Watch | What is the Kodava Tere ritual?

Watch | What is the Kodava Tere ritual?

A video on the spiritual ritual ‘ Tere’ which is performed in the hilly district of Kodagu

Updated - May 30, 2024 12:16 pm IST

Published - May 27, 2024 07:30 pm IST

The Kannada film Kantara, with its release in 2022, introduced the Bhoota Kola to a large audience outside where it takes place - in Tulu Nadu of Karnataka. However, versions of what some people call a spiritual ritual and others term a folk art form are also performed in other parts, such as the Malenadu regions of Karnataka and in Kerala too. This includes the picturesque hilly district of Kodagu, where it is called Tere (pronounced they-rey) in Kodava language. 

There are striking similarities to the bhoota kola, but according to experts, tere, theyyam and thira (the latter two from Kerala) are grouped together, and in Kodagu, both tere and kola are celebrated. In tere, the Malabar influence is evident, while in kola, the influence of kola organised in Mangaluru is more visible, they say. 

“If you look closely though, tere and kola look quite different because the people performing these two are different; kola is performed by natives or Mangaluru, while tere is performed by others. Even the costumes and props are different. In the tere in Kodagu, we need to look at the tere performers, as well as those organising it, called tere kattovynga. Banna, Maliya, Panika are the three main Kodava takk speaking communities who organise the tere. There are also Paale and Tulu speaking communities which also perform tere. In my research, I found some 36 types of tere, and there are more which differ from place to place and names. Mainly, there are male god teres, female god teres and animal god teres, representing tiger or cow,” said Mullengada Revathi Poovaiah, Assistant Professor, Department of Kannada, Cauvery college, Gonikoppal, Kodagu. 

Her thesis, “The Terekattuva Rituals of Kodagu: An Analytical Study,” in the Department of Studies and Research in Folklore, Kannada University, Hampi, speaks of how the Kodavas are nature and ancestor worshippers. “The eldest ancestor of the family is known as the ‘Karona’ and he is worshipped in a small shrine called ‘kaimada’. It is a staunch belief that the ‘Karona’ would safeguard the family. Along with the Karona, there are deities who protect the family, villages and provinces. Along with these, there are deities like Chaundi, Vishnumurty, Bhadrakali, Sasthavu and these deities reside in Devakadu, Kaimada and Kota, the small shrines.

All these deities are worshipped in mass periodically or at the stipulated time. This mass worshipping is called as ‘Terekettuva’ in Kodava and ‘TereKattuvudu’ in Kannada. This is also called as ‘Kola kettuvo’ in Kodagu,” she says.

Revathi also points out how foreign researchers had varied opinions about the Tere, some calling the deities as ‘devils’. “At the time of Tere for the deities in the families, a tere for the eldest ancestor ‘Karona’ is also worshipped. Hence, the tere ritual is the worship of the village deities and ancestors. It is also a worship of the deities in a dance form. The person who performs the tere dresses like the deity and invokes its presence through his dance. He becomes an embodiment of that deity for the folks of the land. Thus, he gives solace to all those who come to him asking for favours and problems,” the thesis says. Animal scarifies are part of the ritual. 

“In today’s world, one might question its relevance. For one, our existence is based on faith. Second, youngsters of the community are spread out across different places due to employment opportunities. They tend to come back and everyone gets together during the village festival or tere. This way, tere brings together people back to their land and helps preserve their culture,” she said.

Script and presentation: KC Deepika

Video: Vinod Poovaiah, KC Deepika, Thulasi Kakkat

Production: Ravichandran N.

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