Soaking in the festive spirit

Soaking in the festive spirit

Like in any other part of the State, jatras (village or temple fairs) in North Karnataka are linked to the agrarian calendar. They are generally associated with the local deity, mostly the Gramadevata or the village deity. Several legends and folklore are associated with every jatra. The main theme of these stories is that the deity protects the farms and the villagers, and people worship the deities for enabling them to sail through the struggles.

Diverse practices

The jatras in this region are celebrated just before or after Ugadi. This is mainly because the farmers would have just finished harvesting and would be relatively free until the first showers when tilling starts.

One of the famous jatras in Belagavi district is that of Saundatti Yallamma. On the day of Bharat Hunnime, a mega fair takes place at Yallammana Gudda hill in Saundatti. Lakhs of devotees worship Goddess Renuka or Yallamma in the form of Shakti. Till date, young girls (and also boys) are offered to the Goddess as Devadasis during the main jatra festival, a custom that is much debated.

The Mayakka Jatra in Chinchali of Raibag taluk attracts lakhs of devotees every year. Several legends have been associated with this jatra. One legend has it that once Goddess Hiredevi asked the shepherds for milk which they denied. The angered goddess flooded the nearby streamlet with milk. Even today, devotees bathe in that streamlet before prostrating to the goddess. Another legend talks about the goddess cursing shepherds into stones in the shape of sheep when they refused to give her wool. Such stones can be found strewn there and the ceremonial procession goes around them. The Chinchali Jatra has a ceremonial horse called 'Raja' who is taken care of by the Chinchalikar Jadhav family. Mangsuli Khandoba, Kokatnur Yallamma are some other popular jatras in the district.

Belagavi has numerous temples dedicated to Lord Basava, the vehicle of Lord Shiva. Most prominent among the jatras dedicated to this deity are the ones at Shahapur Khade Bazar, Hosur Basavan Galli, Basavan Galli in Belagavi city and Basavan Temple in Kudchi. The Laxmi and Basavanna jatras are generally marked by a practice called inglya. Here, devotees walk over a bed of burning embers laid on the road, as an expression of gratitude or devotion. Kudchi also hosts the famous Brahmalinga Jatra every year, which is marked by the devotees gathering firewood for the fire-walk from the Kakati area. The jatra begins a week before Ugadi and culminates on Ugadi day.

The suburb of Vadgaon celebrates Mangai Devi Jatra. This goddess is worshipped as a form of Goddess Durga or Shakti. The jatra is celebrated every year in the month of Ashadha on the twelfth day of the waning phase of the moon. Vadgaon soaks in the festive mood with thousands of devotees descending from across towns in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.

The jatra of Margai Devi in Bhandur Galli in Belagavi is celebrated once in five years. On the main day, the ceremonial procession sees the whole town smeared with bhandara or turmeric being showered on everyone. On these days, Margai Temple is decorated with flowers and mango leaves. Hundreds of small shops selling puja items, toys, ice cream, cosmetics, balloons, food items and clothes find place on the roads leading up to the main temple.

The jatras give a boost to the local economy since the devotees who visit the temple invariably make some purchase. Several families are known to set temporary stalls selling their wares and making small profits. It is also a time for bonding as almost all families host friends and relatives on these days. Farmers usually get new clothes for the whole family for the jatra, and houses are repaired and painted. At times, people also seek small loans to cover these expenses. In the economically backward parts of the district, this is also a reason why jatras are sometimes organised either in alternate years or after a gap of 7, 12 or 14 years.

The famous temple of Goddess Laxmi at Kanagale celebrates the jatra every year on the first Friday after the full moon in the month of Magha. A week before the jatra, devotees gather at the temple on the hillock and beseech the goddess. An earthen idol is prepared and consecrated for the purpose. Devotees believe that the face of the goddess which is happy at the beginning of the jatra turns sombre as the festival ends.

Bhavkeshwari Temple in Mutage gets decked up for the jatra on the last Friday of the Ashadha month. On the day of the jatra, the honour of offering the first udi tumbuvudu (an offering made to the Goddess in the pallu of the sari), with dry coconut, bananas, rice, turmeric, vermillion, flowers, fruits, and khann (blouse piece with traditional decorative border) is given to the Desai family of Basrikatti, after which all others offer the same. The elders in the village narrate the story of the village being under siege by Afzal Khan and hence fearing destruction, the idol was hidden underground in a canal. Years later, when the water subsided, the idol resurfaced and it was housed in a hut for years before it got a proper thatched-roof structure in 1939. It got a major renovation in 1996 and is being worshipped here ever since.

Harmonious blend

Desur is a small village that celebrates the famous jatra of Goddess Sateri. This deity is predominantly worshipped in Goa. Legend has it that around 1559, the Shenvi family migrated from Kutthali in Goa to escape from the enemies. They brought with them the original idol of the goddess. Since the goddess required animal sacrifice and the Shenvis were vegetarians, they handed over the rights of worship to the Gurav and Patil families of the village. Every year, the jatra is celebrated in the month of Chaitra, soon after Ugadi.

Also known as Shakambari, Goddess Banashankari is worshipped by a large population in North Karnataka. The jatra of the deity is held every year during January-February in Banashankari. Boat festival is a unique feature of this jatra. Swami Siddharoodh Jatra Mahotsav in Hubballi is held every year during the Mahashivaratri week. It culminates with the Car festival where devotees pull the decorated chariot. An idol of Siddharoodha Swamiji is placed in the chariot and devotees chant bhajans during the procession.

Jatras are a celebration of indigenous culture and we can see a harmonious blend of faith, belief and devotion as people revel in the festivities. People cross social and economic barriers and come together in the name of jatras. It is also a time for cultural extravaganza as amateur artistes perform plays and kirtankars narrate stories relating to the deity. When options for entertainment were few and far between, these occasions served the purpose.

However, even with changing times, jatras have retained popularity, and spread positive vibes.

 

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