THE HUTTARI FESTIVAL
Coorgs (Kodavas) have three major festivals. They are Keil Poldu, Huttari and Kaveri Shankaramana. Huttari, the annual rice harvest festival is perhaps the grandest of the three festivals and celebrated by most of the communities living in Coorg (Kodagu). Huttari is usually celebrated in late November or early December. It is celebrated on different days in different parts of the district, and usually falls on a full moon day .
The house and its surroundings are cleaned, buildings are whitewashed and doorways are decorated with a string of mango leaves and marigold on the festival day. After a bath, the person designated to cut the first paddy stalks dressed in white kupya( traditional Coorg dress for men) prepares the mat on the threshing floor, and supervises the preparation of the nere which is a collection of leaves from a particular tree which is rolled and tied together. The lady of the house fills the Huttari basket with paddy, some rice and rice flour. Close to it is a kutti(vessel made with hollow bamboo) with milk, honey, ghee, sesame seeds etc. A sickle is also placed with this. A mukkali (three legged stool) with the bolcha (lamp) and a plate with rice, betel leaves and areca is also kept. A basket with puffed rice and honey is also sent to the fields.
Women take a large dish full of rice and place a lighted lamp on it. This is carried by an unmarried girl, who goes ahead of the family members to the fields. The head of the family follows carrying a basket with honey and milk and the sickle. He pours the milk at the base of the paddy plant and all shout ‘Poli, Poli Deva!’ (Shower, Shower O God! Asking for a good harvest) The person with the kutti, ties the nere to the base of the paddy cluster. A single gun shot is fired in the air. The paddy sheaves are cut in odd numbers 5, 7, 9, 11 and placed in the kutti (basket). He also distributes it to those present. All return to the threshing area shouting Poli,Poli Deva . Stalks of rice are placed in the threshing area. At the entrance of the house they are welcomed by an unmarried girl who washes the feet of the kutti carrier and gives him some milk to drink. The man with the kutti, takes elders’ blessings by touching their feet. Elakki puttu (steamed rice preparation) with rice flour, sesame, ginger, coconut, bitter gourd skin, etc., is prepared. Bananas, milk, honey are added and little balls are made and placed on pipal leaves. The puttu is then served with other dishes like Thambutt (made with bananas, rice flour, coconut scraping, sesame seeds) and sweet rice payasa ( milk, sugar preparation with the new rice).
Meedi (food offering kept for one’s ancestors) is an important part of the celebration. All the cooked dishes are first kept for the ancestors. Bursting of firecrackers form an important part of the celebration.
There are many types of kol (stick) dances performed during Huttari. At the end of the dance is “Pariya Kali” (Dance of the Shields). Nowadays, sticks are used instead of shields. The dancers in pairs, strike each other below the knees. The spectators stop the dance if one member is stronger than the other. After three rounds they stop and embrace each other.
The festival brings together the village folk, and is a sort of thanksgiving for the bounty that has been received.