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.
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.
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)