All wonder is the effect of novelty on ignorance”, says Samuel Johnson, a well-known British Author and Lexicographer (17th C). When we consider Faith, could we say, “Ignorance is bliss”? Another British Author and Statesman, Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773), exclaims, “History is but a confused heap of facts”. Could we afford to dismiss all PaDdanas, revolving around Divine Spirits of Tulu Nadu- manifest or living beings who attained Godhood on Death - as mere legends and not historical facts?Answer is in the negative. This is vindicated by the Tuluva way of living and tradition even today. These Tulu oral literatures are compared to Tamil Sangam literature by ethnographers and linguists and hence the surge of well-researched books on mystic beliefs and rituals, underlying the Tuluva psyche irrespective of caste and creed.
Mayandaal PaDdana is a part of Jumadi PaDdana. Annual ritualistic celebration is held wherever Jumadi is worshipped – in manor houses (Guttus) or other households and shrines of village or cluster of villages.Popularity and propagation of Mayandaal cult is a matter of study. The changed values – intellectually, socially, economically and scientifically – make it all more interesting to know the guiding force for the spread of the faith among women of Tulu Nadu.
In the Pantheon of Bhutas (i.e. Divine Spirits) of Tulu Nadu, the female ‘Bhuta’ by name Mayindaal >Mayanadaal is a powerful Spirit. Etymologically, it is split as ‘Maye+ind > Maya+anda (Mystical Spirit) +aal (She who is), literally meaning ‘She who attains, on mysterious death, divinity in invisible world in sky or space’. It is Mani Baale who is spirited away to the Realm of Mystery (Invisible Mayalok) by the Deity Jumadi aka Dhuamvathi. She is also known as Mayandamani and Mayanda Baale. She is worshipped by women for natural delivery without any complications and also for good health of new-born (qv. Tulu Lexicon p.2516).
It is not out of place to depict a tradition followed in Tulu Nadu, during delivery and convalescence in olden days (and in some far-flung villages even now). In a joint family system during earlier days, an utmost care is taken of a pregnant woman. An elderly woman of the village does the act of a Padeti (midwife). She is called for when labour pains sets in. She is mostly without schooling but is highly skilled by dint of practice and age. There is a saying in Tulu: “Pattu peddinalegu onji peddinalu buddhi pandoluge (A mother, who delivered once, gives advice to a mother, who has given birth ten times)” The advice does not carry weight as the experience of ten-times mother is more than the one-time mother. This midwife offers free service and hence she is a respectable figure in the village. A ‘Nele’ (hanging line) is made by tying a rope or cloth (invariably a saree) across the beam in the delivery room. This hanging support (kayinele) is held by woman in labour pains to help putting push-pressure. This whole event is enacted by a ‘Maadira’ (Dancing girl) of Nalke families, who swoop down a village whenever there is any ceremonial ritual (Bhuta Kola/Nema) or temple festival. Enacting of folk song of agony and ecstasy of childbirth is worth watching (even though it is vitiated by lewd remarks by elderly onlookers). Brought up in a rural setting, I had witnessed such performances.
Central story revolves around the historical figures of Pangala of that time. They are: Pangala Bannara, the local feudal lord, his errand-boys, tenants of the area under his control, specifically Alibali’s household and his niece Mani Baale and midwives taking care of her, baby of Mani Baale, Sooth-sayer Bhahmin, and Jumadi Daiva (Divine Spirit Jumadi), who spins the events to unfold. The household of the Chieftain is afflicted by a new Spirit. Cattle of his cattle shed are falling sick and dying. He calls for the sooth-sayer (Balmeda Bhatru), who declares that the Bannara’s house is haunted by Jumadi, who wants him to worship and propitiate it. He decides to hold a ceremonial ritual (kola/nema) by raising a shrine for the Deity in his manor house. He sends errand boys to collect the obligatory contribution of one tender coconut (bonda) and one tender coconut leaf to make a costume of fronds (siri) from each house of his subjects. It is also customary to donate arecanut flower (Pingara) on such occasions. All but one obey the orders of the king. Alibali Nayaka refuses to give and haughtily conveys his intention by uttering: “For one ‘bonda’ and one siri, I will send one, kayerda kayi (nut of strychnine tree) and mundevuda oli (thorny leaf of a screw pine tree).”Alibali sends these articles on the night of the nema and Bannara refuses to accept. Bannara reports these words to Jumadi during the nema. Jumadi assures him of punitive action.
Jumadi in the guise of Pangala Bannara visits Alibali’s house. Standing outside the threshold of labour room of Mani Baale, the maternal niece of Alibali, the Deity asks her to bring a burning cinder (kenda = lighted coal). (Note: Match sticks were scarce then and so it was customary to carry cinders from haves by poor householders to light their hearths). She entreats that she cannot come out as she is in confinement having given birth to a baby and is under puerperal treatment under the care of her household elders and midwives. She suggests waking up any one of them but the Deity commands not to do so but to herself come out to give the cinder. The Deity spreads a spell, sending her household to deep sleep. As soon as she steps over the door-step to give, Jumadi abducts her into Spiritual Realm of Divine Power (Maya). Mani Baale wants her baby too, so both get ‘Maya’ Form.
Mysterious disappearance of Mani Baale and her child saddens Alibali. He hears the echoing words of his niece lamenting: “For one siri and bonda’you have cut the family tree“. (In matriarchal system girl is instrumental in continuing the family line). He repents for his insubordination and sends the ceremonial things to the arena where the Kola to Jumadi is taking place to please the Deity. Bannara in turn rejects his offerings in vengeance whereupon Mani Baale, now with Divine Powers, sits in judgement to right the wrong. She vows to cause the same pain which Bannara has inflicted on Alibali so as to uphold the dignity and right of a subject. She abducts Bannara’s niece and also her child (as told in some version of the PaDdana) in like manner. From thence the cult of worshipping Mayandaal comes into vogue and the mask of Mayandaal is found seated with Jumadi. This is the gist of the main story, which is expanded or changed to suit the occasions.
There is difference in between singing in agricultural fields and actual singing by traditional performers during Kolas as is generally observed and as is studied in depth by Peter J. Claus, Professor of Anthropology & Asian Studies. Story of Mayandaal is entwined in Jumadi PaDdana but Kolato Mayandaal is held along with the main Kolas for Twin Brothers Koti and Chennaya and other deities at various Garodies (Guru Mathas, i.e. Teaching Centres for martial arts). They are Billava Heroes, popularly known as ‘Brahma Baidarkulu’. Social structure or system of those days comes into picture here. It is based on principle of Suzerain (Dhani, i.e. Feudal Lord) and Vassals/Tenants (Uligamanya). On this background, we assume that Alibali, the Land Tenant, belongs to Billavas, a preponderant community in Tulu Nadu. As a community affinity, Mayindaal is considered as sister of the revered heroes, who worship Bermer. This may be the plausible reason for relating the legend to Koti-Chennaya legend.
Emotional & Psycho-medical aspects
Emotions, attached around childbirth, are ecumenical. It is a touching situation, concerning all women. They identify their condition with that of Mayandaal. Attendant agony, ecstasy and perils of pregnancy, make them to look up at Mayandaal as succour in their distress. Jumadi is considered as reincarnation of Goddess Parvatiand Mayandaal as ‘Annapurne’, another attribute of Parvati, meaning ‘Protector and Sustainer). Divine Feminine aspect has a psychological comfort-feeling effect to medical problems. Mayandaal and Siri cults are regarded as examples of this faith healing.
It may be interesting to know that some of the Divine Spirits manifest in bi-sexual form. Simple-hearted devotees worship the Male form out of reverential fear. It is observed that traditional Bhoota dance impersonators draw moustache and keep breast form on left side. Kodamanitaye is considered as Chamumdeshwari, who came from Mysore to bless her devout devotee Kenjanna Alva, the feudal lord of Kodaman Guttu in Belthangadi (C 17th C), who could not go, as usual, to Mysore for Dussera festival owing to sickness.
Puttu-Parapu of Daivas
Most of the Divine Spirits (Daivas) are manifestation or incarnation of Ganas of Shiva. All these Daivas have a ‘puttu’ (origin) and ‘parapu/paraad’ (spread by wandering or proliferation with same names or with added names of village/s and/or household (eg. Shrines/Temples of Adve Garody, Kanajaru Guttu, Mijaru Guttu, Kombady, Mammer Thota, etc.). PaDdanas go on adding miracles and heroic deeds, played by these Deities to punish the guilty and to uphold justice (Dharma). It is no wonder that cult of Mayandaal is spread to length and breadth of Tulu Nadu.
These days we hear about ‘Birthing Sanctuary’ for water birth under water, hypno-birthing for stress-free birthing, ecstatic birth or orgasmic/Let go birth and Lotus birth. In the Lotus births the placenta is kept connected through the umbilical cord to the baby until the baby is ready to disconnect from it naturally. Now-a-days, career women take the help of Egg-freezing Techniques to store their Ova for later use.
Contrary to the above, the memory is still ripe of tragic death of Savita Halappanavar on 14th November in Ireland for denied medical remedy of early termination because of Government ban on abortion. Miscarriage and septicaemia, complicated by bleedings noticed from early stage of pregnancy, cost the life of a young woman. The medicines at last stage could not save her.
What remains to be seen is why Bhutaradhana (Worship of Divine Spirits) has taken deep root in Tuluva Psyche in spite of modern trends.
· Peter J. Claus’ Research Papers and Book on Possession Cult of Tulu Nadu
· Folk Rituals by Dr. U.P. Upadhyaya & Dr. (Mrs.) Susheela Upadhyaya & its Book Review by S.N.D. Poojary
-Hosabettu Vishwanath (Pune)