Here the bachelors get married to deities first, not to girls
BHADRAVAATI (KARNATAKA): Indian society has many strange, traditional practices. Some lookat them as blind beliefs while others try to find scientific explanations to them and researchers try to trace the roots of these customs. But here is a peculiar cult act faithfully followed by generations for which there is no convincing explanation, nor a religious basis.
In Kadadakatte, next to the industrial town of Bhadravati, an eligible man marries the main deity of the village 'Maari' on the eve of the car festival of the deity. The marriage is held in a traditional style and it is a real marriage as far as rituals are concerned. At the time of the 'celestial' wedding he should be unmarried. He can, however, marry the girl of his choice later.
Traditional India has been familiar with the tales of a woman marrying God. There are Devadasi systems in which women were offered as sacrifice and made to serve the Gods or Goddesses all their life. Then there was the naked worship of the deity. Both these practices have been subsequently banned.
Ra La Purushottam, an amateur historian, explains, "it is a kind of offering to the deity." The practice continues because the villagers believe that such marriage would help the village prosper.
Maari idol is sent to nearby Hebbandi village two days before the car festival and is brought back on the previous day to symbolise that Maari is brought from her native village to Kadadakatte for the wedding.
A prospective youth in Kadadakatte village is chosen for marriage. A Veerashaiva purohit called 'Ayyanavaru' comes and performs the marriage. The car festival is held 15 days after Basava jayanti every year. The marriage is performed on the eve of the car festival. The marriage ritual which would start around 9 the previous night concludes with the groom tying the marital knot (mangala sutra) to the 3-foot idol of the deity in the early hours next day.
K G Parameswarappa at whose house the idol is kept all through the year, points out that there is no restriction on selecting the groom. Any prospective groom of any community can marry the deity. The villagers believe that the groom gets married to a real bride within a year after the wedding with the deity.
Neither Parameswarappa nor any of the villagers know how and when the practice began. According to the story passed down by his elders, a great great-grand mother had a dream that Maari had promised to come to Kadadakatte and settle. She was received as their own family member and the custom had begun. But there is no evidence to support the story.
A garland made of silver coins was offered to the deity by some devotee way back. If the year mentioned on the coin is any evidence, this practice has been in vogue at least since 1862.
The other peculiar practice here is the priests of the deity are Harijans. Harijan women bring the sacred water for the marriage. Unlike in other areas here the Harijans are given equal status and respect on par with others in all performances.
Any prospective groom of any community can marry the deity. The villagers believe that the groom gets married to a real bride within a year after the wedding with the deity.