Border issues

Check out these abandoned wooden idols. They are called Gadi Maari gombes. Gadi means 'border', Maari is short for Maaramma, a Goddess and Gombe means idol/ doll. Part of your landscape if you live in the Malnad region of Karnataka, you will come across these abandoned figurines on the outskirts of towns and villages.
Maari/ Maaramma, Chaudi/ Chaudeshwari, Gutti/ Guttamma,.... are some of the popular guardian Gods of Malnad. They are mainly worshipped for protection - from diseases, ghosts,..... Maari is usually worshipped for protection from contagious diseases.
Sometime towards the end of summer and before the onset of the rains (the disease season!), a committee of villagers - belonging to various communities, decide to perform the pooja . First, the idol is carved - usually out of some holy tree like the Banyan or the Jack. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about the rituals. I have never been invited and I have absolutely no intentions of gate-crashing! My only involvement has been in the form of the Rs.50/- donation that I'm sometimes expected to make!
Post rituals, the idol is taken out in a procession and abandoned on the outskirts - within the boundary of the neighbouring village. It is to symbolise that Maaramma has come & gone, taking all the ills and diseases with her! From here, it is like a relay for the idol - from one village to the next, until it reaches no-man's land like forest, river,...where it stays. In fact, you'll find many such abandoned idols in the middle of the Agumbe ghaut! Termites and natural elements take over and the idol just disintegrates.

From the fresh look, this idol seems to have been abandoned recently. I don't know why the male figure known as Maara is never really given any prominence. Maybe, he is only the lady's bodyguard? In fact, his presence has always confused me!!
Maara is Manmatha, not exactly a friend of Shiva, and, Maari, is an avataar of Durga- Shiva's best pal!
So, is Shiva okay with Maara-Maari going out together? Of course, he shouldn't mind - after all, they are fighting diseases and that is a good cause! Now, M-M means fighting in Hindi! Mix it up what I'm saying and it is such a funny rigmarole- Maara- Maari doing Maara-Maari!!


  1. A lot of these rituals are remnants of religious practices that were in existence in different parts of India before the Vedic Hindu religion took over. Some of those local practices may have merged with Vedic Hindu customs - either because the local practices had to do so for survival or because the Vedic Hindu religion had to incorporate them to establish its legitimacy. Apparently, the worship of the Shiva linga is one such example, where the religious practices of fertility cults were included within the Vedic Hindu customs.

  2. Nice pictures. Would probably never have realised the significance of these "dolls by the road-side" earlier!

  3. You know, Sandhya - July 25 is remembered in DK as 'Maari Bolla' day (day in 1974 when the district had unimaginable floods). Checked out the Kannada dictionary. 'Maara' / 'Maari' means destruction/ nuisance/ hindrance,.....No wonder, one comes across
    'Plague Maaramma', 'Malaria Maaramma',....! 'Maaramma' worship, I think, has its origins in some desperate moment. Won't be surprised if I come across 'Bolla Maaramma' along some river bank in DK :) 'Bolla' is 'flood' in Tulu.

  4. Is it possible that Shiva actually isn't happy with Maara going out with Maari and the effect of his wrath on Maara creates a splash zone around the place which keeps the contagious diseases away?

  5. Shiva bhakt! Feel free to believe so!


Post a Comment