Annotated Textual Resources Siri
S.A.Krishnaiah Chief Researcher/Co-ordinator RRC. MGM College Campus Udupi: 576 102 (D.K.) Karnataka-India
Siri myth; according to 'paaDdana'( Tulu folk songs ) singing/narrating in poetic style is called 'Siri Sandhi'.Songs sung by women who fall in trance during the ritual, some time 'Kumara' (male impersonator) who is a mediator between 'Siri' possessor acts as a faith healer and sings the long epic, but no women folk or "Kumara' never sing the lengthy epic. Only few dozens of the 'Siri'epic phrases are sung during the performance.
The ‘Siri’ cult is a trance tradition of Coastal Karnataka. The ‘Siri’ ritual takes place in different regions of Coastal Karnataka. The major centers are ‘Nidgal’ (Beltangdi Tq), ‘mujolottu-Dhareguudde’ (Karkala Tq), ‘Nandolike’ (Karkala Tq), ‘Hiriyadka’ (Udupi Dt & Tq) ‘Kabataru’ (Mangalore Tq). The possession cult is associated with the name of ‘siri’ (a woman who violated the custom and tradition of the male dominated society). It is believed that ‘siri’ belonged to a royal family of Jains. Also there is the opinion ‘Siri’ belongs to Bunt or Shetty community. If members of the lower community get into possession of the ‘Siri’ spirit it is considered to be an honor. In the state of trance the women folk get faith healing themselves. They also heal others in ritual context. A number of ‘Bhuta’ impersonations are also performed a part of the ‘siri’ possession ritual. During the possession the woman sings a few dozens of the ‘Siri’ epic or different portions of the ‘siri’ epic cycle. Most of the possessed belong to the matrilineal community and the lower strata of the society. A male by the name of ‘Kumaara’ controls the woman’s trance. As per the epic ‘Kumaara’ stands for ‘Siris’ son. The tradition makes use of a cycle of folk epics which includes the one dealing with ‘chenne’ game played by the twin sisters ‘abbaga’ and ‘daaaraga’ (‘siri’s grand children).
The 'siri' trance or possession is a kind of faith healing and people consider it a royal treatment. In the month of 'kumbha' (Maayi) corresponding to the month of March, on full moon day the 'trance' or 'siri' festival takes place, at different places in different 'mahalingeshwara' temples i.e., 'Hurumbidottu' (Belthangadi Taluk), 'Kutrottu (Belthangadi Taluk) in 'Dakshina Kannada' district (Coastal Karnataka). Full night rituals and festivals of mass trance of women folk are generally called 'siri jaatre' or 'siri aayano' in Tulu language
Siri Epic: 'Siri' a heroine born in a areca fold by the grace of ‘Bermeru’- God. Age old ruler 'Bermer Alva' didn't had issues, one day God came in the guise of Brahmin, demanded charity, shared his feelings and suggested him to go his ancestors place or the sanctity and made 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 Šyear in the month of February, on the full moon day ) the main deity is called 'Lookanatha' but an inscription found by S.A.Krishnaiah at the Nidgallu place illustrates that the main temple deity is called 'Somanatha' (circa 15th-16th century). When 'Siri' born in the areca fold by the grace of 'Bermeru' the child was brought up by Bermer Alveru, when she was grown, 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 became pregnant, on the seventh month a ceremony conducted called 'bayake'. Husband response is that to make honor to the pregnant women during the custom. As per the custom husband brings a new 'sari' cloth from the market, when he was bringing the packet (of 'Sari') –meantime he was attracted a prostitute on the way and she welcomes Shankar Alva, being a prostitute with all desire she opens the packet and she wears the 'sari" and returns. The 'Sari' was presented during the ceremony, 'Siri' found the 'sari' is being worn somebody, she suspects herself the presentation of honor is polluted, so she rejects the 'sari' knowing it had already been used.
After this incident "Siri' returns back to her natal home, the place of Bermer Alveru, gives birth to her son, 'Kumaara'. Her husband failed to attend the birth ceremony or naming ceremony. According to epic the 'Bermeru Alveru' will die after the child birth, Bermeru Alveru is said not to touch the born child, if he touch the Bermeru Alveru is sure to die is the curse or fate . Siri informed her husband the death occurred and to carryover the funeral duties as right of the son-in-law. Shankar Alva who refuses to attend the funeral duties, Siri who did all the funeral duties and Siri was forced to leave the place by order of Shankar Alva.
'Siri' takes her child along with servant maiden called 'SagamallapoNNu' and she gives curse ,utters let burn the whole palace except where the child cradle is been kept. According to her curse the whole palace burn into ashes except the place of the cradle being kept. Further she takes entry to forest is called 'Bola' and 'Belman'
forest. 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 was married and gives birth to twins called 'Sonne' and 'Ginde' and last her breath.
The myth or epic of the 'Siri' is believed the royal heroine who had strong power of transformation, so it is believed appearing the power of 'Siri' on women folk is considered is honor, the trance or possession is a kind of faith healing and people consider its a royal treatment.
'SIRI' RITUAL ( HIRIYADKA)
'Hiriyadka' is a small town centre situated towards west from Udupi Taluk, (South India-Karnataka) 12 km far from the Udupi Town. Hiriyadka is famous for the 'siri' trance or the mass possession of women folk. Hiriyadaka is identified as the place of religious sanctity. The place is famous temple called 'mahalingeeshvara' the main deity and other associated Shiva cult spirits or 'gaNa's' of the Lord Eshvara.
The word 'Hiriyadka' means the 'big' + 'religious place' and also there many associated myths and legends added to this place. According to one legend 'a monk called 'aDkattaaya' who sat for the strong penance under the tree, thereby the local children began to give trouble, seeing this to avoid the children or the trouble givers he placed many spirits by his miracle power. So in his name the place is being identified as
'aDkattaaya' later added an adjective as 'hiri' which means 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'. The word 'peradka' means elder sister. The place of elder sister deity so the women trance and associated ritual takes place. Then who is the elder sister or the mother deity ? of course it is said 'uLLaalti' is the chief mother deity of the sanctity. Also it is believed the major worshiping 'lingam' is oriented to female power centre than male power centre as 'mahalingeeshvara'. 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' means the place of 'crematory ground for the lords' . It is believed that the twin sisters called 'Abbaga and Daaraga' were cremated at 'Hiryadka Mallagaddi' now this place is just on front of the temple.
In the month of 'Chitra' (In Tulu Paggu) relating to the month of April on full moon day the 'trance' or 'siri' festival takes place at different places at different mahalingeshvara' temple i.e., Hiriyadaka (Udupi Tq) and Kabataaru (Mangalore Tq). Full night ritual and festival of mass trance of women folk is generally called as 'siri-aayana' or 'siri festival'.
Recent development 2005 As I am witnessing the ‘Siri’-festival of Hiriyadka since 1984. At present one can see very significant changes in Hiryadka town and temple activities. Recently in the year 2005 on the day of full moon day a sudden and drastic social transition movement took place. That is unexpected, all the downtrodden and suppressed community people of the region who are subject to offer the ritual at the outskirt of the temple. It is customary socially downtrodden people with leftist movement support demanded at once as the religious right that they need a proper placement inside the temple premises. All this drastic change took away on the full moon day as a new era for the ‘Siri’ ritual festival at Hiriyadka. Behind this movement the significant changes came into light is because of the leftist movement of the local groups who made the downtrodden people and inspired them to give proper placement as other community (higher community) enjoys the facilities the same to be given as a matter of rights, trustee of the temple suggested that till now no taboo or restriction enforced over the downtrodden community, it is open to everyone and the downtrodden community people happily accepted the invitation and occupied wherever they wish to stand for divine service . it is a customary rules that followed since generation the downtrodden are not subject to take entry inside the premises for trance rites, this time due to leftist movement suppressed community women folk and men who stepped inside the temple premises without fear. This enforcement of sudden change has accepted by the public happily and believed this movement creates a healthy environment, at present the people of this region and temple trustees has accepted this significant change and accepted that as a good sign of harmony and we feeling ness.
Until 2005 the ‘siri’ trance ‘bhaktas’ (devotees) are subject to stand outside of the temple and have to undergo ‘Siri’ trance. Temple trustee’s opinion that till now temple has no limitation enforced on the devotees, but as they understand themselves with community feeling that by birth they are born in ‘karma’ (of sin world) and not qualified to have harmonious way of life with others. Temple trustees (Hegde) said the temple doors are open for every one, it is left to ’bhaktas’ (devotees) to come and offer prayer.
It is my understanding that an eminent temples have a car festival (Rathotsav) which takes place during the annual festival. During car festival the worshiping God is being brought in a chariot procession have significant ethics. Perhaps the ‘rathotsav’ (car festival) is introduced to see the God-Goddess to all the people(devotees) without any discrimination (touchable and untouchable) as if let them witness the worshiping god or Goddess. Either on fifth day or seventh day of the festival the Hiriyadka car festival take place as concluding ritual.On the day of Car festival at Hiriyadka-a tribal community ‘koraga’ women folk who undergo trance and after this ritual the chariot is pulled out by the devotees.
Siri Epic Book "The Siri Epic as performed by Gopala Naika" released 28-March-1999 as performed by Sri Goapala Naik (Edited by Lauri Honko, Anneli Honko, Vivek Rai and Chinnappa Gowda) Release by Dr.Veerendra Heggade of Dharmasthala. The Finnish-Indian tema Prof Lauri Honko and Mrs Anneli Honko from the Unviersity of turku and Prof B.A. , Vivek Rai and Dr.Chinnappa Gowda from mangalore University docuemnted the 15,683 line performance of the SIRI EPIC by Gopala Naik, one of the many talented singers of oral epics of Tulunadu. This work consist new concept of 'mental text' and 'multiform'are introduced for the analysis of oral compositions.Seminar on oral epics also condected. with collobaration of Regional Resources Centre for Folk Performing Arts, Udupi
See Lauri Honko in collaboration with Chinnappa Gowda, Anneli Honko and Viveka Rai, The Siri Epic as performed by Gopala Naika. Folklore Fellows' Communications No. 264-266. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica), 1998.