Friday, November 28, 2008

Kadlekka Parishe

Last weekend we attended a strange festival at the Basavangudi Temple (Bull Temple) in Bangalore. It was so interesting that it has brought me back to my blog!

"Kadlekka Parishe" or Peanut Festival is celebrated on the last Monday of the Karthigai month (this year, the last Monday of the Kannadiga's Karthigai month was 24th November) at the Basavangudi temple. It order to draw the crowds, the jatra started on Saturday itself (although the rain did play spoilsport, on both Saturday and Sunday evenings).

Well, the highlight of this festival is the sale of peanuts! Farmers from all around Karnataka and even areas of Tamilnadu (like Dharmapuri) come to sell their first harvest of peanuts. As a result, you can see peanuts in every direction you look around the Basavangudi temple -- right from BMS College right upto the Ramakrishna Ashrama. The temple is crowded with a truly assorted array of visitors -- right from the villagers to the ITzens of Bangalore to foreign nationals! Naturally, there are other festive activities too, to entertain the crowd to the fullest -- this ranges from special pujas at the temple and music/dance concerts to stalls featuring bulls, sale of a wide range of goods, especially handicrafts, and amusement rides. But the overwhelming aspect of the whole festival is obviously the heaps of peanuts covering both sides of the road!

There is an interesting story behind this -- my neighbour tells me. Many years ago, Basavangudi was full of peanut plantations. However, strangely the villagers found that somebody was stealing their peanuts every night! Suspecting this to be either a thief or a herd of cows, the villagers stood guard one night, and one of them found a lone bull feasting on the crop! Mistaking this to be a thief, he threw his spear in the direction and on finding no further movement from the person/animal, he went back to resume his night's sleep. When the villagers came to the field next morning to review the night's adventure, they realised that the farmer had actually struck down none other than the Bull God (Nandi or Basava, the mount of Lord Shiva) himself, and in place of the bull, they found a stone statue. They also realised that in the guise of a bull feasting on the peanuts, the Bull God was actually guarding the peanut crops from thieves!

Worried that they had committed a sin, the villagers pondered over what to do, and built a temple to house the statue. However, to their surprise and shock, the bull kept outgrowing the temple! That was when Lord Shiva appeared in a troubled villager's dream and instructed that they should dig in front of the bull statue -- they will find a trishul (the three-pronged weapon of gods and goddesses), which they should affix on the bull's forehead to stop it from growing, and they should also worship the bull regularly and offer the first harvest of peanuts to the temple every year. This custom is continued till date.

This explains both the mammoth size of the bull as well as the strange custom.

In all, a wonderfully interesting experience -- which makes you forget that you are in the fast-paced and cosmopolitan Bangalore. Vikram and I felt like we were in Thanjavur or Mylapore, raging with festivities, old-world style!