Extravagance at Marriages – An Austerity Lesson from ‘Soliga’ Community


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By Ramya BN

Published in Mangalorean.com on March 22, 2012

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As the marriage season approaches in April and May, a bride’s father’s pocket gets drained day by day shopping and making arrangements. Doesn’t it?

In the modern society, lakhs and lakhs of rupees are spent on marriages – on clothing, jewellery, food arrangements and the like. Most of all, lakhs need to be spent on the marriage hall just for a day or two.

But, in the middle of all this, what catches one’s attention is a unique ritual followed in the ‘Soliga’ tribe in Karnataka, where they spend just 12 rupees and 25 paise for a marriage. Something out of this world in the 21st century, where a sum of Rs 12 and paise 25 cannot even fetch a bouquet, leaving alone the fact that 25 paise coin has been de-recognized by the Reserve Bank of India.

Photo: mangalorean.com
Photo: mangalorean.com
Photo: mangalorean.com

The Soliga community  is a tribe which inhabits the Biligiri Ranga and the adjacent hill ranges in southern Karnataka, most prominently in Chamarajanagar district. They are segregated into 82 different ‘podu’ (villages). It is said that there are 82 podu  in Kollegal, 40 podu in Gundlupet, 32 podu in Chamarajanagar and 10 podu in Yellandur Taluk. Most of them are concentrated in and around the the BR Hills in Yelandur and Kollegal taluks of Chamarajanagar. Their population numbers close 46,000 in the state.

Basavaraju, a Soliga, explained the unique way of marriage rituals followed in the community, saying that the bride is chosen during a dance performance. If any girl likes any boy in the dancing troupe, she can throw a stone and he will approach her, and if both wish to marry they will go to the forest and stay there for 8 days. When they return, the podu (village) head will administer an oath to them, whereby they vow to live together. The bride will pay rupees 12.25 to the community as ‘thera’ (as a fine) and marry.

He said that even now the same rituals are followed, but as an influence of modernization, the stone is replaced by a banana or biscuit and instead of forest they go to their relatives’ house in the podu.

The story behind 12 rupees and 25 paise sounds interesting. It is believed that in the early years, Soliga Bommegowda and Rangamma couple had 7 daughters. Among them, the youngest one, Kusumaledevi, was the most beautiful daughter among the entire tribe.

They used to go digging mud in search of sweet potato, which was then the staple food for the tribal people. Once when Kusumaledevi went with her sisters in search of sweet potato, Lord Biligiri Ranga was impressed by Kusumaledevi’s beauty and wanted to marry her.

So to speak to Kusumaledevi, with his magical powers he made all her sisters get more sweet potato and return home.  Kusumaledevi was made to stay back, still digging for sweet potato. When she was alone after her sisters had left, again with his magical powers, he made her get more sweet potato so that she was not able to lift it on her head.

When she screamed for help the Lord appeared in front of her disguised as an old man and promised to help her if she agreed to marry him. She thought that the old man was saying so for fun and she agreed. As he helped her lift the sack, he showed his real face and she also fell in love with him.

However, not having enough courage to seek her parents’ approval, they went and stayed in the forest for eight days and came back. Lord Biligiriranga Swamy gave diamonds and gold to Kusumaledevi’s father Bommegowda as penalty for taking her without his consent. An enraged Bommegowda pushed it aside, but Kusumaledevi’s mother grasped it in the ‘pallu’ of her sari and prevented it from falling down. A sum of 12.25 annas (old coins) fell into her ‘pallu’ which are now accounted for as 12 rupees and 25 paise.

From then on the ritual has been followed in the Soliga community. With a firm belief that Kusumadevi as tribe’s common sister and to celebrate the happiness of her marriage with Lord Biligiri Ranga, they dance for the appeasement of community deities like Jadeyappa, Ketappa, Dodasampige and others.

They also dance and celebrate ‘Rotti habba’ during ‘Suggi’, once in a year, in the month of March or April.

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Re-posted from Mangalorean.com

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