Friday, 20 June 2014

The oracles

Possession by the gods

Some people get possessed by gods and the god speaks through them. They are the oracles. This possession is called devudu osthadu (‘god comes’), and usually happens on specific days at specific times. The oracle wields a whip made of kalabandha fibres called the jaati naaru. With that she lashes out at the people, grinding her teeth, in case they have done wrong, with questions like,  “Why did you do this wrong ?”. The people accept the beatings for the wrongs done, and offer penance.

 In case of difficulties of various kinds people go to these oracles for guidance. People approach the oracles with problems ranging from stolen cows to the fate of dead souls. In case of a stolen cow, the oracle may say that ‘the person who stole the cow is to the north to your village’. Regarding a death, she may say that the dead person will be reborn in a certain family. As it is Gangamma speaking through the oracle, people speak of the oracle in the feminine, even though he be a man. They say, “She says …”.

When Eashwaramma’s son was killed, her family went to Nalla Gangamma, in a village a five rupee bus charge distance from Sadumu. There are teeming crowds there as many people come there with their problems, bringing along turmeric, coconut and other items of worship. The devudu or god addresses the fortunate among them. Eashwaramma, her daughter Kalpana and her son-in-law Ventakaiah had given up hopes of being addressed and were leaving, when were called back by the oracle. They had not mentioned their distress. But the oracle knew, and they were told, ‘Your son will be reborn as your daughter’s son’. They gave the oracle coconut, turmeric, kumkum and fifty rupees. The daughter also made a trip to Sabarimalai to pray for a child. When after fifteen years of marriage she got pregnant, it was as if the prophecy had come  true. The oracle asked them to come the following week, but they were unable to go. Kalpana made a trip subsequently and gave a hen.

Oracles maintain a regimen of purity.

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