naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Oct 7 21:44:31 EDT 1998
Prof. P. Claus wrote on 3/5/98 for which an interesting parallel
In the Kongunadu region, Pandarams are the non-brahman priests
tending to the village goddesses (Mariyamman, BhadrakALi, ..)
They are Viirasaivaites and I think there is a paper by Brenda Beck
on them- okacanti jangama paNDaarams (can get the ref. later).
Beck studied the Kongu oral epic, aNNanmAr katai like what
G. Roghair did Andhra.
On Sivaratri night called 'paLLayam', and next day is 'tombaram'
in BhadrakaaLi temples. The temple jewelry stays in
the village headman's house year long in a box (peTTige of Claus)
wrapped in red cloth. On Sivaratri night, the 'box' is taken to
Kali's temple. Inside the box, few necklaces, the 'taali'
maangalya suutram, a face, chest, legs, hands, a trident vEl,
a small umbrella - all in silver/gold. The box is opened
only in the temple and only once a year.
The next day, men take 20 to 30 huge vEls ('spears' about 10 feet
high) along with priest, other folks to a nearby river, wash them,
decorate them with garlands, kumkum, lemons, etc.,
The paNDaaram gets frenzy, utters shaman-like sayings on
rain, crops, why the goddess needs a big temple, future
prospects of villagers, ... He throws the cast iron
arrow-bow few times to his back. The arrow piercings bleed,
people spray vibhuuti on those wounds. He gets back to
normalcy from this 'veRiyaaTTu' after a while.
He then uses leaves, garlands, and all the Goddess'
body parts (from the box) and a pot to create a lovely little-girl
like image. The deity's image in the pot is carried back on his head
to the temple surrounded by trees. More alamkAram is done in the
temple (all dismantled after that day). There is public feasting.
Hope some like Drs. N. Vanamaamalai, Richard Brubaker, P. Claus,
... write more on substratum religion of South India. Eagerly
looking for the future book on Mariyamman by Dr. W. Harman.
Like the excellent study of Draupadi amman worship by Vanniyar
by Prof. Hiltebeitel.
On Sat, 2 May 1998, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> "brahma-padArtha" is put into the idol by a non-Brahmin tribal priest,
> who is blindfolded when he transfers it from the old idol. It might be
> tribal artefact that has nothing to do with either Buddhism or
> Brahminism in its origins.
On Sun, 3 May 1998, Peter J. Claus wrote:
That it is transferred by a "tribal" (an unfortunately meaningless term)
with eyes closed, reminds me that the Kannada-speaking Kadu Gollas (who
have their own temples inside their settlements) keep their 'idols'
a box (peTTige) covered with red cloth. The box is NEVER opened except
the priest once every 20 years or so when the idols are washed in a
Even then the priest is not supposed to look directly at them. When
many told me the idols were 'lingams'. Once, however, a priest decided
was Ok to show me what was in the box and it turned out to be small
and other very old metal objects and a few small stones which could,
arguably, be called lingams. This, as it turns out, is just like what
peoples such as the Chenchu and Todas have in their temples.
And (more to the point of this discussion) the idols/relics are
with (in some sense the remains of) ancestoral deities: human ancestors
who led heroic lives / died heroic deaths for whom Golla oral literature
maintains long (4-6 hour recitation) ballad/epic stories. If (as I
Eschmann et. al. argue) the Puri temple was once a 'tribal' one, it is
hard to link the idea of a dead and buried ancestor (whose descendants
would retain the right to perform some basic act of worship) being
transformed into Jagganatha. In fact, Gollas perform rituals at a
of temples to which the general public (all other castes) come and
prasada and other forms of blessings and cures. Some of these have
very big and famous. SOme are now (as many no doubt were in the past)
are being taken over by Lingayats and Brahmans.
The Gollas are not, of course, unique in ANY of this. This is a common
substratum of South Indian (to include Chattisghar and Orissa, at least)
religious culture. Unfortunately, with the concentration on Brahmanical
ritual and Sanskrit in Indology, a broad (perhaps 60% of all people
in India partake in it!) and important variant of Indian culture is
ignored. - Peter Claus
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