Celebrating the deity of rain and abundance

Celebrating the deity of rain and abundance

Legend has it that Jokumara, a folk deity in North Karnataka region is associated with rain and fertility. His birthday is celebrated in the monsoon season with pomp and fervour. There are a few myths associated with the deity, one of which states that he was a disciple of the seven rishis (Saptarshi) and his name was Joka then. This folk deity is worshipped by various communities in the area because of the belief that he helps in their occupation. The people also believe that his puja results in better rainfall in the region. Jokumara is revered by the people of the fishermen community, washermen, goldsmiths and farmers of the region. His birthday is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapada, which falls during the rains. 

The celebrations ensure that the local women are able to bond with each other and also showcase their talents, such as singing and craft. The occasion also strenghtens the relationships and interaction among the different communities of the region. The rituals for the celebration begin on the Bhadrapada Shukla Ashtami, the day of his birth and end on the full moon day of the same month. Devotees believe that he was born about five days after the installation of Ganesha idol, on Moola Nakshatra time, on the day of the beginning Ashtami Tithi (an auspicious day and time). Therefore, most people consider it inauspicious to immerse the Ganesha idol once the Ashtami Tithi sets in. Especially, members of the Gangamatha community offer puja to the idol of Jokumara at the residence of village chieftain and later the rituals follow.

According to Sunandamma Sunagar, an elderly woman of a village near Dharwad, the Gangamtha community women collect clay from a nearby lake and prepare an idol of Jokumara with broad forehead piercing eyes, an imposing nose, thick lips, moustaches and a huge phallus representing his virility.  The lips are smeared with butter. They place the idol in a basket decorated with neem leaves. They carry the basket on their head in a procession and move from house to house singing in praise of the deity.  “Women collectively sing the songs and move in the procession. They visit seven surrounding villages and finally immerse the idol at a lake at Mansur village in Dharwad district,” says Sunandamma. Every area has songs that highlight Jokumara’s miracles and adventures. It is really a pleasant experience to hear these songs as they soothe the soul. They also touch the mind and the heart. A few lines of the songs often rendered by the women are:

Let Jokumara be born

Let there be light all over!

Let that mother collect

Milk from cows’ udders!

Let our Goddess beat the curd

Jokumara strays into the street of Madiwala

And requests the most beautiful woman

Whose hair is decorated with flowers to be his soulmate!

When it rains copiously filling all big lakes

All cows store milk at their udders!