Kodavas are traditionally agriculturists and most of their rituals, traditions
and festivities center around agriculture. In a year, almost six months of their
lives are spent in the fields, cultivating and harvesting and the rest of the
six months is spent in hunting as a community sport, and also in guarding their
fields from the destructive wild animals.
It is in this context that arms
and ammunitions have become an integral part of their culture. The scenario has
changed drastically, once the British started the coffee plantations. Yet, the
age-old culture is sustained, as the majority still depends on agriculture and
even the coffee planters are no exceptions.
Kailpoldhu is celebrated in the first week of September, all over Kodagu. The priests in consultation with their temple documents determine the exact date of celebration. Invariably it falls between the 2nd and 4th of September. Kail - means Weapon or Armory and Poldh - means Worship.
Normally, during the months in which the family is engaged in the fields, all the guns and swords etc are deposited in the "Kanni Kombre" meaning the Pooja room. On the Kailpoldhu day, which incidentally signifies the completion of "Nati"- meaning the transplantation of paddy crop, The men should get ready for guarding their crop from wild boars and other animals. Hence, on the Kailpoldhu day, the weapons are taken out of the Pooja room, cleaned and decorated with flowers. They are then kept in the " Nellakki Nadubaday " - the place of community worship.
All the members of the family have their bath and perform Pooja to these weapons. Sumptuous meal follows, invariably consisting of pandhi curry (spicy dish of pork). Men enjoy a drink or two (or more) also. After the food, the eldest member of the family will hand over the gun to the senior member of the family, signifying the commencement of the festivities.
Then the whole family assembles in the " Mandh " (a open ground), where physical contests and sports including shooting are conducted. In the earlier days hunting and cooking of the wild animals was an integral part of the celebration, but, these days the shooting skills are tested by firing at the coconut tied on top of the tree. From this day onwards, the men will spend a lot of time in guarding their fields from wild animals.
The second festival of the season is " Kavery Shankramana "which normally falls during mid October. This festival is associated with the river Kavery, which has a very big influence in a Kodava�s life. As agriculturists, their entire economy and prosperity depends on availability of water, which is amply provided by the river Kavery, which flows through the district. The origin of river Kavery, which is on the Brahmagiri hills near Bhagamandala, which, is called as Talacauvery.
On this auspicious day in October at a pre-determined time, (worked out to the last second) mother Kavery springs like a fountain from a small tank and fills the bigger holy tank in Talacauvery. People throng in thousands, and take a holy dip in this water. This water is filled in bottles and reaches every house in Kodagu and this is treated as Theertha - meaning holy water. This water is preserved in all Kodava houses as sacred Theertha. For a dying person, a spoon of this Theertha is fed, with the belief that, he will attain Moksha (emancipation) and gain entry to Heaven.
The rituals on that day involves, married women wearing new silk sarees, performing pooja with flowers, to a vegetable cut in the form of Goddesses Kavery. This is decorated with flowers and gold ornaments. This is called the Kani Pooje. Three sets of Beetle leaves and Arecanut is kept in front of the Goddess, with bunches of glass bangles. The lamp is then lit and all the members of the family pray to the goddess by throwing rice and prostrating before it. Blessings of all the elder members are taken by touching their feet. Then an elderly married woman, draws water from the well and starts cooking. The menu of the day is Dosa and Vegetable curry ( usually the Kumbala Curry - Pumpkin curry ) and payasa. Non-vegetarian food is not cooked on that day.
This is the Kodava way of paying their respects, thanks and obeisance to the Goddess Kavery seeking Devi�s blessings for prosperity and well-being of the family. All the Kodavas worship river Kaveri as a mother. In Bhagamandala, there is a sacred Sangam, which is a confluence of 3 rivers - Kaveri, Kannike and Sujyothi. A dip in this Sangam is supposed to cleanse you of all the sins committed in life. It is also believed that the " Atma " Of the deceased will be wandering in the forest, adjoining the Sangam. Hence the family of the deceased, perform Pooja by offering their prayers at this Sangam. It is only then, they believe that the Atma will attain Moksha. Men normally shave their head, as a mark of respect to the elderly deceased family members. This is scrupulously followed by all Kodava families.
The third and the most awaited festival, which is celebrated with gaiety, dance and fireworks, is the "Puthari Festival". Puthari - means new rice, which signifies the harvesting of the new crop. This is the harvesting festival, when the efforts of hard labour and toiling in the fields, bears fruit. This Festival falls in late November or early December. Celebrations and preparations for this festival, starts a week in advance. Youngsters assemble in the community grounds and practice Kolata,(A dance with two sticks in hand), this is called as "Eed".
On the Puthari Day, the whole family assemble in their "Ain Mane"( The common family house ) which is decorated with flowers and green mango and banana leaves. In the Nellakki Nadubaday (the family worshipping place, with the holy lamp " Thook Bolcha" ) the ladies fill the Puthari basket with mango leaves, Peepal tree leaves, and top it with paddy and rice. The Thambuttu, is the specialty of the day - prepared with bananas, fried rice powder, and jaggery- as the main and mandatory menu of the day. The Thambuttu is put in a small earthen pot, and milk, ghee, honey, sesame seeds, ginger, coconut, and bitter gourd are kept in front of the Thook bolcha. A lamp is lit and kept on the � Mukkali � - a tripod stand , and a sickle ( which is later used for harvesting ) is kept near the lamp. Then the � Valaga � ( the traditional Kodava band ) is played . Then the women decorate the place with Rangoli out of rice powder, which is called as � Nare �. Then everybody consume boiled � Puthari kalanji � ( sweet potato ) with honey, ghee and jaggery. After which the eldest member of the family hands over the sickle to the head of the family, and one of the ladies lead the procession to the paddy fields, with a lit lamp in her hands. The path leading to the field is suitably decorated.
The milk and honey carried in the Puthari basket is poured to the root of a paddy crop awaiting harvesting. A gunshot is fired with chanting of "Poli Poli Deva" by all the people present there. Poli - means prosperity. Then the symbolic harvesting of the crops start, with "Poli Poli Deva" being chanted loudly. The "Kadh" meaning the paddy stands are then cut in odd numbers. After which, they head home, with bunches of paddy strands.
At home, a married lady offers milk to the person carrying the Kadh, and the Kadh is kept in front of the Nellaki Nadubaday for sometime, after which the kadh is tied to all the doors and other important locations of the house. A paste is made out of Thambuttu, Sesame, thorn of the Bitter gourd, coconut, milk and honey and is wrapped in a Peepal leaves, and thrown to the roof top of the house, as offering to the deceased elders. Then all the food prepared for dinner is offered as �Meedhi� ( A little quantity of all the items, prepared for dinner is put in a plate along with a glass of liquor and placed in front of a lit lamp, as offering to all the ancestors ) in their Gurukarana ( The tomb of the ancestors) and pooja rooms. The younger ones then burst crackers and revel, symbolising prosperity. Group of youngsters, then visit the adjoining houses and show their kodava dancing skills, by performing kolata, kappe-ata, etc and earn hefty monetary gifts.
A week later, these monetary gifts are all pooled and Oor- Orme ( a community dinner of the entire village) is celebrated, which finally announces the culmination of all the festive celebrations and back to business. After the youth return from their dancing spree , drinking by the elder men is followed by a delicious non-vegetarian meal.
The Puthari festival is not only an occasion to rejoice by the family but it also promotes harmony and brotherhood in the village. The Kodava ancestors have planned all the events and rituals, with larger ramifications, than what is apparently comprehended by us.
It should also be appreciated that Kodava families enjoy excellent inter- family relationships in the villages. Frequent exchange of visits between the families and partaking of meal together, is the order of the day.
The Kodava festivals and its observance with gaiety and cooperation, has a much larger intention in promoting, establishing and sustaining the harmonious relationship in the community. The eventual desire is the establishment of peace in the villages.