Thousands of years ago human settlements grew up around great rivers and this is how modern civilisation began. Every river has a story behind and one such is of River Kaveri which took birth at Talakaveri at Kodagu district located in Karnataka state, India. For Kodava’s river Kaveri is not just a river, but form their lifeline, a chief deity, mother goddess and she generates oodles of emotions in the people of Kodagu. One of the holiest rivers of South India, she flows across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and she is everything for the farmers on both the states. Kodavas worship the birth of Mother Goddess Kaveri every year with utmost pomp and glory and the month of October is one of the most awaited months in the Kodava calendar and the occasion is celebrated on October 17th and 18th, popularly known as ‘ Kaveri Sankramana‘.

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Talakaveri – Photograph Courtesy: Deccan Herald

 

The Kaveri story is quite popular and something which most of the Kodavas grew up listening to and I heard this from my grandmother. She was my bedtime storyteller and would sing lullabies while putting me to sleep. As the story says, Lord Brahma had a daughter Vishnu Maya and she really wished to serve the world. At the same time, Lord Vishnu had to transfigure himself as Mohini to kill a reckless demon. So, Lord Brahma decides to send Vishnu Maya as Lopamudra to assist Mohini. After some days, a rishi named Kavera Muni comes to Lord Brahma. His wish was to get a child and hence prays to Lord Brahma. Impressed by the rishi’s devotion, Brahma decides to give Lopamudra for adoption. Thus, Lopamudra becomes the daughter of Rishi Kavera Muni and names her Kaveri.

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Brahmagiri hills – Photograph: Neelamma Subramani

 

Once Sage Agastya sees Kaveri meditating on Brahmagiri hills at Tala Kaveri. Infatuated by her beauty, he asks her hand in marriage. Kaveri agrees to marry on one condition! If at any point in time Sage Agastya leaves her for a long time, she would escape from him. So, it happens that once the sage gets caught in a philosophical discussion and forgets about Kaveri. As per the agreement, Kaveri transfigures into a river and flows to fulfil her wishes to serve the people. People at Bhagamandala, which is located at the foothills of Brahmagiri hills, pleads with Kaveri not to leave. There she is joined by the other two small rivers Kanike and Sujyothi and flows across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, thus entering the Bay of Bengal.

This confluence of the three rivers is known as “Triveni Sangam” and devotees seek blessings by taking a holy dip which is also known to wash away your sins. Post this, devotees offer pooja at Bhagandeshwara temple which is a short distance from Triveni Sangam and there after proceed to Talacauvery where the shrine of Goddess Kaveri is located against the backdrop of the Brahmagiri Hills. There are steps leading to the shrine and to the top of the hill; the latter offers a fabulous view of the low-lying valleys. Right in front of the temple is a large open tank for devotees to take a holy dip and then the priest pours three rounds of Thirtha (holy water) on the devotees from the Kundike (pond).

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Dudi kott Paat: Clansmen walking to Talacauvery while singing of the culture and bravery of Coorg – Photograph: Ganga Ganapathi Poovaiah

 

The following day, women are dressed in the traditional attire and the mother goddess is worshipped which is known as Kani Puje. On a metal plate topped with rice grains, betel leaves and areca nuts, oil lamp, coconut wrapped in red silk cloth is adorned with flowers and jewellery such a Pathak (traditional jewellery) and bangles, family members sprinkle grains on it, offers prayers and seeks the blessings of the elders in the family.

The approximate distance between Bhagamandala and Tala Kaveri is about 8 KM. Kodagu, being surrounded by western Ghats, earlier it was very remotely connected and from the stories what I have heard from my grandparents, people would gather at Bhagamandala and walk all the way up to Tala Kaveri in bare foot to celebrate this holy event. It’s a  no ordinary walk!  It’s a walk to celebrate our chief deity, it’s a walk to hail our mother Goddess, every step along the way had its own significance. Ultimately, it’s a walk to thank river Kaveri for all the abundant blessings showered on Kodavas.