Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Whole Nine Yards - 4

Draped by the River

“Promise never to leave me alone and I will marry you”
“I promise”
“But if I ever find that you are not by my side, I will leave you for ever”
“It will never be so”

And the beautiful Cauveri, daughter of Kaver Muni, the benevolent sage of the Brahmagiri forests, was married to the powerful Rishi Agastya, besotted by the enchanting vision of Cauvery the moment he laid eyes on her.  


But this marriage, made in heaven, had a destiny to fulfil on the blessed land of Kodagu. The very first morning after their wedding, Rishi Agastya realised what he had got himself into. As usual, he was awake before the Sun and his prayer ritual needed him to take a dip in the mountain spring. He would fill his little kamandal (kettle-like container to carry holy water) and take it with him for his prayers. But Cauvery was still asleep and he didn’t want to wake her up. So, he used his powers gained from years of tapasya (penance), collected her in his little kamandal and took her with him. He was pleased to have found a way to keep his promise of never leaving her alone - yes, men have always tried to have their way ;)

This went on for a few days and all was well. Cauvery proved to be as wonderful as she was beautiful and Agastya fell deeper and deeper in love with her, until one day, his perfect plan fell apart. 

He went for his dip as he did every day, placing the kamandal, with Cauveri in it, by the side of the spring. Cauvery woke up unusually early and found herself trapped in a strange way. She looked around for Agastya and couldn’t see him anywhere. She was alone. 

Agastya had broken his promise, but she was going to keep hers. With all her strength, she tossed the kamandal, spilling herself out of it. Agastya was distraught and tried his best to get her back into the kamandal, begging her forgiveness but Cauveri wouldn’t have any of it. She flowed down the mountain, away from him, gaining velocity and girth as she advanced down the hills as a river in full force. When the people came to know of this catastrophe, they rushed out in their hoards to stop her, pleading with her not to abandon them and the land. 

Her love for the people made her stop a while to assure them that she was merely living out her destiny, that she was born to bring water to the soil deprived of rain by evil demons and that it was the purpose of her birth to sustain the bounty hidden in the hills and fulfil her father's desire of serving the people of this mystical land. That, she was always going to be by their side and in their lives, as their river of life. 



She promised them something else then, that holds as dear and strong today … she gave them a unique identity that would make them be known and recognised as her children, for all eternity. Gushing down the contours of the Brahmagiri, her waves forced the flowing garments of the women folk around, turning their pleats to the back and the pallus across their chests, looping over their shoulders.
                                             
Mythology has it that from that day on, the martial women of Kodagu have worn their saris, the Kodava Podiya, in this unique and graceful style that many admire. See how they like to don it today, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRu3Xph3Xl8

There are many delectable twists to this myth but the more modern theories are based on the practical requirements of an agrarian lifestyle and cold mountainous terrains - women needed to be warmly clad and hence the full body-wrap came about and as pleats in the front came in the way of navigating steep hills and work in wet paddy fields, it was more sensible to turn the impeding pleats to the back, away from the rough paths and crops in the front. 

So you see, there is a lot more to the sari than meets the eye! Stay on loom for more :)

___________________
Previously in The Whole Nine Yards series:
The Whole Nine YardsOnce Upon a Pallu, Six Yards of Simmering Svelte

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