'War' is piece of Dasara history in this border village

Stick-rattling highlight of ritual in Devaragudda
Last Updated 15 October 2013, 20:28 IST

All is fair in love and war is an old idiom. But at Devaragudda near Holagunda on the taluk’s border with Andhra Pradesh, the idiom seems to take on a new form: war is fair if that’s part of a ritual.

Every year, on the Vijayadashami day, Devaragudda (Neranaki village) turns a mini war zone, as part of the Malamalleswara Swami utsava. It was no different this year too, on  Monday night.

Thousands of devotees clashed with each other with sticks, threw turmeric powder on one another and danced to the beating of the drums.

The contrast could not have been starker as police, not armed with their trademark lathis, were mute spectators as stick rattling rent the air. This age-old tradition is the highlight of the festival here. A larger number of people occupy vantage positions to watch the spectacle.

The battle of the sticks is in full force as the utsava murthi (procession idol) is brought from the temple atop the hillock amid the light of fire torches and devotees giving out war cries. The men hit each other as though they are possessed.

Although many people suffer injuries in the process, this, in no way, dampens the spirit of the crowd.

From active to passive

Silence descends on the gathering when it is time for the priest to come out with predictions for the year ahead. Once this is done, the deity is taken back to the temple and placed on the pedestal.

By this time, the warring crowd turns a devout and peaceful lot, concentrating on propitiating the deity with fruits and lit camphor. The devotees then make their way home, nursing their bruises, but pretending as if nothing happened. 

It is an unwritten rule here that the police should not register cases, even if the devotees suffer injuries or even if deaths take place during the ceremonies.

(Published 15 October 2013, 20:28 IST)

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