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A picturesque festival called Oththekola


N K SUPRABHAA | Bangalore, July 5, 2012 16:15
Tags : Oththekola | Kulichchata |

Oththekola is a religious fest performed across Dakshina Kannada and Kasragod districts of Karnataka.

A picturesque festival called Oththekola From actress Aishwarya Rai to Karnataka chief minister Sadananda Gowda everyone was present to take blessings from Daivas and Bhoothas of Tulunadu on one or the other occasions. Oththekola, a traditional offering to Daiva (demi God), is an amazing religious fest which goes on full night. First it was firing wood pieces, then Kulichchata and then main daiva comes. The fire, offering and daiva dancing over burning coal are beautiful picturesque scenes to watch.

The entire northern Malabar and Southern Konkan Coast are filled with traditions, customs and rituals that have socio-religious importance. Some of them are mild but others send shivers up your spine. One of them is the Oththekola. Spine chilling fire walk, eerie dances of the boothas (demigods) and religious fervour shown by the people are some things that are worth watching.

Vishnumoorthy Daiva means Narasimhavathar of Vishnu. To kill bad omen Vishnu comes with Narasimhavathar. Kulichchata Daiva means offerings for Fire. In the middle of ground big heap of wood pieces are collected and set on fire.

After it starts burning like hell, the Kulichchata daiva starts to offer fire. The one who dons the role of demigod and calls daiva in to his body, runs around this fire and offers his divine prayers to god. Villagers scarify their chickens to Daiva is other ritual associated with it. After giving chickens to Daiva, next morning they get chickens as Prasadam and prepare its sambar from that prasadam in respective households.

Earlier, before firing the wood pieces there is one ritual called Bhandara. Vishnumoorthy Daiva’s things are protected by a community called Billava, they give those things to the person who is donning Daiva, on the occasion of Oththekola. The procession of these things from the community’s house to temple is called Bhandara.

From Talippuram to Mangalore, Oththekola Fest is offered in several villages. Oththekola is a village fest and people from all walks of life attend this religious custom. There is no religion barrier to this fest, Muslims, Christians and Hindu’s together offer prayer to demigod.

Oththekola is organised to chasing down the evil powers of respective Villages. “We offer prayers to Vishnumoorthy Daiva. This daiva will protect our village from evil powers. We use to offer this Oththekola to Vishnumoorthy Daiva once in every year. Earlier when we stopped offering Oththekola we find our village facing many evils like disease and other type of problems. After we started conducting Oththekola again everything becomes normal,” Says A Vasudev, tantri of Vishnumoorthy temple Kuntaru, Kasargod district.

This small town Kuntaru is more akin to Karnataka than Kerala though this town geographically belongs to Kerala. More than 60 percent of the people are Kannadigas and nearly 90 percent of them speak both Kannada and Tulu in addition to Malayalam. They also share the common ritualistic theatre of bootha Kola but in these areas it is the Oththekola which is more prominent than those Bhoothakola’s which are commonly seen in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi district.

Bhoothakola sometimes held as community fest by any of household. But Oththekola is purely a village fest. Every village which has Daivasthanas (place where people worship demigods) offers prayers through Oththekola in this region.

The Oththekola is offered to the Vishnumurthy Daiva which is one of the most powerful spirits that is worshiped in this part of the country. Being a very vibrant spirit, the Vishnumruthy Daiva demands from its devotees extraordinary feats. That is how the people of Kuntaru and parts of Malabar Coast worship this Daiva but in return the Daiva gives protection to the devotees in the entire region.

TSI talked to Rajesh Panikkar, who dons the role of demigod in most of Oththekolas

In three months season-January to end of May, several villages call Rajesh and his family to offer prayers. He goes to 10-15 villages to perform the custom in the Oththekola season.

Q: How long you are donning this role of demigod?

A: At the age of 15 I first donned the role of demigod. Now my age is 31. From last 15 years I am performing this religious rituals.

Q: Why your community if offering to demigod? What is specialty in your community?

A: We are from Malayan community. This religious work is inherited to through generations. We can’t throw away a custom which our forefathers gave us as a legacy.

Q: Are you and your family not scared to dance over burning coal?

A: No. It is our custom and we are trained in this custom.

Q: What is your take on daiva coming to your body?

A: Daiva is divine spirit which is given to us through some rituals and we take that spirit and perform the custom.

Q: Does doing the role of god help you anyway?

A: We inherited it from our previous generation and it is our duty. We don’t see the advantage, we perform our custom.

Q: Do people respect you for donning the role of daiva?

A: Yes. We used to give ‘dosha parihara’(wipe away the evil) for some of problems people find in themselves. Some time we give remedy for the sight defection (If someone caught hold of black magic).

Q: How is your normal life? Do people see you as god?

A: People respect us for our custom. They don’t see us as god but see us as the people who have special powers.

Q: What is the specialty of your surname ‘Pannikkar’?

A: ‘Panikkar’ is a reward given by Udayagiri-Mavinkatte village people. After donning demigod several times, villages give us the reward of Panikkar. It is great prestige to get the name of Panikkar.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017