Food service of the sacred

Food service of the sacred

A temple ritual turns the village of Mylara into an oasis of food for animals during drought

On many occasions, groups of monkeys are seen thronging the terraces only to consume the butti.

Food offering to deities is an integral temple ritual. They are revered as naivedya and prasada. There’s a belief in many communities that naivedya or prasada carries energy that cures diseases and brings better fortune. The core idea behind the offering is to satisfy the hunger of devotees.

But Mylara Lingeshwara temple in Mylara, a village about 36 km from Hadagali taluk in Ballari, has a unique practice. It goes beyond ending the hunger of devotees, and satisfies the hunger of animals and birds.

Babudar & goravappa tradition

Babudar service means the temple tradition in which a service is rendered by chosen people of different communities. Tasks include cleaning temple premises, locking doors etc.

In Mylara Lingeshwara temple, 28 services are carried out by people from 12 communities. A man rendering a specific service is known as babudar.

Any babudar can become ‘goravappa’ (the one who makes prophecies known as karnika), after the initiation of the deeksha. Mostly, members of Kuruba and Maratha communities are initiated into the goravayya group.

Butti & doni ritual

The temple tradition dictates that goravayyas hold the doni (a square metal or wooden utensil) and sit in rows to receive prasada offered by the devotees.

The food for prasada is either prepared at home or at the temple.

Special pujas are performed on Sundays and full-moon days. The temple also organises jathre every year. On these three occasions, devotees offer prasada to the Mylara Linga deity.

Sorghum bread (jowar rotti), pearl millet bread (sajje rotti), varieties of sabjies prepared using pulses and vegetables, curd rice and bananas are offered to the deity. The dishes, packed in white cloth, is termed butti.

Devotees enter the sanctum sanctorum and offer the butti to the deity. Once they come out, they untie the butti and distribute the food among the goravappas, who collect it in donis.

At once, about 50 goravappas are seen holding donis. Sometimes, family members of the goravappas, too, accompany them. Hence, about 150 donis are seen on Sundays and full-moon days. “Devotees believe that Mylara Linga’s hunger is satisfied if the goravappas consume the food. That way, they equate a goravappa with Mylara Linga,” explains Pramod Bhat, the priest.

On reaching homes, the goravappas offer the butti to cattle and sheep, and place the leftovers on their terraces. They do so as they believe their act will satisfy the hunger of birds and animals.

Farmers in the village point out that cows that consume butti normally give more milk.

After about a week, the butti on the terrace dries up completely. Meanwhile, monkeys, crows, sparrows, squirrels and dogs consume it.

“Dried food is protein-rich. In fact, such dishes help animals. Over-consumption may harm the cattle, though,” points out Mahantesh Shetkar, veterinary doctor, Bandri, Ballari.

On many occasions, groups of monkeys are seen thronging the terraces only to consume the butti.

“Animals and birds from the neighbourhood, too, visit the village only to consume the butti. The practice is becomes an oasis for animals whenever droughts hit the region,” Harake Goravappa Ningappa Madar explains.

At other temples, a lot of food is wasted after offering it to deities. The practice of butti has ensured hardly any food is wasted, say devotees.

There is no garbage crisis in the temple because of this practice, devotees point out. According to the temple authorities, the ideal time to visit the temple is Sundays or on the days of full moon so that the practice may be witnessed. “Sometimes butti contains additional quantities. As rice has more carbohydrates, it generates more gas inside the cattle. And if the gas inside results in improper discharge of dung, it may even lead to the death of the cattle,” he warns. Farmers should be cautious while offering it.