As a first generation learner, I left my native village as a 17 year old to the state capital to pursue my undergraduate degree. My dream to study in the metropolitan made me board my life’s first train in 2014. I remember, my father and I stood for 7 hours in the crowded compartment to reach Chennai. It was a dream come true. I made the most of all the opportunities that came my way. I boarded my life’s first flight in 2017 to the national capital to do my diploma in masters. I always thought about home but never missed it. I carried a part of my culture and lifestyle wherever I went. Until the pandemic hit, I didn’t make enough time to reminisce about our village days. Lockdown life in the metro pushed me to reach my roots and re-live some of what I missed for 6 years.
Our country is known for its diverse cultural and traditional values. Most of these sprawl only from our villages. Each and every village in our country is peculiar in its own way in retaining the legacy. I belong to N. Kosavampatti village panchayat located in Namakkal district of Tamilnadu. This particular village whose history remains unvoiced has so many customs which are followed nowhere else.
The majority of the population here are called kavaras and they speak a mixed slang of Tamil and Telugu. It is believed that they were chased by Britishers from remote areas of Andhra Pradesh. As they escaped, they settled down in different areas of Tamilnadu. Those who migrated were illiterates and that’s the reason why none of them knew to read or write Telugu. The oral way of passing the stories to the next generation is the only system in practice to know the past. Their music, recipes, folk tales, ballads, chants were passed down by word of mouth.
One of my earliest memories is sitting on my dad’s shoulder and wondering at the decorated sanctity inside the garbagraham. Like all other villages, there is a local deity. The highlight is the annual festival which happens every year in the month of Aadi. A week-long celebration which gathers all relatives in one fell swoop. People provide offerings to the temple in various forms, the folklore of the place is unavoidable. Children below the age of 5 are dressed up and taken to the temple with so many decorated plates with fruits. The whole premises of the temple is filled with people holding umbrellas. Under each umbrella one can find a newborn of the respective family.
Age-wise there are events for everybody who belongs to this village. They have strong faith in god and fast the whole week. Some traditions which are being followed in marriages are incredible. The bride and bridegroom must be from the same village which shows marrying outside the community is not encouraged. The bride reaches her in-law’s place sitting on a horse which is a grand procession including all villagers. She is asked to show her skills in front of the villagers, especially she is expected to sing before entering her second home. Marriages are month-long celebrations with so many rituals. Each and every family of the village is invited and they have variant roles to play in the wedding. The ornaments worn by women are eminently designed by a traditional designer. The designers have it as their family occupation. These jewels have a unique style and folksy history behind them.
From birth to death the customs followed are exemplary. Even the food items which they prepare for ceremonies differ from other parts of Tamilnadu and have an undisputed origin. The puberty ceremony which is conducted for every girl in the village deserves a special mention. A 15-day ritual involves building a small hut for the girl outside the house with kanbu thattu (pearl millet straw) and she is expected to take care of it all by herself. She is not allowed to step out of the hut for any reason. On the final day, the hut has to be disposed of and she is asked to participate in the holy pooja. No villager is excluded in any function. They celebrate all Hindu festivals in their own way and take pride in them. The concept of divorce is not there in their society. Even today they have the practice of oorthoati ( one who beats a drum or tabour and publishes the news to the whole village).
These examples are just a drop in the ocean. If one village in our country has numberless tales and myriad customs like this, can you realise how enormous we Indians are? Each one of us owns a tree of ancestors but we scarcely know them. What will happen if the youth try to trace the roots? Wah! I got goosebumps!
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