The folk tradition consists of two basic words. ‘Folk’ and ‘Tradition’, so, it is very much essential to understand the real meanings of the two terms. Usually, the term, ‘folk’ includes all those persons-residents of either villages, towns or cities, or of all of them within a given area-who are conscious of the common cultural heritage and have some constant traits; whose behavioral knowledge is based on words of mouth (oral tradition) and not on written scriptures and whose way of life is more traditional, more simple, more natural, less systematic and less specialized in comparison to the so-called civilized people (Srivastava).

While the term, ‘tradition’ has been derived from the Latin word, ‘traditio’ meaning handing down, hading over, delivery, surrender etc, i.e., that which is handed down from person to person or from generation to generation. It includes both the process and product. According to Robert Redfield, the word tradition connotes the act of handing down from one generation to another. Yogendra singh defines tradition as the cumulative heritage of a society, which permeates through all levels of social organization, for example, the value system, the social structure and the structure of personality. V.K.R. V Rao looks upon tradition as habits, customs, attitudes, ways of lives, which gets embodied in institutions, and then tend to get frozen because of the stability and autonomous existence of these institutions. Thus according to him tradition implies age and with it a fairly long period of continuity. R. V.Sampson explains tradition as ‘a mode of behavior or standard produced by a group as distinct from an individual, and serves to intensity group consciousness and cohesion. Tradition, which is cumulative social heritages in the form of habits, customs, attitudes and, ways of life is transmitted from generation to generation either through written scriptures or through word mouth. Tradition transmitted through word of mouth is called oral tradition (Srivastava).

Writing about the folk society, Encyclopedia Britannica, Mentions that the folk-society,

As an ideal type, or concepts of society that is completely cohesive-morally, religiously, politically and socially, because of the small number and isolated state of the people, because of the relatively unmediated personal quality of social interaction, and because the entire world of expression of which are shared by all members. The folk- society is generally assumed to be the model ofpre-literate of’primitive’ societies that most anthropologists have traditionally studied.

The most important and enduring modern effort to make the concept of folk-culture relevant to anthropology remains the works of the U.S. antropologist Robert Redfield who saw folk-society as including not only primitive groups but also peasant peoples whose operation entailed some degree of dependence on the city (Encyclopedia Britanica).

While, the McMillan dictionary of anthropology mentions,’ folk’ a term used in ethnology and anthropology to refer loosely to traditional rural peasant societies in which oral tradition predo­minates. In his concepts of the folk-urban continuum, redfield.

Attempted to endow this term with more precise analytical value. In the 19th century the folk-stratum was considered to be an inferior and backward residue existing within a earlier evolutionary stages of society. Because of the pejorative connotations of the term, many modern anthropologists have avoided its use and that of such terms as folklore and folkways. Many writers have therefore preferred the terms ‘oral tradition’ and oral literature and more recently the prefix ethno to indicate the study of popular and preliterate traditions.

The same dictionary of anthropology mentions about tradition, in archaeology, tradition

Means a set of interrelated cultural elements of traits that persists over a relatively long time span is called tradition. In anthropology the word is used instead for patterns of beliefs, customs, values, behavior or knowledge or expertise which are passed on form generation to generation by the socialization process within a given population. The term has sometimes been used as a synonym, for culture itself particularly in ethnology, where the study of traditional everyday ‘culture’ of folk-culture was the dominant concern. Modern anthropologists however tend to not place so much emphasis on the centrality of the concepts of tradition. Since it does not allow for the essentially dynamic and adaptive nature of social-cultural systems. As these writers have pointed out, the uncritical use of the concept of tradition may make us fail to examine the key problem of relationship between cultural persistence or continuity and cultural change, a problem which is to be approached not only in terms of cultural elements in themselves but also in terms of the social change in the population concerned.

In the same context, J.C.Heesterman, in his book, “the inner conflict of tradition”, observes that to say that a society and its culture depend on tradition as good as tautological. Tradition, therefore cannot but share in the flexibility and adaptiveness of culture. It is not only permissive of changes. It is not necessary to revise the long-standing and largely inconclusive tradition-modernity debate and to argue once more the resilience and adaptive ness of tradition. Nonetheless traditional society’, if not a term of oppro­brium, for all its nostalgic value, still describe a world. This notion though eroded by undeniable economic and technological progress, is applied with much conviction to India, especially when it comes to her problems and shortcomings. India continues to be seen as the repository of hollowed but obstructive tradition. This seems especially to be the case in the matter of caste, which is considered to hold Indian society in the its iron grip (Hessterman: 1985).

Thus, we may view tradition as the way society formulates and deals with the basic problems of human existence. In other words, its is the way in which society comes to terms with the insoluble problem of life and death, including such life and death matters as food and water in a world of scarcity. In the respect, of course, it is not different from modernity since the fundamental problem of life and death is truly insoluble, it has to be attacked, formulated, and dealt with each time a new under a different aspect. Tradition, therefore, is and has to be bound up with the ever-shifting present.

However, tradition cannot be only flexibility and situational, for its essential mission is still to deal in a structural way with insoluble life and death problem in all its situational manifestations. It must, therefore also offer a plan or order independent of and above the actual situation.

After considering the above definition and different observations about the folk-tradition, the opinion of Robert Redfield appears to be more appropriate who includes not only the primitive groups but also the peasant people whose operations entailed some degree of dependence on the nearby city. Here, the emphasis lies on the interrelations of folk-people with city dweller. Thus, the limitations of folk-people do not necessarily lie only in the isolated village surroundings but it extends also within the city limits. Here, attempts are being made to recognize and deal with some of the folk-traditions of the Kamataka people. The origination of such folk-traditions is necessarily among the rural folk but its area of operation is definitely extended even among the city dwellers. These folk-traditions, folk-traditions related with life cycles and the folk-tradition associated with religion and ritual considerations, in the followings pages.

Common Folk-Traditions

There are some common folk-traditions which are given due importance and consideration related to house and household activities and household belongings.

The Karnataka folk-people give due consideration when they intend to purchase a new site for house constructions. They mostly prefer a north-facing site for this purpose.

The east-facing site comes thereafter but in the east-facing site also they try their level best to install their front door facing northward. It is important to observe here that although they accept the west of south-facing site but half-heartedly. Here also they have developed a mechanism of their own to construct the main door of their house facing north or east.

In their house construction site, they lay the foundation stone and perform the Bhumi-puja on some auspicious day and time but never on Tuesday, or during rahu-kal. For laying the foundation stone, the owner first performs some rituals then digs out some soils himself. They also do not fix the main door; take up slab work (roof) and such other important work on Tuesday or Saturday and during rahukal. At the time of completion of slab work, there is a folk-tradition that the owner serves a feast to all the involved workers under the newly constructed slab. Not only that the owner also accompanies them in eating the food items of the feast.

Besides the above inauspicious day, they also do not perform the house-warming or griha-pavesh ceremony during the sukrasta or deo-sona. It is a folk-believe that their

Deities get asleep during the period. Thus, no house warming and such other important works are performed during the period. During house-warming rituals, it is a folk tradition that the owner cuts two whit gourds (Kumbala-Kai), one for driving away the existing evil spirits. This is broken and thrown at the nearest square or at some lonely place. The second white gourd is cut to appease the household deities for the well being of the owner in the newly constructed house. This gourd is hanged in the front side of the house. The ritual is performed in the presence of relatives and friends. Most of the invitees visit the new house with some gift items and enjoy the feast. After the feast, the invitees are offered coconut, betel leaves and nuts when they leave the place.

It is a very interesting and important folk-tradition that their house wives cleans the front door and space every day in the morning, wash it with water and draw beautiful Rangoli.

There, mostly in the morning but sometimes also in the evening during some festivals.

While vacating even a rented house, the occupant does not clean the house fully. As it is a folk-belief that a house is fully cleaned and washed only during death and death-reites and rituals. So, the landlords clean the vacated house for another tenants.

During some important festivals, the local musicians of various kinds visit the rural and urban households along with their musical instruments to play at the door and they are reciprocated with some cash or food grains. Again, in the sravana month on every Saturday (july-August) the local children of five to ten years of age visit the rural and urban household in a group of about five uttering the name of jai Govinda, Jai Govinda in the morning. They pay their visit each hanging a cloth bag or metal poet to children but their daughter and sisters are expected to pay their visit to their parent’s houses especially during Ugadi Festival. They are warmly welcomed and the special feast of the occasion is served to them.

There is a very interesting folk-tradition that they do not offer betel-leaves, lime and salt by bare hand directly with a folk-belier that it leads to differences and disputes between the donors and takers. Similarly, while leaving from another house nobody says the “I am going” but they say “Bartene” or Ayttu means coming. It is with this folk-belief that one departs or goes only after death.

Whenever a new car or any vehicle is purchased, it is firstly brought to a temple for worship. Here, the priest worships the same on the payment of a prescribed fee and a coconut is broken and left there for poor. Thereafter, some lemons, green chilly and some black thread are also tied to the vehicle to drive away the evil eyes and evil spirits from the vehicle. Again on the occasion of Ayudha puja which falls near Dusserah (September-October) They clean their vehicle and worship it with flowers, garland, lemons and chilly. Lemons are placed on the ground in front of their vehicle, which are crushed by its wheels. The garland, lemons and chilly are tied to the vehicle to keep away the evil eyes and evil spirits.

It is also one of the most important folk-tradition that during the inauguration of some cultural function, the chief guest lights a traditional lamp and he is honored with a shawl and a garland of the state.

Folk-traditions associated with Life-Cycle

There are some folk-traditions, which are associated with the life cycle of the Karnataka folk-people. Such folk-traditions are given due considerations at the time of birth marriage and death rites and rituals.

It is observed to be a very important folk-tradition that most of the cases of first delivery of child take place at the house of mother’s place of the delivering woman. Forthat in the seventh month of her first pregnancy, her husband’s family members perform an elaborate function (sreemantha or basiridike) in which the family members and the closer relatives of the pregnant women and her husband are invited; The pregnant women is formally seated there and a formal blessing functions is performed in which she is provided with some gifts in the form of new cloth and such other useful items. The function concluded with a grand feast in which the food-items of the choice of the pregnant woman are also cooked and served. In the last, the pregnant woman is formally sent off when she is taken away by her parent’s family members to their place at an auspicious day for delivery. Again, at the time of birth when a child is born during mulanakshatra of a month, it is taken to be very much inauspicious for the parents. This may even lead to death of either mother or father depending on the gravity of birth time date and its effects. To remove or lessened its bad effects, the parents are required to perform homa or Hawan and have to perform suitable worship of some deities and also offer suitable gifts to their own priest.

There is also a folk- tradition to elaborately celebrate the first menstruation of girl child, which may lead to a big function. During the period, she is allowed complete rest and also provides with delicious and nutritional food items for days together and sometimes for the full months. Not only that she is provided with costly clothes and garments by the parents and other closer relatives.

Traditionally, they practice cross-cousin marriage alliances but the marriage between mother’s brother and sister’s daughter is taken to be a very ideal choice for establishing marriage alliances. But for the marriage of a twin sons or daughter, they prefer and go on searching a similar twin partner of the same nature which they try to establish the marriage ties with them and feel satisfied. They practice mostly caste endogamy for the performance of marriage ties. It is also a well-established tradition that no marriage is solemnized in the Asadh month (july-August) and during Dhnurmas or Ashikmas or on any Tuesday and Saturday. Here, some of the important relatives, kin house of the bride of groom is fully decorated during marriage and the house is essentially covered with the mat of coconut leaves and mango and banana leaves are also tied with door of the house.

After the marriage feast, all the invitees are allowed to leave the venue with a gift of coconut, betel-nuts and leaves.

The magalyasutra of tali in the neck,flowers in her hair, bangles in her hand and bindi (vermilion), on the forehead (red),and toe-rings are the symbol of the married women. When, their married women visit anybody’s house or even temple and offered vermilion or kumkum, it is applied to their tali.

When a married woman visit any others house for the first time, she is given some special treatment and offered coconut or any fruits and flowers when she leaves the house.

On the event of death, the dead body is removed form the bed and lied down on the floor of the house. At the outside of the house, they lit some fire which symbolizes the event of death and it helps in spreading the sad death news. Usually, the dead-body is carried to the cremation ground in a lying posture. But, the lingayat and some other community carry and bury the dead body in a sitting posture. In the rural Karnataka, such dead-bodies are buried in the lonely field of the deceased. At the same time, it is very important to mention about a very pertinent and significant folk-tradition about the dead-body of a pregnant woman. The plams of the dead-body of pregnant woman are cut and buried separately. It is with the belief that the Budubuduki community may misuse the limbs of such a dead woman for some magical purposes. After the funeral feast, no invitees are provided with a gift of coconut, betel nuts and leaves.

Folk- tradition associated with religious activities and superstition Here, some such folk- traditions are being dealt which are associated with religious and superstitions, color and orientation which play deep rooted roles in the life and culture of the folk-people of Karnataka state. Thus, such traditions help and guide the people to decide various courses of important aspects of life and culture in their day-to-day life and affairs.

As, the Asadh Month (july-August) is considered to be very much inauspicious for starting or undertaking any new ventures, viz., Changing the accommodations, starting a new construction of house and a new business. Not only that the Asadh month is believed to be so much inauspicious that a newly wedded couple is also not allowed to live together during the month. Thus, her husband goes to leave her at her mother’s place before the starting of the month and she is brought back to her husband’s place after the Asadh. Even in-laws should not see each other’s face during the month. A violation of this brings ill luck to them.

Similarly, the Dhanurmash (july-August) which falls during Sanskrit (January) festival in the month of January, is regarded as a very religious month where more fasting, appeasements and rituals are performed in various temples for the health, happiness and prosperity of the folk-people.Not only that the devotees of various sects go for pilgrimage in different temples during the month.

Again, it is very important to mention about the vow fulfillment rituals, which the folk- people undertake at various occasions. Such vow fulfillment rituals are performed according to the prescriptions of their own folk-traditions to get rid of various health problems, for begetting a child and for personal propriety. Here, the folk-people go the perform this rituals at some committed sacred centers like, Ayyappa swamy temple of sabarimalai hills, Lord timappa of tirumala hills, Lord Sri Krishna temple of Udupi, the temple of Mahadeshwara hill and the like. In such temples there is also a tradition of offering one’s hair to please the deity when a vow is taken for that.

In some other temples, the folk-people the deity of some certain temple by the offering of some fixed quantity of butter. The butter is applied to the whole body of the named deity on the fulfillment of their desires. The whole rituals of this kind are named as ‘Mahabhishek’.

On the other hand, some other folk-people are in the habit of offering eggs, lemons, green chilly and even the sacrifice of chicken, goat and sheep to appease their local deities on the cure from some major diseases and illness. Such type of religious perfor­mances are largely performed in the night of Amavas or purnima day of every month. Therefore, such offered articles like, lemons, chilly and broken eggs are found thrown on most of the squares of a locality and is regarded as Totakka.

Under the act of vow-fulfillment rituals organizing a puppet dance show to appease their deities, is another kind of vow-fulfillments rituals, on the fulfillment of their mission or desire. Here, the benefited persons meet all the expenditure for a puppet show.

Traditionally, the folk-people of the state are great worshippers of Lord-shiva, Lord-vishnu and lord-krishna. While the followers of Vishnu are regarded as vaishnavities. Again, it is very important to observe here that most of their villages has a temple of their villages deity called as Amma like mariamma, Marikamba, Anna-mma, Yellamma., mayakka,, Kolaramma, Candralamaba and the like. Mari is a very popular of this category worshipped commonly by the low caste folk-people. Again, the serpent worship and Bhuta(spirit) worship are very common and popular in some regions.

Serpent worship and Bhuta (spirit) worship

The serpent worship or Nag worship is very much popular among the folk-people of some parts of Karnataka. Here, naga (serpent) has been identified with kukke subramanya in Karnataka, where many ancient centers of Naga wordships in the west coast haVe been converted into kukke subramaya temple. Again, and anthill is also worship as naga. There is also an elaborate and colorful ritual connected with naga worship on the western coast called Nagamandala. Here, a priest in trance dances round and arena to the accompaniment of music.

Practically, in most of the Karnataka village naga stones are found under a papal tree. The folk-people install naga stones in the belief that it will cure sterility in women.

Similarly, the Bhuta worship is very popularly found in the hill areas and coastal districts of Karnataka. Bhutas are generally believed to be spirits of great men or women, Worshiped in small shrines dedicated to them. Every year special worship is offered to a Bhuta, when a Bhuta dancer wears the crown, mask, dress, weapons, and speaks in a trance to the devotees. The ‘prossessed’ Bhuta listens to their grievances and woes and promises redressal. There are male and female Bhutas. Usually, these Bhutas get identified with the ganas of shiva. So most of the famous shiva temples in south Kanara have Bhutas attached to them . The Bhutas are worshipped for the protection in general settling disputes, and for Punishing one’s enemies.

Marrying papal and neem tree is a very old customary tradition of the folk-people of the Karnataka. So, the growing of papal (aswatha) and neem (Margosa) trees together and marrying them is considered to be very holy deeds. As, it is a folk-believe the papal represents the seven beautiful daughters of an evil spirit. One day, when they were walking towards a river to bathe in it. Lord Krishna fell in love with them and expressed his wish to marry them. They rejected his proposal. But Krishna tried to hu them.

Immediately the girls were transformed into a papal tree. Krishna who was hugging them was transformed into a neem tree. This folk-tradition of marrying a neem and a papal tree started thereafter.

The Yatra festival forms another very important folk-tradition of Karnataka in which the deities of some temples ate ceremonially brought our and moved in the whole village or a locality in a chariot, which is pulled by the devotees only. Such ritual functions take place on the fixed day and month, which is named as yatra. During such movements, the deity is worshiped by the devotees with the offerings of flowers cocoanut and some cash. Some important yatra festivals are observed at the temples of smarak in pandavapura on sirsthi Terhar (January), Dwaja Kunita yatra in the villages like Betarkote, Nellegere, Suranhalli, and Soma Kunita yatra in Kanchanakote Village, the yatra of Sidhalingeshwara of Baireswara Temple in the Chunchanagiri Village (march).

The consideration of auspicious and inauspicious time, date and occasion for undertaking some important tasks is another dimension of folk-tradition. As, it plays very important roles in the life and culture of the folk-people. The auspicious is locally called as Subha and inauspicious as Asubha or Apsakum.

The cry of an ass, the crossing the way by a jackal seeing women with water filled pitcher, seeing a dead body and the like are the signs of good-luck and taken to be auspicious while proceeding for some important tasks or missions on the other hand, the crossings the way by a cat or snake and seeing a widow, are taken to be inauspicious. Not only that even the presence of a widow is taken to be inauspicious while negotiating a marriage tie.

Again, Tuesday and Friday are taken to be very much inauspicious for starting any important work, including the marriage negotiation and even for the performance of marriage; similarly, there is no money transaction on Tuesday or even after sunset, as it brings ill luck, if violated.

The study of folk- tradition would not be completed unless we taken into consideration the events of erection of memorial stone. As, the phenomena of the erection of memorial stone (Hero stone) had been one of the very important folk-tradition and folk-culture of the Karnataka which tells us about a very important events of that time. These memorial stones are regarded as hero-stone, which were erected for various different reasons.

The male memorial stone is locally called as vira-gallu which were erected for some heroic and bravery deeds of the person concerned, who sacrificed their life for a good and memorable deeds. Here, mention may be made of those male persons who are killed in a war while fighting with the enemies for their land and people. At the same time, it is important to note what when a kings is killed in a war, his body-guard (Garuda) is also supposed to die in the grief of the kings. Not only that, anybody who is killed of sacrificed his life for the protection of a cow or woman, in all these cases, there is a tradition for the erection of vira-Gallu (vira-Kallu) in the memory of such persons and their heroic deeds.

Similarly, there is also a tradition of erecting memorial stones for the heroic acts of their women and the memorial stone of such women is called mastikallu (or mastigallu). Here mastikallu is erected for such brave women who sacrificed their lives on the funeral pyre of their husband in sympathy, of who opted for the sacrifice of her life for the construction of a bund, tank or bridge. As, it happened to be a folk-believe that without the sacrifice of a woman, no thank, bund of bridge can be made.


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