Thursday, September 13, 2007
35. Ancient Spirit worship: Horse mounted heroes
Many are under the impression that the spirit worship is characteristically restricted to the coastal Tulunad (‘Bhutārādhane’) and Kerala (‘Teyyam’).The impression is created by the persistence and growth of the spirit cult in to an elaborate art forms in these regions.
The primitive cult of worshiping of spirits after the death of their mass heroes, under the belief that potent souls continue to live after death, existed widely the early historical societies. The spirit of Brahma, derived from the mass hero Abraham was one of the earliest spirit worships in the early civilizations around 2000-500 BC. Migrating Tulu tribes and their associates carried Bermer (<. Brahma) cult around 500 BC from the NW Indian subcontinent to the Karavali (coastal Karnataka) which became their subsequent homeland, the Tulunadu. The Tulu Bermer was imaged originally as a horse riding hero, probably a bearded one like Abraham. Similar horse riding hero image was retained for Bommayya (<. Brahma) by Halakki and other tribes of Uttara Kannada district. The Uttara Kannada area is in the migration route of the early Tulu tribes.
The image of horse riding Bermer was a dominating cult and concept for several subsequent centuries and the image was applied to many subsequently added spirits of that time. The spirit worship continued in the region.
The spirit worship was widespread in southern India in the beginning centuries of the Christian era. Khandoba and Mallanna are spirits of that time in the Deccan region. These spirits were shown in the images of horse riding heroes.
Khandoba is an ancient spirit deity worshipped originally by shepards and hunters in Maharastra.The spirit/ folk deity is also known as Khanderao, Khanderaya, and Malhari Martand. In Andhra Pradesh, the equivalent spirit is called Mallanna and in Karnataka he was variously called Mallappa, Mallaya, Mallara or Mailara Linga. The original image of Khandoba or Khanderao or Mallappa was in the form of a hero riding on a horse (or a bull as a later modification).
In Tulunadu, Mundittaya, a hero turned spirit, possibly dated back to 5th century AD, is also shown a horse riding spirit. Mundittaya possibly represents a hero from the Munda community that prevailed in the coastal region during early historical days.
With the ascent and domination of Shiva worship, between 6th and 10th centuries AD, the concept of Kandoba/ Mallappa spirit was modified and considered as Mārtanda Bhairava, an incarnation of Shiva. Mailara Linga was depicted in the form of a Lingam.
It appears that the Shiva cult or the Shaivism was also introduced to south India by Dravidian tribes that migrated to southern India and settled in the present Tamilnad, possibly during the period 500 to 100 BC.
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