Oora Habba is an integral part of the “real” Bengaluru


Many from outside the state reside in Bengaluru, but they are woefuly clueless about city’s tradition 

Sometime back a friend of mine was to edit a book on Bengaluru and he asked me to fill in some points. When I mentioned Annamma, the city deity of Bengaluru, he was shocked out of his mind. “Annamma!! whats that?! ”

This is the state of mind of all those “immigrants” to Bengaluru who do not take any interest in finding out about the culture of the city. It has become Silicon City for nothing.

However, the “real”, the “original” Bengaluru thrives amidst the Silicon pockets in all its glory. Take for instance the Oora Habba, the village festival that continues to be celebrated in all seriousness in all the villages that have got enveloped by urban development.

The Pataalamma Devi festival held last week in south Bengaluru in all its grandeur is an example.

The Oorus around the Bengaluru Pete each have their regional deity. They all are related in some way. Hence, when there is the Oora Habba they all come together to feast. There are seven villages in south Bengaluru: Siddapura, Bhairasandra, Mavalli, Upparalli, Kanakana Palya, Nagasandra amd Ediyuru.

And each has a specific deity guarding the region. Earlier all seven villages would get together and organised the festival, but now it has come down to five villages. Mavalli started having its own Oora Habba and made it an annual festivity.

However, the other villages celebrate it once every three years. This time around, chief minister Siddaramaiah attended the festival.

Poojamma and Plegamma are the deities of Siddapura. Goddess Patalamma of Kanakana Palya (Jayanagar), happens to be the daughter of Siddapura ie it is her mother’s place. So she comes home every three years. The people in Siddapura go and bring her home in a procession, with Thambittu aarathi, a sweetmeat made of rice and jaggery, colourfully decorated with flowers and lit with a lamp in the centre.

When she arrives in Siddapura, people welcome home their daughter, ask of her well-being, feed her with sheep meat, give her new sarees, flowers, bangles and send her back after two days. On this occasion, other deities from other regions also come to visit her. They are all taken out in a procession, again with lamps, and sent back after two days.

When all the daughters come home, that too after three years, there is bound to be meat cooked in almost all the houses in the village. The festival is celebrated by all, irrespective of caste and religion, and the vegetarians cook vegetarian food.

Earlier, the village heads, Patelas, would get together and decide on the festival. Nowadays, youngsters have taken over since the elders are no more. Each of these regions has a committee for organising their Oora Habba.

An Oora Habba fund is maintained by collecting money from all members of the community. This fund is given as loan and the money accrued is used for organising the festival.

Every house in the village, including those belonging to Muslims and Christians, contributes towards organising the festival. They also participate in the festival, and eat the mutton cooked on that day. There is mass feeding too, and anyone can walk in and partake of the non-veg food being served in the several pandals put up for the purpose.

Surprisingly, the younger generation has taken up Oora Habba in all seriousness, They are more meticulous too while going about it. This year for the three-day festival, more than 300 groups of folk artists were invited and the entire area was taken up by them. The drummers played and danced the whole night long.

Then there is the walking on the fire. It is an integral part of any festival for village deities. Hundreds of people walk on fire to fulfill vows. All the roads and houses are illuminated with serial lights and then there are the customary fireworks and the usual fair shopping.

Off course, there was heavy traffic near Jayanagar Siddapura Nagasandra, Bhairasandra and Ediyur during the festival. Adding to the chaos was the presence of the chief minister and other politicians.

But what was surprising was that no a single “outsider” bothered to find out what the festival was all about. Many were heard grumbling about the traffic jams, but they didn’t even wonder why the streets and houses were illuminated, what were the folk art procession, the chariot and decorated lamps all about.

Come on, you go to Kolkata and talk hoarse about Durga Puja! Here the Oora Habba is an integral part of the “real” Bengaluru and you still don’t know a thing about them. How many of you have seen a Karaga? It is said to be world famous but have you actually gone to see it? All those who know all about the ‘Phool waalon ki sair’ of Delhi, have they even once witnessed at least once the Hoo Pallakki Utsava of Halasooru? There are people living in Jayanagara since 25 years but don’t even know where Patalamma temple is located. If the Ganesha Utsav in Mumbai can become a state affair in Maharashtra, why not an Annamma festival in Bengaluru? After all she is the city deity of Bengaluru.

Go participate, show interest.