Nagamandala (serpent worship), which was once a family affair, has now emerged as a public ritual in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. This ritual has now begun getting patrons in Shimoga district, say some researchers.

Nagamandala was one of the “naga aradhana prakaras” (forms of serpent worship) found in coastal Karnataka and Kerala, said Chinnappa Gowda, a senior folk researcher and Professor of Kannada at Mangalore University.

It was hosted by those who wished to have offspring or for the welfare of family or for the prosperity of offspring, said Mr. Gowda.

Material such as arecanut palm inflorescence, used in serpent worship, signified fertility and opulence. On the other hand, this also indicated worship of nature, he said.

Mr. Gowda said that according to researchers, the “naga pathri” and “vaidya” in Nagamandala probably symbolised “purusha” and “prakruti” respectively. The “vaidya” donned the costume of “ardha nari” (having the characteristics of both man and woman). Both of them danced around the Nagamandala. While singing, dancing, and beating a drum, the “vaidya” tries to entice the “pathri” who signifies the “purusha”.

“Kadyanata” is the original form of serpent worship. It was performed by tribal people. Performers in Nagamandala were Brahmins, Prof. Gowda said.

Prof. Gowda said that it had now become an overnight performing public ritual replacing the original concept of family ritual. In Nagamandala aradhane, mandalas of different knots were drawn.

Ashok Alva, senior folklorist at the Regional Resource Centre, Udupi, said that it appeared that Nagamandala was the refined form of “Kadyanata” which was performed by Scheduled Tribes people.

Mr. Alva said that Nagamandala no longer remained as an “aradhana prakara”. It had now become more about exhibiting wealth of some hosts and their prestige. Hosting it had become so expensive that common people could not afford it.

Kishore Kumar Rai, another researcher, said that Nagamandala ritual had now found hosts in Thirthahalli taluk of Shimoga district. It was a recent development, he said.

A Nagamandala ritual would be performed at Kadekar near Jeppinamogaru in the city on May 18 on the premises of Guruvana Shree Durga Kshetra, a temple built recently.

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