Karnataka is a land that is steeped in traditions, some of which are rooted in faith. Many rituals thought to be a mode to seek blessings from various deities are increasingly being questioned. One main reason is that the original purpose behind these practices has either become outdated or unclear with the passage of time.
A view of people thronging outside the temple
Religion pervades many aspects of Hindu life. It assumes many forms: be it inside the house or the temple, on a pilgrimage, through yogic practices, dance or music, by roadside or river, and many more.
A sacramental view of decoration with banana leaves
The general term used to describe Hindu worship is 'Puja' —the most common forms of worship. Practices vary depending on location, but generally speaking, the worshiper might approach the temple to give thanks, to ask for assistance, to give penance or to contemplate the divine. Worship is tied to the individual or family group rather than a service or congregational gathering.
People gushing to have a close view of the divine
In the temple, the devotees are assisted by the priest, who intercedes on their behalf by performing ritual acts, and blessing offerings. Worship often begins by circumambulating the temple. Inside the temple, the priest’s actions are accompanied by the ringing of bells, passing of a flame, and chanting. Traditionally, dance also formed an essential part of temple worship.
A key concept in the worship of Hindu deities is the act of making eye contact with the deity (darshan). The activity of making direct visual contact with the god or goddess is a two-sided event; the worshiper sees the divinity, and the divinity likewise sees the devotee. This ritualistic viewing occurs between devotee and God in intimate domestic spaces, as well as in tremendously crowded temple complexes where the individual may be part of a throng of hundreds or thousands of other worshipers. It is believed that by having darshan of the god’s image, one takes the energy that is given by the deity and receives blessings.
This essential Hindu practice also demonstrates the profound importance of religious imagery to worship and ritual. While in most other religious traditions images are believed to represent or suggest divine or holy personages, or are altogether forbidden. In Hindu practice painted and sculpted images are believed to genuinely embody the divine. Appropriate ritual imbues images with an authentic divine presence. Literal physical connection in the form of visual contact is essential to religious devotion, whether on a local and ongoing basis or in the undertaking of great pilgrimages.
The festival, however, is unique given its highly inclusive traditions, bringing together various communities and castes.
Amidst the riotous showers, the colloquial term for haldi or turmeric, the deity’s devotees make their way to meet their lord. The entire stretch of the path becomes yellow-tinted during the journey. A stranger’s hand will dart out of the crowd and daub your forehead with haldi.
This aspect of how folk gods and local fertility cults are integrated into the larger pantheon of Hinduism is a feature that occurs throughout the place. Tukkanati's popularity cutting across caste barriers is a result of the assimilation of practices, mythologies, icons and rituals from a multitude of belief systems and philosophical traditions prevalent in the Karnataka region, and in this cretinism lies its true significance.