‘Amchigele Kodial Theru’ celebrated in Tradition, Pomp and Gaiety-My First Time Experience
Mangaluru: This year I had a special invite from my friend, whom I call “Pai Maam”, to join him and his ” Amchigele’s” buddies during the “Kodial Theru” that took place on Saturday and Sunday- but as a journo, being busy with the hectic weekend programmes going on, including the mega Sahyadri 10K Run- Mangaluru, I was able to spend only some time with my Pai Maam and his friends. This Car festival was for a duration of 5 days, with many rituals performed for the first three days. 4th day was that of SAAN TERU ( Small Car Utsav) and on the 5th day HOD THERU ( Big Car Utsav) and Holi or OKKULI (konkani for Farewell) played on the day next to Hod Teru. Its the day when young to old, submerged in colors, high on Bhaang dance to the tunes in Car Street with the volunteers splashing water all over. A scene which is worth watching once in a life time. 5 days of noon and night food served at the temple for all the devotees gathered. I was totally soaked in this colour, and even though I cursed these guys for splashing colour water on me, but I did enjoy the fun and frolic.
The “Kodial Theru” or The Car Festival called as Theru in Konkani and Rathothsava in Kannada revolves around the celebrations of placing the Deity in a gigantic Ratha (a wooden palanquin or palkhi) decorated in red and white which is then hauled across the city by devotees. The celebrations which usually last for 5 days is partaken by devotees with great fervour, pomp and enthusiasm. Devotees from the length and breadth of the city, and even from the outskirts attended the celebrations and it is said that most of the matchmaking happens during the time. Kodial Theru is held every year in the month of January/February on the day of RATHASAPTAMI.
Car festival, is that time of the year that I learnt when ladies wait to show case the best of their finest yellow ornaments. How heavy are their ears, wrist and neck is how pretty they want to be. Fortunately the February weather cooperates with them as they drape themselves in their 5-6 foot best silk saris and huff and puff in front of the mirror till they can faint. The men dressed in their best will be found walking around in the car street showcasing their fully charged battery performance. Girls who are all set to get married come in wearing Sarees, which a sign to all eligible bachelors that she is ready to get into the wedlock. Well dressed men in their traditional dhoti attire are complimented by good looking women dressed in fine Sarees and Salwar Kameez; gold jewellery looking all the more resplendent – as beautiful as brides. This is also a time for families to meet as even those living outside Mangaluru tend to come to attend the celebrations.
During the Theru people participated in Pujas at the Sri Venkataramana temple situated at Car Street also formally known as Temple Square, and partake of the Prasada Naivedya by way of meals that is similar to the Langar served at the Sikh Gurudwaras. Dali Thove that is one of the items that is served during the simple meal is believed to be the best. Little doubt then that the Dali Thove which has found its way on the menu of the Prasadam, must also be a favourite food of the Gods. My lunch along with Pai Maam and his friends, which was the traditional Gowda Saraswathi Brahmin’s (GSB Konkana’s) cuisine, was enjoyed with Pathrode, Raw jack fruit Upkari, Rasam/Sambhar etc etc, and off course, the GSB famous ‘Dali Thove’ to go along with white or boiled rice!
The evening food in temple premises called Samradhana Jevan (Samradhana Food – Is the konkani term for the meal offered as Prasad) is where you get GSB statistics. Trust me, we South Indians take pride in our finger licking etiquette, be it sambar, Dali Thove or the sweet dish. I am completely convinced that eating with hands is integral to good eating. It heightens connection of sensory to food and has been scientifically proven too. Felt like I was having my lunch at Taj Mahal Restaurant?
The wooden chariot with tiny flags, flowers and lights; Priests and their chants; The floating mass of people in high reverence, older generation with folded hands; Complete spirits of Lord Venkataramana; The gongs, cymbals, drums, conch, the lamps, flowers of variety; Aroma of authentic temple prasadam food; Folks in their ostentatious finery; The visitors with their cameras; Such divinity in a ironical melody of a cacophony crowd and I was witnessing the Kodial Teru for first time in my life. Thanks to Pai Maam for the invite and be amidst him and his buddies.
A divine affair at the ‘Kodial Theru’ even though it has been my very first experience, only to realize how the community folks flock from other side of hills for this festival in large numbers. It’s an absolute feast time for the sense organs. The genuine perfume of the jasmine flowers the women wear, can outdo the ‘Axe’ or Fogg ‘ deodorant commercial made for men. The entire Car street fills up your nostril till your lung with the exotic smell of chats, the sugar cane juice, the green mango pachadi (authentic Mangaluru salad), Gulla or Kerang Podi, the churmuri and much more. The food stalls were the main attraction in the evening hours. Small vendors calling out to buy those lovely coloured balloons or colourful plastic toys make big dashing camouflage of a street. Chants, hymns and bhajans played in the stereophonic background made the air more spiritual.
Well, to know about the serious affair of this festival, as narrated to me by Pai Maam, on the first day the religious rituals marks a start with Morning Prarthana. The priests get busy with formalities and the people lend their hands in all possible arrangements. A flag is hoisted at the “Dhwaj Sthambh” marking the beginning of the festival. The next two morning proceedings conclude with the Utsav deity being worshiped in the palanquin. A series of Arti accompanied by vedic recitals, bhajan and Bhojan form the important part. “Hagalutsav” or the “morning utsav” signifies the fourth day proceeding. With the deity in the small chariot, a graceful procession is taken round the surrounding areas.
“Brahma Rathotsav” the big car is completely set for the fifth day. Lord Venkatesha is decorated with jewels and fresh flowers, worshiped in the golden palanquin and later on moved on to the giant car which is rolled round by thousands of people shouting chants and praises of their beloved Lord. A scene much worth pausing and replaying if one could. “Splash of colours”! Yes, the concluding day holds a unique bust of energy from people of all ages who gather in the temple square premises for the much awaited “Okkuli”. The Lord himself is first adorned with pink colour followed by sea of people in spirits of the same Holi of colours. People play with colours and water the entire morning. Most local schools are announced closed for the festival on this day.
Last day of the festival is again concluded by the flag hoisting as indication. The week’s eat, pray, love and live marks an end. For most houses the kitchen officially opens full time from part time. The parking areas in surroundings suddenly seem wider and bigger. Roads will heave sigh off the beeline traffic. And one accumulates nostalgic memories as they wistfully await the next January or February 2021.