“If you understand a people's folklore, you understand the people........”
“Folklore is not something far away and long ago but real and living among us...”
“Here the past has something to say to the present, and the bookless world to a world that likes to the read about itself…”
— (American folklore: Ed. B.A Botkin)
Folk customs and tradition are seen only in rural areas of the country. We have innumerable folk jatras (fairs) and festivals, although only a few of them are given due prominence. Every village, big or small, has a legend or myth of some sort to associate itself with the place or the people belonging to a certain stock. One thing is true: the force of the local legend or myth binds people together into one cohesive community. Performance of 'pooja' in the usual manner apart, either daily or weekly or an special occasions, there is bound to be a grand jatra in the name of the deity once a year as a regular feature. Though a religious institution, the jatra is also socio-cultural in character providing recreation and merriment. Jatras have economic importance also when associated with cattle fairs.
Most villages in Chamarajanagar district have their own legend, resources and 'togetherness' in relation to a specific jatra. The locals assemble for the performance of the pooja in the name of the deity, in whose honour the jatra is held, and also indulge in gay abandon.
Popular jatras take place in fairly big villages, around which there are quite a number of smaller ones. The jatras are usually held at an elevated and spacious spot which has a fairly big tree. One can find extraordinary variety in the mode of pooja, processional deity and the attendant details that go with each one of them to create a separate status and identity.
The popular ones
For example, jatras which go by certain village and deity names in Chamarajanagar district are as follows: Haradanahalli Kuntamma Tayi Jatra, Bisalavadi Lakshmidevi jatra, Bendaravadi jatra, Chandakavadi Maramma jatra, Manteswamy konda of Chamarajanagar (fire-walking to pay a debt to the deity), Mari habba of Kempanapura, Chikkallore Siddappaji jatra, cattle festival of Mangala, Ummatore Urukateshwari festival and Haradanahalli Mari habba.
A jatra famed as “Kastur bandi jatra” is being organised every year during the first or second Sunday of January in the name of the Kastur village diety, Doddamma Tayi. This jatra is being celebrated by a total of 16 villages. The village head of Kastur usually sends a letter to the surrounding villages about the need to organise a bandi jatra.
On the jatra day, the Tammadi (priest) carries the idol of Doddamma Tayi in a procession accompanied by traditional musicians and villagers and places it in a temple built outside the village.
After receiving the letter sent by the village head of Kastur, the residents of surrounding villages decorate their bullock carts (bandi) with banana bunch, tender coconut bunch and a variety of flowers presented by devotees who wish to pay their debt to the deity. The villagers take bath and wear new clothes.
The houses are swept, scrubbed and made to look fresh by whitewashing the walls sometimes; and poor people use fresh cow dung paste to sweep the floor. The front door as well as the doors inside the house are festooned with mango and neem leaves.
At noon, all the 16 decorated village bandis reach the jatra ground. Each bandi, accompained by traditional musicians, goes around the Doddamma Tayi temple and offers pooja to the deity. Those who wish to pay their debt to the deity break a coconut. After this, the bandi will be allowed to run in a spacious ground.
Along with the 16 bandis of 16 villages, two more bandis called Harake (debt pay) bandi from Mariyala and Kastur village will also run in the open field. Among the 16 bandis, the Sappayanapura bandi is a special one with the decoration of green leaves to the wheel of the cart.
Those who wish to pay the debt for the sake of their cattle go around the deity by fixing glowing fire lamps to the cattle’s horn. After returning from the jatra, a procession will be held in their villages. A dance, drama and Harikatha programme will be organised throughout the night in some villages.
It is religious as well as socio-cultural in character, providing recreation and merriment, and assumes economic importance when associated with cattle fairs