Saturday, October 31, 2015

352. Kola and Nema: the distinction

In traditional Tulunadu, the recurrent Spirit worshiping festivals are popularly   known and celebrated either as Kola or Nema.

Kola and Nema
The term Kola appears to be a heritage word that has been brought along with early cycles of human   immigrants to our land. The ancient word Kola possibly of African origin means an agreement or convention mutually agreed upon.
The term Nema appears to be an equivalent of the word “Niyama” commonly found in many of the Indian languages including Sanskrit. Thus literally the Nema (or Niyama) means a rule or a convention to be followed).

Shri Narayana A. Bangera, Mitrapatna, in   a recent discussion with Hosabettu Vishwanath, draw our attention to the essential differences between a Nema and a Kola. Conventionally, there is a fine distinction between a Kola and a  Nema celebrations that can be summarized as follows:

In the case of Nema celebrations:
(1) There is hoisting and lowering of ‘koDi’ (=flag) to mark the commencement and culmination of the annual ceremony. This aspect is similar to the convention of flag hoisting and lowering followed up by temples in the region during the annual festivals in the temples.
(2) Besides, there is ‘Bandi-bali’ consisting of circum-ambulation by the impersonator sitting in a decorated wooden car/cart-cum-horses, around the Bhuta Sthana (=Spirit Shrine), the cart being drawn by devotees.  In some cases, Bhuta’s mask or idol is seated in the Bandi or the wooden car.  Such annual festival is also called as ‘Bandi Nema’

All other Bhuta festivals are called ‘Kola’.

Parava, Pambada and Rajan daiva

It is customary that only persons from the Parava tribes are only entitled to impersonate a Bhuta, who is considered as reincarnated form of specific God or divinity.
 Traditionally the persons from the Pambada tribes are authorized to impersonate or represent only Rajan Daivas. It was considered that a King after death attains divinity and becomes a Rajan daiva or a Royal Spirit.).

- Hosabettu Vishwanath

(Based on inputs  given by Narayana  A. Bangera on 30.10.2015. We heartily thank NAB for his appreciation and feed-back on differences between a Kola and a Nema.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

351. Kule Madime

There are many eerie customs prevailing all over the globe from prehistory of mankind.  Some customs fade away on onslaught of modern thinking but some are so stubborn that it is not possible to eradicate them.  ‘Kule Madime’ (=Ghost Marriage) is one of such customs that was prevalent in Tulu Nadu since ages.
During my childhood, I noticed a kinship between our family and another family in our neighborhood.  One Janaki-akka used to address my aunt (my mother’s younger sister) as ‘maami (mother-in-law).  We had not seen any living couple, connected to this relation.  We youngsters were told that this odd relationship was brought about by performing a ‘titinakalena madime aka kule madime’, i.e. marriage of the dead, in a symbolic way. The bride was my aunt’s unmarried dead daughter and the groom was the unmarried dead brother of Janaki-akka. The symbol used, as I faintly remember as told, was two coconut trees. (However hard I try to remember the exact symbol, I am unable to recollect it. Moreover, it is impossible to get details of ritual now as our elders are  dead).

Kule Madime
Kule Madime’ in Tulu means: a marriage between two souls or spirits of the dead.  Besides Tulu Nadu, it is also practiced in other parts of India. It is also a tradition, practiced world-wide – from Africa to France (Europe) to Asia and to American countries.

Significance of the Belief
Supposedly, this ritual is practised on the belief that it would bring a sense of satisfaction and completeness to the departed souls, who died young without marriage. “Divinity in man is not accidental” (Post-250 Dt: 20.08.2010).  It is said to be a re-incarnation of spiritual light in a human body to do things – good or bad – at the bidding of primordial energy, the Source, i.e. Paramaatma.  Sacred rituals are performed at different stages of one’s life.  If a human-being dies young, not undergoing the ritual of marriage, his or her unsatisfied soul remains in suspension-state.  As is believed or feared, the circumstances of its leaving the body makes it ill-disposed to others in the family and starts haunting them.
Haunted family consults a soothsayer who says that the delay in getting alliance for a (living) girl or boy in a family is due to unsatisfied souls, who died without marriage.  The affected family looks out for a suitable dead boy or girl for solemnizing their marriage. Sometimes, departed soul (mostly of a male) possesses a person in its family and points out the household where it can get a suitable bride. These days ‘Preta or Pitru Sanskara Kriya’ ritual is performed through priests when calamities befall in a family.

Ghost Marriage in China
It is an age-old belief (for more than 1000 years) in China that if a man dies unmarried, he will haunt his surviving relatives. His family members would perform a Ghost Marriage where a bride would be found and wed in his post-mortem.  This practice has created a class of ‘Ghost Match-makers’, thriving on a brisk business of providing brides at high prices.  Female corpses are pilfered secretly from tombs and are traded in black market.  So the ghost marriage is outlawed in China since 1949.
There was a news item in Indian Express of 16th October 2015 under the heading: “Corpse stolen for Ghost Marriage in China”. The news item, was about three persons who have been detained in North China Shanxi Province for stealing s female corpse from a village tomb to sell it as a bride for an ancient ritual of the marriage of the deceased.  The incident was reported to the police by the villagers when the accused were raiding the tomb.  Such incidents are happening time and again in China in spite of ban on the ritual.

Other Forms of Ghost Marriage
There are many interesting stories documented in the Internet on following types of ghost marriages:
Posthumous marriage (necrogamy) is a marriage in which one of the participating members is dead.  It is legal in France.  Similar forms are practiced in Sudan and China.  It is in practice since 1950 (to support the World War II widows and their children).
Levirate marriageis a tradition related to posthumous marriage or ghost marriages.  In a Levirate marriage, the brother of a deceased man is obligated to marry his late brother’s widow.  The reasoning behind it is to support widows and their children.
This is comparable to ‘Niyoga’ custom, sanctioned by Vedas and codified in ‘Manusmriti (Manu’s Injunctions).Such action is necessitated to continue the family-line.  So it is called ‘Apaddharma Niyoga’ [Read the Chapter in ‘Satyartha Prakasha’ (in Sanskrit) by Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Vernacular translations are available; In  Kannada version, p.155). In Mahabharata, births of Dritarashtra, Pandu and Vidura to Vichitravirya’s widows by Sage Vyasa, Pancha Pandavas to Kunti and Madri through celestial beings Yama, Vayu, Indra, and Ashwini Kumaras are progenies by Niyoga to keep up the dynasty of Kuru. Such practice is still in vogue in North India.  Remember the Hindi film ‘Ek Chhadar Maili Si’ (1986) about such a marriage, based on Sahitya Akademi Award winning Urdu Novelwritten by Rajinder Singh Bedi.

Tulu Nadu is known for practice of ‘Animism’.  Its inhabitants revere all things in Nature – water, trees, snakes, stones, departed souls, etc. Their devoutness to super-humanly forces is manifest in Bhutaradhane (Worship of Divine Spirits) to this day.  Their reverence to family ancestors is praised by foreign travelers of yore.  Are we justified in dismissing the belief as mere superstition? 
Mind works in a similar way, guided by emotions – say, awe, fear love, greed and hate - of that moment.  It is, therefore, no wonder to find similarity in religious/social practices in other parts of the world.
Kule Madime was in vogue in the past, mainly keeping in mind the salvation of souls of the dead and bringing peace to the family. This practice may continue as long as there is a soothsayer; perhaps, in remote villages where modernity has not set in.

Anyone who has witnessed such ritual or has knowledge about it, may share it with us.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Thursday, October 8, 2015

350. Kāle and Kāle kola

There is an idiom ‘Kappu Kāle’ in Tulu.  It is used to describe the colour of a person, i.e. one who is pitch dark or black in complexion.  The meaning of ‘kappu’ is dark or black.  Generally, we use ‘kāle’ also with same meaning of ‘dark’ in every day usage (in Tulu, Kannada, Sanskrit, etc.) while it has a specific meaning in Tulu. Here the idiom or compound word means ‘a person who is as black/dark as a kāle’.
There are many compound words with ‘Kāle’ but ‘Toduta Kāle’ (as voracious as a kāle) and ‘Kappu Kāle’ are still extant and heard in usage.  It seems that the phenomenon of ‘Kāle’ is wiped out from the memory of present Tulu generation.  What is then the meaning of ‘Kāle’ here?
There is a Question & Answer section at the end of the Book: “Tuluvara Marnottara Kriye - Tulu Janapada Samskara”, writeen by Narayana A. Bangera (NBA) (See: Post No. 280 dated 7th June, 2011).  During the discussions, Devraj Poojari, a member of Billavara Association, Dombivli Chapter, posed a pointed question (pp. 66-68) to NBA: What is Kāle Kola?  Is it unavoidable in Tuluva After-Death/Last Rites  to a departed soul?  NAB pointed it out as a forgotten rite, which was performed by rich people in earlier days. He opined it as a chicanery while bringing out the difference between ‘kola’ and ‘nema’.  We wished to make further studies for a suitable Post but the matter skipped our memory.  Our interest is revived after seeing some information in pages 58 to 60 on ‘Kaale Kola’ in the Book: “Mogaveera Samaja – Ondu Adhyana” by Sadananda K. Uchila.(See: Post-347dated 3rd June, 2015).

Kule and Kāle
What is ‘Kule’ in Tulu is ‘Pretātma’ in Sanskrit, Kuli (Tamil & Malayalam), Kole (Havyaka Kannada), and Kolnari (Koraga - Tribal). Péyi/Péti is Tulu synonym of Kule (also having the meaning of madness or mad person in Dravidian languages). It means a ‘departed soul’ (Tulu Lexicon Vol.2; p. 774).  ‘Kāle’ is a synonym for ‘Kule’ (TL Vol.3; p. 860).  ‘Kāle Kola’ is defined in Tulu Lexicon (Ref Vol.2, p. 775) as ‘a kind of spirit worship and dance celebrated on the day of funeral rituals (usually in the Bunts community) to ward off ghosts and other evil spirits’. In Kannada, the synonymous term “kalebara” (=dead body) exists for comparison.
It is believed that a departed soul - a shadowy apparition commonly known as ghost - remains in suspended state unless and until all traditional ‘after-death purification (Samskaras) rites’ are completed (on 13th or 16th day of death).
It is believed that ‘kule’ or ‘kāle’ haunts the house, joined by other evil spirits until a particular day.  It is supposed to depart from the mourning house and stop harming inmates as soon as proper last rites are performed.  It may be noted that impersonator of ‘kāle’ in the kola ceremony symbolically wears black dress with white stripes around the chest.

Kāle in Oriental & World Folklores
Pedakāle (Pedakkāle):  One may remember a word ‘Pedakāle’ (Pedakkāle) in Tulu.  It means ‘a goblin troubling a woman in confinement, especially after the child birth.  It is an abusing word, applied to a trouble-monger, comparing him to an imp.
There are many fairy tales in Indian folk-lores.  We read during our schooling days about such goblins or ghosts of dead person appearing or disappearing as a pale shadowy apparition, haunting houses where new children were expected and where there were death of mother on child-birth or still-born children.  Rumours are spread about such incidents.   Our elders used to narrate such stories to youngsters eliciting horror. It is reported these horrifying goblins peep through windows to take stock of things.  This explains why confinement rooms were dark with tiny windows or no windows and with small doors in olden days.
Traditionally, the convalescing women were looked after by elderly women for puerperal care. Woman and her baby were never left alone.  This was to ensure that they are not harmed by wicked spirits.  Women in confinement always carry a small hand-knife while going out and in, even when an elderly woman accompanies her.  A sickle was invariably kept under her bed.  Here we can recall the cult of Mani Bāle, popularly known as Mayandāl, the legendary protector of women and the punisher of evil spirits feeding on women and children.  The Mayandāl Cult has been deeply rooted in Tulu Nadu among Tulu women. (Post-306; dt: 13th December, 2012).
GhoulThere is a word ‘Ghoul’ (pronounced as Ghool or Ghowl) in English Dictionary.  ‘Ghoul’ is comparable to ‘Kāle’ in Tulu.  It is defined as an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on the dead.  Origin of the word is traced to Arabic word ‘Ghāla’, akin to Ghol of Persian, by Western travellers.  The meaning of the word is also applied to a person, who does or enjoys horrible things.
The Hobson-Jobson Dictionary (p.372) throws some more light on this word by culling writings of travellers of yore. We quote some of them below:
In the deserts of Africa, one can meet often-times with fairies.  They appear in the shape of men and women but they vanish soon away like fantastical illusions.
The Arabs tell many strange stories about the Ghul and their transformations, allegedly with feet of an ass.  These Ghul appeared to travellers in the night and at hours when one meets no one on the road.  They are led astray when they followed these spectres, mistaking them to be their own companions.
The Arab story mentioned above is comparable to Tulu story about ‘Kule tappu muttanaga (= on touching of leaves of plant affected by ghosts).  In olden days (when there were no battery torches) people used to go to neighbouring villages at night, carrying torches made of dried coconut leaves, for seeing Yakshagana  Bayalata (= folklore night time entertainment of a song and dance drama in open field). If they touch without intention some ghost affected plant while crossing a forest area, they were not able to reach the spot of the event easily even if they hear the sound of drum (Chande=ಚಂಡೆ) nearby but move round and round to come to the same spot from where they started. Narrator of this story laughingly finished it by saying that one from their group eased out.  Then only, they could find the way. (Note:  Kule tappu tree = the leaves of the ghost tree are used in the ritual to ward off evil effects of ghosts).
Fisher-folk of Tulu Nadu tell similar stories in which death occurs.   Group of young men go for catching fish at night with cast-nets in rivers.  One man finds another man ahead of him getting more catch by venturing into deeper water.  He goes on following that ghost-man (not knowing that he is a ghost) until he gets himself drowned.
When the writer came to Mumbai in the decade of late fifties of last Century, he heard many ghost stories of haunted buildings in Fort area where there were accidents during construction. Elderly Taxi-driver relative was telling about drivers troubled by ghosts during night trips.
In Afghanistan, the Afghans believe that each solitary mountain ranges and deserts of their country are inhabited by lonely demon, which they call ‘Ghoole Beeabaum’ (= the goule or spirit of the Waste).  The spectre is identified by them as a gigantic and frightful figure, capable devouring any passenger wandering within his haunting place.
What comes to our mind is that analogy of kāle to similar sounding words in other nations is natural.  Our ancestors passed through these regions during the course of their historical migration as enumerated elsewhere in our Blog.

Kule Pattuni/Muttuni
One from Tulu Nadu might have witnessed incidents of ‘demoniac possession’ in many households. Suffering of the possessed, writhing in pain, shivering,crawling, crying and abusing, is heart-rending. The ghost-apparent leaves his/her body after asking for a glass of water when the possessed is beaten by stick-broom. Such happening has given rise to the cult of ‘exorcism’ in many of the Oriental and Western cultures.
Some of the phrases and idioms about kāle and kule are included in the Tulu Lexicon.
Kola & Nema
Though these days these words are used interchangeably, for the ceremonial worship of a divine spirit, the Nema (Niyama in Sanskrit) means annual or periodical ceremony of worship of a particular deity by following traditionally laid down rules and regulations. Kola means ‘a game or play’. Heroics of the divine spirit are enacted/played by invoking it through a medium.  At times, the play looks like an amusement (Post-250/20.08.2010; ‘From OlaSavari to Varasari).  It is played for deity of a household, village and group of villages.  ‘Kola’ is also a part of‘nema’, which one cannot deny.

Kāle Kola Performance*
It is also called a ‘Kule Nalike’ (=Ghost Dance).  There is no specific rules for this dance drama.  It has a psychological value for relieving grief of bereaved members.
Traditional class of dancers, such as Nalike, Pambada, Panaara or Parava, are engaged to perform this ritual.  They come one night before the final ceremony of bidding farewell to a departed soul (i.e. on 13th or 16th day of death).  Kāle Kola duty is entrusted to these performers by offering them Veelya,( i.e. betel leaf and arecanut), as a token of invitation. They are given utensils and provisions for them to prepare their meals.
The ritual needs four impersonator-dancers. First two come dancing as buntas (servants) at the appointed place of dance with usual attire as is vogue with Kola dancers, i.e. wearing red-coloured loose shirt and pyjama, covered waist-down with ‘siri’, made of tender  coconut fronds split into fine strings, and adorning special jingling-anklets, called ‘gaggara’ on ankles and semi-circular shaped crown (kirita) on the head. The third one,in the guise of a horse, joins these dancing impersonators.  They keep on dancing according to some songs when the fourth dancer, with two sticks, joins them,dancing as possessed by the ‘kāle’ (departed soul) and making a frightening cry.  He is painted black fully with black dress with white stripes around chest and white circles around eyes.  They dance in the fixed arena for some time.  Ghost-impersonator consoles family members and advises them to live peacefully and harmoniously so as to keep up the family traditions and customs.
On the conclusion of the kāle kola, sticks used during the dance are kept on both sides of the ‘Doope’ (a structure in the form of a car erected outside the house or at the place of ‘dooloppu’ (heap of ash and remnant bones of the dead at the place of funeral).  Impersonator-dancers take bath in sea or river.  Family members also go for bath.  All these activities get over by midday and the performers are paid as previously agreed.  Individual family members too donate money as their last respect to the departed soul.

We wonder how we use certain words, such as cited above, in our childhood without knowing their meanings.  The more we modernise, the more we forget such words, leave alone their meanings.  With changed circumstances, 'kule' remained in Tulu tongues more than the use of 'kāle'.  'Kāle' remained in ritualistic performances, though kule and kāle are synonyms.  The mutual transformation of 'k' to 'g' is common in linguistics. So it is not a wonder that Kule or Kāle is the same as 'Ghoul', Ghul, Ghaala, Ghulee or Gol elsewhere.
The purpose of Kāle Kola is to pacify members (present or absent during death time) of a family of departed soul. It got acceptance among Tulu speakers. What has been started with genuine intention of showing sympathy and exhorting members for maintaining ‘undivided and joint family system’ of Tulu Nadu or maintaining ‘cordial relations’ is misused by an unscrupulous grieving family member? There are instances that ‘kāle’ impersonator becomes a mouth-piece of a member for getting things told as he/she wishes for getting major share in properties of deceased.
The phenomenon of ghost (soul of dead) is entwined with mankind from pre-history and pre-industrial age to this scientifically advanced era. Proof: The séance is still practiced.
We look forward receiving feed-backs on these practices.

Mogaveera Samaja – Ondu Adhyana’ by Sadananda K. Uchil.

-Hosabettu Vishwanath, Pune

Blog Archive

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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