By P.T. Bopanna

zarina - CopyOne of my recent posts on Facebook, explaining the legend behind why the mother tied the ‘pathak’ (Coorg mangalsutra) to the daughter on the eve of the wedding, had gone viral. Nearly 16,000 people saw the post on my FB page alone, besides the visitors’ traffic in my various FB groups and pages. 

Now let me introduce the writer who weaved the beautiful story behind the legend. She is Mallangada Zarina (Bhuvaneshwary) Kalaiah (in picture), married to Sannu Kalaiah, and born into the Bottolanda family from Ballamavati in Coorg (Kodagu).  

She spent all her childhood and adolescent life growing up in the green hills of Coorg. She says: “Driven by endless curiosity, I had nature as my backyard and imagined I was Columbus, discovering new things every day. I had my parents and relatives to thank for learning about old stories of Coorg and new stories of the world, and I had my siblings to thank for being my shipmates on our daily discovery voyages through the Kaadus (forests), and Baanes around Kodagu.”

“Adulthood took me away to the big towns, and I eventually ended up in the Arabian country of Kuwait, where I spent the next 40 years making a life of my own around my three wonderful kids, my husband, relatives and friends. Working for the government, I had the privilege to be among the finest bunch of people from around the world. The unfortunate incident of the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 made us homeless refugees, escaping through Iraq and Jordan for nine long days and nights. My life episodes in Kuwait and other countries added their own weight to my backpack of experiences, and after a little inspiration from my daughter-in-law, and the birth of my granddaughter, I decided to write down my experiences for the future generations.”

“Hence, was founded, and in it you will see little slivers of my journey through life, and my own take on things I have heard, seen and touched over the years.”

The Pathak story below as told by Zarina:

APSARAHave you ever wondered why, unlike the rest of the Hindu communities, Kodavas (Coorgs) have the unique custom of bride’s mother tying the ‘Pathak’ (Kodava equivalent of mangalasutra) to the bride? It’s a known fact that in every Hindu marriage, the husband ties the ‘mangalasutra’ (aka thali) to the bride on the big day. However, according to Kodava custom it is tied by the bride’s mother on the night before the official wedding. There is a very interesting legend to go with… which perhaps might shed some light on the much debated origin of Kodavas as well.

In the yore… at the period when the earth was visited by Gods and Goddesses, a lovely Devi-kanye (Apsara) fell in love with a man from the earth. The man, a prince, new to the area, was lost while hunting and was resting under a tree mesmerized by the beauty and serenity of the Kodava land.

Leaning on the tree, surrounded by nature bathed in all her magnificence, the misty clouds, the mating call of the birds and animals echoed the silent valley below, the air filled with passion and the sight of beautiful maiden took him by surprise. The prince also fell in love with the gorgeous Apsara instantaneously…. how could he not? Without realizing that she was not in his league, he fell in love passionately. Love has no boundary and love is blind after all.

 Forgetting his tiredness, his missing entourage, and kingdom, they spent some beautiful moments together. However, both the Devi-Kanye and the prince were fully aware of the fact that her father and family would oppose and forbid her from marrying him. They would stop her from leaving the heaven again and any effort from her to meet him would cost her status of the Devi-hood.

The thought of separation would be unimaginable… he would rather die than separate from his love. She felt the same way too… she would not give up easily on her love. She made him promise to take care of himself and she promised that she would return to him one day. He was also aware that unlike the Apsara, he could not wait forever because for a mortal like him, death would be inevitable.

There was no choice but to part from each other and when it was time for her to leave she started crying. She treaded the path back home with heavy heart and tears in her eyes, looking pathetic. On the way she met her old acquaintance, the Naga-Deva and Devate (Snake God & Goddess). They chided her saying why the usual cheerful maiden had tears in her eye and said that crying definitely never suited her beautiful face. If there is any way they could help her to make her happy?

Upon hearing her story, they wanted to help her and the wise couple comes up with a solution to her problem. They said there is a way for her to marry him without him tying the managalasutra and be his wife but with one condition.

As a human her husband cannot tie the mangalasutra to her but someone from her world can tie the knot on his behalf and she can retain her Devi-hood. But that someone has to be very unique because they should love and care for her more than anyone that ever existed in the three worlds does without expecting anything in return.

They suggested that she ask her mother to tie the mangalasutra and sanctify her relationship with her prince charming. They also promised her that both of them would stand guard for her protecting from all the evils and perils in the human world.

Her kind hearted, sympathetic mother agreed to tie the mangalasutra and symbolize the marriage so that she could go and live with her lover. Her father and the rest of the family also agreed to let her go too. Hence she got married in heaven by her mother with family blessings and left to her husband’s house the following day.

Even today Kodavas have two Muhurthas  on same day. One is separate with each one’s family and the other one “dampathi-muhurtha” (dampathi means couple) with the presence of both the families, something perhaps is one of its kind!!

Both lived happily ever after till the prince died of natural causes, raising beautiful family of eleven sons. The eleven sons had hundred each of their own sons, expanding the families further. Years passed and seasons changed and so did her family; her husband died, children died and when her grandchildren started growing old, unbearable at the thought of losing them she returned to heaven with sad heart.

The descendants of Apsara and the prince still maintain the tradition to this day… Kodavati women get their Pathak tied by their mother a day before she gets married in the presence of all the elders of the clan and goes to her husband’s house the next day. Priest is absent in Kodava weddings. Each Kodavati is treated very special like the Devi-Kanye. To this day the Pathak holds a snake hood on top prominently as protection. Kokke-thati, the traditional and compulsory second jewellery worn at the wedding also has a snake hood as tribute to Naga Deva and Devate.


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4 Responses

  1. Suresh Panje says:

    Thanks a lot for this enlightening piece that many like me never knew. So much so I very much wish these trends are documented by various agencies like INTACH and others besides this portal news digest.

  2. M.J.Poonacha says:

    Hi Bob.The best joke is after reading the article about Pathak the first thing I wanted to do was forward that to you!!! What a joke it would have been….The article was fascinating and vibes well with our old customs and traditions. Every Kodava and Kodavathi must read your beautiful and well presented write up…Keep more of them coming please…Thank you Bopanna Anna for revealing the identity of the author. She is my sister-in-law (Bob as I call her is my own version of Bhabi)

  3. Bhavani says:

    Thank you for the information. I heard from mother Kodava marriage is Gandharva marriage.

  4. Nadikerianda Seetha Uthappa says:

    Hopefully you will be the Kodavathi of this year.Would love to talk to you. If you give me your tel# which I will not share with others

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