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Friday, 29 December 2017

"In the spirit of worship" Deccan Herald

Thanks Deccan Herald.
In the spirit of worship, 
NOV 27 2017, 21:50 IST, Deccan Herald,

The worship of spirit deities is prevalent in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Kodagu districts of Karnataka. The spirit worship ceremony, performed annually in the village temples and ancestral households, is called theray in the Kodava language. A traditional dancer dons face paint or mask and the costume, often red coloured, of a deity, and prances around. Later, he behaves as a medium of the spirit of the deity and advises the devotees as they come to him with their problems.
The Vishnu Murthy shrine
The Vishnu Murthy shrine, located near the Choli Povvadiamme Bhagawathy Temple in Arapattu village, has one such ceremony where spirit deities are worshipped. It is generally called Choundi theray, although Choundi (also Chamundi or Chavundi) is not the only deity propitiated here. The Choundi theray takes place after the Bhagwathy temple festival.
The deity in this temple is said to be in the form of Narasimha, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Upon the gable of this red-tiled shrine is the face of a moustached deity, its face painted in yellow colour. Near the base and on either side of the entrance is the face of a lion.
The deity of this shrine is offered non-vegetarian food. The Brahmin priest of the nearby Bhagawathy Temple and his family visit the temple to seek blessings. The local Muslims, called mappilla, also pay obeisance here. The priest of this shrine traditionally belongs to the Maleya community. The Maleyas travel to nearby villages during the theray season to perform and help in the arrangements.They wear a saffron panche during the preparations. The Banna and the Panika are other communities who perform such ceremonies in parts of Kodagu. Bhadrakali worship is conducted by the Panikas.
The Maleyas come from the villages of Kirundad, Marandod and Parane for the Arapattu ceremony. The theray begins with the opening performance of a spirit deity called Thota, at night, and it is followed by performances of the Anji Koot Murthy, the five spirits. They are Kutti Chatta, Kari Baala, Kala Bhairava, Kuliya and Nuchchute. The Choudi and Vishnu Murthy performances happen the next morning.
Anji Koot Murthy theray
I visited Arapattu in the theray season. The village stalls were set up, they sold food items and other goods. The preparation for the theray began in the evening, in the adjacent threshing ground. A shelter for the performers to rest was placed beside the ground. The performance started after dinner. The preparation for the performance began with the nooth kuripo (face paint) and alankara (dressing the performer) began. The performers were dressed in red. A thoodu (bamboo torch) was carried along by one of the people accompanying the performers.
The first performer arrived from the threshing ground in the guise of a Thota. As part of the act, he kept turning his head to look behind him every now and then. Then, he pranced around for a while in front of the shrine and then went to the shrine and seated himself on a stool before the inner sanctum. Devotees came to him with their prayers. He listened to them and answered. Later, the Thota was carried out of the shrine by another performer.
Similarly, the other performers came to the temple. Kutti Chatta held a stick and a bell, and had decorative eyes. His eyes were covered with large shells with holes in the middle. Bhairava, on the other hand, didn't have such eye coverings. Kari Baala, a fierce avatar, held two swords. In the middle of his performance, he took the musicians to task for not playing vigorously enough and demanded that the devotees also dance along with him. Nuchchute, the last of the five, walked comically and made the people laugh. Supposedly a female deity, the performer wore grass upon his head. He went from person to person and whispered into their ears as they gave him money.
A different enactment called the Thirale was performed after the five performances. The performer was subjected to mystic experiences. He performed a frantic trembling dance dressed in white kuppya chele(a traditional costume) as he held a staff and an oide-katti, a billhook shaped war knife. He took turns performing as Bhagawathy and Vishnu Murthy throughout the night.
Choundi theray
Next morning, the Choundi and Vishnu Murthy performances were enacted. There were six chenda drummers. There was another drummer and one gong player as well, both belonging to the Meda community and the elderly drummer was dressed in white kuppya chele. The Choundi performer wore a hay skirt and walked around what remained of the bonfire, that was lit by the villagers at night. He was held by both hands as he was thrown on the smouldering bonfire and then dragged away from it a number of times.
The Thota performer gave the Vishnu Murthy performance as well. He wore a steel mask, which depicted a moustached face, and a hay skirt. His legs were plastered with mud. He performed first at the Vishnu Murthy shrine and then at the Bhagawathy shrine. In the evening a non-vegetarian feast called bharani was served to the families of the village.

caption - the Thirale (a whirling dance) performer in white and the Choundi (Chamundi) theray (a dance-worship) performer in grass overwear; Photos by John Napier
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Text by yours truly, M P Nitin Kushalappa (Mookonda Kushalappa);  

Monday, 23 October 2017

Karnataka's legislature and the Vidhana Soudha (a chronology)

Vidhana Soudha, the largest state legislature and secretariat building in India, is spread over 60 acres. Known as the ‘people’s palace’, it is built of Bangalore granite and porphyry. 

Princely Mysore
Bangalore first became the capital of Mysore State in 1831. The Bangalore Fort Palace was made the administrative building. But, later, the palace partly fell in, was deemed unsuitable and thereafter demolished. Hence, in 1868, the administration was moved into the Public Offices building inside Cubbon Park. This two-storied, Grecian building, surrounded by verandahs, was later to be called the Attara Kacheri, meaning 18 offices in Hindi. The name came because Mysore had 18 administrative departments. The British transferred powers in the Mysore State to the Maharaja in 1881. The State headquarters was moved back to the city of Mysore. That year, C V Rungacharlu, the then Dewan of Mysore, founded the first Representative Assembly of British India in Mysore. Thereafter, Bangalore’s Attara Kacheri came to the High Court of Mysore. 
The Assembly had 144 members, to begin with, and comprised landowners and merchants. It would meet twice in session every year at Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore. In 1891, the first Assembly elections were held for citizens above the age of 18. The Legislative Council was founded in 1907 with the view that it would assist the Government of Mysore in making laws and regulations. In 1923 the Legislative Council's strength was fixed at 50.  The term of each assembly member was fixed at three years.  While the semi-annual Assembly sessions continued to be held in Mysore, the budget session came to be held in Bangalore’s (K P Puttanna Chetty) Town Hall.
On August 15, 1947, Mysore was made part of the Indian Union. Bangalore became the capital of Mysore State, once again. K Changalaraya Reddy was the first chief minister of Mysore State. The Assembly was held in the Library Hall of Attara Kacheri. This was continued until a separate hall was built on the third floor of the same building. The Council was also held on the third floor. The joint session of the two houses would be held in the Town Hall by the Rajpramukh, the Maharaja of Mysore. 
The need was felt for a separate and more spacious building. In 1948, the government wanted the chief engineer to construct a suitable office building. In 1950, the Constitution of India came into effect. Under the new constitution, the first Mysore Legislative Assembly was formed. It had 99 elected members and one nominated member. Mysore came to have a bicameral legislature, with two houses: the Vidhana Sabha lower house (Legislative Assembly) and the Vidhana Parishad upper house (Legislative Council).

Symbol of democracy
The 'House of Legislature' was first planned and decided by the KC Reddy cabinet. B R Manickam, a government architect and chief engineer, prepared the design. It was to have an Assembly hall for 200 members and a gallery for 500 visitors. It was also meant to accommodate a joint session of 261 members. In April 1951, plans for constructing the House of Legislature were ready. Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone on July 13, 1951. 
A stone plaque,  now near the main staircase, was installed to mark PM Nehru's visit. A huge procession went out until Town Hall to welcome the then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.  In February 1952, the plans and estimates for the roof of the auditorium were conveyed by the legislature secretary to the government. In April 1952, Kengal Hanumanthaiah succeeded KC Reddy as the chief minister.
Hanumanthaiah dismissed the first design citing that the design was like that of a plain, American building. Meanwhile, members of a Russian delegation who were taken around the city stated that all the notable buildings in Bangalore were by Europeans. They further enquired whether there were no buildings that were designed and built indigenously. Subsequently, Hanumanthaiah travelled across the country to gain ideas on how to build an administrative structure. He started preparations for a building which combined the two legislative houses, the offices of ministers and government secretaries, a library, archive rooms, party rooms, etc. Funds were allotted in the 1952 budget and the work began in the same year.
Manickam led a team of engineers and architects from the state public works department. As many as 5,000 people were employed as unskilled labourers and almost all of them were convicts. Over 1,500 chisellers, masons and wood-carvers were also employed. The result was the neo-Dravidian Vidhana Soudha legislative building, completed in 1956. Later, President  Dr  S. Radhakrishnan came to inspect the place.  
On November 1, 1956, Coorg (Kodagu), as well as the Kannada-speaking parts of Bombay, Hyderabad and Madras were integrated with the old kingdom of Mysore to form the new Mysore State. This resulted in the elected assembly seats increasing from 99 to 208. The first sitting of the Legislative Assembly in the Vidhana Soudha happened on December 19, 1956. In 1973, the then chief minister D Devaraj Urs renamed Mysore State as Karnataka.

Elaborate patterns
Vidhana Soudha has 172 rooms, the largest among them is the chief minister’s office. The front portion has a 20-metre central dome with the four-headed lion capital of Maurya Emperor Ashoka above it. The main foyer has eight columns. Enclosed balconies, each called a jharokha, a traditional Rajasthani feature, are seen jutting forward from the walls. The top of the building has the motto ‘Government work is God’s work’ engraved upon it in Kannada and English. 
According to the Karnataka Shilpa Kala Academy, the Vidhana Soudha domes were designed by the Mysore royal family’s sculptor Sri Siddalinga Swamy and his son, Nagendra Stapathi. The pillars and the arches were chiselled by Nagendra Stapathi and his disciples. 
Floral designs, ornamental motifs and geometric designs decorate the walls and ceilings. Inspired by Dravidian temple art, the lotus and other floral patterns are distinct and have not been repeated. The inner passages also have floral designs. The wooden doors have fine details. Some of the pillars are of different colours. Most of the chisellers employed were highly skilled and were from Soraba and Sagara regions. Porphyry has also been used along with granite. Different coloured granite stones such as the Magadi pink and the Turuvekere black have been used.

The Building
The northern wing has a ground and three upper floors. The southern wing has a cellar floor, a ground floor and three upper floors. The central wing has a banquet hall on the ground floor and the Legislative Assembly Hall above it.
The Legislative Assembly Hall can seat 254 members and with some adjustments, it can accommodate 100 more members. Its visitors’ gallery has 500 seats. Teakwood panels enclose the hall. The ceiling is curved and is made up of acoustic material. Uniform illumination lighting is provided in order to avoid shadows. Ventilation is provided by an evaporative cooling system. The Cabinet room has a door made of sandalwood. The Speaker’s chair is made of Mysore rosewood. Every member has separate microphones and earphones whose master control is with the Speaker.  The Legislative Council Hall can accommodate 88 members. Its gallery can have 250 visitors. The Banquet Hall has an 800-seat capacity. The Secretariat accommodates ministers, secretaries and general staff.
With all these unique features, Vidhana Soudha is not just an epitome of democracy, but also an architectural wonder. The building is illuminated during the evenings on Sundays and public holidays. Entry is prohibited to the general public.  
In 2005 Chief Minister S. M. Krishna built the Vikasa Soudha as an annexe to the Vidhana Soudha. On 30th April 2016, an underground metro station was opened near Vidhana Soudha. This is named after Dr B. R. Ambedkar. It was constructed by means of carefully blasting the underlying rocks without disturbing the Vidhana Soudha and  Attara Kacheri premises. Karnataka has got 225 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and 75 Members of the Legislative Council () today.

On October 25 and 26, this year, a two-day state celebration is being held to commemorate the diamond jubilee of the Vidhana Soudha. President Ram Nath Kovind will address a joint session of the Karnataka Legislature on October 25th. His 90-minute speech is on the Vidhana Soudha and Karnataka's contribution to the nation.  
Families of the first three Chief Ministers of Mysore - K. C. Reddy, Kengal Hanumanthaiah and Kadidal Manjappa will be honoured. Several people will receive the ‘Lifetime Achievement Awards’ for their contributions towards the development of the State.
Girish Kasaravalli’s documentary on the Vidhana Soudha and T. N. Seetharam’s documentary on the Karnataka Legislature will be screened. Master Kishan, former child artiste and director, will produce a 3D mapping and virtual reality show on the Vidhana Soudha. This will give viewers a 360-degree view of the structure. Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej and his team will present a musical symphony. The PWD will wash and renovate the Vidhana Soudha and also spend Rs.3.5 crore on the lighting alone.

The people's palace
Mookonda Kushalappa, Oct 24, 2017, 0:00 IST

(Tomorrow is the two day Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Vidhana Soudha.)
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Saturday, 10 June 2017


By Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa
MAY 31, 2017

Major Mangerira C. ‘Vinod’ Muthanna was an army officer who guarded India’s frontiers in the Kashmir valley against cross-border terrorists. He was born in 1964 in Chettimani village, near Bhagamandala town, Madikeri taluk in Kodagu. Joining the Officer’s Training Academy in Chennai in 1984, he was commissioned into the army the following year. He first served in Jammu and Kashmir (1985-1991), then in Punjab (1991-1993), next in Arunachal Pradesh (1993-1996), later in Bangalore (1997-1999) and finally again in Jammu and Kashmir (1999-2000).
 Mangerira Muthanna statueDuring his 15 years’ tenure he rose from the position of a Second Lieutenant to that of a Major. He was part of the 5th Sikh Light Infantry unit,  Rashtriya Rifles. In the year 2000, Major Muthanna was posted at Khanabal in Anantnag district, Jammu and Kashmir. This remote army base was however near Srinagar and along the main National Highway of Kashmir. Under constant attack from terrorists, it was the army’s responsibility to guard the civilians and the infrastructure around the camp.
On an eventful day, the 12th of January that year, four Lashkar-e-Toiba militants arrived in a Maruthi Omni van, at around 6 in the evening. Armed with AK47s, grenades and rocket launchers, they forced themselves into the barracks and began to fire indiscriminately. But the Jawans returned fire and stopped the moving vehicle. One militant was promptly shot dead and another was wounded by the soldiers. However, the remaining two escaped unseen into a small, two-storey building nearby.
Major Muthanna informed his Commanding Officer about the situation. The attack had stopped for a while but the militants’ location within the camp was unknown. Upon the CO’s instructions the Major had the area sealed and searched. The militants were discovered in that building, which was across the road. It had only one entry-point and a stairway. Two jawans then entered the building in order to capture the militants. But they were shot at and cornered.
At that moment Major Muthanna decided to risk his life in order to save his men. He quickly entered the building after them. While he provided cover to the two injured jawans, they were taken away to safety. In the meantime he managed to shoot dead one of the two militants. But in the process he was fatally wounded himself. He sustained a bullet wound on his right side below the hips. A grenade hurled at him had exploded in his face, again on the right, and badly injured him. Seven hours had flown by since the militants’ arrival. The time was 1.30 in the midnight. The Major had lost consciousness by then.
The two Jawans who were undergoing treatment had informed the others that Major Muthanna was fine when they parted. The Army had fired upon the building in order to save the Major trapped within. The remaining militant pretended to surrender and was to be taken away. Before he was to be disarmed an interrogation took place. It was then that he began to fire again at the soldiers from inside the building. The soldiers shot back at him. He was killed but not before he removed the pin of a grenade and held on to it while dying. His intention was to blow up anybody who would lift his corpse.
The building was taken by the army at 3.30, in the wee hours of the morning. Meanwhile the Major, aged 36, succumbed to his injuries. His corpse was found inside the structure. The alert soldiers became aware of the unexploded grenade. They were able to prevent any further damage to themselves from the probable explosion. The terrorist’s final plan was hence thwarted.
Lives of civilians and soldiers were saved by Major Muthanna’s courageous deed. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously. This military decoration, an equivalent of the Vir Chakra, was for his bravery and self-sacrifice, beyond the call of duty, during an enemy attack in times of peace.
Major M. C. Muthanna Marg (road), Major M. C. Muthanna Army Goodwill High School / Public School and a recreation hall named after him, all three in Khanabal in Jammu and Kashmir, were inaugurated by the Indian Army. Manjunath Acharya of Somwarpet made the sculpture of him which was unveiled near the Town Hall at Madikeri in 2010.

Men of valour and courage

Men of valour and courage
By Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa,
Deccan Herald, Spectrum, Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kodagu is not just known for its serene landscape and picturesque surroundings, but also for the valour of its people. Rightly, the district boasts of several military heroes. The statues of such brave men can be seen in Madikeri. The Sudarshan Circle in Madikeri is flanked by the statue of Field Marshal K M Cariappa and the equestrian statue of Subedar Guddemane Appayya Gowda.

One of the earliest revolutionaries from Kodagu, Appayya Gowda, was hanged by the British in 1837. His contemporary revolutionaries from Kodagu included Subedar Naalnaad Mandira Uthayya, Chetty Kudiya and Shanthalli Mallayya who were imprisoned for many years by the British. Further along the main road, you can see a circle with the statue of General K S Thimayya. If you take the deviation to the right, you will find Major M C Muthanna Circle near the town hall and Squadron Leader A B Devaiah Circle near the private bus stand.

The first family

In Kunda, near Gonikoppal, lived the Kodandera family, hereditary chieftains of a group of villages. I M Muthanna’s Coorg Memoirs mentions that Naad Parupatyagar (native village official) Kodandera Kuttayya was the grandson of Diwan Mandepanda Thimmaiah. Between 1901 and 1909, he was the assistant commissioner and highest ranked native official in the then Coorg province. When his wife Dechy, or Dechamma, passed away, a locality in Madikeri was named as Dechur in her memory.

Two members of this family, Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa and General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya, rose to become the chiefs of the Indian Army. Hence, the Kodandera family came to be considered as the first family of Kodagu’s military heroes. Field Marshal Cariappa was the son of Kuttayya’s younger brother Madappa, who worked in the revenue department. General Thimayya was the grandson of Kuttayya.

Born in 1899, Field Marshal Cariappa, 'the Grand Old Man of the Indian Army’, studied in the Madikeri Government Central High School and then in the Madras Presidency College. He gained admission at Daly Cadet College, Indore, in 1919 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Bombay’s 88th Carnatic Infantry, during World War I. The following year, he served in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and was promoted as a lieutenant.

He became the first Indian army officer to attend the Staff College in Quetta. He married Muthu Machia, a forest officer’s daughter, had a son K C Nanda Cariappa, who later rose to the rank of air marshal, and a daughter, Nalini. During World War II, Cariappa was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). He became the first Indian to become a brigadier.

Cariappa also served as India’s first commander-in-chief (C-in-C) between 1949 and 1953. Now this position rests with the President of India. He represented India as its high commissioner in Australia and New Zealand from 1953 to 1956. In 1986, he was made a field marshal. Thus, he became one of the two Indian army officers to hold this rank. He died in 1993.

General Thimayya’s actual name was Subayya, while Thimayya was his father’s name. He was born in Madikeri in 1906. Admitted to the then Prince of Wales Military College in Dehradun, he was one of the six Indian cadets who underwent training in Royal Military College, Sandhurst, England. In 1926, he was commissioned into the Indian army. In 1935, he married Codanda Nina and the couple went to Quetta. During the Quetta earthquake that year the couple rendered outstanding humanitarian service.

During World War II, Thimayya was awarded Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He represented India during the Japanese surrender. Between 1953 and 1955, Thimayya was the chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission. He gained international fame for the way he handled the exchange of the prisoners of war (POWs) held during the Korean War. In 1954, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Between 1957 and 1961, he was the chief of the Indian army.

In 1964, he was appointed Commander of the United Nations Forces in Cyprus, where he passed away. Cyprus released a stamp in his memory, and later, his wax statue was displayed in Singapore. Both Cariappa and Thimayya are iconic figures in India.

Fond memories

According to Major General Arjun Muthanna, a great grandson of Kuttayya, Cariappa and Thimayya belonged to a generation of Indian officers who stormed the bastion of India’s colonial masters and deftly navigated unchartered situations. Both had huge responsibilities thrust upon them at a relatively young age and rose to the challenge. Cariappa, commissioned as a lieutenant when Indians were just being permitted to become British Indian Army officers, would 'Outbritish the British’, probably to be accepted and treated as an equal by the British officers.
A strict disciplinarian, he demanded punctuality and proper dress code. He was fiercely nationalistic and moulded the Indian Army into its current apolitical position.

In 1948, the Kashmir situation grew tense and war was imminent. Lieutenant General Cariappa became the head of the Western Command and led Lieutenant General S M Shrinagesh and Major General Thimayya. It was during this war that Thimayya helped India secure Ladakh.
Cariappa’s contemporary and friend, Lieutenant General Nathu Singh, was first offered the post of C-in-C but he declined and stated that his senior Cariappa, who won the 1948 war for India, was more eligible for the post. It was on January 15, 1949 that the three centuries old colonial army became a national army. That was the first time an Indian, General Cariappa, was made chief of the Indian armed forces.
Every morning, Cariappa paid his respects to the portrait of his parents and the statue of a jawan. He was ever thankful to the soldiers for protecting the country. Hence, he was called the soldiers’ general. Cariappa would go to the war front, even after retirement, in order to motivate the troops.

Muthanna narrates a personal anecdote about the Field Marshal, "When I called on him at his residence, in Madikeri, in May 1986, to invite him for my wedding, I was wearing a half sleeve shirt and trousers as appropriate for the hot summer day. After accepting the invitation, he commented on my attire saying 'You’re an officer in the army aren’t you? In which case, you should be wearing a coat and tie.’ I had no response and thought in my mind I’m calling on my family elder. Pat came his next comment, as if he’d read my mind, 'In case you’re calling on me as a relative you should be wearing our traditional dress of kupya.’ He walked the talk. He was always dressed formally as a respect to the person who was visiting him.”

Thimayya was charismatic, approachable and had great interpersonal skills. When Thimayya visited his Dehradun alma mater as an alumni, one of the cadets there wanted to know how to address the general. Thimayya simply replied 'Call me Timmy’, referring to his nickname!

Some of the other military heroes of Kodagu are: Major Mangerira Chinnappa Muthanna, who was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously, and Squadron Leader Ajjamada Bopayya Devaiah, nicknamed 'Wings of Fire’, the only Air Force personnel to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously so far.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Boad Festival

Published in the Spectrum, Deccan Herald, April 18th, 2017 (Time to soak in the revelry)
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Original Draft :

Every year, during the months of April and May, different villages in Kodagu celebrate an interesting festival called Boad namme. Usually these celebrations are associated with shrines of Bhadrakali. Residents of Chembebelloor (also called Chembebeliyur), Bilugunda and other villages roister around their respective temples on different days.

The observances, however, begin with a stringent period called Pattani, when a number of foods (including those cooked in oil, using coconuts or non vegetarian), and certain common activities (such as cutting coconuts within the house), are prohibited.

The revelry that follows has boys and men wear various guises and dance around the village. During that night and the following day, these performers masquerade accompanied by musicians who mostly play percussion. Going from one house to another in the village they bring vehicles on the roads to a brief pause.

Some of the entertainers participate in Band Kali, where they have mud smeared all over their clothes, heads, arms and legs. Some others, the Puli Vesha (tiger guise) performers, wear shorts and have their bodies painted in tiger skin patterns. When money is thrown at them they stoop down in impossible angles and with much care pick up the notes with their mouths instead of their hands. Many other enactments, including those by cross dressing males, are performed as well.


The Chembebelloor Bhadrakali is west facing and there is a small Mahadeva shrine inside the temple. One performer carries the moga, a parasol with a mask upon it, of Bhadrakali and performs the theray. A theray, a sacred dance ritual by costumed dancers who emulate spirit deities, is organised at the shrine. During the day of the Kudure aatta (horse play), teenaged boy representatives wear horse shaped cane frames around them. One horse performer comes from each of the three keri (hamlets) of Chembebelloor.

According to Coluvanda Jappu, Chembebelloor village comprises of three keri : Podakote, Podikeri and Nadikeri. The villagers and the performers from each of the three keri all gather in the ambala, a public gathering place, in the centre of the village.

We were guests of Uncle Suresh Subbaiah's extended family in Chembebelloor last year. There was one performer, in black rags and a tin over his head, who called himself a bear. There was another who came guised as 'Black Money', dressed in a black robe and with money notes strung around his neck. Others included those in various priestly garbs; some of them came as saffron clad Sannyasi monks while one man came dressed as a Padri. Last time's attraction, however, was a set of men who dressed up as Spartans, in purple chitons and hoplite helmets with red coloured mock horsehair tufts on top.

Folk singers from the Kundera and other families paid a visit. They sang the mane paat, a song in praise of the resident family visited, as they did in each house, while they struck on drums that they carried. John Napier, an Australian ethnomusicologist, was also present in the village to record the event.

Later we went to the temple yard where we sat and watched with the rest of the villagers. Some villagers with leafy twigs kept in their shirt collars entered the temple at the head of procession, as per tradition. All the actor and musician performers entered the shrine after them.


The Bhadrakali temple of Bilugunda is in what was the village of Bonda and now between the Bilugunda and Nalvathokkal villages. It is south facing and has two entrances: one leads to the south and the other to the east. During the Bilugunda Boad namme, the people from Bilugunda enter from the east while the people from Nalvathokkal enter from the South.

One year the dand theray, or two theray, happens and the next year the naal theray, or four theray, happens in Bonda. During the dand theray, as in last year, Bhadrakali and her sister Karikali are impersonated while during the naal theray the two daughters of Karikali, one of them being incapable of speech, are also emulated. The Bonda theray performers dress in white panches (sarongs) around which are tied red skirts that are held up by canes. Upon each of their white turbaned heads they hold up flat wooden framed white umbrellas each of which have flowers and a metal mask of the fanged goddesses. At the back of this parasol hangs a red cloth.

The chief oracle wears a white panche, is independent of the theray and is called a Thiralekara.
One horse performer comes from Bilugunda and one from Nalvathokkal. The nine extended families and eighteen houses of Bilugunda take turns every year to have a teenaged boy become the horse performer and a younger boy dress as a woman. Traditionally the horse and the woman performances happened on separate days but now due to time constraints they are being combined to happen on the same day.

The Bilugunda horse performer last year came from my paternal great grandmother's Madappanda clan house. Mandepanda Dali and other folk singers sat within the Madappanda house and sang the Dudi paat as some of us listened. Last year's Nalvathokkal performer belonged to my maternal great grandmother's Bonda Mukkatira family.

The horse performers wore white coloured turbans, long shirts, trousers and horse frames. They were accompanied by a procession comprising of their respective family and village members. A Thiralekara walked before each performer while another man carried a native Oide Katti war-knife and walked beside him. Two other men carried dudi drums and sticks. A young girl carried a lighted oil lamp on a plate.

A small boy from Bilugunda, who, as an exception, was from the Iynanda family, was dressed in a simple red sari. In his hands were held a mirror and a betel leaf and he walked behind the horse performer. A woman of the house accompanied him in order to help him with the dress if required. Likewise there was another young boy from Nalvathokkal as well.

Both horse performers came and stood before the shrine in front of the fire altar. Then they raced twice on fallow fields, once in Bilugunda to the east of the temple and the second time in Nalvathokkal to the west of the temple. Once they finished the races they returned to their starting points, by walking rapidly backwards each time. Meanwhile the two small boys who dressed as women were made to stand on either side of the temple door. In Bilugunda there were some performers who dressed up as army men and some as Yakshagana dancers.

Bisu Changrandi (Edmyaar Ond)


By Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa

(Part of the debate series Are Kodavas Hindu initiated by Palanganda T. Bopanna)

Edmyaar Ond (the first day of the Kodava month of Edmyaar), is the New Year for the Kodavas. This year, the day falls on April 14. It marks the commencement of the Kodava calendar and the agricultural cycle in Kodagu. On this day prayers are said and cattle are yoked and made to plough the paddy fields.

Bisu Changrandi, the Kodava New Year’s day, corresponding to Vishu in Kerala and Vaisakhi in North India, is observed in mid-April. Also called Edmyaar Ond, Bisu commences when the sun seems to enter the first Zodiac sign of Aries.

Kodavas follow the solar calendar, which was the same as the Tulu, the Malayalam and the Tamil calendars, although the month names differed. While Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada followed the solar calendar, the rest of Karnataka followed the lunar calendar. The months of this lunar calendar begin and end with a new moon.

There is a reason as to why Kodavas now celebrate Ugadi and not Edmyaar Ond. The Rajas of Kodagu (c.1600 – 1834) came from the Shimoga region to Haleri in Kodagu. They followed the Hindu lunar calendar and implemented it in Kodagu for all administrative purposes during their reign. Their chief festivals were Ugadi, Shivarathri and Ayuda Pooja (Dasara). Thus these Hindu festivals were popularised in Kodagu.

Ugadi, when Bevu-Bella (neem leaves and jaggery) is eaten and mango leaves are hung upon doors, also happened to be a major festival in neighbouring Mysore. The event is showcased well by the present-day Kannada media. The influence of the neighbours and of the media has increased the popularity of the festival. As Kodavas moved out of Kodagu to live in the cities, Edmyaar Ond, observed in the fields, is no longer celebrated by them. The disappearance of paddy fields and oxen has led to the further neglect of the festival by Kodavas. Therefore, the significance of Edmyaar Ond faded while Ugadi gained prominence. Presently Kodava political outfits have been trying to popularise Edmyaar Ond in Kodagu once again.

The months of the Kodava calendar and their corresponding Indian zodiac signs are : Edmyaar (ram), Kadyaar (bull), Adare (twins), Kakkada (crab), Chingyaar (lion), Kanyaar (maiden), Tholyaar (scales), Birchyaar (scorpion), Dalmyaar (archer), Malyaar (crocodile), Kumbyaar (water bearer) and Minyaar (fish).

My article translated into the Kodava language by Poomale weekly (April 19th, 2017 issue) ....

Disclaimer :
I personally observe three new year days annually (these speak of my cultural influences) :
1. January 1st, the Western New Year
2. Yugadi, the Kannada Indian Lunar New Year in March and
3. Bisu Changrandi, the Kodava Indian Solar New Year in April

A temple feast (keywords : Arapattu Bhagwathy temple)

Original Draft :

There are a number of village temple festivals as well in Kodagu. The major festivals are the Bhagwathy namme and the Boad namme, associated with the Mother goddess temples. While the first is celebrated in the Bhagwathy temples the second is celebrated in the Bhadrakali temples. These happen at different times in different village temples.

Bhagwathy namme

I attended as a guest of my uncle Mukkatira Roy and cousin Ashok. Traditionally Arapattu village had fifty families and Poddavadi village had ninety families. The Arapattu Bhagwathy temple is supported by the villagers of Arapattu and Poddavadi, known as Dand Keri, or two hamlets. In the past, the Bhagwathy and the Vishnu Murthy shrines of this region used to be managed by the Mukkatira family of the Arapattu village, as it is said that the temples were on their lands. But since some decades ago the management is by a village committee.

Nerpanda Chitra member of the Arapattu Bhagwathy temple committee was supposed to manage the festival affairs but since there was a death in his family he didn't, as per custom. In his stead another member of the village temple committee, Mukkatira Changari, presided. Mukkatira Changari had this to say on the last day of the feast, “From the seventh until the eleventh day of the Fish month (Minyaar or Pisces), every morning and evening, dance and song is conducted in the name of the goddess, special light arrangements are done, people come for the Darshan and offer money, flowers and tilak of sandalwood paste are distributed and then finally everyone disperses home.

On the seventh of the month of the fish, the villagers get together and observe a special fast. Fines for deviations from ritual observances are paid and the main Puja is held in the evening each day. A temple priest carries the idol upon his head and a dance occurs. On the ninth of the month, the astrologers meet the villagers at the temple in the evening. Then they all go to the shrine of Mandana Murthy. On the tenth day, every family from the two villages, brought fine rice on the backs of the oxen and presented it to the goddess.

Today on the eleventh of the fish month, at four in the afternoon, the two villages come together, took part in the goddess' dance and song and took the money offerings. Then afterwards, we the villagers pay any fines for deviations from ritual observances and go down to the stream along with the priest dancer where the idol is bathed. After the decorations and the main puja, flowers and the tilak are distributed, we have dinner and we disperse.”

On the finale day of the week long festival, lunch was offered at the temple. A member of the temple priest's family wore the priestly robes and carried the Bhagawathy idol, called the thadamb, upon his head. Bidderianda Satish, a designated native called the Thiralekara, wore the traditional white Kuppya Chele costume and danced the thirale ('whirl') before the idol. He also behaved as an oracle, answering to the devotees queries.

Late in the afternoon, the idol was taken down, across the fields and by devotees on foot, to the stream to be washed. Bisi Bele bath was offered to the accompanying people. Then the idol was brought back and taken around the temple. While taking the idol around the temple the carrier also danced on his feet, all the while holding the thadamb upon his head. After this coconuts hung up in the air are shot at with guns. Finally the priests served a vegetarian feast for the devotees. Dr. John Napier, an Australian ethnologist and guest of Balyameederira Subramani of Arapattu, recorded the events of the last day.

Temple history

According to Kanniyada Prakash, secretary of the Arapattu Bhagwathy temple, “The Bhagwathy goddess came to Kodagu from Soli, in Kerala, accompanied by her assistant gods, Mandana Murthy and Vishnu Murthy, along with my Kanniya family, who are astrologers, the Banna people, the Maleya people and the Pale people. The Kanniya were given farm land and settled in Arapattu. They perform the ceremonies at the Mandana Murthy shrine. The anji kutt murthy (five spirits) and the patt kutt patala (ten protectors) are also given place at the shrine.”

Normally wherever a temple was built for this Bhagawathy a shrine was also dedicated to Vishnu, in the Vishnu Murthy form, and his five companion spirits. The five spirits Anji Koot, are also called the Kootali, bodyguards or companions, of Vishnu Murthy. They are Kutti Chatta, Kala Bhairava, Kari Baala, Kuliya, also known as Gulika, and Nuchchute. Each of them have some peculiarities.

According to the Pattole Palame , the worship of Choli Povvadiamme (Soli Bhagwathy) in Kodagu was first established in Kirundad village, then in Arapattu and next in Kokeri. Thereafter the worship was begun in several other villages of the region as well. Three individuals find mention as having assisted the worship, an astrologer Movayi Kaniya and two shamans, Anata Banna and Manat Maleya, who settled in Arapattu, Podavada and Kirundad respectively. The Pattole Palame is a compilation of the folk songs of Kodagu by Nadikerianda Chinnappa. Published in Kannada in 1924, it was translated by his grandchildren Bovverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa into English.

In the past a folk hero Kayyandira Appayya of Arpattu and his successors, chiefs of the Kayyandira and the Bidderianda families, would wear the white Kuppya Chele and be carried in a palanquin to the Arapattu Bhagwathy temple during this festival. The practise was however stopped many years ago.

It is said that once Kullachanda Chondayya of Ammathi was the undefeated warrior champion of Kodagu. He received tribute obtained from the regular share people gave to the village temples. But one day Kayyandira Appayya, a young boy at that time, challenged him to a duel. In this Appayya outwitted Chondayya by throwing mud into his eyes. When the warrior was momentarily stunned, Appayya slew him. Thereafter Kayyandira Appayya and his successors received the title of Periya Moli.

Published in the Spectrum, Deccan Herald, February 7th, 2017 (A unique temple festival)