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).
Ghoul: There 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.
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