These villagers play with fire, literally

Devotees throw embers at each other at the triennial ritual, but come out unscathed

FIERY FEAT: Devotees throw embers on each other during the Boggulu Obaleshwara jathre at Hosahatti village of Kudligi taluk on Sunday night. DH PhotoIt rains embers at the triennial Boggulu Obaleshwara jathre (fair) in this village. But none of the devotees taking part in the ritual gets injured, which makes it an unique celebration. People threw the embers around passionately as if they were flowers at the fair held on Sunday night.

Hosahatti is a small village of 400 people, 35 km away from the taluk headquarters. The presiding deity in the village is Boggulu Obaleshwara Swami. Boggulu is the Telugu word for ember.

The age-old custom of the Scheduled Tribes, who form the majority of the population here, continues in the village even to this day and the locals call it the ‘Guggari festival’.

Ancestors of the priest’s family here have traditionally been in the profession of making coal by burning the wood of trees they cut in the forest at night. The coal used to be sold in the morning.

Once, when the tribals went to the forest in the morning to fetch the coal, they found the heap of coal still burning.

They believed that their deity had presented himself in the form of the embers and thus, began the practice of throwing the embers around, said Chinnapalli Obaiah, who belongs to the family of priests. The ‘jathre’ is held before the Shivaratri Amavasye and a heap of firewood is worshipped for the purpose of burning it to form embers.

The priest of the Boggulu Obaleshwara Swami fills an earthen pot with a portion of the burning embers and places it inside the temple.

Devotees who have taken vows then touch the earthen pot and start throwing the contents at each other with both hands.
 
At Sunday’s event MLA B Nagendra, several elected representatives and thousands of devotees from Kurihatti, Karadihalli, Hulikunte, Bheemasamudra, Madakala katte and Obalashettihalli villages took part in the event.

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