Jokumara (jOkumAra) (ಜೋಕುಮಾರ) is a popular folk deity of North Karnataka associated with rain and fertility. There are many legends about his origin. One of them says that he was a servant of the seven famous rishis (Saptarshi) and his name was Joka. He is killed by people belonging to the washer man community because of his objectionable behaviour with a woman of their clan. His death is followed by copious rains and he is worshipped whenever there is need for rains or progeny. According to another set of beliefs in the oral tradition, he is born to Joka and diTTAvva and the name Jokumara is derived from this etymology. Another tradition has it that he was born to Shiva after Ganapati and succeeded in bringing rains to the suffering people with the blessings of Shiva.

There are references to Jokumara in the written tradition as well. They range from the 11th century to the 19th century. ‘Jaatakatilaka’ (1049 A.D.), ‘Jeevasambodhane’, (1200 A.D.) NEminAtha PuraaNa’, (1180 A.D.) ‘Samayapareekshe’, ‘Basavavachana’ (1222 A.D.) ParshvapuraaNa’ (1766 A.D.) and ‘AnubhavashikhaamaNi’ are a few illustrations. All of them refer to his miraculous powers and his deeds.

 Jokumara is associated with a number of communities such as fisherman, (besta) washerman, (maDivALa) goldsmith (suNagAra) okkaliga (farmer) etc. His birth is celebrated during the month of BAdrapada when the rains are anticipated anxiously. The festival commences on Bhadrapada Shukla Ashtami, the day of his birth and concludes on the PoorNimaa of the same month which happens to be the day of his death.

Women belonging to the afore mentioned communities bring clay from a near by tank and make an image of Jokumara with piercing eyes, broad fore head, thick lips, an imposing nose, thick moustaches and over and above all this a huge phallus representing his virility and libidinous energy. The lips of this image are smeared with butter and it is kept in a basket decorated with neem (Margosaa) leaves. This image is carried in a procession from house to house to the accompaniment of songs sung by the women that follow. Alms are collected in the form of food grains and other condiments. The songs delineate the adventures and miracles of Jokumara. The vegetable, snake gourd (paDavala kAyi) is associated with this deity because of symbolic links.

On the last day of the festive season, the devotees are assembled at a predestined place and some porridge (Ambali) is prepared. This is distributed among the devotees as the Prasaadam of Jokumara Swamy. The porridge is taken by the farmers to their respective fields, worshipped and sprinkled all over the field with the belief that the act leads to a rich harvest.

Jokumaraswamy is worshipped also by the barren women hoping to beget progeny. The songs recited in praise of this deity have distinctive qualities and they have an artistic value.

An Extract from the renowned work ‘Castes and Tribes of South India’ by Edgar Thurston and Rangachary: 

“ Concerning an agricultural ceremony in the Bellary  district, in which the Kabberas take part, I gather that " on the first full-moon day in the month of Bhadrapada (September), the agricultural population celebrates a feast called Jokumara, to appease the rain-god. The Barikas (women), who are a sub-division of the Kabbera Caste belonging to the Gaurimakkalu section goes round the town or village in which they live, with a basket on their heads containing margosa leaves, flowers of various kinds, and holy ashes. They beg alms, especially of the cultivating classes (Kapus), and, in return for the alms bestowed (usually grain and food), they give some of the margosa leaves, flowers, and ashes. The Kapus, or cultivators, take the margosa leaves, flowers, and ashes to their fields, prepare cholum Gruel (Millet : Sorghum) mix them with it and sprinkle the ‘ganji’ or gruel all round their fields. After this the Kapu proceeds to the potters’ kiln, fetches ashes from it and makes a figure of a human being. This figure is placed prominently in some convenient spot in the field, and is called Jokumara or the rain God.......... The second type of Jokumara worship is called ‘muddam’, or outlinings of rude representations of human figure with powdered charcoal. These representations are made in the early morning before the bustle of the day commences at the cross roads and thoroughfares. The bArikas who draw these figures are paid small remunerations either in money or kind. The figure represents Jokumara who will bring down rains when insulted by people treading on him. Another type of Jokumara worship also prevails in this district. When rain falls the KApu females model the figure of a naked human being of small size. They place this figure in an open mock palanquin, and go from door to door singing indecent songs and collecting alms. They continue this procession for three or four days, and then abandon the figure in a field adjacent to the village. MAlas then take possession of this abandoned Jokumara in their turn go about singing indecent songs and collecting alms.”


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