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Free and fearless tribal festival

Visit Devarapura, a small village in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu district on the fourth Thursday of May and you can witness a unique festival known for the use of expletives. The festival of abuse brings tribal people living in different parts of the district together. A huge number of tribals belonging to Jenu Kuruba, Betta Kuruba, Yerava and other tribes from Kodagu and surrounding districts  participate in the celebrations.

The tribal people dress fancily and wear unusual ornaments like jackfruit skin and empty plastic bottles. A strange mix of paint, powder and mud in different shades of black, white and other colours decorate their body.

The traditional festival known as “kunde habba” or “bodu habba” is celebrated with fervour. Legend has it that Lord Ayyappa fell in love with Bhagavati Devi and followed her in the forest. Tribal people who were waiting for his return felt betrayed. In a rage, they started abusing him to get back his affection. The tradition has passed on through generations and continued as an annual event. Tribals gather in the village a day prior to the festival.

On Thursday they go out on the streets shouting and scolding people and village deities using choicest obscenities. While doing so, they visit houses and shops, begging for alms. In the evening they worship the almighty, apologise for their act and offer the money collected to the deity. The unique festival draws a large number of people from nearby places.

“The outpour of emotions reflects the broad outlook of the community. It provides a platform for them to give voice to the mental dilemmas they undergo, fighting the injustice met to them and claiming an opportunity to uphold their rights. It is also indicative of their struggle against odds, both natural and social. It also appears to be a protest of the underprivileged,” opines litterateur and folk scholar Prof Kalegowda Nagavara.

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