Scarred souls hurt selves for a meal

Painful living

blood for food: A man whips his daughter who lies bare unmindful of the scroching sun is a telling tale of the plight of ‘Bur Bur Gangamma’ community’s pathetic lifestyle in Shidlaghatta. DH Photo

For the man, his wounded daughter and other members of their family, the pittance offered by the onlookers for the show would fetch meal for the day.

The man and his family belonged to ‘Bur Bur Gangamma,’ a nomadic tribe and belief is that their arrival would symbolise good omen to the village or town. The crowd, hence, wouldn’t stop the person from beating himself or his daughter even if they started bleeding all over their body.

The pain is, however, much deeper for these tribals. As they are nomadic, they have neither residential address nor entitled for the facilities given by the government for those below poverty line. Worse, they are not even enumerated as the people of this country due to their nomadic lifestyle.

“We don’t know to read or write. No one will give us a job. Hence, we live by following our tradition of inflicting torture on our body, though it hurts us,” the tribals said.
They would go to next villages in search of their meal for the next day and the show repeats.

 They are called ‘Uru Mariyamma’, ‘Bur Bur Gangamma’ and ‘Kollapuradamma’ in south Karnataka, Duruga Murugi in north Karnataka. They carry with them diety Gangamma or Maramma. 

They dress in different attires such as mythical characters, Poturaja or Soma. They wear kumkum and turmeric on their faces and red silk saree as ‘dhoti’. Their ornaments would be simple – silver anklets and bracelets for men, and a nose ring and an ornamental belt on the waist for women.

In a crowded place, fair or market, they ring a bell, beat the drum and dance. As the onlookers assemble around them, they beat themselves with the whip.

The womenfolk play an instrument and recite hymns of deity Maramma while men inflict self-injury by beating themselves with the whip, and praising God aloud.

Folklorist Dr G Srinivasaiah said: “Village residents believe Maramma is a powerful and aggressive deity. As these nomadic tribes carry with them idol of ‘Uri Maramma’ (an image of angry goddess), the residents treat them with fear and devotion. Their art forms have also been treated with respect.”

However, the urgent need for these tribals is not mere recognition of their art forms, but a decent source of livelihood, facilities of the government and representation in social, economic and politial fields.

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