Tag Archives: Malenaadu

A festival for protection of the borders- Chowdi

While on a random drive around the Malenadu region, my curious eyes fell on a family of road-trippers who were out on a rather interesting journey.. It was an unusual sighting of wooden toys with a beautiful backdrop of the Bhadra dam in the backdrop.. I got off the car to click a few pictures of wooden toys consisting of six people riding on a pull cart.. I did not know what it represented and who had left them.. We continued our journey all the way from Bhadravathi to down the hills of Agumbe via Shimoga while spotting several carts carrying different representations, all lying on roadside. My curiosity grew intense and got an insight into what all of these really meant after consulting a friend who happens to be a native of this region.

This is a part of Chowdi- a festival endemic to this region of Malenaadu. Maari is the sister of goddess Durga, she’s the controller of evils. She likes drinking blood and doesn’t spare any evil passing her way. Gadi Maari- the protector of the borders, keeps a vigil on evil entering into the village. During Chowdi, Gadi Maari who is always stationed at the village border is invited into the village and celebrated once in a year. She is represented with a wooden pull cart.

The cart and all other representations on it are made of a special wood called ‘Ghost wood’, painted and decked up. As the cart enters a boundary, the villagers start to collect money from all localites to manage the expenses of the festivities ahead. Animal sacrifice is an important part of this ritual where blood of either sheep or  roosters is offered to Maari, the village keeper. All possible things are taken care of to keep this violent diety calm and happy. It culminates in a lavish dinner served to all villagers. This is a rather rude way of telling let the evil eyes (Maari Kannu) not fall on the happiness of the village, we have made Maari happy with all that she likes during the festival, now her job is to guard the boundaries, let her stay there!

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A Gadi Maari cart by the roadside

Then, the cart is hand-pulled and left at the exit boundary of the village i.e. entrance of the next village. There-on the festival starts at the next village and the cart thus moves forward from one village to the other. The transport of these carts to the next village is mostly done during the night so that the evil doesn’t find its way back into the village. People leave broomsticks, clay pots, umbrellas etc. alongside the cart as weapons of Maari. This trip of the Maari thus traverses all the way from the hills down to finally reach the ocean. This entire cycle repeats in every two years.

So with one cart starting in each village, I wondered how many carts may pass through any given village throughout the 2 years period and how many animal sacrifices need to be done. I was told that some villages may have several carts at a time and some may never have any. For convenience, yet some villages accumulate the carts and celebrate all at once. Spread across the calendar, carts keep coming and carts keep going.. But it’s an opportunity for the entire village for some joyous celebration together!

Bath- o- Baat..!!

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Its 1st of December.. At 10a.m.; an e-mail was delivered to my inbox from the canteen dept. “Monthly menu”- the subject head read. My immediate action was to click on the trash button which straight away dumped my unread mail in the trash bin. This action was not unique to me alone.. At least ten others in my office would have done the same.. And another ten would have just opened the mail and then trashed it.. Nobody usually expects anything unusual in the menu. But just incase, some fresher bumps into you with a humble intension to make a conversation and brings up the topic of breakfast menu:

“Hey ! You know what’s for breakfast for this month?”

The poor fellow is bound to get an equivalent reaction: “Aiyya…!! Looks like you have not had enough of a bath in the canteen..!!”

The oldies all know the menu by-heart. So what’s in a bath?? Read on…

  • Tuesday: green- bath (Methi bath)
  • Wednesday: red- bath (Vaangi bath)
  • Thursday: Deadly-oil bath (Darshini Pulav)
  • Friday: mixed colour- bath (Chow-Chow bath)
  • Saturday: brown- bath (bisi-bele bath)
  • Sunday: yellow- bath (rice bath)

If I missed out on Monday in the list: that’s the 1st working day of the week; so the company tries to give us some motivation / morale boost up. That’s the “Have no Bath”-day. It’s the only day when Idly-Vada-Sambar-Chutney is served.

Now: How do the employees identify what’s fir breakfast without actually entering the canteen or reading the menu? It comes with experience. Just a month’s time is enough..!!

Well, a Monday’s menu barely changes; so you know what is there: you go or don’t go depends on how bored or excited you are to get away with the Monday morning blues..!!

And the other days.. Usually standing at a distance and a small peep into someone’s plate is enough. By the colour you know what it is.. and then, do an about turn and walk towards office.!!

But, a special mention needs to be made about Wednesdays.. The day being the mid-week and you would already have lost the motivation to work; the day greets you by serving a deadly bath on your platter. This is the original “Darshini Pulav”. I prefer to call it the deadly bath. It’s because you don’t need to walk till the canteen door on that day. The strong smell of fried bread cubes doused in dalda oil and mixed with a weird coloured deadly preparation hits your nostrils instantly at the time you alight at the bus bay. So, you directly walk away to your office without wanting to even get closer to the source of smell.

Friday’s are special because not one, but two baths are given on a single platter. Chow-Chow-bath: as the name suggests it is a combo of Rava bath and Kesari bath…!!

Oh.. Are you wondering why we even go near the canteen door every morning huh? It’s just out of curiosity and nothing else.. The curiosity to know how a bath can be had in different forms and in different colours- and every time taste the same even with different names..!! For example: Vegetable bath, green peas bath were served a couple of times instead of the deadly oil bath… This was just a colour variant: the smell and taste is forever the same..!

Occasionally, Pongal, lemon rice, puliyogare, khara bath, tomato bath are served too.. but considering these are still different colour forms of the same rice dish: it is an array of Bath-o-baat..!! And it is highly impossible for a normal person to eat rice 3 times a day; seven days a week..!! I agree that we are South Indians who usually are associated with these baths, but nowhere in the peninsular India, would you find a Southie eat so much rice a day.. We have other better forms: dosa, poori, chapathi, akki-rotti, ragi-rotti, jola rotti, puttu, appam etc etc… Why the hell on earth are we forced to have this bath every morning..!!

This is a serious allegation coming from a deeply disturbed rice hater who has stopped taking a bath just because of the traumatising “bath-o-phobia”..!! No.. no.. This is not the “Ablutophobia”..!! Time the management does something about this one..!! I’m skipping my breakfast every day and my girth size is increasing rapidly owing to frequent starvation..!!