Army and Hockey runs in Kodava blood.. It is that time of the year again when the schools and colleges are closed for summer.. Bosses have approved the leave requests from their Kodava employees atleast a month in advance.. Schedule is out.. Flight tickets booked in time as a player /Techie/Banker working abroad has to make it for their family match.. Its the biggest and the maddest festival dedicated to a sport anywhere in the world… It’s the ‘Kodava Hockey Festival’ yet again…!!
Over 250 teams participate with players including people of all age groups- right from a 10yr old primary school kid to a 75 yrs old granma.. Anyone with a mere passion for the game are allowed to join the team, only to fight it out for the coveted trophy each year.. Only 2 rules apply to participate- #1. Be a Kodava and represent your family team #2. Play the game with passion.
One Kodava family volunteers to take the ownership to organise this huge event each year. This year- it was the ‘Madanda’ family. Hooked up with too much work, I couldn’t make it to this year’s tournament.
Hence, I’d like to make a mention of the last tournament I had attended- ‘The Iychettira Cup-2012’.
The opening ceremony was a gala event with some of the who’s who of the Indian VVIP league gracing the event.. It was followed by a nail biting, action packed, stiff fight during the exhibition match between the ‘Indian national team’ and the ‘Coorg XI’.. The men in blue(Oops.. in white) battled it out at the end though..
During the 23 days long sporting fiesta, the family where I belong to- The Somayanda family, came through till the 5th round/the quarter finals, but failed to make it further.. The last day was the final fight between Palanganda and Kaliyanda.. The latter lost the cup inspite of a tough fight of 1-2.
One has to experience the madness sitting amidst the crowd cheering for their family teams atleast once in their lifetime.. All up there in the spectator gallery with just one thought in their mind and one feeling in their hearts- ‘HOCKEY’..!!
Very few people know of the grandeur of the Dasara celebrations in Madikeri. Considered next to Mysore Dasara in pomp and celebrations in Karnataka; it is a 9 days long event.
The festivities start off on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya with 4 karagas getting all set at a place called Pampina Kere. These Karagas represent the 4 Mariamma temples of the town: Dandina Mariamma, Kanchi Kamakshi, Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma and Kote Mariamma. The Vrathadharis or the Karaga holders travel across the town to all households through the 6 days of Navarathri. They dance and perform a balancing act with the idols on their shaved heads with a knife in one hand and a club(Bettha) in the other.
On the eighth day: people decorate their shops and vehicles to celebrate Ayudha Pooja- Also, vehicles are decorated and assembled at Gandhi Maidan where the best one is awarded in each category.
The 9th night commemorates the last part of the Dasara celebrations where 10 temple cars or Dasha Mantapas- one from each temple depicting a story from one of the epics. Each tableau will be as long as 4-5 trailers connected to a tractor. This inturn will have separate trucks loaded with sound systems and other backup.
The participating temples in this grand finale of Dasara are: mantapa of Kote Mahaganapathy temple, Sri Kanchikamakshi temple, Pete Sri Rama Mandira, Sri Kote Mariamma temple, Dechoor Sri Rama Mandira temple, Sri Chowdeshwari temple, Sri Dandina Mariamma temple, Sri Karavale Bhagavathi temple, Sri Kodanda Rama temple and Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple.
These mantaps will congregate at the center of the town in late night hours and put up a great show of colour, light, sound and an amazing display of creativity.. people flock to see this splendous show of efforts of over a 100 dedicated minds behind every tableau. The best temple car is awarded each year.. Finally- all the 10 mantaps proceed towards ‘Banni mantap’ and this brings the curtains down on the festivities and marks the dawn of a new day..
I always wanted to witness this celebration but have been quite apprehensive about facing the wrath of the abuses that will follow with the joy.. And moreover, this happens in the southern part of Coorg and I get to know that the festival happened only after it has happened..!!
But some wild wishes do come true- this time my encounter was unplanned and I’m glad it happened.. Occasion: “Kunde Namme” a.k.a. Kunde Habba or the “Festival of abuses”.
The tribes belonging to the Jenu-kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Yeravas, Paniyas, Kembetti and other sects all congregate in a common place- usually a town area to celebrate their festival of abuses and to make merry. By abuse- I mean abuse God, man, machine and everything that they come across on that day. This is a tradition that has passed on through generations among these tribes.
Legend has it that the main deity Aiyyappa had taken the tribe into a thick jungle for hunting. Deep in the jungle, he fell in love with Bhadrakali and eloped with her leaving his followers abandoned. Since then, the day is observed every year where these tribes abuse their god for betraying them. They find god in everything and every person they come across and hence abuse them in turn.
The people are togged in weird clothes- some men dress up like seductress, some like ghosts, some like witches and some dress up just random and as weird as possible.
They block every man(outside the tribe) on roads, barge into shops in the town and demand money. If you don’t pay them what they demand- you are abused; If you pay what you are demanded for- you still get abused..!! Remember.. God will not come to your rescue on that day as he himself is in soup 😛 (Kidding..!!)
Also, most of the members of this group belong to the labour class who work in estates, domestic helps etc. Hence, the day doubles as a good chance for them to vent out all the frustration on their masters..!!
But, at the end of the day- they all congregate in their common place of worship and surrender to their god, plead for his mercy and ask for his blessings for the rest of the year. A part of the total money they collect for the day is used to have a lavish dinner and the rest is religiously offered to the deity.
This festival happens on the 4th Thursday in the month of May and is celebrated in and around Gonikoppal considering its proximity to the Nagarhole National Park where most of these tribes are based.
After overcoming a lot of last minute hiccups, the planning of more than 3 months finally materialised.. And here we are……….. (For the flow of thoughts, I choose to use present tense :P)
At 10.a.m we are on the stands looking out for a nice place which will give us a good view of the race. The 60th Annual Nehru Boat Race is scheduled to start at 2.30.p.m. The crowd was pouring in as early as 6.a.m to get a good seat- we were told.
Pam and I were sitting in the last row (fortunate enough to get chairs to sit).. Sam had ventured out of our stands to capture some good photos and to find a better corner seat for all of us. Then this gang of 6 huge Malayali men dressed in their white Lungis came in.. They pushed our chairs in front so that they could accommodate few more chairs on the podium which was already crammed. We barely had space to keep our legs and without knowing the language- we just gave them wild stares. Pam belted out a few words in Kannada. Next thing we see is: each man placed a biiig hand bag in between their legs covered by their lungis and pulled out a bottle of local scotch (the tags on the bottle told us that it was pure-strong-local), poured it to a glass and gulped it all down in 2 seconds.(faster than one could drink water) and then… 1 of them started speaking something to us- From the fact that he just had a bottoms up (RAW) and his rude tone of speech, We knew for sure that he was abusing us. I understood a few swears but I told Pam not to react as we would surely be outnumbered by men here in God’s own country.
Like a call from God himself- Sam called us to inform us that he had found a better place to sit. We vacated in the very same minute. On the way, Pam walked upto a cop and said “Those men in the last row there, are boozing; Each man is carrying atleast a bottle which one is not supposed to possess in a public gathering”. The cop said “OK, OK Sir; We will look into it” and walked by as if Pam had just spoken to deaf ears. We met Sam and just as we were narrating the scene to him- We saw 2 more men who carried handbags and settled down right beside us. And soon they pulled out a bottle each, bottoms up, gulped down some minced beef and then started cheering at the water infront where the race was yet to happen. Before we reacted Sam pointed at the platform onto our left. More than 10men were repeating the same procedure- handbags covered by lungis- bottoms up-cheer out loud. And then we looked behind at the gallery- and we were like “What the F***” every lungi fellow has a glass in his hand..!!! And now we know that the reason for getting such a vague response from that cop. The Policemen are outnumbered by these drunkards and this is a normal phenomenon. And we learned to live with it..!! Soon, the crowd of drunkards increased and also the excitement.
And.. The boat race had a roaring start with a lot of frenzy and madness.. We too were at the peak of our excitement.. And suddenly this scuffle started between 2 groups and the next thing we see is people were being thrown into the river… Typical to any Indian movie, the cop gives an entry after the fight end- cops arrived in speed boats and pulled out a couple of them from the water and sped away..
The below picture shows:
A hard core fan who watched the match sitting on a coconut tree from 10.a.m to 7.00.p.m.
A drunk fan standing on a pole and cheering for his team whose limbs finally gave way into the water after 5hrs.
Another bunch of fans seated in the gallery who are supporting themselves by holding onto the electric lines.
This is 1 hell of a maddening-superbly-awesomeness-crazy-experience I am going to cherish for life.“Land Of Lungis” truly God’s own Country… L.O.L. 😀
getting lost in traveling through places and time…