Agasthya 5.3 Trails from the plains
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Centre for Excellence in Conservation Science
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The KMTR landscape has several commercial plantations established in early 1900s. They are located in remote and dense forests often with no electricity or basic amenities with only a narrow bridle path leading to the plains below. The plantation workers who have come from the plains bring in their local deities Sodalaimadan, Petchiamman, Pattavarayan etc. to give them moral and religious support to live and work in the forests. The deities are usually a crudely engraved stone set up along paths in the forest, often tied with a red/yellow cloth if it is a goddess and white if it is a male. People walking along these paths would give their offerings and seek blessings from these deities to make their endeavor productive and the journey through the jungle safe.

Due to various reasons many of the plantations have been abandoned and many of the shrines or stones have been left behind, letting the Gods to guard the forest and spirits of their ancestors. Many of these nondescript stones and shrines like Petchiamman at Netterikal; Ishwaran kovil (which is of more recent lineage of deities) at Chinnamanjolai estate and Pattavarayan at Kulirati estate gets visited by people from the plains once a year during some auspicious day to reconnect with their God and may be even the place. They come in groups of 10s to 100s and are usually workers who were born there or had worked there and therefore have an emotional attachment to the place and the deity. Once at the shrine, they would sacrifice a goat or chicken, have a feast and slowly wind their way down through the jungle path in the growing darkness. It is usually a one day affair.

However, in the religious constructs found in those estates, which are still functioning, the transformations are starker. Although relatively small, they have come to represent a replica of any big mainstream shrine with large crowds, loud music blaring in the evenings at full pitch through loud speakers and lights. The whole show can go on for more than a day! Traditional practices such as fresh garland are giving way to artificial ones, and devotees dance to loud music, which at times may be completely unconnected to the religion or spirituality of the temple/church/mosque but nevertheless may persist all through the night. Thus, apart from religious sanctity, they have also come to double serve as recreation centers, which sadly in most cases, are politically motivated



Editorial Team
Editor: Allwin Jesudasan
Associate editor: Rajkamal Goswami
Editorial Review: R. Ganesan, M. Soubadra Devy, T. Ganesh
Design and presentation: Kiran Salegame

Volume 5,  Issue 3
      November 2011

A S H O K A   T R U S T   F O R   R E S E A R C H   I N   E C O L O G Y   A N D   T H E   E N V I R O N M E N T

Trails from the plains
- Chetana H.C
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