OF FARMING CULTURE ON RITUALS OF NORTH MALABAR REGION OF KERALA STATE
P. Jayashree, F. M. H. Khaleel
and Ranjan S. Karippai
Kerala Agricultural University, Vellanikkara,
paper forms a part of the theses entitled “Influence of farming culture on the
folk arts and rituals of North Malabar region of Kerala state”. The objective of the study was to identify
specific elements as influenced by farming culture and to assess their
scientific rationale, if any. The research design followed was exploratory and
ex-post facto in nature. The study revealed that most of the rituals have been
originated from an ancient agrarian society which had a deep-rooted stand in
farming culture. It was also seen that these rituals, through superstitions,
taboos, etc. prompted the public to conserve the ecosystem.
They promoted eco-friendly sustainable farming supplementing the endeavor
towards a greener Kerala.
Farming culture, Rituals, Folklore, grain worship, fertility potential
highly diversified agro ecosystems of different regions of Kerala
give rise to varied cropping patterns and farming systems. These quite often
influence the life styles and traditions of the community in these regions.
Meanwhile, farming culture at large is an interplay of
the socio-economic settings and ecological embodiments in every region. North
Malabar is considered to be a repository of folk arts and rituals.
The tradition-conscious people of this area belong to the farming community at
large. The rituals still survive the onslaught of science and politics over
ages in this area. So far, no scientific enquiry has been made about the
influence of farming culture on the rituals followed in different locations,
particularly in relation to the farming practices and indigenous systems which
are location specific.
this backdrop, study was conducted with the objectives of identifying the
specific elements in rituals as influenced by the various farming practices and
assessing the scientific rationale of these elements in the context of farming
MATERIALS AND METHODS
research aimed to trace back to the history of an agrarian society that
prevailed in the past. In the backdrop of the stated objectives it was inferred
that most of the attributes included in the study were exploratory in nature
and hence an exploratory survey design was adopted for the study. It was
intended mainly to yield qualitative data and ethno-history narrations. The
study was conducted in erstwhile Kolathunadu
of North Malabar region of Kerala
state. The area extended over parts of Kozhikode,
Kannur and Kasaragod
districts of Kerala. The respondents of the study
include purposively selected individuals belonging to the following categories viz; social workers of the region, members of the cultural
and voluntary organizations connected with the performance of selected rituals,
researchers belonging to different organizations that conduct investigations of
different dimensions of rituals; and professionals and experts in agriculture
and allied sectors. Methods of data collection included participatory appraisal
techniques, oral history narrations and consultations with experts in folklore.
The data thus generated relating to rituals influenced by farming culture or
season-bound practices was subjected to scientific scrutiny or assessment of
its rationale by experts who have established their competence in the related
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
and culture are the reflections of the fertility cult. Belief has been the building
blocks of many a ritual. Rituals may be classified into magical rituals and
religious rituals (Frazer 1976). As far as North Malabar
is concerned rituals here are not exclusively magical or religious. Instead,
they are magico-religious in nature (Nambiar 2000). During ancient period, the vast majority of
people who depended upon agriculture for their livelihood did not have much
knowledge about germination of seeds, growth of plants, etc. They believed that
through magical rituals agriculture would flourish and give bumper yields.
These types of rituals were prevalent even in different parts of Europe.
The strong belief which prevailed then was that the caused behind human
fertility and crop fertility was the same. In this background people used to
conduct ritualistic sexual intercourse in the crop lands at the time of initial
sowing of crops with the aim of boosting up agricultural production from the
land (Maple 1973).
Narrowing down to North
Malabar people had believed that the fecundity of plants and trees
clan influence human beings also. On this basis, different fertility festivals
like Nira, Puthari,
Kothaammoorippaattu, etc. were conducted here.
Here, Uchaaral velakal
are prevalent even now. The period following harvest is known as uchaaral. The belief is that the land on which
cultivation is to be done is the Mother God or a female rather. She is supposed
to take rest during this period. This continues until the coming monsoon. So
during the first week of Karkkitakam (July-August),
the soil should not be manipulated in anyway. Ploughing
is strictly prohibited during this period since the ploughing
implements are attributed symbolic resemblance with male sex organs. Even though
the emic interpretations behind this are based on
symbolic comparisons with human activities, the rationale is that during the
heavy monsoon, ploughing of land may lead to severe
soil erosion, uprooting of trees, etc.(Crooke 1925).
of food grains also had its influence on the rituals of North Malabar.
Paddy grains were seen as the symbol of prosperity. Paddy inflorescence is
believed to be Shree Bhagavathi
meaning Goddess of prosperity till today. There is a ritual of welcoming the Goddess
and exorcising chetta, the symbol of scarcity. Girls
from every house collect materials like dried grass, broomstick, wooden spoon,
etc. and put them into a clay pot. These are then boiled in rice gruel. With
this in hand, they walk around their house thrice and then the whole stuff is
poured beneath the Strychnose tree in the homestead
which is believed to absorb all the misfortunes of the family.
potential of many trees and plants is believed to have influence on the same in
human beings in Kolathunadu. Based on this
several rituals are conducted here. Women after marriage nail metal pieces into
the trunk of tamarind tree and walk around the tree thrice. This is to get the
fertility potential of the tree imparted to them. This ritual is called Pulinkaathal kollal.
During the fifth, seventh and ninth month after conception, the pregnant woman
consumes a tablet prepared out of the seeds of several species of tamarind. The
rationale is that most of these are medicinal and may promote health conditions
of both the intra uterine foetus and the expectant
the livestock sector, cow is believed to possess this quality as that of
tamarind. Based on this, there is a ritual called ‘Panchagavyam
sevikkal’ practiced during the fifth month of
pregnancy. The pregnant woman consumes a mixture made out of five products from
cow’s body viz; milk, ghee, curd, dung and urine.
The same belief forms
the base for the ritualistic folkart, Kothammoorippaattu; but with a difference that this
ritual stands for the prosperity of livestock. The myth is that Godavari, the sacred cow is sent from heaven to earth by
her mother Kamadhenu (symbol of prosperity) in order
to bring all sorts of prosperity here. This is usually performed after the
harvest of first crop of paddy. Godavari
( a small boy entering
a wooden structure carved in the shape of a cow) is taken to the houses
in the locality where they welcome her with the harvested grains. It is
believed that once the ‘cow’ comes to a place, the area gets rid of its
scarcity. While the boy dances, those accompanying Godavari sings songs in praise of Annapoorneshwari, the deity of food grains. The name of
this Goddess is mentioned in Chimmaanakkali,
another folk art form of Kolathunadu, all
these denoting that a group of people or society who considered food grain as
their Goddess were behind the origin of such art forms
and rituals. The practice of Shift cultivation is which existed during a period
is also described elaborately in Chimmaanakkali.
Thus the farming practices of each locality had deep rooted
influence on the traditions beliefs of the community and vice versa. The
indigenous knowledge has been observed to be the accumulation of the ancestral
wisdom carried over through generations. Many of the rituals are also embedded
in the traditional wisdom with sufficient rationale generally related to the rural life activities of the
Crooke, W. 1925. Religion and Folklore
of Northern India. Sulthanchan and Company, New
J.G. 1976. Aftermath. Macmilan
Press, London, p.153.
Maple, E. 1973. Witchcraft. Octopus, Hongkong, p.22.
Nambiar, A.K. 1979. Structure of an Exorcistic Ritual of North
Kerala. Malayalam Literacy Survey, Thrissur, p.12.
2000. Keralathinde Folklore Parambaryam. Keraleeyam: Deshabhimani Special
Issue, EMS Memorial Publishing Co; Thrissur. P.74.