MADIKERI: Kaveri Sankramana’, a festival celebrated in Kodagu in the month of October, marks the beginning of a season of indigenous festivals across the district, with each village gearing up for a unique show of rituals and traditions. These festivals bring out the tribal culture of the land and showcase the folkloric richness of the Kodavas. Among the 35 provinces of Kodava land, the 276 ‘keri’ or villages celebrate the festivals between October and June, which have stood the test of time and waves of modernisation.
“A Mahadeva for each province, Povvadi (Parvathi) for each hometown, Aiyappa for each village, Natha (snake god) for each lane and Puda (indigenous soil lord) for each family,” goes a Kodava saying. This is reflected in the many festivals which unite the people of this quaint land.“Kodagu province was ruled by many kingdoms. The festivities observed till date in each village date back to the Haleri kingdom’s rule,” shared Bacharaniyanda Appanna, a Kodava historian.
Each village carnival has its roots in folklore, with compelling stories that narrate the importance of land and close connections to the concept of nature worship. Bright colours, earthy music and traditional dances mark the festivals, as beats from traditional drums and cymbals match the folk songs, woven with messages of the mythological importance of festivals. Men and women dress in their traditional best for this season of festivities, and the rituals follow a similar pattern across all villages, yet are unique to their regions.
“Among the 56 kingdoms in Bharata Kanda (country), one kingdom is Kodagu which is as small as the point of a needle and as brilliant as pieces of a diamond. This kingdom has 35 naad (provinces) and these provinces have 276 keris (villages). The province currently has 882 okkas (families) and indigenous festivals are observed by families in every village,” explained Chokanda Suraj, General Manager of Fort Mercara.
Alongside narrating tales of the unity of the land, these festivities demand that stringent norms be followed. Every village festival witnesses celebrations for nearly 15 days, and the rituals involve rules like like prohibition of meat, compulsory return to the village before sunset, and ban on cutting of trees or weeds. These restrictions are passed on through generations through the unique ‘Tappadak’ song that is sung by ‘thakkas’ (religious heads) leading these festivities.
Since tribal Kodavas are worshippers of nature and ancestors, these festivities demand a special reverence for nature, which comes alive during the celebrations. Traditional dances take inspiration from the natural surroundings and there are also instances of peacock feather dances being performed during certain village fests. Tribal culture is also highlighted as aspects of hunting and valour of warriors are depicted in the form of traditional dance performances.
‘The deity ‘Kaad Aiyappa’ is the manifestation of Lord Mahadeva, and the Bhagavathi Goddess who is worshipped during the festivities symbolises nature. There is a popular festival called ‘Bodu Namme’ where people cross-dress and pray to Goddess Kali,” explained Suraj. The interesting point is that these festivals are celebrated after agricultural activities in the field are concluded. “These festivals unite villagers. The strict norms mandated for the festivities can be scientifically connected to the path to a healthy life,” he opined.
While ‘Kailpodh’, ‘Edamyar’, ‘Puthari’ and Kaveri Sankramana are the main festivals of the community and have been celebrated since ancestral times. Hearteningly, they are now being passed on to the younger generations. “In the past three years, participation of youngsters in these festivities has increased. Everyone is coming back to their roots. The festivities have been held since ages, they are happening now and they will continue to survive,” said Suraj. Further, many religious heads and organisations in the community are involved in documenting these indigenous festivals and passing them on to youngsters.