Kannada, Kannadiga, Kannadigaru, Karnataka,

Kannadigarella ondaagi Kannadavannu ulisona, kalisona and belesona

Mallinathapura’s Thatte Habba

Mallinathapura’s Thatte Habba

Swing in action
Mallinathapuras Thatte Habba, in which all the three major communities of the village participate, is a unique festival spanning several months. R S Ranjeetha Urs gives a first hand account of this distinct celebration.

“My soul lies with the Gods here, only my physical being is in my hamlet. My Gods, Lord Basaveshvara and Shilanthavva, will uplift us all. They are great levellers,” says Thyagamani of S Doddapura, a small hamlet adjacent to Mallinathapura village of Malavalli taluk in Mandya district.

Thyagamani’s piety is understandable as she is speaking just after the end of Mallinathapura’ s Thatte Habba, the village festival, celebrated once in two years to worship Lord Basaveshvara and Shilanthavva. Ten families of S Doddapura, including that of Thyagamani’s, are vokkalus (devotees) of Mallinathapura’ s Basaveshvara and Shilanthavva.

What sets apart Thatte Habba, also known as Dodda Habba, from the region’s scores of other festivals is the swing, its greatest attraction.

Thattes are actually nearly 50-feet high arecanut palms erected at the four corners of a square-like space at the village entrance. A rope made of buffalo skin, known as mili, is suspended in the middle of the enclosure and to this is notched up a wooden plank seven feet above the ground.

In order to swing, one has to first squat on the wooden plank and then somebody has to give the plank a shove. The individual on the plank stands up as the swing reaches one end of the space, then squats as it reaches the centre, only to rise again as it reaches the other end, lending momentum. A truly exhilarating experience!

The four thattes are more than mere totems of the kinship binding Mallinathapura’ s three major castes: the Urs community, Kurubas and Dalits. The first two are provided by Dodattis and Chikkattis, the Urs sub-groups, the third by Kurubas and the fourth by Dalits.

Kenchegowda, a Kuruba, explained that like every year, this year too all the Kurubas had pooled in their resources to get the arecanut palm. Though residents of neighbouring Kanikalli hamlet, the deities of the Kurubas — Kalyana Basaveshvara, Shilanthavva and Mugamashnamma — are in Mallinathapura.

Thatte Habba’s division of labour is emphatic. As Kenchegowda said, his people play the thamate and dance to its rhythm. “Our job cannot be done by them and we can’t perform their roles,” he observed. Even if one community refuses to participate, the habba won’t take off, he added.

For Mahadevaiah, a Dalit, the festival is an occasion to commune with his kith and kin and offer his prayers to gramadevathe for a bountiful harvest.

There were signs of trouble at this year’s festival. For the first time ever, police were present to ward off any untoward incident.

The new development could either be for good or worse. But it was an indication that the festival is no more the same, Puttaraje Urs, a resident of the village, said.

Once, owing to some misunderstanding between the communities, the festival was not observed for eight years, said M K Kantharaje Urs, another resident of the village.

Thatte Habba begins in the aftermath of Deepavali, when scores from Mallinathapura and its hamlets go on a pilgrimage to Male Mahadeshvara Hills.

After the pilgrimage, nine Dalits and one Kuruba representative approach Urs community leaders to put forward the festival proposal. A formal “yes” sets off Thatte Habba, spanning several months, explained Nanjaraje Urs, a localite.
On an auspicious Tuesday, a Dalit beats the drum to herald the festival. A week later, every village household contributes logs of wood that are chopped the same night. The cut wood is piled up in the shape of a top in front of Shilanthavva temple, at the village entrance.

The temple priest then offers prayers, circumambulates the wood formation and lights it on the north-eastern side, the direction believed to be inhabited by Basaveshvara and his two sisters, Mugamashnamma and Honnahuthamma.
Three days after the wood formation is reduced to ashes, which is called karkulu, the villagers splash water on the spot and it is ready for kolata.

On Saturday morning, the villagers gather here and worship their cattle to the accompaniment of kombu, kahale, thamate, nipiri and others.

The villagers and the cattle then trek all the way to Markal, 12 km away, where four arecanut trees are felled with the hombale (spadix) of one of them intact.

The felled arecanut trees are tied to the nogas (yokes) of four cattle pairs which are made to run a race to Mallinathapura. The race draws thousands of people and by dusk the caravan arrives at Mallinathapura.

Over the next few days, the four areca palms are erected before the Shilanthavva temple and the stage is set for the most exciting part of the festival: the swing. Two Urs children, a boy and a girl, take the first turn on the swing. The two are taken in a procession to the swing, which they mount and play, throwing open the swing for the rest.

Thatte Habba reaches its climactic phase on a Monday after Shivarathri with the observation of Para. This year, it was on March 5. At Para, a mass dinner is arranged under a banyan tree in the temple premises, where there is no bar on any caste or community. Dalits, in fact, break their day-long fast with the Para dinner.

After the dinner, the idol of Basaveshwara is carried in a procession in a kurju, a triangular shaped wooden structure all spruced up with flowers, bright hued fabrics, beads and other pieces of bric-a-brac. Through the procession, traditional folk dances like kolata are performed.

Children, youth and the old alike let their hair down to the scintillating beats of the thamate.
The following day, Kurubas worship Mugamashnamma and Honnahuthamma. That night the kurju procession is again taken out, with the two deities accompanying it.

A five-headed torch illuminating the path is literally the day’s highlight. On Wednesday, it is time for more merriment with okali (splashing of colours).

Once Ugadi is over, another kurju procession brings the festival to an end. The thattes are then removed and returned to the four groups.

Looking back

Legend has it that a Jain muni, Mallinatha, founded this village and hence the name Mallinathapura.

About 10 km from the Malavalli town of Mandya district and 29 miles east of Mysore, Mallinathapura is at the intersection of the Mysore-Kanakapura and Maddur–Shivanasamudr am roads.

According to an inscription dating back to 1685, to the time of Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, Malavalli was a large fort built of mud and stone, which is now in ruins. In the fort area, there is an old Hoysala temple dedicated to Sarangapani, whose 5-feet high image in ‘samabhanga’ posture is well worked.

Haidar Ali gave Malavalli as a jagir to his son Tippu and it enjoyed considerable prosperity. About two miles from the town and close to the new Mysore road stands the scene of a historic battle, fought between the British army under General Harris and Tippu Sultan, during the former’s march on Srirangapatnam. After the action, Tippu is believed to have destroyed Malavalli to prevent it from being of any use to the British.

August 31, 2007 Posted by | EKAVI COORG-KODAGU, History of Karnataka | 1 Comment