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Ceremonial and heritage locales in Kodagu

Mookonda Kushalappa, Jan 1 2018, 21:04 IST

Certain places in Kodagu have held ceremonial importance to the Kodavas. The village green, called the mand, is where the annual festivals, such as the Puttari (rice harvest festival), are celebrated. Likewise, ceremonies related to birth, marriage and death are observed in the ancestral houses or the ainmanes. The clan ancestors are remembered and shrines called kaimada are built for them. Local deities are propitiated every year when villagers gather here during the respective temple feasts.

A prominent village green of Kodagu is the Biddatanda Vade (courtyard) in Napoklu. Napoklu became famous when the Storm Festival (a music festival) was organised here in 2012.

In this village green, ceremonial dances such as the naad kolu are performed during Puttari and other festivals. The naad kolu is a kolata, a village dance where men from the naad (shire) gather and beat small sticks as they dance in a circle, during Puttari. This place is a microcosm of the Kodava traditional locales. Biddatanda Vade is mentioned in a number of books on the region such as Kaveri Ponnappa's Vanishing Kodavas and Mandira Jaya Appanna's Kodava Jaya Bharatha.

Biddatanda Vade is named after the family, Biddatanda. Kodavas are known to have family names and each family has a history behind it. Likewise, Biddatanda C Ponnappa and his son Ashok claim that the Biddatanda descended from one of the four brothers of a family.

The four brothers built farmhouses three km apart from each other in the Naalnaad region of Kodagu long ago. The first was Kalyat (ancestor of Kalyatanda family), the second was Biddat (forefather of Biddatanda family), the third was Baliyat (ancestor of Baliyatanda family) and the fourth was Cheriyat (forefather of the Cheriyatanda family).

On one side of the Vade are, the Kaimada, a shrine dedicated to the Biddatanda ancestors; the Makki Sartavu sthana, a place dedicated to the local deity, which is behind a large tree, and the graveyard, called thuthangala. On the other side lie the village greens. Makki Sartavu is a powerful Shastha (Aiyappa) deity revered fervently in Western Kodagu. An ancestor of the Biddatanda family had brought the Makki Sartavu deity to the region. Men of the Kondira family wear the white ceremonial kupya-chele, a traditional attire comprising a wraparound tunic and cummerbund, and help manage the annual Makki Sartavu festival.

In front of these three structures is the Mahadeva Kota Temple. This temple was in ruins but Dinesh, a member of the Biddatanda family, took some ancient papers in the family's possession and went to the tantri of Kallengat, a powerful priest well- versed in rituals, who wanted the temple to be remade under his guidance within 80 days. This tedious task was accomplished by this enterprising member of the family.

Every year, the Kodavas conduct a mand namme (village green festival) where people from various village greens come together and celebrate. The last one was on December 25, 2017 in Gonikoppal.

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