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SIRI Jathre

‘Hiriyadka’ is a small town centre situated on the west of Udupi Taluk, 12 km away from the Udupi Town. It is famous for the ‘Siri’ trance or the mass possession of women folk. Hiriyadka is identified as the place of religious sanctity. Mahalingeshvara Temple is well known in this place. 

The history could be written with only the help of written documents. i.e. inscriptions, manuscripts, coins, archeological findings, forts, arcades etc. But the written documents donot give a complete picture of the history and it is necessary to substantiate with the help folklore material, folk literature, which is oral. It is true that folklore doesnot give verbatim details of the history but along with all other sources, folklore also helps in the reconstruction of history.

Peter J, Claus has said ‘Historians don’t really know much about history, folklorist doesn’t know much about folklore etc. What gives them expertise is that they have gained experience in a medium of communication and its communicative context. From knowledge of this they extract what they think is significant and relevant and in turn they communicate what they have found to their colleagues, to the general public or some other audience they may choose. And of course they could choose to communicate in a variety of media but generally stick to the written word.’ (Peter J, Claus 1990, Prasanga Bulletin No: 18, P.1). Without a proper understanding of the folklore, any writings, history, remains incomplete. So historians must give importance to folklore material as they give importance to written documents and monuments, artifacts.

The word ‘Hiriyadka’ means the ‘big’ ‘religious place’. There are many myths and legends associated to this place. According to one legend ‘a monk ‘Adkattaya’ for the under going severe penance, beneath a tree, was being troubled by local children. To avoid their tautrums, he placed many spirits by his miracle power. So, the place is identifiedby his name as ‘Adkataaya’. Later an adjective ‘Hiri’ was added meaning the big one.

According to one informant (Smt Kargi, interview by S.A.Krishnaiah) the term ‘Hiriyadka’ is pronounced in local Tulu language as ‘Peradka’ meaning elder sister. There fore, in place of elder sisters diety the women get into a trance and associated rituals take place. Who is the elder sisters or the mother diety? It is said that ‘ullaalti’ is the chief mother diety of the sanctity. It is also believed that the main worshipping ‘lingam’ is female power centric than male power centre as ‘mahalingeshvara’.

The Brahminic priest has already coined the tale of elite class myths in the rural folk, so elite class legends are currently more popular than folk excegy. Another related meaning of the place ‘Hiriadka’ is the place of ‘crematory ground for the lords’ . It is believed that the twin sisters called ‘Abbaga and Daaraga’ were cremated at ‘Hiryadka Mallagaddi’ which is night in front of the temple. 

In the month of ‘Chitra’ (‘Paggu’) relating to the month of April on full moon day the ‘trance’ or ‘siri’ festival takesplace at different places at different “mahalingeshvara’ temple i.e, Hiriyadaka (Udupi Tq) and Kabataru (Mangalore Tq). Full night ritual and festival of mass trance of women folk is generally called as ‘siriaayana’ or ‘siri festival’. 

Siri myth according to ‘paaDdana'(Tulu folk songs ) is called 
‘Siri Sandhi’ sung by women who go in to trance during the ritual. Some times ‘Kumara’ (male impersonator), a mediator between Siri possesser acts as a faith healer and sings the long epic, but women or “Kumara’ never sing the lengthy epic. Only few dozens of the Siri epic phrases are sung during the performance. 

Siri Epic: 
Siri a heroine, was born in an arecafold by the grace of Lord Bermeru. Age old ruler ‘Bermer Alva’ did not have issues one day God came in the guise of a Brahmin and demanded charity. He shared his feelings and suggested him to go his ancestors place and asked him to renovate the old ruined temple of the ‘Bermeru’ at Nidgallu(Beltangady Taluk) (This place is famous for the ‘Siri’ festival which takes place every year in the month of February, on a full moon day ). The main deity is called ‘Lokanatha’ but an inscription found by S.A.Krishnaiah at the Nidgallu place illustrates that the main temple diety is called ‘Somanatha’ (circa 16th century). When ‘Siri’ was born in the arecafold by the grace of ‘Bermeru’ the child was brought up by Bermer Alveru. When she grew up, Beremeru Alveru gave her in marriage to his sister’s son Shankar Alva. As a dowry he gave all his properties an the right to royal succession. When Siri was expecting the seventh month ceremony ‘bayake’ was conducted. It is a custom to honour the expecting mother by her husband. 
Accordingly her husband brings a new ‘saree’ from the market. On the way he meets his mistress who wears the new saree and gives back. The ‘Saree’ is presented to Siri at the ceremony. ‘Siri’ realises that it has been worn by somebody and rejects it.

After this incident Siri returns back to her maternal home, the place of Bermer Alveru and gives birth toa boy baby ‘Kumara’. Her husband failed to attend the birth ceremony or naming ceremony. According to the epic ‘Bermeru Alveru’ dies after the child birth it is said that Bermeru Alveru could not touch the new born child, as death would be fall Bermeru Alveru by curse or fate . Siri informs her husband about the death and asks him to do the funeral duties as it is the right of the son-in-law. Shankar Alva refuses to attend the funeral duties. Siri does all the funeral duties, and so she is forced to leave the place by orders of Shankar Alva.

Siri takes her child along with her maid ‘Sagamallaponnu’. She curses, and wishes the entire palace is burnt, excepting the spot where the child’s cradle is kept. Accordingly the whole palace is reduced to ashes excepting for the place of the cradle. She enters ‘Bola’ and ‘Belman’ forests. In the forest she is invited by the ‘Boola’kings to their palace. Knowing her future ‘Siri’ makes her servant maid ‘Sagamall Ponnu Daaru’ and child ‘Kumara’ to disappear from the earth. Later she is married and gives birth to twins called ‘Sonne’ and ‘Ginde’ and breathes her last.

According to the myth ‘Siri’ the royal heroine is believed to have strong power of transformation. Hence, women consider it as honour to be possessed by “Siri”, which is a kind of faith healing.

S. A Krishnaiah, 
E-mail: mmusica@sancharnet.in

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