Thursday, February 21, 2013


By now we are familiar with Brahmasthana and Dakkebali festival associated with this ancient shrine dedicated to Vanadurga called by many as "Bramheru". The 2013 Dakkebali festival which began on January 14  is still continuing and I am not sure how many of us made it to this festival this time which had influenced the Badettu family for decades. Association of our great Ajja with this shrine for a number of years is still being recalled and many old timers seemed to be missing his awesome presence and performance as the senior pathiri decades ago till he retired on his own due to the inability of Padubidrians to sink their differences and unite for the prosperity of the community that inhabit the village. It was a long time wish for me to revisit Brahmasthana and be a spectator of the event once again after a gap of 32 years. My last visit was in 1981 when my father organized a Dakkebali to thank the Godess for giving us an opportunity to buy the Alleppey hotel property. I do recollect way back in 1950s when I went with my parents to witness Dakebali when our Ajja was the senior pathiri. My wish to revisit was fulfilled when on Feb 15 and 16 I visited the shrine to watch the event in two sessions.

Along with Radhu(Paniyur) and Kicha (Chitpadi-Udipi) I reached Padubidri at 10 pm on Friday 15 Feb 2013 with lot of expectations and some anxiety regarding the crowd that might have already reached before us. Fortunately the crowd was somewhat thin and we were relieved to have ample space for sitting very close to the performing area. What struck us was the sight of a simple woods like area converted into a heavenly looking environment with flowers, banana bunches and arecanut bunches bedecking every single conceivable place including tress, poles, lighting poles. Absolutely there was no electricity used for the lighting, the day like light coming from hundreds of gas lights using 2 kg LPG cylinders and many natural wick based oil lamps. Main flowers used were white, mostly jasmine and its cousins, pingara (arecanut flower) and chrysanthumum (Semantike) hanging from every where. On a conservative estimate on the day we went there must have been about two tons of banana, one ton of jasmine and semantike besides hundreds of pingara. It was a sight we will never forget in our life.   

It appears unlike in the past when the function used to start at 9 pm, nowadays the rituals begin only after 11 pm. This is probably because there were only two pathiris as against 7-9 in the past. It is said that new pathiris are not being initiated by the Goddess because of Her dissatisfaction with Padubidrians who are still a divided lot! The belief here is that new pathiris will emerge only when the Padubidri brahmin community pray to gether pleading with Her for initiating new pathiris. No one knows when will this happen, if at all it happens. We took the occasion to go to the traditional house of Kornayas who were trustees of Brahmasthana from time immemorial. It is here that the Pathiris come straight from their houses, take a dip in the pond nearby, pray before the deity ( Vishnu) in their pooja room and proceed to the shrine for their performance. When we went there both the Kornaya brothers were there while their mother was lying down due to old age afflictions. It was most unfortunate that these two brothers from Kornaya family do not even speak to each other on account of differences during the last several years with the elder man taking over the responsibility of managing Brahmasthana. We paid our obeisance to the family deity with a dakshina and namaskara and discussed with the junior Kornaya a few aspects of the shrine and its present condition. It appeared remarkable that faith of local people on Brahmeru and her abode has not diminished a wee bit because of the unnecessary infighting among those responsible to uphold the sanctity and holiness of the place!

At about 11.15 pm the two pathiris, one Lakshminarayan aged 86 and one Narayan aged 75 walked in, were provided with a burning torch to go to the Kornaya house through the dark route, take bath, pray before God and return for the ritual. It was amazing that the two pathiris, left behind after the death of most of the old guards, were hardly able to walk without physical assistance under normal conditions but once inside the hallow precincts of the shrine walked briskly to the sanctum sanctorium with practically no discomfort. After standing before the deity in Brahmasthana for a few minutes they were possessed by the Goddess making them do amazing feats in a state of trance. Holding live burning wicks in their palms they go round and round closely guarded by able bodied youngsters to prevent any unanticipated mishaps. This was repeated several times by both pathiris, one representing Naga Devaru and the other Brahmeru. It appears such rituals are performed during Nagamandala as and when organized by Temples and private homes and is called Haluhirihittu seva. Here in Brahmasthana it is night time Thambila.

While the pathiri representing Naga Devaru did most of his obeisance action in front of the Naga idols near the sanctum sanctorium, the other one was performing mostly in front of the small rock deity, the main worshiping point in Brahmasthana. After about half an hour the Thambila ended and the pathiris started giving pingara to each and every devotee as the prasada from the God. It was amazing that these pathiris did not had even a small burn after holding the live wicks during the entire period while those observing the ritual could get burns if the oil drops from the wicks fall on them! Those who are not Bhatrus (brahmins) do not enter the area where pathiris performed the rituals but waited patiently to recive their prasada from the pathiris out side the premises. 

We left the place at 1 am after receiving our prasada as there was a gap of almost 2 hours between Thambila and Dakkebali which followed at around 2.30 am. We decided to come back next day at 2 am to witness Dakkebali proper. One impression we got was that there is a dilution in the fervor of of Battrus who perform the rituals probably due to the deep division within their ranks though scarcity of funds is never a problem with non-brahmin devotees donating in lakh for this once in two year festival. Foods are served (Kadubu and Bhagilu) in the hall nearby while some food stalls have popped up nearby. There is a distinct shift to commercialism and we were told that more than a billion rupees are invested during the season. It is a reflection on the economic status of the brahmins in this region that out of the 36 Dakkebali days this year, those sponsored by brahmins are hardly four in number!   

I will come back with more narration of my experience with Dakkebali 2013 soon.


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