Kaadyanaata (kADyanATa) (ಕಾಡ್ಯನಾಟ) is a religious ritual where in a ‘kALinga sarpa’ is worshipped symbolically. This ritual is performed exclusively by the dalit community (Scheduled Castes) of ‘mEra’ (ಮೇರರು) who reside in the coastal districts of South Canara and Udupi, particularly in the regions of uDupi and kundApura. This is essentially a non-Vedic ritual as against other modes of snake worship such as Nagamandala which are practiced in the same region but by communities who practice the Vedic religion. Kaadyanaata is a combination of a religious ritual and a performing art.

Kaadya temples are usually found in the forests which are located near the habitats of ‘mEra’ community. It is essentially a temple complex with kADya at the nucleus. The temple is not enclosed by walls. It has a thatched roof which stands on a set of stone pillars. A huge anthill, almost ten to fifteen feet in height is found at the centre of the temple and many naaga stones (‘naagara kallu’) are found at the bottom of the anthill. It is surrounded by hundreds of worshipped vessels (kaLasha) made of clay, Images of serpents with open hoods are found at the top of these kalashas. KaaDya is known by different names such as amma, taayi, vanadurgi etc and all of them are female goddesses. Songs that are recited on the occasion of Kaadyanaata and the material found at the place of worship vouch for the fact that, this indeed is snake worship.

Kaadyanaata is a ritual that goes on for three days and four nights. It is a participatory ritual in the sense that both the priests and devotees stay together for the duration and become a part of the worshipping community. However the ritual is controlled by individuals known as ‘paatri’ who represents Kaadya and ‘vaidya’ who is in charge of the proceedings. To draw a circular drawing called ‘manDala’ which is about ten feet in diameter making use of powders of five different colours is the crucial part of the ritual. These drawings seem to represent the memories stored in the collective mind of the community. They contain the sun, the moon, stars, lotus, many animals and birds, a number of household implements, Kaadya the black cobra and the yellow cobra. Two whole nights are required to draw the mandala. New clay Kalashas are placed within this manDala and they are worshipped with the accompaniment of dance and music. Vaidya and his assistants sing through the performance. Each act goes with a particular song. They are not legends or historical events. On the contrary they constitute a description of whatever is happening at any given moment. In other words they are verbal descriptions of the worship. Some songs are recited by women and they too constitute a world view which is unique to the folk life.

‘ambODi’ and ‘hiDgaayi’ are two competitive games played during the proceedings. Many aspects of folk theatre can be discerned within the religious framework. ‘kOlabali’ and ‘hagaraNa’ are two such occurrences that are enacted during Kaadyanaata. These occasions and the contingent recreative activities give an opportunity to a marginalized community to come out of the shackles of a caste-bound society at least temporarily and release pent-up emotions. ‘Kaadyanaata’ when studied in conjunction with Nagabali and Nagamandala could give us a number of valuable insights.

Further Readings and Links:

1.      ‘Kadyanata: The Text and the Performance’, by A.V. Navada, 1994, Translated by N.T.Bhat., R.R.C., Udupi.

2.      ‘Kadyanata’ by A.V. Navada and Gayatri Navada (In Kannada)


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