As far as religion and devotion go, they both follow a similar pattern of holding their deities and higher powers to an inscrutable level of perfection and piety. But this diminishing tribe in Kodagu, Karnataka believes otherwise. They hold their gods to the same level of scrutiny as they do with their affection and praise. So much so that they dedicate a week-long festival to hurling abuses, condemning their deities.
The Kuruba tribe from South Kodagu observes the Kunde Habba (literally translating to the ass festival) that takes place around April-May every year. During this period, the natives gather around the areas of Thithimathi and Devapura to hurl the foulest abuses at their god, Ayappa.
This bizarre practice is complemented by gaudy outfits, garish makeup, and even props that signify the sheer mischief and playfulness that this festival has come to invoke in its people generations on. With the choicest, filthiest abuses reverberating the streets and villages leading up to the forest, the entire group sets out on a procession to openly dismiss the god who once abandoned his tribe, aeons ago.
The jarring procession concludes inside the forests of Devarakadu where hundreds of chickens are then slaughtered as a sacrifice to the god.
A Bender Like No Other
The natives believe that love is not just a unidimensional emotion and its expression, therefore, need not be confined to simply showering praises. They are of the belief that abusing and condemning their deities once a year is a healthy way of ‘testing their god’s love and loyalty’. The community also takes this festival as an opportunity to unleash their darkest, deepest fears, conflicts, and trauma through songs as well as poetry and by expressing it through their over-the-top dressing and makeup.
Cross-dressing is a common practice for the people during Kunde. The aim is to simply let go and unleash their most obscene and vulgar thoughts and ideas through the festival. This, they believe is an act of cleansing oneself of their negative thoughts by expressing them out loud.
It is also believed that the crowd indulges in some much-needed debauchery and drinking as a means of purging themselves out in front of their god. This festival is also indicative of the generations of systematic oppression and ostracisation that the community has felt within their own homeland.
Which is why when the festival commences, the other plantation owners and local residents of Kodagu do not intervene in the revelry but watch from a distance as all hell breaks loose just to invoke a sign for the gods in heaven.
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