Friday, July 27, 2012

Coorg Festivals - Kaveri Sankramana

The festivals of the Coorgs are not numerous. The two great annual festivals take place in quick succession, towards the end of the year - the Kaveri Sankramana in Tula masa i.e. the time of the sun's entering into the sign of Libra in October; and the Puttari or Harvest feast in November or December. The Bhagavati festival is observed all over Coorg before the monsoon, in April and May; and in late August or early September, generally at the first break in the monsoon, the Kailmurta (Kailpodh) or festival of arms, is celebrated by the youths and men of Coorg.

About the middle of October all Coorg prepares for the grand festival of Kaveri. Every Coorg house sends one or two representatives to Tala-Kaveri. With the last ascent of a small elevation near the foot of the Tala-Kaveri hill, the view of the upper basin of the Kaveri valley, which is rather wide and flanked by steep hills, suddenly bursts upon the view. The Bhagamandala temple with its copper roof is conspicuous in the middle of the valley and close to the Kaveri. Hundreds are engaged in bathing in the sacred stream before they enter the temple, which forms a large square with an open centre, like a Coorg house.

Near the summit there is an overhanging rock, called Bhima Kallu, which forms a sheltering abode for some fakirs during the festive season.

The source of the river is enclosed by a stone basin, over which a small shrine of granite slabs is built. From this reservoir the pure water percolates into a tank of about 30 feet square, which by an outlet keeps the water to a level of 2.5 feet. On two sides there are rough stone terraces, scooped out of the hill side, and above the third terrace, on a clip of the hill, there is a small square temple dedicated to Ganapati, with a few huts close by for the abode of the resident Brahman pujari.

At the moment, as fixed by the astrologer, of the sun's entering into the sign of Libra, whether by day or by night, the pilgrim who is anxious to experience the full power of the sin-cleansing bath, must descend into the holy tank. Before leaving, most of the pilgrims fill a hollow reed (watte) with water from the sacred spring, and carry it home for the benefit of their relatives and for purifying their wells. The effectual bathing season lasts for a whole month, but with decreasing virtue.

The Kaveri day is celebrated also in the Coorg houses by those who remain at home. Before sunrise, the mistress of the house leaves her bed early, takes a brass dish, throws into it a handful of rice, and having spread it over the whole plate, puts a common lamp, which has been in daily use, into the centre. The burning lamp is surrounded with flowers gathered from a garden or the jungle. To these a fresh young cucumber is added. Then a red handkerchief is placed behind the lamp. Upon the handkerchief some jewel of gold or silver is laid. This done, she proceeds to bake little cakes from a dough of rice-flour and plantains, well kneaded together on the preceding night, upon a stone mould well heated, three of these little cakes are added to the contents of the plate.

Traditionally, one of the men of the house, used to take three or five of the fresh cakes and carry them down to the rice-fields. There he would put the cakes upon one of the bamboo sticks which have been placed in every field on the preceding day, crowned with a bundle of kaibala creepers. When the cakes are duly laid upon the top of the creeper-crowned pole, the man would give three loud shouts and then return to the house.

And thus ends the Day of Kaveri.

Source: Mysore and Coorg, Vol. III by Lewis Rice


  1. This festival is more important because of its significance in Hinduism - May be that's why we Kodavas give up the meat for one day atleast :)

    I remember my grandpas words "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water". Hail the river of blessing - KAVERI.

    1. Words of the wise, so true! Happy Kaveri Sankramana :)

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