Friday, December 30, 2011

292.Fishing Ritual at Kandevu

Fishing, along with hunting, is considered to be one of the oldest employments practiced by early human civilizations, probably dating back to some 60,000 years before present. River Nile and the Mediterranean Sea were the earliest fishing domains for early tribes in their African homelands, and as the tribes set on paths of migration from in several episodes they carried their fishing skills to diverse shores where they eventually settled. Some of the fishing rituals adopted by Tulu and Malayalam people, since ages are also being celebrated in distant shores of Taiwan suggesting the common origin of some of the basic customs in diverse cultures. “Samudra-pooje” or ceremonial worshipping the Sea and praying for bountiful fish catches is a common ritual practiced since ages at the beginning of annual fishing season for the fishing communities living along the seashores. However, similar community fishing rituals in inland or estuarine rivers is not a common practice in Tulunadu. Thus, community fishing rituals at Kandevu and Payyanur may have special significance in terms of evolution of the coast such as the geo-morphological   retreat of the Arabian Sea coast during the course of history, attributed imaginatively to ‘Parasuram Shristi’ in the legends.
In this post we shall describe the annual fishing ritual of Kandevu Temple on the bank of River Nandini, near Surathkal, Mangalore Taluk, Dakshina Kannada and followed up with parallel examples from Payyanur, Kerala (‘Meenaruthu’) and Orchid islands, Taiwan (Flying fish festival).We shall discuss some of the implications of marine retreat theory at the end of the post.
There are several places called Khandige in the Karavali sector, but our present discussion pertains to the one within Chelair Village, Mangalore Taluk. Kandevu or Khandevu also known as Khandige beedu. The Chelair village in Mangalore Taluk, also hosts a major rehabilitation colony of people displaced during the construction of ONGC-MRPL mega industry.
The word Kandevu appears related to ancient God Kandiya worshipped in various parts of Southern India in the antiquity (Post 274). The Kandevu tribes who believed in God Kandiya, spoke Kandevi language which was also known as Goakanadi. It is reported that the Kandevi language was being written in a script similar to Kadamba Kannada. The modern Konkani is said to have been derived from Kandevi.
 A location map of Chellair area showing features of Pavanje River
Chelairu village is located about 3km east of the West Coast and the Pavanje - Nandini River flowing by the village is affected by salt water encroachment from the Arabian Sea. In Tulu parlance, the village is called Telar.The name 'Telar', connotes a sense of river migration that occurred in the past history. 'Telavuni' in Tulu language is to drift, migrate or change course.
It is reported that the Tamil Sangam literatures cite a coastal city called ‘Cellur’ in Tulu Nadu. . Possibly , it was referring to the ancient form of Chelairu. The place is also associated with the legends of Siri, who has been compared to Kannagi of Tamil Sangam literature ‘Silappadikaram’.(Post.97
Maritime Merchant Guilds
  The place was definitely identified with maritime trade, with ‘Pandis’ (big sailing boats) owned by the King, or feudal lord of the area. Kandevu was inhabited by fishing and sea-faring Mogaveeras, who shifted to coastline Mukka in 1920 and this place, is named as ‘Mitrapatna’.  As we know, there were many maritime merchant guilds around the ports of Tulunadu (Eg. Mangalore, Panambur, Udyavara, Basrur-Kundapura, Honnavara, etc).  Such places are known by Nakhar or Nagar or Pattana (qv our Posts on Panambur).  It is possible that the river basin and the estuary might have been larger and deeper in those olden days to allow ships to go interior.
Dharmarasu Ullaya
Dharamarasu Ullaya the principal spirit of Kandevu is considered a reincarnation (avatar) of Lord Shiva.  According to legends, it is said that he appeared in the River Nandini in the form of a face.  Thus place is now called as (Mukha>Mugaa=face) Mukka.  The place where he ‘espied to stay’ is now called Kandya, Kandevu or Khandige.
Fishing Ritual at Kandevu
As a part of Kandevu Temple Festival, catching fish from Pavanje (aka Nandini) River in middle of May – just before the onset of summer monsoon – is a unique socio-religious custom in Tulu Nadu. It is a community fishing fair without distinction of caste and creed, connected to Khandige Beedu Temple at Chelairu or Chelar Village on the bank of Nandini.  ‘Beedu’ is the historical manor house/palace of erstwhile ruler of the area. The event - ‘Kandevuda aayanodu meenu pattuni’ - is a part of Kandevu Aayana or Chelairu Jaatre, which falls on either 14th or 15th of May month [Besha or Vrishabha Sankramana, i.e. moving from Mesha (April-May) to Besha (May-June)]. (Aāyana or Jātre means ‘a recurring annual festival on falling on a specific day,’).
Fishing ritual at Kandevu (Photo: Deccan Herald on web)

An artificial bund is constructed across the tributary of the River Pavanje (Nandini) near the Kandevu Temple, a month before the event to conserve fish as well to restrict flow of saline water upstream. Fishing is banned during this period on the stretch of this river and any culprits caught will have to pay fine. 
On the day of festival, an officiating priest known as ‘Mukkaldi’, opens the Fishing Fair by sprinkling ‘Prasadam’ at Nandini River in early morning.  He comes to the river in a procession to the beating of traditional musical instruments.  No sooner the priest signals the inauguration of fishing by bursting ‘Kadani/kadoni’ (a swivel-gun invariably used during traditional temple festivals in Tulu Nadu) than the devotees on both banks of the river rush into the river to catch fish.  The din, hurry and fervor are to catch fish more than others.  There are different kinds of fishing nets and crude devices:  Beesu Bale (Cast-net), Gorubale/Gorale (Long net with two sticks to gather/scoop and lift up, handled by one or two persons, depending on size), Kanni-bale (Oblong open net driven by two or four persons), Kuttari (a cylindrical shaped open basket made of ratten used to trap fish and remove it by hand from the narrow opening at the top.  Kuttari is also used to keep fowls covered).  There is a brisk trade of these articles before fishing starts. Those enthusiastic and fun-loving persons without any means of catching use their legs and hands to trap and catch hapless fish, escaping the nets and legs of the multitude wading through water. View of onlookers and frenzied catchers is a picturesque one. Carrying a ‘totte’ (a bag made of coconut leaves), I had accompanied my father and brother twice during my school days in fifth decade of last century.  The war-like expedition for the kill is a wonderful experience.  
Some participating devotees sell the fish on the spot.  Fish is tasty, thanks to the one month ban on fishing.  It helps fish to conserve and grow.   So it fetches high price.   Partaking curry made out of this fish caught here is considered as ‘Prasadam (Blessing of the deity).
Yermal Aayana is the harbinger of festivals of Tulu Nadu and Kandyada Aayana is end of Festivals.   It is described in Tulu as “Yermal jappu Kandevu aDepu” (Yermal beginning and Kandevu Stopping).  (See Post: 110. Mukka).
The Annual celebration includes Nema of Ullaya Daiva, Nandigona, Siri Darshana, Kumara-Siri visitations (Kumara, the son of Siri, is considered to have been bestowed with divine powers), Tambila Seva to the Serpent God, Bakimaru Chendu Nema to Parivara Daivas, etc.  Tambila and Siri Darshana (Dance of Spirit of Siri-possessed women) rituals are held at night before the fish catching ceremony in the following morning.  Hoovina Puje (Flower offering) to Ullaya Daiva and attendant ritual are held in the day time.
Payyanur Meenamrutu Festival:
A fishing festival similar to Kandevu Aayana is conducted at Payyanur, Kerala. In the Ashtamachal Bhagavathi Temple, Payyanur, Kerala, Meenamruthu is the main attraction in the month of April, besides Theyyam (Malayalam equivalent of Tulu Nema or Kola), during the 8-day long annual festival of the Temple in April.  By mid-day, old and young devotees, dive into River Kavvayi Puzha to catch fish, using nets and other accessories.  Fish, gathered by community fishing, is grouped and the excess fish is distributed to people present.  It is believed that fish, known locally as ‘nongal, maalan, and irumeen’ varieties, are liked by the Goddess.  The chosen fish bunches are taken in procession, to be offered to the Goddess. The sacred room of the Goddess is opened once in a year for the annual festival and kept closed thereafter. As in Tulu Nadu, this festival marks the end of festival season of Payyanur.  
The origin of this tradition is related to business community called ‘valnchiyarmar’, who owned and operated merchant vessels from Kavvayi Sea-port to various ports around the world, including China. Payyanur was an important business hub in olden days.   Before embarking on the voyage, they used to perform ‘meenamruthu’, seeking blessings of the Sea God and Goddess Durga for safe voyage and successful business.  Presently, the weaving community called as ‘Padmasaliya’ is conducting the festival. 
Flying Fish catching in Taiwan:
Tao Tribe, living in Orchid Islands of Taiwan, conduct a fishing ceremony begins generally in second or third month of Lunar Calendar and runs for some four months.    Flying fish come into Taiwan waters with ‘Kuroshia Currents’ from January to June.  Tribals, whose activities are connected to coming and going of flying fish, believe that these fish are a bounty from the Gods. Different Stages of Festival are: (1) Blessing of the boats, (2) Praying (facing the sea) for a bountiful catch, (3) Summoning fish, (4) First catching night ceremony, (5) Fish storing ceremony, and (6) Fishing cessation ceremony.  Participation is restricted to men, who wear loincloths, silver helmets and gold strips and pray for bountiful catch from the Sea.

Traditional conservation of fisheries 
Our forefathers were thoughtful in practicing natural conservation methods in fisheries with the aim of balanced consumption of fishes as well as preserving various species of fishes. In Tulunadu coasts, the Fishing season stops with the phenomenon, which is known as 'Tuppe Kanti Malaka' in Tulu.  'Tuppe' means granary.  It also means the constellation of stars in the shape of granary.  Setting of the Constellation is the indication of blowing of pre-monsoon strong winds and resultant rough sea, normally around May-end.  The tempest is known in Tulu parlance as 'Tuppe kanti Malaka'  - Rough sea with tidal waves (Malaka) on setting of (Kanti) the Constellation ('Tuppe'). At that period the Tuluvas have free time with the harvesting of 'Kolake' crop and the stoppage of marine-related profession. The spawning time of fish is monsoon.  Thus traditionally the marine Fishing activity is stopped by forefathers between May end to mid or end of July in the days of manual fishing.
The traditional conservation practices are meaningful in the light of modern unbridled mechanized fishing and its well known adverse effects.

Historicity of Chelairu    
It appears that the village of Chellair, recorded as Cellar in the Sangam literature of Tamilnadu, was a flourishing coastal town during Sangam period. This would mean that the coastline was a few kilometers interior than at present. Or in other words the coast has receded in recent years after the Sangam period. Thus, it appears that the historical fact of recession of the Western Coastline due to geological factors has been converted into legends of Parasuram. Legends imaginatively describe that Parasuram (who is considered as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) threw his axe into the Sea with the demand that the Sea be receded as far as the axe fell and that the Lord of Sea obliged by receding.
It follows that the community fishing ritual of Kandevu could have been a vestige of the age old custom of ‘Samudra Pooje’ carried out, when Chelair was a coastal town.
Chelairu guttu is also associated with the historically famous Tulunadu hero known as Agoli Manjanna.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune
+ Ravi

Suggested reading
Paltādi Ramakrishna Achar: ‘NAGABERMER’ (Kannada Book). Supriya Prakashana, Narimogaru, Puttur-574312 (Dakshina Kannada/Karnataka).
Narayana A. Bangera: “Kandevu Kshetra Mahātme” (Greatness of Holy Place Kandevu), in Kannada.

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Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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