and allows him to serve her. A little shrine in front of the temple shows Ali as a servant of the goddess.
The annual jatra takes place between March 30 and April 6. A month-long ritual is conducted during Sona, the Tulu calendar month which falls between August 15 and September 15.
Several spirits are worshipped. The spirit of Ali is worshipped on the last three days, when Muslims throng the village and offer jasmine to Ali Bhoota. Villagers swear how their prayers are answered with missing people traced, the jobless getting jobs or childless couples being blessed with a child.