Myths and Festivals of Tribal Goddess Kuttathamma: Anthropological Study of The Nilgiri Biosphere Tribes

Author: Shebin (Kerala Institute for Research Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, India)
Speaker: Shebin
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


Myths and festivals of tribal goddess kuttathamma: anthropological study of the nilgiri biosphere Kuttath Karinkali is one of the most powerful and reverential mother goddess figures among the adivasi gotras in and around the borders of Wayanad. Tribal communities like ‘Kurichya’, ‘Adiyas’, Thachanadans’, ‘Kattunaickans’, ‘Mullukurumans’ and ‘Paniyas’ worship Kuttath Karinkali as a gothra incarnation of Goddess Kali. Apart from the gotras in and around Wayanad, adivasi gotras from the Nilgiris also worship this goddess. This thesis analyses the mythical constructs around Kuttathamma, the gotra goddess and her relationship with various gotras.

The main objectives of this study is to analyse the identity of Kuttathamma, her relationship with various gotras, and the anthropological significance of Kuttathamma festival. The methodology used for this anthropological study is participant observation, participant observation, in- depth interviews and questionnaire method.

‘Adiyas’ preside over the important poojas of ‘Roudrabhadrakali’ in Pilathoor, a locality near Bavali village in Mananthavady, Wayanad. The most important festival of Kuttathamma falls on the next Tuesday after the Bhadrakali festival at Pannayam temple (usually during the month of ‘Meenom’). ‘Adiyas’, ‘Paniyas’ and ‘Vettukkurumas’ perform their traditional dance forms during this occasion. ‘Adiyas’ have the exclusive rights to light palm leaves when the Kuttathamma festival comes to a grand closure. The ritual where the goddess is taken for traditional bathe kick starts only when the ‘Adiyas’, ‘Paniyas’ and the ‘Vettukkurumas’ come together. When the goddess is taken for the traditional bathing ritual, the tribes perform their traditional dance forms like ‘Vattakkali’ and ‘Kolkkali’. The main offerings for the goddess are goats and chickens. The tribes believe that slaughtering birds and animals would please the goddess and it will eventually cast all the evil spells away and will help in achieving their desired interests. A share of the chickens and goats slaughtered here is traditionally the right of ‘Adiya’, ‘Paniya’ and ‘Kuruma’ tribal communities. Kuttathamma festival comes to a closure on the second day (Wednesday) with the ‘Malaya’ tribal communities performing the ‘Karinkalitheyyam’ ritual.

Several myths and legends were analysed through this descriptive- exploratory design. Though many tribes were involved in the stories and festivals surrounding Kuttathama, it was found that ‘Kuttathamma’ is directly related to ‘Bettukuruma’ gotra and especially with the ‘Nanchi’ clan.

Keywords: Tribal festival, myth, high mother