When spirit of nature and animals comes alive

It narrates the ancestral connection with the elements of nature and recounts mythological tales.

Published: 22nd May 2022 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd May 2022 06:05 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

MADIKERI: Rhythmic and upbeat songs fill the air across the villages of South Kodagu during summer. Dressed in bright and colourful attire, villagers dance to the rhythm of nature and mythology while visiting each house – marking the celebration of the unique festival ‘Bodu Namme’ aka ‘Bedu Habba’. People dress as brightly coloured tigers in body paint and slush smeared hay, as bamboo horses and elephants… to an outsider, it seems like a mass fancy dress event.

However, this unique festival of the indigenous tribes of Kodagu is much more than fun and frolic. It narrates the ancestral connection with the elements of nature and recounts mythological tales.

Following the ‘Cauvery Theerthodbhava’ (gushing of river Cauvery at Talacauvery) festival in October, the ‘Bodu Namme’ is kindled at the Kunda Hills near Ponnampet in South Kodagu. Rituals are offered at the Ishwara Temple in the village, marking the beginning of the ‘Bodu’ festive season. Post the first ‘Bodu Namme’, several other villages in South Kodagu celebrate the festival after the Kodava New Year (in April) and each village narrates its rich folkloric culture. The festival is linked to the folklore of Ishwara and Bhadrakali.

There is a Kodava saying  – ‘Kundathl Bottl Nhenda Kudure, Paranamanil Alunja Kudre’ – that states that the horse (made of bamboo) that was raised in the Kunda Hills marking the beginning of ‘Bodu Namme’ will be sacrificed at Paranamani, ending the annual festivity. “At Paranamani, the festival is about the story of deity Ishwara and demon Basmasura. Three horses and two elephants made of bamboo collected from the sacred grove in the village are worshipped and later sacrificed,” explained Raghu Machaiah, a resident of Paranamani.

Mythological stories connected to each village are unique, he says. “The different costumes in which the villagers dress up during the festival depict the different forms of Lord Ishwara.” Another story links ‘Bodu Namme’ to the story of the deity Bhadrakali. “In the deity’s ferocious avatar, no one could calm her down. To appease her, devotees worship her in different attire. Tiger, hay costumes, cross-dressing by men of the village are ways to placate the goddess,” narrate Parvathi Chengappa and Kundranda Sannu Pemmaiah of Aimangala village.

Villages in South Kodagu –  Chembebelluru, Aimangala, Parana, Kavadi, Bilugunda, Nalvathoklu, Kutandhi, and Aarji – observe the festival. “Natives here are indigenous and Ishwara worshippers,” explained Parvathi.As was inevitable, modernity touched the tradition of outlandish dressing. Politicians, famous and infamous personalities, film actors, comedians, and mafia kingpins have found their way into the festival of appeasing Goddess Bhadrakali and Lord Ishwara. During the festival, people visit every home across the village to offer prayers and seek blessings.

Apart from the fascinating fusion of colours, the festival also stresses the protection of nature with many restrictions, including a ban on cutting trees during the celebrations. “The history of ‘Bodu Namme’ dates back to ancestral times, and the rituals and culture of this festival have stood the test of time. While it looks exciting, there is a religious aspect to the festival. In an era of rapid urbanisation, the festival unites villagers and speaks of love, trust and harmony,” opined Shashi Somaiah, a resident of Madikeri.



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