Conundrum, courtesy Kamalapura

What’s a museum to do when it turns into a place of worship? Here's a unique situation that an object left Kannada University in
Last Updated 27 December 2019, 19:30 IST

Kamalapura in Hosapete taluk, Ballari district, which is a stone’s throw away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hampi, wore a festive look recently though there was no festival.

Communities from various religions and castes were united for the homecoming of the village deity, Uramma Devi.

The Uramma Devi temple has been in existence since the days of Vijayanagar Empire. The residents revere and worship her for she is said to bring better rainfall and ward off evil spirits and tragedies. They believe that there are five shaktidevates (Goddesses of power) who surround Kamalapura. Uramma is the mother of all the five.

About four decades ago, the villagers formed a trust to manage the temple. Changes followed. The wooden Uramma idol was replaced with an idol made out of stone.

Although the villagers opposed the move, it was only when resident Badiger Mounesh questioned the need for the idol’s replacement that something changed. He reasoned that Uramma had been worshipped from the times of Vijayanagar Empire. The rulers had the resources to replace the wooden one if they had wanted to. But the traditional procession indicated that Uramma travelled to protect the villages from evil spirits. It would be sad to turn her into a a static deity. Even so, Badiger’s efforts to convince the trust failed.

As the first move, the trust wondered what to do with the wooden idol. A few devotees suggested that the idol be offered to River Tungabhadra, while some others wanted the trust to donate it to the museum in Kannada University, Hampi.

The idol was donated to the varsity.

“It was donated on the condition that it would be recollected by the temple if Kamalapura failed to get enough rains or faced droughts,” recalled, K M Suresh, former director of the museum.

“We had clarified against it. But we had not entered the idol’s details in the museum’s records yet,” he said.

Soon after the donation, the museum staff faced a unique challenge. On every Tuesday and Friday, the villagers came to the museum to offer pooja to the idol. This, despite the museum’s warning against it. On several occasions, devotees decorated the idol with sari, garlands, and burned incense sticks.

Though Uramma deserted the villagers, the villagers did not desert her.

Two months back, Badiger went to the museum to worship the idol and was told the idol was theirs if they wanted it back. A thrilled Badiger approached the trust with this proposition.

The trust agreed. People vouched for the move on the grounds that the village had not received good rains after the idol was replaced. A letter was written to the varsity vice-chancellor S C Ramesh, seeking permission.

Grand welcome

Anjaneya Hanumanthappa Chitragar, an artist from Kinnal, Koppal district, was employed to paint the statue. A teacher from the Muslim community took care of the expenses for the painting, while many donated for this cause.

On November 14, the statue was brought back to Kamalapura in a procession. The village wore a festive look. Samsthana Saraswathi Peeta Vishwakarma, Anegundi, pontiff led the proceedings and offered udi (donation given to daughters) as they revered Uramma as ‘daughter’.

“Cutting across barriers of religion and caste, we’ve welcomed Uramma,” said Baligar Jambanna, a resident.

(Published 27 December 2019, 19:30 IST)

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