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Mortuary Ritual of the Badagas 
of Southern India 

Paul [lockings 

February 2X, 2001 

Publication 1512 


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Mortuary Ritual of the Badagas 
of Southern India 

Paul Hockings 

Adjunct Curator 
Department of Anthropology 
Field Museum of Natural History 
1400 South Lake Shore Drive 
Chicago. Illinois 60605-2496 U.S.A. 

Address for correspondence: 
Department of Anthropology — 027 
University of Illinois 
1007 West Harrison Street 
Chicago. Illinois 60607-7139 U.S.A. 

Accepted June 16, 1998 
Published February 28, 2001 
Publication 1512 


© 2001 Field Museum of Natural History 

ISSN 0071-4739 


For Murray B. Emeneau 
Centenarian Nilgiriologist 


The Badagas 

The Badagas form the largest indigenous com- 
munity among over a dozen tribal groups on the 
Nilgiri Hills, in the extreme northwest of Tamil 
Nadu State in southern India. Their name, badaga 
(meaning "northerner"), was ascribed to them af- 
ter they migrated here from the plains just to the 
north, in the decades following the breakup of the 
Vijayanagar Empire in 1565. After establishing 
farms on the hills, the men, using fixed fields and 
some swidden cultivation, grew millets, barley, 
and wheat. People rely on the rainfall of two reg- 
ular monsoons. 

Their villages consist of several rows of houses, 
with work yards in front, that lie along the slope 
of a hill and are surrounded by fields. A few Hin- 
du temples or shrines are also included, and mod- 
ern villages have piped water, often some shops, 
perhaps too a school, post office, and bus service. 
Other features are a village green and usually a 
funerary ground. 

Traditionally, Badaga society was a chiefdom, 
and Badagas still have a hereditary paramount 
chief, below whom are four divisional headmen. 
Every village also has its own headman, and sev- 
eral neighboring villages together constitute a 
commune or circle of villages with its own head- 
man. At each of these levels, councils still exist, 
but their authority has been greatly undermined 
by modern law courts. The headmen, who could 
once dictate severe punishments, today are mainly 
involved with petty disputes or ceremonial duties. 

The community is divided into a number of 
phratries, large social groups made up of two or 
more exogamous clans; phratries are culturally 
distinct from or differently ranked from each oth- 
er. There are two clans each in the case of the 
Toreyas, Be:das, and Kumba:ras, three in the case 
of Wodeyas, and rather more in the other cases. 
Some might prefer to call the phratries subcastes, 
because although they have no economic special- 

ization, they, like Indian subcastes, do form a so- 
cial hierarchy, with the conservative Lingayat 
group, the Wodeyas, somewhat culturally isolated 
at the top and the commune headman's erstwhile 
servants, the Toreyas, at the bottom. Between 
these two extremes there are a phratry of vege- 
tarians and four phratries of meat-eaters, including 
the numerically dominant ( i.uul.i phratry. The 
Christian Badagas, started as a small minority by 
the first Protestant conversion in 1858, now form 
a separate meat-eating phratry that is ranked be- 
low the Toreyas but still respected. Kotas, Kurum- 
bas, and Todas are neighboring tribal groups that 
are unrelated to the Badagas but closely associ- 
ated with them. 

Most villages belong to just one particular clan, 
and at marriage a bride normally moves from her 
natal village to her husband's. Polygyny is ac- 
ceptable, though rare. Divorce and remarriage are 
easy, and widows can remarry. Although a dowry, 
a financial settlement on the groom, has become 
required during the past three decades, it is not a 
traditional part of Badaga marriage arrangements. 
Instead, a bridewealth of up to 200 rupees or so 
was paid by the groom's family. People prefer to 
marry a cross-cousin, a father's sister's daughter 
or mother's brother's daughter; but other, more 
distant relations are acceptable, if they belong to 
the appropriate clan. 

Except for nearly four thousand Christians, all 
Badagas are Saivite Hindus. A sizable minority, 
however, are Lingayats, a sect that is almost con- 
fined to Kamataka State. They take Siva as their 
prime deity, and worship him through a phallic 
emblem, the liriga. Among the Badaga Lingayats 
are the Wodeyas, a culturally distinct phratry of 
conservative ViraSaivas. 

The Hindu Badagas, including even the Lin- 
gayat clans, worship quite a number of gods, all 
of whom can be viewed as "aspects" of Siva. 
During the year each village has several festivals, 
and several life-cycle rituals are practiced, includ- 
ing complex funerals and weddings. 


Badaga farmers continued some swidden cul- 
tivation until the 1870s. By then they grew not 
only millets, barley, and wheat but also many Eu- 
ropean crops. They have since continued to adopt 
certain alien customs and techniques. Thus, crops 
of foreign origin are grown on machine-made ter- 
races with the help of chemical fertilizers, truck 
transport, improved seed, and even crop insur- 
ance, and their small, newly developed tea plan- 
tations must maintain standards necessary for the 
world markets. 

Such progressive attitudes mark the Badagas as 
unusually successful farmers, and population fig- 
ures reflect this: they rose from a reported 2,207 
people in 1812 to about 200,000 in 2000. By de- 
veloping cash-crop cultivation, they have man- 
aged to accommodate this greatly increased labor 
force and also to improve their standard of living. 
There is now a sizable middle class living in the 
four British-built towns on the Plateau (Ootaca- 
mund, Kotagiri, Coonoor, and Wellington), and 
the community has several thousand college grad- 
uates. For nearly a century, fathers have been 
willing to invest in college education for their 
sons, so that today Badaga doctors, lawyers, en- 
gineers, teachers, and government officials are nu- 
merous, and there are also professors, agrono- 
mists, bankers, military and judicial personnel, 
and politicians. 

The Ebb of Life 

A truism of modern studies of the funeral any- 
where is that the funeral is viewed as "a reasser- 
tion of the social order at the time of death" 
(Bloch and Parry 1982: 6). This South Indian 
study does not refute that functionalist position; 
indeed, it accepts it, but it also tries to show — 
with much ethnographic detail — just how the so- 
cial order is supported in the arrangement of the 
complex mortuary ceremonies to which the Bad- 
agas are heir. 

It is my view that for the Badagas, the funeral 
is the most complex of all ceremonies because it 
is the most important, and it is the most important 
because, being a communal rather than a family 
ceremony (as a naming or wedding is), it makes 
clearer than anything else does the key roles, the 
status differentials, the order of social precedence, 
and the dominant values in Badaga peasant soci- 
ety. In its premodern incarnation (during previous 
centuries), that society was also preliterate, which 

means that its youth then lacked any means of 
formally studying how their own society was or- 
ganized. Ceremonies, I will assert, made up for 
this deficiency in learning by providing visible 
demonstrations of the most necessary of all les- 
sons, how to behave correctly in society. One of 
my informants in Ke:ti village hazarded a guess 
that by the time it was his turn, he might have 
attended something like three hundred local fu- 
nerals — perhaps four or five a year. During this 
time, he will have seen everyone he knows acting 
out a formal role vis-a-vis his or her fellows, he 
will have seen such roles changing through the 
years, and furthermore, this experience will allow 
him to correlate variations in the performance of 
the ceremony with the social status of each par- 
ticular dead person and each live mourner. For 
children, the lesson is crucial. 

Such subcultural variation is itself important, as 
the very comparison between any one funeral and 
others that an individual has previously attended 
is a subtle lesson in social structure. That is the 
reason why I have chosen to give here a full ac- 
count of how the funeral is performed, a descrip- 
tion that does not stop at a broad description to 
fit all Badaga Hindu funerals (as do Natesa Sastri 
1892 or Noble and Noble 1965). The description 
could have been expanded considerably by pre- 
senting the general features of Badaga Christian 
burial too, but since I am confident that all readers 
are broadly familiar with the protocol of Protes- 
tant or Catholic funeral ceremonies, I will refrain 
from lengthening this account. 1 

This is not to imply that the general function 
of funeral ceremonies is only a pedagogical one. 
They certainly have a psychological impact on all 
participants, because they allow for a socially ap- 
proved release of emotion, and the ritual locates 
each individual precisely in the social fabric while 
highlighting the power differences — the sociopo- 
litical structure — that will continue to be funda- 
mental to interpersonal relations in this society. 
The resultant reaffirmation of status serves to re- 
integrate each person into the social fabric and to 
reassert the most general principles of social or- 

From the beginning to the end of a funeral, the 
household is intimately involved with the pro- 
ceedings. On the first day after the death, the 
corpse lies on a much-decorated cot, which is first 

1 See Nanjundayya and Ananthakrishna Iyer (1930: 1- 
76) for a basic account of South Indian practice, both 
Catholic and Protestant, by a Hindu anthropologist. 


placed in front of the bereaved house and then in 
the "funeral yard" ( ke.ri), while friends and 
relatives come to pay their respects and comfort 
the grieving family. Later, the corpse moves on 
by stages to its cremation or burial, but since the 
soul may still be lurking around the house, the 
final act of the funeral a few days after death in- 
volves putting a parting gift of food on the roof 
of the Great House to help provision the soul on 
its journey. The rites of separation that constitute 
a funeral are plotted schematically in Drawings 1 
and 5. People indicate no expectation that the soul 
will ever return by means of reincarnation, for in 
Badaga thinking, this has been the soul's final 
worldly sojourn. 

For convenience, 1 will present the Badaga 
mortuary rites in five stages: preparation, display, 
procession, disposal, and subsequent rites. From 
the point of view of understanding social struc- 
ture, the procession is the most interesting stage. 
Since there is so much variation in the protocol. 

depending on precisely who the deceased was — 
his or her age, sex, phratry membership, status in 
terms of wealth or poverty — I present the ethno- 
graphic description in a double-column format. In 
the pages that follow, the left-hand column gives 
the general description of what happens, while the 
right-hand one (which can be skipped) presents 
additional information and established variations 
on what is described in the left-hand column. Fi- 
nally, I analyze the structure of the funeral. 

Much ritual must occur before the actual dis- 
posal of the corpse. Among Hindu Badagas, there 
are two main forms of disposal: Lingayats, wheth- 
er Adikari, Kanakka, Wodeya, or Kohgaru, bury 
their dead, whereas the other phratries and clans 
commonly cremate the dead. If a Ha:ruva clans- 
woman marries a Lingayat, she will be given a 
Lingayat burial, as she is united with her hus- 
band's family. Christian Badagas, however, only 
bury their dead, and normally do so in a desig- 
nated cemetery. 




Last meal 
for soul 

Separation of a man 
from his occupation: 
last milk, last touch of 



Separation of soul 

from sins of lifetime 

2. Separation of wife 

and husband 


Separation of 
body from soul 


Head to West 

Head to West 


Head to North 

Head to West 

Head to South 

Drawing 1. Movements of the corpse during a funeral. 

Preparation for a Funeral 

The Moments Before Death 

If an old person is very ill and is expected to die, 
a message 1 will be sent to most of the surrounding 
villages, even though they may be of different 
phratries or even of different tribes, telling people 
that they should come quickly and visit the un- 
fortunate person before he dies, in order to bless 
him. The hamlet headman selects the men to carry 
this news — traditionally, in most areas, he will se- 
lect the Toreya phratry servants — and he gener- 
ally expects that some 5 to 10 percent of the in- 
vitees will respond; however, no specific number 
of visitors is suggested. In the case of auspicious 
ceremonies, the headman sends an invitation to 
each house, but for matters of illness or death, as 
for general meetings, the messengers will inform 
only the other headmen, and leave the extent of 
the response up to them. A headman who receives 
such an invitation will select a man in his village 
who is related to the dying person, and that man 
will organize a group, usually including the head- 
man, that will make the visit together. It is then 
up to this organizer to estimate how large the par- 
ty should be, on the basis of his knowledge of the 
afflicted family. Invited relatives risk dissension if 
they do not attend. If it is a woman who is dying, 
more women than men will go. whereas if it is a 
man, the group 2 might include only men. A hus- 
band and wife are not obliged to go together in 
these visiting groups, but there should be at least 
one person from each household in the village. 
The headman does not compel certain people to 
go, but once the group has been selected, he calls 
them together to send them off. Men in such a 


1 This message is not sent in the case of a sick person 
under age 40 — and people might not come anyway — 
because there is a good chance of his recovery, and it 
is feared that the impact of such melancholy visitors 
could cause heart failure in a weak person. When no 
messages are sent, only members of the sick person's 
village are likely to visit him. 

The headman's message may invite a party to visit 
but may perhaps stipulate that they should not bless the 
invalid, who will perceive the reason and then worry too 
much. (Not all quarters of the Nilgiri Hills made use of 
the Toreya men in this way.) 

: Reciprocity enters into the arrangement of these 
groups, for if the organizer had at some point in the past 
refused to join such a group, he might now find that 
people refuse to join his group. Yet they tell the head- 
man why they arc refusing, and so he levies a small fine 
on the organizer, pockets the money, and after that, those 
holding back agree to go along. 

Preparation for a Funeral 

party visiting a sick person should take along 
some milk, 3 while the women take rice. These 
contributions are pooled, and each substance is 
carried in a single container. Apart from this, the 
visitors bring no gifts. 

Whether or not they bring a band of Kota mu- 
sicians with them, visitors from other villages are 
not honored to the extent that they would be at a 
wedding, during which a Kota band is brought 
some distance to meet them and to accompany 
them back to the village. For a funeral, they arrive 
in the yard in front of the Great House, where 
their sticks and umbrellas are taken from them. 4 
On reaching this other village, each group should 
first be greeted by its headman. In earlier times 
each man would carry an umbrella as a mark of 
some status, and this would be taken out of his 
hands by some man as a gesture of respect and 
placed on one side. At the same time, men take 
the milk from male visitors and women take the 
grain from female visitors. Once these marks of 
respect have been shown, the more junior per- 
sons bow down to senior persons, who put their 
hands on the foreheads of the ones leaning for- 
ward and say, "Live long and prosperously!" 
and then, "Live for a century!" (Rivers 1906: 
631, Fig. 69). In this context a senior person is 
a priest or someone of an older generation, or 
simply a man or woman of greater age than the 
other person. 

If the visiting men form a large group, they sit 
on the grass of the manda, the village's council- 
place, but if they are only a few, they will sit on 
mats or jute sacking on the veranda of the house 
in which the sick person lies. They are then given 
drinks of coffee or hot milk. The women in the 
party do not sit out in the open air 5 but either are 
invited directly into the outer room of the house 
or sit on the veranda. 

After this drink, the visitors take off their san- 
dals and go inside to see the sick person, who lies 
usually in the inner, more sacrosanct room ( 
mane) of the house — which is also the warmer 
one, because it contains a hearth (Hockings 1999: 
34-36). If space permits, the men eat some food 
there later. Women visitors can also enter this 
room to bless the sick, but they cannot eat or even 
drink water there, now or at any other time. The 
milk brought by the visitors, all mixed together, 
is offered as the visitors say, "We have brought 
some milk and you must take a little." Even if he 
is unconscious, 6 a little of the milk will be put 
into the sick man's mouth, for a person should not 
die while holding any feelings of enmity toward 

3 Formerly the women would bring some little millet 
{sa:me, or Panicum sumatrense), now hardly grown. 

4 Toreyas should do this in a Gauda village, but by 
1963 they were no longer willing to do so. However, in 
Gauda and Ha:ruva villages, these marks of respect 
might still be shown to the visitors by some Toreyas who 
are acting under instructions from the headman. If the 
group is small, the headman invites each individual by 
name, saying "Come along!" But if the group is large, 
he calls them as a group. 

Until the early part of this century, there was a rather 
more complicated gesture of greeting. As a man came 
toward a visitor to take his stick or umbrella out of re- 
spect, the latter would throw it on the ground in front 
of him. Then, as the villager bent down to pick it up, 
the visitor, with both hands unencumbered, could touch 
the man's forehead and bless him before he had a chance 
to do the same. It is not so good to bless with one hand; 
greater sincerity is shown by using both. By the 1960s 
this elaborate form of greeting was going out of fashion. 

5 This restriction does not apply to immature young 

6 If he is unconscious, then another man utters the 

Chapter One 

anyone in other villages, and taking some of their 
milk signifies there are no bad feelings. Then the 
visitors who are senior to the invalid bless him or 
her while touching his or her head, while those 
who are junior fall down and touch their heads to 
the sick person's feet as he or she, if conscious, 
blesses them (without moving). 

While in the sick person's village, the visitors 7 
must be fed. This meal is cooked on the yard 
(ke.ri) in front of a house by some young men. 
Women, who are the usual cooks at home, may 
not help in this task, except to carry the water and 
firewood. Once the meal is cooked, the visitors 
carry the food into various houses to eat. 

After eating and staying a few hours, all of the 
visitors leave except for the close relatives among 
them. They remain there until death occurs. Every 
night until the person dies, the villagers make a 
lot of noise, chiefly by singing long epic ballads 
accompanied by a flute. 8 The singing, though 
common, is not compulsory and is certainly not a 
ritual requirement. No prayers or jokes will be 
contained in these songs. The main purpose of the 
singing, apart from entertainment, is to keep the 
people awake through the night as they tend to 
the sick, for Badagas say that if a man dies un- 
cared for, it means he has no relatives. 

The household watches for omens of death. If 
anyone dreams about buffaloes, it means that 
death is coming to the village in the near future, 
for in Hinduism, the god Hema or Yeman is 
thought to come riding on a buffalo when he las- 
sos the soul of a pure man. He cannot be seen by 
mortals, yet dogs can see him, so if the village 
dogs start howling, it can mean that Hema is near- 
by. If a younger person in the house is very ill 
when his old parents hear a dog howl, one of them 
may pray that God let the child recover and take 
the parent's life instead. Some believe that such a 
prayer is sometimes granted. 

When the person seems to be in the throes of 
death, a tiny old gold coin (a Vi.rara.ya hand) or 
silver 25-paise piece covered with butter or 
dipped in clarified butter used to be put in the 
mouth, to be swallowed if possible, or otherwise 
just remaining on the tongue. The butter is to give 
sustenance on the long final journey (Schad 1911: 
2). Some dying people eagerly asked for the im- 
portant coin (Rhiem 1900: 505; Thurston and 
Rangachari 1909, I: 111). Failing that, in earlier 
centuries, it was tied in a cloth to the arm or put 
in the mouth just after death; sometimes even two 
coins were swallowed (Harkness 1832: 131, note; 
Morike 1849: 102; Natesa Sastri 1892: 833; 

7 If the afflicted family is very poor, this could be a 
burdensome expense for them, so the family's headman 
will call a meeting beforehand, during which he decides 
how much each household should contribute (in money 
and firewood) toward this meal. If the headman is 
wealthy, he may supply the meals himself. 

The cooking may be done on any front yard except 
that which lies in front of the Great House, which will 
be required for other ritual activities and which would 
be polluted by the presence of the corpse. If priests arc 
among the visitors, their food must be prepared in sep- 
arate pots by men only, within a purified place such as 
the Great House, and it must be served to them imme- 
diately afterwards. For other visitors, the rice may have 
been prepared beforehand and kept ready in a heap. 
Only men serve the visitors, and no priest can be served 
from a pot from which anyone else, even another priest, 
has been served, unless several priests can be served 
simultaneously from the same pot. Priests may eat when 
visiting the sick but not during a funeral, because it is 

Feeding of visitors (except priests) also occurs follow- 
ing a death (see below). In the same way, if the bereaved 
family is too poor to meet the expense, the headman 
will cover it by taking a levy from each household. In 
a case such as this, he will try to keep the costs low. 

8 The Badaga cane flute (buguri), with a range of two 
octaves, is made by a Toda friend. Women sometimes 
sing on these occasions. For an examination of epic po- 
etry, see Hockings (1997). 

Preparation for a Funeral 

Thurston and Rangachari 1909. 1: 110). The coin 
is considered to be a fee for the guardian of the 
bridge that the soul must cross (Gover 1871: 66). 
If the coin is still put in the mouth by a family, 
then it must be placed there before the corpse 
leaves the house. 9 

Preparation for the Ceremony 

As soon as life is extinguished, drops of milk and 
butter are put into the mouth of the corpse: this 
constitutes permission from the relatives for the 
soul to depart. They also put a few grains of fox- 
tail millet (Setaria italica) with water into the 
mouth. These people must be ready to close the 
eyes of the dead and to straighten out the arms 
and legs. If Lingayat, they must cross the arms on 
the chest, close the mouth and eyes, and cross the 
legs in a sitting position — a posture of prayer — 
before rigor mortis ensues (Figs, la and b). The 
women do none of these things but rather begin 
wailing, shedding tears, and beating their breasts. 
They may also sing impromptu songs about the 
departed. 10 

Immediately, the headman is summoned and 
is offered a seat at the threshold. There the clos- 
est relative of the deceased says to him, "This 
corpse is for you." With that, the headman be- 
comes responsible for the conduct of the funeral, 
which is thus a communal and not a family affair. 
He talks with prominent villagers and decides 
how the funeral will be conducted, especially 
whether it will be held on the morrow or the day 
after. This depends on how far away the furthest 
relatives live, for before the days of buses, all 
relatives had to walk to the event. In remote vil- 
lages, a funeral might even be delayed three or 
four days. Much-improved bus and taxi trans- 
portation today makes it possible to conclude the 
funeral on the day following death. The number 
of villages to be informed of the event is now 
decided according to the amount of resources the 
bereaved family has available (for feeding the 
likely guests). 

The headman sends out groups of two or three 
messengers, each group going to several villages 
in one general area, to give news of the death and 
invite people to the funeral. It is not compulsory 
for every Badaga village in the Nilgiris to be no- 
tified unless the dead man was very important. 
The men go as a group because, at least in former 
times, individuals were afraid of Kurumba sorcery 

9 Today only a small minority of people follow the 
custom, since there have been too many cases of a per- 
son swallowing the coin and then recovering. The coin 
was originally a gold hana (or Canteroy fanam; Yule 
and Burnell 1903: 157-58) of about Vi-inch diameter, 
from the reign of Kanthirava Narsa Raja of Mysore, 
1638-1659 (Belli Gow'der 1923-1941: 7). Today the 
coin would be made of silver, not copper or gold. 

Kotas have the same custom of placing a hana in the 
mouth (Jagor 1914: 63). 

10 When a headman dies, a respected male member of 
his family will take charge of the funeral. After a week 
or so a new headman will be chosen from the same 
family, and usually he is the dead man's son. The head- 
man's assistant (gaundike) does not become headman. 
Similarly, a dead assistant to a headman will be replaced 
by another male, generally one from his family. 

If the man who died was someone of importance, in- 
vitations will be given to all of the Badaga phratries 
living nearby. For someone like a commune headman 
(u:r gauda), Badagas will be invited from all villages, 
since everyone knew him and quarrels might develop if 
certain villages are not invited. On the other hand, no 
one is ever invited from a village in which an epidemic 
is present. 

If a man is ill, the headman will relieve him of mes- 
senger duty on this occasion but will ask him to assume 
this duty at a later one. But if a man simply cannot go 
because of a conflicting engagement, then it is he and 
not the headman who must find a substitute, either by 
paying that person or by agreeing to take up the duty 
whenever it is the substitute's turn. 

If a person dies outside his hamlet (hatti), the corpse 
can be carried back to the hamlet from elsewhere in the 
same commune (u:r), but if he dies beyond the com- 
mune boundaries, it can never be brought back. In such 
a case the corpse is burnt or buried at the proper place 
in the hamlet in which the person died (this is called 
ka:du sa:vu, forest funeral) or else is disposed of at the 
main grounds of the commune to which that particular 
hamlet belongs. In all such cases, and also in the burial 
of an infant, in which no rituals are performed, people 
come to the household later to express their condolences. 

The relatives, however, bring back a handful of earth 
from that cremation or burial ground and later use it in 

Chapter One 

when traveling alone beyond their village bound- 
ary. Close relatives of the deceased are not chosen 
to be messengers, nor is the job now confined to 
Toreya servants of the headman (who received a 
small fee for each job they did; Thurston 1906: 
190). The headman usually works along each line 
of houses in selecting appropriate messengers on 
these occasions. He keeps a record of who is sent 
where, so that the next time he has to send mes- 
sengers on a similar task, he can quickly decide 
who should go to which place: those who did not 
go on the previous occasion will go the next time, 
those who went for long distances before will next 
just go short distances, and so on. If a household 
contains several male adults, the headman may 
select several messengers, while a house with 
only one adult male will be expected to send one 
messenger. Money to help meet the communal 
costs of a funeral, on the other hand, is levied in 
equal amounts from each household, regardless of 
how many members it has. 

Close relatives will already know that the per- 
son has been sick, and so may have made some 
preparations for the funeral beforehand." In par- 
ticular, the natal village of a new widow has to 
make certain preparations; and so, if her village 
is at a considerable distance, relatives at the dead 
man's bedside will go straightaway to her village 
with the news. The spouse, parent, or son of the 
deceased is polluted immediately on hearing of 
the death, even if this relative is not then in the 
house where the death occurred, and such a per- 
son cannot then participate in some wedding or 
festival that is about to begin. The village head- 
man, the gau4a, will serve as the chief mourner 
(since this is to be a communal ceremony rather 
than a family one), and all other male participants 
will express their condolences to him. He has a 
cloth draped loosely over the head and sits on the 
bank in front of the house while the men come to 
him. All women who attend touch heads with a 
close female relative of the dead, who sits nearby 
on the veranda. 

For an adult's funeral, the hamlet headman will 
invite anyone he wants to, but generally the in- 
vited will only be people from his own locality 
{na.du, one of the four quarters of the Nilgiri Pla- 
teau) and from those Badaga villages with which 
his village has affinal ties. A Toreya "village ser- 
vant" (u:r Toreya), but not his family, may be 
invited to a funeral of any phratry: he will shave 
his head after the funeral of a Gauda phratry 
member. If he goes to announce the death in other 
hamlets, it is because of a fiction that he is the 

a "dry funeral." For this ceremony the earth is tied in 
a cloth to the neck of a walking stick, and all the usual 
funerary rituals are then performed on the stick. If a 
person is eaten by a tiger, carried away in a flood, buried 
by government authorization after an autopsy, or burned 
as a plague victim (such that no corpse remains), the 
rituals can be performed over some object that the de- 
ceased was fond of or over a walking stick, in the case 
of a man. or a headband, in the case of a woman. And 
in earlier times, if a man disappeared, his relatives would 
wait 12 years to see if he might return. After that they 
held the dry funeral using a stick in place of the corpse. 
(Should he return, he was isolated from the community 
until a ritual of reinstatement had been performed.) 

Following an epidemic during which many bodies may 
have been buried without ceremony, a communal disposal 
of walking sticks to which earth has been tied will occur. 
All will be placed on a single cot. then each family will 
do the obsequies for its particular members), and after- 
ward a joint grain-placing ceremony is performed at the 
Funeral Grassland. Any affines among the dead are rep- 
resented by sticks laid on a separate cot. and these receive 
a separate grain-placing ceremony. Those sticks repre- 
senting the dead wives of affines also go on the affines* 
cot. As the cot stands in the yard of the Great House its 
head is oriented toward the west, and the sticks lie parallel 
to each other with their handles toward the west. They lie 
in order of generational level of the dead, with the sen- 
iormost to the south and the juniormost to the north. With- 
in each generational level they arc ranked according to 
actual age but are not separated by sex. This is relevant 
to those who will later be dropping grain on the sticks. 
Finally, depending on the custom of the phratry, all the 
sticks will be burned on one pyre or else will be buried 
in a pit. If buried, as is the commoner practice now, sticks 
for the oldest generation will lie to the east and those of 
the youngest to the west side of the pit. Within each gen- 
erational level they are also ranked according to the actual 
age of each of the deceased. 

There is a rare custom in the villages of Ke:ti commune 
whereby a small heap of leaves has to be thrown on the 
place where a corpse has rested while on the way back 
from one hamlet to its home. After that, any other pass- 
erby who sees this heap will pluck another leaf and add 
it to the pile. The leaves are of hubbe, with six distinct 
species (Hockings and Pilot-Raichoor 1992: 5%). 

11 Affines of the dead must make an offering, called 
wlla.ii. It can be presented at any time right up to the 
morning after the korwnbu ritual (see below, pp. 58-60). 
For dead children, the gift must be cash; for adults, either 
cash or foodstuff, generally rice. Traditionally, the mini- 
mum sum for a dead child was I rupee and the maximum 
price was 10 rupees; for adults, the minimum was 5 ru- 
pees and the maximum 100. or else an offering ranging 
from one-half to two bags of rice was made. A wealthy 
donor might give bags of beans or dhall (legumes) in- 
stead. But the is not really an outright gift, and 
records are kept of what is given by everybody; these 
offerings will have to be returned at some later funeral. 

If a baby dies before it is named (on the 40th day), 
the body is treated like the afterbirth and is buried in the 
usual place without ceremony. If someone is prompted 
to ask the mournful family "Who died?", the answer 
must be "Nobody." In effect, an unnamed baby is not 

Preparation for a Funeral 

"eldest son" of the deceased (who would indeed 
have addressed him archaically as ida mane ma.ti, 
"outer-room son"). Other Toreyas do not gener- 
ally attend, nor would he want them to, lest they 
get a share of what he is to be given. This tradi- 
tionally amounted to 5 rupees, 7 liters of grain, 
and some of the cloths from the canopy on the 
yard of the Great House or, alternatively, from the 
catafalque. 12 Toda and Kurumba tribal associates 
of the bereaved family are not required to attend, 
but the Kota associate (muttu Ko.ta) must be pre- 
sent, 13 because he should supply music; at least 
he did so up until 1930. Nonetheless, at the fu- 
nerals of important men, some Todas are also in- 
vited to attend. If they do so, they bring an em- 
broidered shawl, a walking stick, and a bamboo 
milk container or other vessel, all of which they 
have made themselves (the embroidery being 
done by their womenfolk). There is no particular 
ceremony when the Todas arrive, and there is no 
ritual requirement that they must perform. 14 Their 
gifts are simply taken by some villagers and 
placed under the cot. 

Because of the aforementioned threat of sor- 
cery (not to speak of tigers in earlier times), the 
messengers leave only after dawn the next day, 
even if the deceased died 1 2 or more hours earlier. 
When they enter another commune with the news, 
they must go straight to the commune headman 
(u:r gauda) and tell him. In the case of the con- 
stituent hamlets ihatti), on the other hand, it is 
sufficient if a messenger stands on a nearby hill- 
top and shouts the news, unless it is already even- 
ing, in which case he will have to go into the 
hamlet because people inside their houses, with 
the doors shut, would not hear him shouting from 
afar. No matter where he is delivering the news, 
he must stand with his turban under the left arm 
while he is doing so. 

A major factional dispute that arose around 
1930 between reformists and traditionalists cen- 
tered on the propriety of dancing at a funeral, 
and thus of having a Kota band play music 
(Hockings 1980: 220). I5 Since that period, most 
Badaga families have abandoned the practice of 
inviting a Kota band, and indeed, Kotas today 
usually have something better to do with their 
time. Traditionally, though (as described below), 
it was a ritual requirement that some Kotas play 
music at every Badaga funeral or memorial cer- 
emony, and the tradition is still sometimes ob- 
served by a more conservative family in certain 
villages. Accordingly, the headman of the be- 
reaved village would send two men to invite the 

a social being. Older children, on the other hand, who 
died in the 19th century were given a crude catafalque 
and most of the funeral ritual (Birch 1838: 104-5). 

12 A century ago, the Toreyas were reported to touch 
the feet of a corpse of a higher phratry and then to "wor- 
ship" it (Natesa Sastri 1892: 834). 

13 If there has been a quarrel, the headman will send 
two of the most prominent men of his village to tell the 
Kota associate, should he refuse to come, that they will 
assume the responsibility for settling the issue. If Kotas 
cannot play because, for example, there is smallpox in 
their villages, then the Badaga has to get permission 
from the Kota headman before inviting a Kurumba or 
Irula band instead. 

Well-to-do Badagas living near a boundary between 
divisions (na.du) may have two Kota associates, one in 
each region. Tanga:du, a Ha:ruva village in such a sit- 
uation, had some 20-30 households that traditionally 
had two Kota associates each. 

It is said that the cost of bringing a Kota band from 
another division could be triple what it would be in one's 
own locality because of the longer journey. A person in 
the bereaved village may therefore tell his relative in 
another locality, "I'll arrange a Kota band for you here, 
and you need not bring one." Such an arrangement 
would in fact mean that the headman would engage the 
Kota band and that the visitor from the other division 
would meet the costs. This is why, when a man in a 
distant village hears about the funeral, he may ask 
whether he can engage some Kotas nearby. Of course, 
he must make such arrangements immediately. 

In a case where, as often happens, the same Kota is 
the associate to several of the dead person's kin, his band 
may play at different points in the funeral on behalf of 
different relatives of the dead — in which case the musi- 
cians are paid double. Only one band plays at a time when 
several are present. The associates of the dead person's 
brother's daughter's husband and brother's wife's father 
may also come, but their presence is not so important. 

14 At the funeral of a very important man, however, 
during the 19th century — someone like a divisional head- 
man (pa.rpati) — such a large crowd of people would 
come from every village that Todas used to handle the 
crowd control (Liitze 1887: 13-14). At one such funeral 
the crowd was estimated at around 1 ,000, or about 7% of 
the entire population (Morike 1857: 59-60). It was also 
reported that for such funerals, animals were sacrificed in 
the Toda manner. Thus, for the funeral of the paramount 
chief on September 25, 1878, "Many oxen were sacri- 
ficed" (Anonymous 1879: 7). In early times, the funeral 
of an important man was also marked by the constructing 
of a chariot with wooden wheels (te:ru), on which the 
corpse and catafalque were dragged both from place to 
place for the various rites and, ultimately, to the cremation 
ground. By the 1930s, if a Toda or a Kurumba associate 
were to attend a Badaga funeral, each would receive 4 
annas (one-quarter Rupee) from the bereaved family. 

Chapter One 

Kotas, but before doing so, he would ask the be- 
reaved family whether they currently had any 
quarrel with their Kota associate. If not, the men 
would go in search of him. On reaching the Kota 
village, they remove their turbans and put them 
under the left arm so that it is immediately evi- 
dent why they have come. They stand near the 
sacred stones and normally just tell the Kota 
headman about the funeral. He says "I salute 
you, grandfathers!" and the others reply, "May 
you become great, father!" etc. Once the details 
are given, their work is finished. Then they wait 
on the grass there (as they would certainly not 
enter a Kota house for fear of pollution) while 
the headman goes around telling the other Kotas. 
The associates of the dead man, as well as those 
of his daughter's husband, wife's father, sister's 
husband, and son's wife's father (or son's wife's 
brother), and, for a dead woman, the associates 
of her brothers — who may in some instances be 
the same Kota man — are each expected to bring 
a set of musicians as a ritual requirement. These 
are called "bag-of-rice Kotas," and they would 
not come for a dead child under the age of 12 
years. Such a Badaga might collect the band with 
his associate and first take the Kotas to his own 
village to feed them. Then, leading a horse 16 or 
riding on it while carrying a bag of rice, he 
would in former times proceed to the bereaved 
village with the Kota band ahead (Thurston and 
Rangachari 1909. I: 113). Without such a gift of 
grain, his arrival would be thought a disgrace. 

When the two messengers return home, they 
will generally be accompanied by another set of 
six Kota musicians, each playing his instrument. 
But if a number of such bands have been called 
to the funeral, there may be less than the full com- 
plement of six in each. 

When the Kotas cross the Badaga village 
boundary, the horn bearer and one frame drum- 
mer sound two horns several times to indicate that 
they are coming to the funeral (Fig. 5b). Then, as 
they get close to the village, they begin to play a 
lament, which continues until they reach the be- 
reaved house and is intended to show that they 
too grieve. At the beginning of each row of front 
yards (which looks like a street; Hockings 1999, 
Pis. 8 and 14), a few mourning women come to 
meet the musicians. They hold their fingertips to 
their brows, weep, and cry, "O Kota friend, our 
father [mother] is dead!" and then fling them- 
selves at the feet of the Kotas. As the music con- 
tinues, male Badaga mourners, also crying, help 
the women up and lead the group to the bereaved 

13 While Wodeyas still had the Kota music at some 
funerals in 1963. they no longer danced around the 
corpse. For some years prior to that, most had stopped 
the music altogether. 

16 Nobody was obliged to come on horseback, al- 
though it was once the common means of transportation 
for better-off Badaga farmers. Any horse brought to a 
funeral would be left to graze on the village green or in 
some other public place. It was disrespectful to ride a 
horse onto any front yard, as this implied that the rider 
was superior to others there, nor could one cross the 
boundary onto a funeral ground on horseback. 

Preparation for a Funeral 

house. The leading Kota bows down to the foot 
of the oldest male from the bereaved household. 
Another man gets a cup of water and pours it into 
the horns. This signifies (according to the Kota 
Sulli) that the Badaga is prepared to make the 
Kotas happy — that he will, in a sense, fill their 
horns. The players shake the water out and con- 
tinue. They play a tune signifying "We are hap- 
py" and then a "sorrowful" tune while sitting on 
the veranda for perhaps 20 minutes, then they 
move to the opposite embankment beside the yard 
and play there. Meanwhile some women are pre- 
paring coffee for them. The Kotas sit talking and 
drinking on the embankment. 

Those Kotas who come with the son-in-law of 
the deceased will wait just outside the village for 
the daughter's subsequent arrival. They make a 
fire and heat their drums over it. If it is raining, 
they go to some dry place, such as a stable, where 
they can build a small fire to tighten the drums. 

The Kotas play four kinds of instruments: 17 an 
oboe, a frame drum that is beaten with a pair of 
sticks, a barrel drum that is beaten with both 
hands, and a brass horn (Fig. 2b). The complete 
band includes six men, and the Kota associate is 
the seventh, the bandleader. One man carries the 
two horns, another plays the barrel drum, and the 
remainder play two oboes and two frame drums. 
Any Kota musicians coming to a Badaga funeral 
(and no other Kotas are likely to be invited) are 
paid a fee, 18 half of which comes from the Badaga 
inviting them and half of which comes from the 
bereaved household. More well-to-do Kotas do 
not like to go because they may have to play 
much of the night and sleep on the veranda. Over 
half a century ago, when the practice was still in 
full operation, poorer Kotas would seize the op- 
portunity to play, because they might be fed for 
two or three days as well as receive measures of 
flour and a half-rupee each. 

Another group of messengers, consisting of two 
to five experienced men, go to a bazaar, normally 
in the towns of Ootacamund, Coonoor, or Kota- 
giri, to purchase certain requisites. These would 
include flowers, rice, salt, chilies, and new cloth 
with which to decorate the traditional catafalque. 
The men use cash taken from the dead person's 

While waiting for the visitors to arrive, some 
Kota and Badaga men construct a catafalque 
(gudikat/gudikattu), a framework of poles deco- 
rated with lengths of cloth (Fig. 7a). It is thought 
that the catafalque custom was adopted from the 
Kota tribe in early times. In villages with Toreyas, 

17 On other occasions Kotas play two other instru- 
ments, cymbals and a bass drum. Much of my infor- 
mation on Kota musicians comes from Mandelbaum's 
interview with Sulli on May 28-29, 1937 (cf. his 1937 
Fieldnotes). See Breeks (1873: PI. 18) or Hockings 
(1980: PI. 6) for illustrations of Kota musicians. 

18 If the bereaved family is rich, the musicians are paid 
in advance, whereas if they are poor, the Kotas may be 
paid on the day of the milk-pouring ritual. The money 
is given to the Kota associate, who does not play but 
who distributes the money among the band. 

When coming to a Badaga wedding, the Kota band is 
paid two-thirds of its fee by the person bringing them 
to play and one-third by the groom's household. 

Chapter One 

it was their task traditionally to make the cata- 
falque (Natesa Sastri 1892: 834). Depending on 
the wealth of the bereaved family, it could have 
one, three, five, or even seven tiers (certainly not 
an even number). '^ Early in this century it was 
noted that "By the poorer members of the com- 
munity the [catafalque] is replaced by a cot cov- 
ered with cloth, and surmounted by five umbrel- 
las" (Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 112; this 
has become standard today: Fig. 6b). Each tier is 
called ko:l/ko:lu (stick) and is made on a frame- 
work of eight sticks, two more sticks being 
crossed to form the base, the whole supported by 
four poles standing at the corners with, at the cen- 
ter of the structure, a long pole protruding from 
the top. 20 To this, one or more umbrellas are tied, 
their number suggesting the relative wealth of the 
deceased. No stick in the catafalque can have its 
ends bare but rather must have a pennant tied to 
the end, and others may be tied along its length 
(Thurston 1906: frontis.; Thurston and Rangachari 
1909, I: 119, Plate; Hockings 1980: PI. 13). The 
cloth brought by grandchildren of the deceased is 
used in this manner. One catafalque erected in 
1887 for the dead divisional headman had cloth 
of red, blue, violet, and white material (Liitze 
1887: 13-14; his descendant can be seen dancing 
in Fig. 3b, this book). 

Inside the top tier and underneath the umbrel- 
la(s) is a large ball of hay that is covered with 
cloth (kirimaguda), about two feet in diameter. 
Without it the structure is not a proper catafalque, 
and it is then Called a gu.da.ra, which is normally 
just a canopy one tier high. This latter may be 
constructed at the Great House, in a case where 
Kotas are not brought to a funeral, and is taken 
to be a rather shameful mark of poverty in the 
family. 21 

The basis of the simplest structure, the gu.da.ra, 
is the four corner poles and the central one, which 
are usually cut nearby, but a wealthy family may 
send for some bamboo poles from the plains, as 
they are both strong and light. The structure has 
to be portable, for it will go to the funeral 
ground. 22 

At the end of each funeral, all of the cloths and 
at least one pennant from each tier should be giv- 
en to the Kota associate. Umbrellas, however, 
which are generally a mark of some status, are 
not given to him. Thus, when the catafalque is to 
be burned, the cloths and umbrellas are removed 
from it beforehand. A catafalque built for a dead 
woman may be hung with household utensils, "as 
for example a rice winnow, baskets filled with 

19 Seven was usual for the munevale, or memorial cer- 
emony, but Tignous reported on one of 1 1 tiers that was 
50-60 feet high (1912: 155). Eleven was the greatest 
possible number of tiers, although it would really be two 
stacks of three tiers on either side of a central stack 
having five tiers. 

20 The construction of a catafalque is hedged in by 
detailed rules about its framework, though not about the 
material (see Fig. 7a). This is because the catafalque has 
to be stable and to withstand winds, yet it cannot be set 
into the ground because it must be movable. 

One umbrella, about 4 feet in diameter, will be bigger 
than the others, and it is called bu.sakara kode (guard- 
ing-the-whole-world umbrella). Above this may be a 
normal-sized umbrella, then a smaller lady's one, then a 
small silver one. and then a tiny gold one. This is not 
necessary with an incomplete catafalque, called gu.da.ra 
(Figs. 6a and b; see below). 

Kotas have catafalques for their own funerals and 
burn them together with the corpse and the cot (Jagor 
1914: 63). 

21 In the 1960s and more recently still, the more elab- 
orate catafalque was being constructed for the funerals 
of very wealthy men of both the "music" and "non- 
music" factions: this amounted to less than a 20th of all 
funerals. Depending on the cloth chosen — usually cot- 
ton, but occasionally some silk too. for the pennants — 
the cost of each tier ranged from 100 to 200 rupees in 
1970. The gu.da.ra I saw was a single-tier, pyramidal 
canopy; I have never seen a gudikat, and they have been 
very rare in the past 40 years. 

22 Long ago, a really wealthy family might have used 
sandalwood, obtained some time before, and would have 
allowed this to be burned later with the corpse. Ha:ruvas 
and Torcyas burn the catafalque with the corpse but keep 
the cot. Gaudas in the past burned the cot too, but now- 
adays there is usually a communal cot for the entire 
village, and so it has to be returned to the Great House. 
Wodeyas and other Lingayats always bury their dead 
and generally keep the poles for re-use at another fu- 

Preparation for a Funeral 

grain, coconut spoons, bamboo milk containers, 
gourds and a new rice pounder" (Jagor 1914: 43, 
trans.). A youth's catafalque was "topped with a 
red flag and covered on all sides with candy, 
baked goods, fruits and other things like these" 
(Schad 1911: 3, trans.). 

neral, when they will be covered with new colored 
cloths. Thus any Lingayat family needing these poles is 
simply given them, without any payment being made. 


Chapter One 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 

Display of the Corpse 

No one in the village works on the day of a funeral 
so that all can participate in it. When the corpse is 
ready to be taken out of the house, the Kotas (if 
present) play the taking-from-the-house music, and 
a cot is brought to the front yard 1 from any other 
house. The corpse is carried outside by several men 
and is placed on the cot: it must be in the family's 
own front yard, and this must occur between sun- 
rise and sunset. Women fall down and wail. The 
Kotas give one sounding of the horn as the corpse 
is lifted and another as it is placed on the cot. The 
corpse is tied to the cot and a handbell is placed 
alongside it (see below, pp. 15-16). 

If the dead person is male, his household gives 
the corpse new clothes, whereas if the deceased 
is female, the father, brother, or a more distant 
relative of the woman gives a new loincloth, up- 
per cloth, head cover, and turban. - 

There are several other articles that must be 
given to a corpse. All of them, like the loincloth, 
were traditionally supplied by the regional Chetti 
trader (nattu kottu Setti; Hockings 1980: 143-45) 
and are generally kept ready in a house. If not 
available when suddenly needed, the items can 
usually be borrowed from another household for 
a funeral. 

Thus, any man, even if he is very poor, must 
provide a piece of cloth for his sister's corpse. If 
there is no brother, her father or other men from 
her natal village should offer the corpse the col- 
ored cloth (e.banna; Hockings 1979: 158). No af- 
fine may see the face of the corpse before this 


1 If the person died on a Friday and the corpse is to 
be removed on Saturday, the latter is a very unlucky 
day, and so the corpse will require some "company" 
when it leaves the house. This will simply consist of a 
walking stick for a male corpse or a wooden door bolt 
for a female, which is laid on the cot. It is said that if 
this rite is neglected, there will be another death in the 
same house before the korumbu ritual in the following 
week. The Badaga antiquarian M.K. Belli Gowdcr stated 
that this rite should be observed on all the four inaus- 
picious days of a week, namely Tuesday, Thursday. Sat- 
urday, and Sunday (Belli Gowder 1923-1941: 7; 1938- 
1941 : 8). but another source said that no disposal should 
occur on Thursdays, and the saying I have recorded on 
the matter only refers to supplying a bolt on Saturday 
(Hockings 1988: 187. no. 249). 

If the corpse is not to be disposed of on the day fol- 
lowing death but on a later day, then it will be removed 
for the night to the veranda of the Great House (dodda 
mane). The catafalque remains in the front yard, and in- 
deed, people will continue dancing around it at night. 
Meanwhile, the Kota musicians have to sleep on the ve- 
randa of the bereaved house, whereas the Badagas sleep 
in their homes. The location of the corpse is identical in 
every funeral: at the ke.ri, funeral work-space. 

The Great House is not the headman's house but rather 
that of the founder of the hamlet. It has quasi-lemplc sta- 
tus and is the home of some of the founder's descendants. 

2 If a woman has only one brother and he is dying, or 
if her elder brother is dying but it is likely that her other 
brothers will not respect her properly at her funeral be- 
cause they have quarreled, then the dying man may give 
his healthy sister this piece of cloth in readiness for her 
funeral. She may have to keep it for years afterward, 
but she cannot use it for anything else. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


particular cloth is laid across it. Even the man 
presenting it must hold it up before him in such 
a way that it is obscuring his view of the face 
until the moment when the corpse has been cov- 
ered. The cloth signifies the saris that ancestral 
Badagas wore before they ever left Mysore Dis- 
trict four centuries ago. It is torn down the middle 
somewhat so that it can be put over the head of 
the corpse to cover its back and front. 

For either a male or female corpse, the daughter 
and her husband present the body with a special 
shawl 3 embroidered by a Toda lady. At least the 
eldest daughter must provide one, though several 
daughters may bring one jointly. When they arrive 
before the corpse, the Kotas are constantly wind- 
ing their horns. The horse (if brought) is led 
around the catafalque three times, and then to the 
bereaved house. Now the daughter's husband 
bows at the feet of the corpse, while his wife 
cries, "O my dead Father [or Mother], your son- 
in-law has come and, crying, bows at your feet. 
Look at him!" The shawl (bugu side) that they 
brought is torn in half, one piece going on the 
corpse and the other laid on the cot. An embroi- 
dered shawl is not so essential an offering as is 
the colored cloth, and so this should be presented 
first and the shawl afterwards. It is wrapped round 
the body over the e.banna. 

Another piece of cloth, 4 called puka:su, is pro- 
vided for a dead woman by the grandsons and 
granddaughters. It first ought to be given inside 
the house, so while the body is still there, the gift 
may be made by the sons' sons or sons' daugh- 
ters. The daughters' sons or daughters' daughters 
often present another puka:su later on the front 
yard outside, because by the time they have come 
from their home villages, the corpse has already 
been moved outside. The person making the of- 
fering rolls it up and carries it on the head while 
crying, "O Father [or Mother], where have you 
gone?" 5 A dead woman does not merit this offer- 
ing unless she has a grandchild by a son, daughter, 
stepson, or stepdaughter. 

Few Badagas now own a horse or pony, but 
one used to be involved in the ritual for a dead 
woman from any phratry except the Wodeyas. 
Her brother's son's son or else her brother's son, 
provided he was still a small boy, was put on 
horseback and led once around the corpse in a 
counterclockwise direction. The boy carried the on his head. When he got off the horse, 
he put the cloth at the head of the cot, which was 
still lying on the yard. Another person hung it on 
the catafalque. 

3 Such shawls (bugu si.le), bought long beforehand, 
are embroidered in a very shoddy manner if it is known 
that they will eventually be used in a Badaga funeral. 
The man must offer one to the corpse before he touches 
its feet and his own forehead. It is placed over the corpse 
with the embroidered end toward the head, a feature 
distinctive of death, since, when men in the Nilgiris 
sleep with such a shawl covering them, they have the 
embroidered end over their legs, never over their heads. 

The elder daughter may have a costly one made and 
may have her sisters share the cost with her, or they may 
decide to split the obligation so that some daughters will 
provide the shawl for their mother and the rest will pro- 
vide one for their father. As it is generally made far in 
advance of death, their father may see it before he dies, 
if he wishes. His daughters may even put it on the sick 
man, telling him that if he gets well he may wear it, and 
then they will have another one made (Hockings 1999: 

Should the daughter's husband be ready to present the 
cloak before this other cloth is on the corpse, then he 
must wait until the latter has arrived. If there is no 
daughter's husband living to present the cloak to the 
corpse, then a daughter's husband's brother will do it. 

A dead woman's daughter often may be her brother's 
son's wife at the same time. Hence, if she has no living 
brother or parents, her brother's son must present the col- 
ored cloth. Yet in this particular case, the same man is 
also the daughter's husband, and in that role he must offer 
the embroidered cloak to the dead woman too; in doing 
so, nonetheless, he must present the colored cloth first. 

If it happens that a close relative urgently wants to 
see the dead woman but he has no e.banna with him, 
someone else will cover the face of the corpse until he 
has gone through the motions of the rite using his own 
kerchief or body cloth. 

4 The cloth is offered first by the sons' children, then 
by the daughters' children. If they are too young to un- 
derstand, the cloth is tied round their heads and then 
they are carried once around the catafalque or are told 
to walk around it counterclockwise. After this, the cloth 
is tied to the catafalque. If a son's daughter or daughter's 
daughter cannot come to the funeral because she has just 
married or is away at college, then another girl must 
give a puka:su on her behalf. Wodeyas do not give it at 
their funerals. 

5 Since there is no taboo associated with naming the 
dead, as there is among Todas, those Badagas who had 
called the living person by his or her name (this depends 
on kin relationship) will continue to do so after death. 


Chapter Two 

Once the body is on the front yard, a brass plate 
full of food that the dead person had enjoyed, 
along with curry and rice — but always vegetarian 
food — is brought out (Fig. lb). A gourd is left 
near the feet for the dead to drink from during the 
coming journey (Metz 1864: 77). If it is a woman 
who has died, her mother or brother's wife ties a 
bead necklace 6 (kakkila mani) and a bead wristlet 
(kai kattu mani) on the body. One or sometimes 
two hanks of human hair, called savari (Hockings 
1979: 155, 160), with a comb (to tie up the hair 
behind the head) are attached. Female corpses are 
also given a string (ode kanni) 1 to hold the cloth 
in place over the breasts, and a strip of cloth (kacce) 
about 9 inches wide and 2 yards long to serve as 
a waistbelt. The latter has a colored border along 
one side and is of white cotton, with the ends 
embroidered in black and red. 8 

The corpse, 9 still lying on its bed, is dressed in 
these new clothes, and the turban is tied on. The 
women never touch the corpse. At least one cop- 
per coin should be put into the pocket of the cloak 
by a relative or by some agnatic villager. Also, 
while dressing the corpse, men used to cut off one 
corner of the cloak and give it to a Toreya. Be- 
cause of the cessation of their servile status, this 
cloth is now given to some non-Badaga, a Hari- 
jan. At the same time, a string ( kanni) that 
is a quarter inch thick and about a yard long is 
tied around the head under the chin and over the 
turban to keep the mouth from opening (Hockings 
1979: 159, 170). It is made of dyed red cotton but 
ends in blue cotton, with four conical buttons of 
bone tied on each end. 

When a man has died, his widow is dressed 
well for the funeral, "almost as a bride." She does 
not wear the usual round nose ring but a rather 
special funereal one that hangs down from the 
nostril by about 1 to \Vi inches. 10 The af fines, her 
relatives, give her a cloth called muccuku si.le, 
"meant to cover her face while weeping" (i.e., 
mourning; Natesa Sastri 1892: 833)." The presen- 
tation of this is said to represent a final marriage 
of the deceased. The widow covers her head with 
this cloth and, led by Kota musicians, goes with 
the affinal visitors, her relatives, from the edge of 
the front yard to the corpse. As in a wedding, they 
shout o: hau hau, which is a cry to ward off the 
inauspiciousness, but — unlike at a wedding — they 
have to go around the catafalque three times in a 
counterclockwise direction. Only after this ritual 
has been performed may the widow sit on the cot 
beside the corpse, the first moment she has been 
near it since the death. 

6 A kakkila mani is a necklace of small black beads; 
a kai kaffu mani is a wristlet of tiny cylindrical red beads 
(Hockings 1979: 160). 

7 This is a string of double thickness, about a yard 
long, and the two cords are bound together at three plac- 
es with blue cotton. At each end are ten baubles and 
over these is a blue cotton thread. 

8 All of these items were traditionally supplied by the 
regional Chelti trader (Hockings 1979: 159-60, 167). 

9 Most Lingayats and nowadays some Gaudas wash 
the corpse before dressing it, but Wodeyas do not. A 
dead priest is treated as an ordinary villager, and so his 
corpse bears no symbols of office. 

If a small girl has died, her ears and nose are touched 
or pierced with a pin, in order to simulate the girls' 
piercing ceremonies, before the corpse is taken from the 
front yard. People may also draw tattoo marks with char- 
coal on the brow and wrists, where a pubescent girl 
would, in fact, have been tattooed. 

If a person dies just as an important festival is about 
to begin in the village, and that village happens to be 
the head village of a commune, then the funeral is fin- 
ished in a hurry; or better, it is postponed until the day 
after the festival, and the corpse is then kept inside the 
house. The festival is, after all, being held for all of the 
constituent hamlets rather just one of them. In any other 
hamlet, however, either the festival or the funeral will 
be postponed according to the decision of the elders. 
Because of the pollution associated with the latter, there 
could never be both a festival (auspicious event) and a 
funeral (inauspicious event) going on in the same village 
simultaneously. The only exception to this rule is that if 
a festival, such as the salt-giving to buffaloes (Hockings 
1968), is finished in the morning, a funeral could start 
immediately afterward. 

10 Important families may keep one of these special 
rings (kodlingi) and may lend it to widows when needed. 
The practice is not followed in the Poranga:du area. 

11 They may also choose to show their affluence by 
presenting costly cloths to the daughters and sisters of 
the dead man. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


Until the corpse has been moved outside and 
the house purified, no one may prepare any food 
there. 12 Upon arrival, therefore, the Kotas are giv- 
en coffee or food that has been made in some 
other household (with the costs of its preparation 
borne by the bereaved family). From this point 
on, the main job of the Kotas is to play proces- 
sional music in front of the corpse each time it is 
moved. Only those musicians brought by the as- 
sociate of the dead man are required to meet all 
of their ritual obligations, although other Kotas 
may do so if they wish. It is also a ritual require- 
ment for male visitors to dance barefooted to the 
Kota music. This dancing is done to please the 
participants and not the departed soul. 13 Although 
the man who brings a set of Kotas has only met 
half of their cost, he has full control over them 
and has the privilege of dancing to their music 
until he says, "I give my Kotas to you," thereby 
releasing their services to the headman. 

People do not dance on the front yard before 
the bereaved house. The cot is eventually moved 
from that location to one in front of the Great 
House. 14 This functions, for the time being, as a 
funerary temple where people may dance. As the 
corpse is moved, the Kotas sound their horns and 
lead the procession with music. If the corpse is to 
be disposed of that day and people have built a 
catafalque for it, then corpse and cot are put inside 
this catafalque from the east side. Once the corpse 
is inside the catafalque, someone says, "Stop, 
don't cry any more: now we are going to dance. 
Father, change the tune and play a dance song." 
The Kotas then answer, "Very well, Grandfather." 
So they play the five dance tunes in order: first, 
"foot-raising-and-putting-down," then the "turn- 
ing dance," "lively dance," "jumping tune," and 
"walking dance." Afterward they continue play- 
ing these tunes in any order. People must dance 
around the cot 15 at least once, and only then are 
they free to dance on other parts of the front yard 
as Kotas play in the middle of the circle of danc- 
ers (Figs. 3 and 4). The Kotas present never 
dance. The corpse is placed at one end of the yard, 
not in the middle, so that there will be plenty of 
room for dancing (in those villages where this still 
occurs). The dances move in a counterclockwise, 
inauspicious direction (whereas at temple festivals 
and other auspicious ceremonies, they move in a 
clockwise direction). Benches are placed along ei- 
ther side of the cot for female mourners to sit on 
(Fig. 8a). Some of them have brought puffed am- 
aranth, puffed barley, puffed rice, and millet flour 
puffs cooked in oil in baskets decorated with 

12 An elderly postmenopausal woman (not the widow) 
purifies the floor by sprinkling a cow-dung solution. On 
the night after the corpse has been removed, and re- 
gardless of whether it has yet been disposed of, a light 
must be kept burning constantly in the house (this is not 
necessary on following nights, however). If the funeral 
occurs on the day of an adult's death, there must be 
lights in both that house and in the one from which the 
grain mixture is distributed. If two days are involved 
altogether, however, a light is only necessary in the latter 
house on the second night. 

13 In an overly dramatic and false account of the fu- 
neral, however, where he claimed that the dancing "de- 
generates into an indecent romp, a mad cancan," the 
noted French geographer and anarchist Elie Reclus stat- 
ed that the vigorous dancing "is to assist the departed, 
to communicate strength to her. . . . She has, she will 
have, great need of it on the long journey" (Reclus 
1885: 205). Grigg (1880: 227) too spoke of the dancing 
"growing wilder and wilder as the day draws towards 
its close." 

14 If there is to be a festival in the near future, then 
the front yard of the Great House will probably be need- 
ed, and it cannot be polluted by a just-concluded funeral. 
In such instances, there is a designated second Great 
House, often next door to the Great House and typically 
belonging to descendants of the younger brother of the 
village's founding ancestor or to the founding ancestor 
of the bereaved lineage, and that is where the funeral 
activities will then occur. 

13 Members of all but one phratry may dance, and men 
may then wear turbans. Wodeyas stopped dancing 
around 1950. Anyone dancing or performing another 
function at a funeral may not wear a turban. It is also 
the rule that at least one male relative of the deceased 
must remain bareheaded throughout the funeral, al- 
though as a sign of mourning he should cover his head 
loosely with a cloth {side or dupati). The commune 
headman, on the other hand, may wear a turban. Even 
he will be bareheaded for the funeral of his own father, 
mother, son, or wife. He can, however, wear a turban at 
his daughter's funeral, as he is an affine to her village. 

Very close relatives of the dead should not wear tur- 
bans and should go without food (except for fruit and 
coffee) from the time of death until the disposal of the 
corpse. They should neither touch nor drink milk, even 
in their coffee. 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, shots were oc- 


Chapter Two 

flowers, which are placed under the cot (Thurston 
and Rangachari 1909, I: 117, Plate). The dead 
man's milking vessel is also there, and cigarettes, 
beedies, snuff, cigars, or chewing tobacco may be 
brought, according to his tastes — perhaps, too, a 
favorite walking stick, bow and arrow (formerly), 
or flute will be included. 16 

As groups of visitors arrive, the men remove 
their footwear out of respect and walk onto the 
yard, chanting "«: hau hem" repeatedly, as they 
scatter around puffed rice and perhaps coins of 
the smallest denomination. Next, after removing 
their turbans, they pay respects to the corpse. 
They go to the head if they are of a more senior 
generation or of the same generation as the de- 
ceased but older in age; alternatively, they go to 
the feet if they are of a more junior generation or 
of the same generation as the deceased but youn- 
ger in age. Whenever there are no men around the 
cot, women pay their respects too. After some 
time, the headman invites the Kotas to take a rest 
and eat a meal outside the neighboring home of 
some of the bereaved relatives. Since Badagas are 
concerned about the pollution believed to derive 
from Kotas, the youngest of the Kotas has to 
throw away the leaves off which they have eaten. 
Afterward they play some more, and then rest on 
the veranda while some Badaga women may per- 
form a comic song to relieve the sadness. Young 
men sit and listen. Later they ask the Kotas to 
perform more dance music, but may have to offer 
extra money to persuade them. In the evening, if 
the funeral is going to continue for more than one 
day, the Kotas may sleep on the veranda or take 
their instruments and walk back home by moon- 
light. In the latter case, the headman may have to 
go and bribe them next morning to return for the 
rest of the funeral by promising them a buffalo. 

During the whole time the corpse is on display 
like this, and while visitors are still coming to pay 
their respects, the corpse, whether male or female, 
should be tended by a daughter or a sister or, if 
there is none, by a classificatory daughter. Only 
when a male corpse is moved to the village green 
does the female relative leave it. She may fan flies 
off the face, and from time to time she picks up 
a handbell and rings it next to the head (Fig. lb; 
Thurston 1906: 191). There is a saying, Mande.rsi 
iddu mani hudaya (Staying beside the head, the 
woman rings the bell), which suggests that she is 
there to offer some companionship to the de- 
ceased in its loneliness. I had great difficulty get- 
ting any further explanation for this bell ringing 
beyond the fact that it was a "tradition." But 

casionally fired during dancing, such as "from an old 
musket which may have come from the time of Haidar 
Ali** (Morike 1849: 103). 

16 Betel is rarely offered, as its chewing has been tak- 
en up by Badagas only over the past century. Jagor 
(1876: 198) gives probably the first reference to it. al- 
though betel leaf is also mentioned in proverbs. Lutze 
(1887: 14) mentions a cigar, which is thrust into the 
mouth of a dead headman, and a plate of food that is 
placed under his chin. If a woman was in the habit of 
smoking, someone may later put a pipe with tobacco in 
her grave or on the funeral pyre. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


eventually someone explained 17 that once an ap- 
parently dead person had sat up when the cre- 
mation began. This bell ringing, and the later 
swinging of the body three times over the fire or 
grave prior to cremation or burial, are seemingly 
precautionary tests long taken in case the person 
is cataleptic but not yet dead. 

If the funeral continues for two days, as seldom 
happens now, a group of women will sit around 
the corpse at night, crying and occasionally sing- 
ing. They keep a fire going in the yard nearby and 
are relieved by a second group in the middle of 
the night. 

Particularly now that most funerals have no 
Kota music, records or tapes may be played 
through loudspeakers instead. Even a spring- 
wound gramophone is brought out sometimes. 
Loud, gay music can help cheer the crowd and 
somewhat drown out the wails of the women who 
are seated next to the cot. Every so often these 
are replaced by another few women mourners. 18 
Saivite hymns (bajana) in Tamil may also be sung 

The face and feet of the corpse (unless it is 
Lingayat) remain uncovered all day so that senior 
and junior people can pay their respects to the 
deceased. The first people to do so are the mem- 
bers of the host village, who come for this pur- 
pose as soon as they hear of the death. Even if 
they have already blessed the person while he or 
she was dying, they do so again. Regardless of 
what their ages might be relative to the deceased, 
men and women of the same generation touch 19 
the head, whereas all those of junior generations, 
together with any Toreyas at another phratry's fu- 
neral, touch the feet (Thurston 1906: 191). Im- 
mediately after doing so, men but not women 
touch their own foreheads. 

The male visitors at a funeral are mostly affines 
(natta) from other villages, people who have mar- 
ried women from this bereaved village or provid- 
ed it with brides. Some, of course, are close rel- 
atives of the widow or widower. Once they have 
touched the head or feet of the corpse by way of 
respect, they have no further obligations, and so 
they will start dancing 20 with the Kota musicians 
that some of them have brought. 

There are special rules for showing respect to 
the dancing affinal visitors that would not apply 
in weddings or festivals. As these men dance in 
a curving line, the central man has the place of 
greatest respect, while all the others are ranked in 
decreasing order on either side of him, thus: 
864213579. It does not matter in which di- 

17 This is no mere facile rationalization, for in a cre- 
mation at the beginning of the 20th century, the corpse 
was seen by my informant's friend to urinate and then 
to sit up; that man lived for another half century! But 
evidently fortune has knocked twice, for the Todas have 
a comparable story to match the same practice: "They 
say that long ago, about 400 years, a man supposed to 
be dead was put on the funeral pyre, and revived by the 
heat, he was found to be alive and was able to walk 
away from the funeral place" (Rivers 1906: 363). 

18 Jagor caught the essence of their mourning well: 

"At times the corpse was addressed: 'Didn't you 
always give to the poor? Weren't you always a 
good mother?' This is followed by the assent given 
in chorus by the women. Tears flow plentifully. 
Some women seem particularly moved and place 
the dead person's tobacco, betel, pepper and sugar 
in a small twisted cornet made of a leaf which they 
close with [two] of the fingertips. Women and chil- 
dren put their heads together and wail. The corpse's 
face is fanned and the flies chased away from the 
body" (Jagor 1876: 198, trans.). 

19 The catafalque (gudikat) is recognized as being a 
temporary funerary abode (gudi). Anyone entering a 
house where a corpse lies or who touches the dead loses 
his state of purity (sudda). For that reason, too, a priest 
or a headman wearing a ring of office (and therefore 
equivalent to a priest) does not touch the corpse. Both 
it and the wrappings pollute anyone who comes in con- 
tact with them, as does touching any part of the cata- 

20 In every quarter {na:du), the commune headman 
(u:r gaudd) should dance at a funeral. Other than any 
Wodeyas present, he alone will be wearing a turban 
while dancing. Generally, when a commune headman 
starts to dance, a special tune is played for him, and he 
should then dance for at least a couple of minutes. He 
dances in the middle of a line of men, who thereby show 
respect to him. 

Other people who are wearing turbans must take them 
off while dancing and when carrying the corpse. Thurs- 


Chapter Two 

rection the line is moving. There must always be 
a man from the host village at each end to signify 
the superiority of the visitors. Without these, the 
affines would refuse to dance. Older men dance 
around only once or twice, for the sake of the 
ritual obligation, whereas visiting youths will 
dance long and energetically, some hoping that 
their performance will catch the eye of a local girl 
(Figs. 3a and b). 21 

At least one woman should dance with the men 
and many may. The woman must be an agnatic 
relative to the man who is conducting the funeral, 
such as a classihcatory daughter. In 0:rana:yi vil- 
lage during a 1926 funeral, the women formed a 
complete circle and were doing their own special 
dance, but the Kotas objected to this style on the 
grounds that at least one man should be dancing 
with them. Apart from this case, women only 
dance in front of their husband or son (or between 
them if both are dancing together)." 

Once a group of visitors feels that they have 
finished dancing with the Kotas they brought 
along, they hand them over to the hamlet head- 
man. Those visitors who have brought Kota mu- 
sicians can go on dancing with them as they 
please, but others must wait until the headman 
calls them out to dance. He actually has a list of 
all the invited villages and, standing in the middle 
of the front yard, he calls them out to dance one 
village at a time, as sets of Kota musicians (in- 
cluding perhaps his own set) become available. 

During this period of dancing, the dead per- 
son's daughters' husbands might still dance with 
some of their friends in a special dancing dress, 
a pleated skirt with red, yellow, or blue dentate 
borders, originally supplied by an itinerant Chetti 
(and now extremely rare). They may or may not 
choose to wear huge turbans and a loose jacket at 
this time (Figs. 3a and Sa; Thurston and Ranga- 
chari 1909, I: 119, Plate). Dancing in this dress 
for a while was a ritual requirement, as confirmed 
by the fact that before dancing, they touch the 
ground with one hand and exclaim "So.mif — 
Lord!" But the daughters' husbands, being af- 
fines, only do it after men from the host village, 
the agnates, have done so. All men who give the 
e.banna cloth or an embroidered shawl were once 
expected to wear this dress briefly to dance in. 
They include men attending a funeral of their WM 
or WF, FZ or FZH, D or DH, SD or SDH, FFZ 
or FFZH, or WFB or WFBW, all of whom are 
thus affines from another village (unless, perhaps, 
in former days, of the Wodeya phratry). If nec- 

ton (1906: 191) states that they would remove their tur- 
bans or woolen caps out of respect for the first three 
rounds of dancing only. 

:i Children are not supposed to dance at a funeral; 
women may. but less often do. When women do dance, 
men dance in a circle with the women dancing inside, 
each woman keeping close to a male relative. 

22 A childless widow who obviously has no such rel- 
atives will dance with men from her natal village, orig- 
inally her agnates. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


essary, these affines waited on the front yard until 
some agnates had danced in the special dresses. 

Early in the afternoon of the funeral day, while 
hot drinks or sweets are being brought around to 
people and dancing is about to end, the Kota as- 
sociate makes an offering to the corpse. If the 
deceased was a Lingayat, he gives an iron toe- 
ring for the second toe of each foot; if the de- 
ceased was a non-Lingayat, he gives an axe with 
a bow and arrow. This is to protect the departed 
soul during the journey to the afterworld. The 
bow 23 is made of iron and string, with a wooden 
arrow tipped with iron. For Lingayats, the Kota 
must also offer a hoe, which is used later to dig 
the grave. 24 In either case, he goes to the end of 
the front yard with a Kota band. Some of the dead 
person's family or fellow villagers go up to the 
Kota, and each takes one of the tools he has 
brought. If the Kota is only a boy, he bows to the 
feet of the Badagas. They carry these items on 
their heads, with the blades pointing upward, and 
cry for the deceased as they walk three times 
around the corpse in a counterclockwise direction, 
followed by the Kota associate and then the band. 
After going around the cot, the Badagas put the 
various tools under it. At a Lingayat funeral, the 
Kota puts the rings on the toes of the deceased, 
whether male or female (Thurston and Rangachari 
1909, I: 117, Plate). While carrying the tools 
around, men of the senior generations should pre- 
cede more junior ones. In the toe-ring-, bow-, and 
grain-giving rituals, however, the people who pro- 
ceed around the corpse may not be of a more se- 
nior generation than the dead. 

After everyone has danced to his satisfaction, 
the last round must be danced by all the males of 
the host village, or, if it is a woman who has died, 
the male affinal visitors must dance last, accom- 
panied by at least two men from the host village 
(as was explained above). "After the sun has 
passed its zenith, the spirit of the deceased is sup- 
posed to have entered heaven, and the dancing 
ceases" (Metz 1864: 78). I doubt it has got quite 
so far (cf. Chap. 3). 

In every village, a few large East India Com- 
pany silver rupees are still kept. After the dancing 
is over, one of these rupees is stuck in the center 
of the brow of the corpse, male or female, using 
a white paste from the gum-thistle (Figs, la and 
b). 2 ' 

Although the affines should bring Kota musi- 
cians, they are not expected to bring anything else 
to the funeral unless it is a woman who has died. 
Then they must bring at least one winnow, one 

23 The Lingayats, all vegetarians, never hunted. Today, 
when no bows are in use, if one is urgently needed for 
this ritual offering, someone makes a very rough one 
out of sticks and string and tips an arrow with something 
like a broken knife. Nowadays the toe-ring is commonly 
made of silver, nickel, or copper. 

This presentation for non-Lingayats is called bit 
sa.stira (bow ritual); that for Lingayats is miccu sa.stira 
(toe-ring ritual). 

24 See below, p. 20, and Figure 2a. Today the Kotas 
will just borrow some old hoe while in the Badaga vil- 
lage. They always smear it with mud to signify that it 
is new before they present it. 

25 This is e.gore, or Euphorbia rothiana. Thurston 
(1906: 190; Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 112) re- 
ported a silver Japanese yen being used in this way and 
said that two coins might be on the brow. The Wodeyas 
do not put a coin on the brow, but for a male, it is tied 
to the arm along with some cooked rice. Among the 


Chapter Two 

coconut-shell ladle, and one pounding stick (prob- 
ably not a genuine one, which today is very valu- 
able) to present to their dead daughter or sister. 
When these affines perform their last dance, they 
do so while carrying these kitchen implements on 
their heads and then they give them to villagers, 
who place them under the cot. Only after this rit- 
ual has been completed can a member of the fam- 
ily ask the affines' permission to dispose of the 

During a wedding it is usual to affirm, as a 
ritual form, that the bride's father still "owns" her 
until her death. This is one point that suggests that 
she is not totally absorbed into her husband's fam- 
ily, lineage, and clan. (She will, after all, return 
to her father's house to give birth.) Therefore, af- 
ter they have finished dancing at the woman's fu- 
neral, some of her visiting male relatives, affines 
to her husband's family, wait outside her house. 
Before the woman's corpse is removed from the 
yard, one or more of these men are invited into 
the house, asked to sit on jute or some other pres- 
tigious material, and offered a glass of water. 
Then the widower or another close male relative 
in the family says to the visitors, "You see, your 
daughter is dead. Please do not ask us for her at 
some later time." Each .it tmc present then touches 
the man's forehead (or, if the affine is very young, 
bows down to his feet), blesses him, and says, 
"You can remove it" (Belli Gowder 1923-1941: 

Women who live in the village and who are 
related to the dead man or the widower as 
brother's wife or father's wife (or father's broth- 
er's son's wife, etc.) bring some baskets of millet 
and wheat, with which they make sweets. Three 
or more of the women must then take these on 
plates held on their heads and proceed around the 
catafalque at least once counterclockwise, wailing 
as they do so. When they come to the head of the 
corpse, they place these plates under the cot there. 
Once these village women have finished, the 
wives 26 of affinal visitors will do the same thing. 
Women do not handle the corpse, but a woman 
can touch her head to that of the dead, and after 
doing so, she must (generally while seated) touch 
her head against that of any other female nearby. 
The two do this for at least a minute while be- 
wailing the dead. 

Among Lingayats, on the day of the burial, just 
after midday, the oldest man' 7 of the oldest gen- 
eration in the village is sent to the burial ground 
with a crowbar, which had previously been placed 
underneath the cot inside the dead person's house. 

other Lingayats. after this rupee has heen stuck to the 
brow, all the tools for digging the grave will be placed 
under the cot. If the dead is a female, decorative items 
arc lied into her body cloths. Mftrike (1849: KM) ob- 
served gold and silver ringer rings and earrings and sev- 
eral rupees tied to the arms, as well as silver chains 
wound around a man's neck and waist. 

:fc Those coming from nearby villages will already 
have prepared the sweets at home and will carry them 
on their heads to the funeral. Others may make the 
sweets just before offering them. None of these wives 
will come out onto the front yard until the local women 
have completed this ritual activity. 

n Among Wodcyas. this man need not be someone of 
prominence, but he should be a person from the Great 
House, even if only a small boy. 

The Lingayat burial grounds and the path leading to 
them arc cleaned only on the actual day of a burial; it 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


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by these musicians, followed by the corpse oa its 
cot. and then by the parts of the disassembled cat- 
afalque, and finally by the villagers and visiting 

Cardinal directions are significant here, as in 
Hinduism generally (cf. Drawing 1). Whenever 
the corpse is resting in the front yard or on the 
village green, its head is toward the threshold of 
the house (generally toward the west) and its feet 
are toward the east (but sometimes the head is 
toward the north). It is put inside the catafalque 
from the east side and is later removed from the 
west side. If. however, it remains on the veranda 
of the Great House overnight, the head will be to 
the south and the feet to the north (like its position 
in the grave). 

Only if the corpse is male and if it in to be 
disposed of on the same day will it go to the vil- 
lage green early in the morning for the milk cer- 
emony {.tu.r sashra) The Kocas stand nearby and 
play a "corpse-bnnging -catching -cow" tune on 
the oboe. At that place (a patch of grass within 
the village), a milking buffalo, preferably one that 
belonged to the dead man. is led counterclockw i^e 
around the corpse three times: the corpse is now 
lying on the ground with the feet pointing toward 
the south. A man of the village who is related as 
classificatory brother or father leads the hand of 
the dead until it touches the udder and then directs 
a small amount of the milk into the mouth of the 
corpse.' 1 A peg is driven in the ground nearby and 
the buffalo is bed to it until the next move of the 
cot Then, one of the dead man's oxen is brought 
along and some gram is put on its back so that it 
may drop off around or onto the corpse. The 
corpse's right hand is made to touch either one of 
the animal's horns three tunes. * Once the corpse 
has been brought back in a procession and re- 
placed in the catafalque, which is still in the front 
yard of the Great House, the men will dance 
around it Already the affines have done so on the 
village green after the milk ceremony, but now is 
the first time that everyone, other than visiung 
affines. is allowed to dance ■ 

The next step (assuming the corpse is to be div 
posed of on the same day) is to remove the body 
on its cot to the Funeral Grassland, where again 
it lies with its head to the west and its feet to the 
east, and with the catafalque standing nearb> \s 
people reach it. they remove their shoes out of 
respect. Here. too. the Rotas play their music. The 
Lwgayats. who burn neither corpse nor bed. and 
the rest of the Badagas would now dismantle the 
catafalque and give cloths from tt to the Kolas. 

The village green is called huaame The 
remain . on the front yard. In Sull i .mint of thts 

nte. seven bulls or oxen were brought to the oaom 
were led around the corpse three tunes and then driven 
off One animal w as held b\ the boms while a link bo> 
held b\ a man on each side, rvxk around three times on 
the seventh bull. He earned a quarter bag of line aulkx 
which he poured out over the corpse. Then the hand of 
the corpse was placed on the horn of that bull. Oram, 
heca n sr ngor moms had set in. the hand would not 
move, so the man simply touched it and then touched 
the horn. If necessary some afnnes caught and held the 
animal, and this corresponds to the Toda rale that awn 
of the opposite moiety to that of the deceased must catch 
their buffaloes (Rivers ^* B mm -rported ear- 

lier that "two or three buffaloes ma> be let loose, and 
one of them captured, after the manner of the Todax 
brought near the corpse, and conducted round the oat" 
(Thurston l«JOh. l*Vi. Capturing these animals used to 
be a wav lot visiting armies to show of! t 

This was not done, howevet at Wodeya funerals. 


The buffalo 
round the corpse, are omitted. But a 
heifer are selected, and branded oa the 
means of a hot iron, with the ungam and 
Nems Bedecked w *h cloths and jewels, they are 
led to the side of the corpse and made to 
a blanket spread on the ground The> are 
it they were Ungams. and puja is done to mem by 
ring cocoamm and betel leaves, and throwing 
flowers over them. Roan J mew necks kaakaaams 
(marriage threads) are txd They are made to mm 
m to face away from the corpse, and their tails 
are placed in the hands cheroot \a elder then pro- 
ceeds with the rccitabon ot the dead person's sins 
(Thurston !«*.* !«**-*». Thurston and tangnrhnn 
lvXH 1 121k 

" Mu. m avnjmm. "Thereafter the buffalo must not be 
sold, having become sacred. This rule, however, is not 
alwavs obscivcd. especially il a good once is offered 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


Members of the non-Lingayat phratries carry 
parts of the disassembled structure to the crema- 
tion ground and use them in creating the pyre 
(though rarely today, as the material is now the 
common property of the village). 

Someone donates a calf, which is brought to 
the Funeral Grassland to use as a "scapegoat," 
and in at least the Ke:ti Valley area, its sex cor- 
responds with that of the deceased (Stokes 1882: 
174; Natesa Sastri 1892: 836; Thurston 1906: 
196; Noble and Noble 1965: 263). Elsewhere, the 
calf was a male (but not a he-buffalo), and it 
would be promised free to the Kotas present once 
it died. The calf, which has never been worked or 
castrated, is driven around the cot three times in 
a counterclockwise direction and is then driven 
away. It should never be reclaimed by its owner. 
The Kotas play the "bull-catching" tune. At this 
time, too, a cow is led onto the Funeral Grassland 
and is milked, or milk is brought in a pot, which 
is emptied onto the ground. 36 

The non-Lingayat phratries next stand for the 
litany of sins (PI. 11a; Hockings 1988: 535, Fig. 
31; Lingayats in general never say the litany of 
sins, because they assume that the deceased was 
incapable of sin). This litany is said by one or two 
older, knowledgable men, with the crowd re- 
sponding at the end of each line as the leader 
waves his right hand toward the feet — at other 
times, a gesture of blessing (Thurston and Ran- 
gachari 1909, I: 113). The prayer is actually a 
long list of all possible sins that the deceased 
might have committed rather than an outright con- 
demnation, and the prayer asks for absolution. 
People should not stand in front of the feet of the 
corpse, to its north," and thereby face the man 
saying the prayer. Since the litany is very long, it 
is not surprising that almost any recitation of it 
differs from any other one (Hockings 1988: 526- 
57). The following is my compilation 38 of all sins 
that may be mentioned, if they are remembered 

This is the death of 

In his memory the calf Bassava is set free, 

Bassava the holy ox, born of the brindled 
cow Barrige. 

From this world to the other one, 

He goes in a chariot. 

Let the man's body return to the earth; 

Let the breath given by Siva go back to 

for the animal" ("Miles" 1933: 75). An anonymous 
Victorian writer, S.W.H., stated that this "operation is 
repeated to six or eight buffaloes, which are then set 
loose, the same ceremony being repeated to the same 
number of cattle. The animals are supposed to be used 
by the dead man in Paradise, where he ploughs his 
fields, &c; so that, once having been consecrated, they 
are left in idleness till they die a natural death" (Anon- 
ymous— S.W.H. 1879: 150-51). Properly, no other cattle 
should be milked in the village that day, "as this is the 
day the dead drinks milk" (Belli Gowder 1923-1941: 

14 MacNamara (1912: 151). With Lingayats, it is gen- 
erally the left hand. The Todas have a parallel ritual with 
sacrificed buffaloes. Not many Badagas own buffaloes 
or oxen today. If they have them, the chosen buffalo 
may become frightened by the crowd and the music. 
Because of this, the man generally puts a small amount 
of the milk into his own right hand and then transfers it 
to the mouth of the corpse. Similarly, he may touch the 
horns of the ox with one hand while with the other he 
holds the hand of the corpse. Dead Badaga women do 
not receive these rites because women never milk cattle. 
Harkness (1832: 132) saw 10-12 buffaloes milked into 
the mouth of the corpse. 

Thurston (1906: 190) and other early writers describe 
the touching of the buffalo and its milking as having 
taken place on the yard soon after the corpse was re- 
moved from the house. 

35 If, however, the corpse is to be disposed of on the 
following day, then only the affines now dance around 
the catafalque, and later the corpse is removed to the 
adjacent veranda for the night. While there, the door of 
the Great House must remain open, and a light must be 
burning inside all night and all of the next night too. 
The minor cost of providing this light is met by the 
family in the Great House. The milk-giving ritual, unlike 
other funerary ritual, can actually be performed before 
all the affines arrive, as they are not involved in it. 

36 Although few still observe the prohibition, a dead 
man's cattle should not be milked or used in ploughing, 
except for this one cow, which provides milk for the 
ritual. That cow can be milked beforehand, and the milk 
may be kept ready in the cowshed. In earlier centuries 
a man's cattle were set free immediately after his death. 
Other villagers would hence be anticipating the death, 
since they had to protect their fields from the loose cat- 
tle. Once the corpse had been disposed of, however, the 
sons inheriting the man's property would bring the cattle 
in again and use them. The cattle should not be milked 
because "During the first two days of mourning the 
milk-house may not be entered, but on the third day it 
may be once more used" (Natesa Sastri 1892: 841). It 
is a sacred place, not to be entered by women or to be 
polluted by those who have just experienced a death. 

37 The orientation of the body here and in the Lingayat 
burial implies that north is the direction the soul will be 
going. Yet the original Badaga and Toda idea was that 
it was toward an afterworld in the west that the soul 
traveled, and quite specifically, one lying in the west- 
ernmost Nilgiris, an area called Malla:du. Several an- 
ecdotes support this. Thus, early in the 20th century, 


Chapter Two 

He [the dead] has indeed sinned thirteen 

hundred times. 
All the sins committed by his ancestors; 
All the sins committed by his forefathers; 
All the sins committed by his parents; 
All the sins committed by himself — 
May they fall at the feet of Bassava! 


had carnal enjoyment in this 

world, it is a sin. [Response: A sin] 

If did evil toward his father or 

his grandfather, it is a sin. 
If he wronged all the past generations, 

it is a sin. 
If he was sinful towards his parents, 

it is a sin. 
If he did evil towards his father-in-law 

or mother-in-law, it is a sin. 

If he had carnal relations with his 

daughter-in-law, or his own children, 

it is a sin. 
If he brought about enmity between 

brothers, it is a sin. 
If he broke a bond of friendship, 

it is a sin. 
If he has killed a lizard, it is a sin. 
If he has killed a great lizard, it is a sin. 
If he has killed an ant-eating lizard, 

it is a sin. 
If he has killed a frog, it is a sin. 
If he moved a boundary-stone over, 

it is a sin. 
If he removed the field fences and let 

animals out, it is a sin. 
If he removed thorny branches around a 

field to let animals in, it is a sin. 
If he broke the growing plant, it is a sin. 
If he wasted dried firewood, it is a sin. 
If he cut the field pea stealthily, it is a 

If he cut the raspberry outside his 

boundary, it is a sin. 
If he dragged away the sharp branches 

of holly, it is a sin. 
If he plucked young plants and threw 

them in the sunlight, it is a sin. 
If he swept with a broom, it is a sin. 
If he discarded seeds of grain, it is a sin. 

a group of ():rana:yi men watched a familiar man from 
Ka:te:n walk past them in a wester!) direction. Although 
the) shouted and shouted, he did not reply, and hall an 
hour later some messengers came to sa) that he had just 
died in his bed (I have recorded two other ghost stories 
from the same village that make the same point about 
ghosts along the path going west from Kate.ri.) 

■ Based on Met/ (1864: SO SI). JagOT (1876: 197 
98). Thurston ( 1906: 193-95), Thurston and Rangachan 
<I909. 1: 114-15). Samikannu (1922: 36 38). Beth 
Gowder (1923-1941: I >. Karl < 1945: 22 24). and Noble 
and Noble ( 1965: 269 72): only Hockings ( 1988: 526- 
57. no. I I25a-d) gives the original texts Restrictions in 
space prevent me from exploring the underlying Badaga 
ethics more fully here; cf. Hockings (1988). 

Proverb 676 (Hockings 1988: 348) counsels 

"Don't create a rift between brothers; and don't move 
the definite field divisions." 

Proverb 676 (Hockings 1988: 348) makes the same 

point: "Don't create a rift between brothers: and don't 
move the definite field divisions." 

Proverb 1096b (Hockings I9SS: 515) warns: 

"Don't destroy the field! Don't malign the village!" 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


If he used a cow to plough the land, 

it is a sin. 
If he milked a cow liberated as a calf 

at a funeral, it is a sin. 
If he coveted a cow or buffalo yielding 

milk abundantly, it is a sin. 
If he coveted the good crops of others, 

it is a sin. 
If he was jealous of another village, 

it is a sin. 
If he spoke evil of another region 

(na.du), it is a sin. 
If he welcomed strangers instead of 

friends, it is a sin. 
If he refused food to the hungry, 

it is a sin. 
If he refused fire to someone half frozen, 

it is a sin. 
If he troubled the poor and cripples, 

it is a sin. 
If he misled strangers in the forest, 

it is a sin. 
If he created obstacles towards charitable 

deeds, it is a sin. 
If he spoke abusively to someone, it is 

a sin. 
If he beat someone, it is a sin. 
If he threw thorns on the road, it is a sin. 
If he tore his dress angrily when it 

caught on thorns, it is a sin. 
If he told lies, it is a sin. 
If he drove away brothers and sisters, 

it is a sin. 
If he showed ingratitude to a priest, 

it is a sin. 
If he showed disrespect toward a teacher, 

it is a sin. 
If he spat disrespectfully before someone, 

it is a sin. 
If he spat on Ganga [a stream or river], 

it is a sin. 
If he polluted Ganga with feces, it is a sin. 
If he crossed a river without paying 

respects to Ganga, it is a sin. 
If he broke the dam of another, it is a sin. 
If he let someone's water supply run 

away, it is a sin. 

If he urinated on burning embers, it is 
a sin. 

Proverb 1052a-b (Hockings 1988: 498) makes ex- 
actly the same points: "Don't stare [greedily at a] milch 
buffalo! Don't point the finger [enviously] at a flourish- 
ing field!" 

Proverb 1096a (Hockings 1988: 515) states: "Don't 

make malicious gossip about the village! Don't criticize 
the region!" So too Proverb 1096b (Hockings 1988: 
515) warns: "Don't destroy the field! Don't malign the 

Proverb 483 (Hockings 1988: 276) counsels: "Give 

food to the person who came hungry; give [hot] drink 
to the one who came shivering." 

Proverb 1030 (Hockings 1988: 490-91) makes 

much the same point: "If a wealthy man is beating a 
poor man, the gods will beat that wealthy man." 

Proverb 1017 (Hockings 1988: 485) says: "Don't 

speak disparagingly! Don't spit in a river!" 

Proverb 547 (Hockings 1988: 296) makes much the 

same point: "Don't slap an outsider's son! And don't eat 
a whole mouthful of onions!" 

Also stated in Proverb 338a-b (Hockings 1988: 

220): "You shouldn't appear to be disrespectful towards 
a teacher." 

Proverb 1017 (Hockings 1988: 485) makes the 

same two points: "Don't speak disparagingly! Don't spit 
in a river!" 

But in contradiction to this is Proverb 553a (Hock- 
ings 1988: 298). which says: "For both flowing water 
and burning fire there is no pollution." Also Proverb 
553b (idem.) says: "The muddiness of water will get 
cleared by the water." Nonetheless, such behavior as 
putting urine or feces in a river is viewed as an insult 
to the goddess Ganga. 

Proverb 414a-b (Hockings 1988: 250-51) makes a 

similar point: "Both the man who is abusing [you be- 
hind your back and the] man who breaks down the dam 
[are alike]. 


Chapter Two 

If he bared his rice-cakes [buttocks] in 

the sunshine, it is a sin. 
If he threw dirty water towards the 

sunshine, it is a sin. 
If he watched the snake swallowing the 

moon [an eclipse] and then slept, it 

is a sin. 
If he gnashed his teeth at innocent babes 

[in anger or ridicule], it is a sin. 
If he committed adultery with a woman, 

it is a sin. 
If he raised his foot against his mother. 

it is a sin. 
If he laughed at a sister with evil in his 

heart, it is a sin. 
If he got on a cot while his father-in-law 

slept on the ground, it is a sin. 
If he sat on a raised veranda while his 

mother-in-law sat on the ground, it is 

a sin. 
[Alternatively, for a dead woman — If the 

daughter-in-law climbed up into the 

loft when her mother-in-law was in 

the house, it is a sin. 
If the daughter-in-law sat on the sleeping 

platform, it is a sin.] 
If he killed anything, whether snakes or 

cows, it is a sin. 
If he caught a bird and fed it to a cat, 

it is a sin. 

If he killed lizards and blood-suckers, 
it is a sin. 

If he poisoned someone's food, it is a sin. 
If he made false statements against 

someone, it is a sin. 
If he showed a wrong path, it is a sin. 
If he complained to the magistrate, it is 

a sin. 
If he went against natural instincts after 

reaching adulthood, it is a sin. 
If he committed even three hundred sins, 

may Lord Siva forgive his sins and take 

them from him! 
May all his good deeds open up the way. 
Holding the feet of Brahma, 
Holding the feet of Basava set free today. 
Holding the feet of six thousand godly 

Holding the feet of twelve thousand pious 


Proverb 419 refers lo smirking as undesirable be- 
havior (Hockings 1988: 252). ihus: "Don't trusi the 
words of a person who is always smiling, nor sunshine 
in the rainy season."" 

Proverb 274 (Hockings 1988: 196) advises: Don't 

look [at her with a) sidelong glance; and don't smile 
| with bared] teeth at a beauty." 

Proverb 1079 (Hockings 1988: 509) makes the 

same points: "When your husbands father is present, 
don't get up onto the sleeping platform: when your hus- 
band's mother is present, don't go up on the ladder!"* 

A proverb, no. 1151 (Hockings 1988: 596). warns: 

"The person who has killed won't escape [his own] mur- 

Proverb 311 (Hockings 1988: 211) counsels: 

"Lodge no complaint at a court; put no poison in any 
food"; while Proverb 1014a (Hockings 1988: 484) 
makes much the same point: "He who has spoken | ma- 
licious] gossip will not [survive] until evening; he who 
has given a potion will not [survive] till late morning." 

Similarly. Proverb IOI4b-c (Hockings 1988: 484 

85) advises: "He who has spoken [malicious] gossip will 
not [survive] until evening: he who is giving taunts will 
not [win] three friendships. " 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


Let the saints and the pious ones join 

together for him! 
May he become one with them! 
May he reach the pious group! 
May the doors of heaven be open for him! 
May the door of hell be closed to him! 
May the hand of heaven be extended! 
May the hand of hell be shortened! 
May the ocean of death give way before 

the departed soul! 
May his soul reach eternal bliss! 
May he be reunited with the other life- 
May the door of heaven open suddenly! 
May splendor appear everywhere! 
May the burning pillars be cooled! 
May the thread bridge become firm enough 

for his passage! 
If his path is obstructed by thorn bushes, 

may he easily find a way through them! 
May his path to the other world be clear of 

all obstructions! 
May the house of wickedness be closed! 
May the house of righteousness prevail ! 
May the mouth of the dragon be closed! 
May the pit of worms be closed to him! 
May the wicked hands of the deceased be 

prevented from sinning yet again! 
May his hands be extended in charity 

towards others yet again! 
May he pass on to the place of the golden 

May he lean on the silver pillars after his 

May all his sins be forgiven! 
May he seize the feet of a thousand priests! 
May he seize the feet of three hundred 

May he seize Basava's feet! 
May he approach the feet of Brahma, the 

Deity who originally endowed 

May he approach the face of Siva! 
Thus may the soul of the departed join 

Siva's generation! 
So be it! [Response: So be it!] 

Once the sins have been listed and the calf 39 39 M6rike (1857: 60) says they were listed three times, 

released, the corpse is thought to be pure. At this The calf is not always available. "At the funerals of 

26 Chapter Two 

point most relatives walk three times around the 
corpse "with earth on their heads and hatchets in 
their hands" (Metz 1864: 79) and put a little earth 
on the face as they say: "Mud for the mouth of 
the man that died; (but] gruel for the mouth of 
the living" (Hockings 1988: 193, no. 263). This 
symbolizes three daily meals. 

After this, all Badaga phratries except the 
Wodeyas perform the "grain-carrying rite," 4 " the 
ceremonial placing of grain on the corpse. The 
Funeral Grassland is generally on the edge of the 
village, on the way to the cremation or burial 
ground. 41 The corpse is left there with a few men 
as well as with some classificatory daughters and 
sisters, while everyone who is to be in the pro- 
cession returns to the front yard of the Great 
House. For a dead woman. Jagor noted, now 
"there follows the recounting of the female vir- 
tues by one woman, then by several others. People 
place a little tobacco, betel leaves and sugar for 
the corpse, formed into rolls on a plate, the middle 
of them held together by a finger-ring" (Jagor 
1914: 43-44, trans.). When the women are weep- 
ing over a dead child, they often address the soul 
of a relative already dead who had seen the child 
when both were still alive. They ask him or her 
to introduce the child to its ancestors in heaven, 
lest the ancestors not recognize who it is. 

At the Great House, the village priest, or some 
postmenopausal lady who belongs to the village, 
hands out pounded grain that he or she has care- 
fully mixed with bits of Bermuda grass 42 and a 
little clarified butter. The grain has been husked 
beforehand in the Great House or in the house of 
the founder of the bereaved family's lineage, and 
it should be a particular millet. 4 ' A mortar there 
is first swept out with hubbe twigs (six distinct 
species; Hockings and Pilot-Raichoor 1992: 596), 
and then fresh cow dung is smeared on the inside 
of the mortar. Raw millet is placed in the mortar 
three times, and each time it is pounded and then 
winnowed (nowadays not at all conscientiously). 
The woman who winnows mixes in the clarified 
butter and pieces of grass and then distributes a 
little to each of the people in turn. All the males 
of generations junior 44 to that of the deceased and 
related to the dead person as agnates stand in sin- 
gle file. They are first ranked according to their 
generation level and then within each level ac- 
cording to absolute age. with the oldest coming 
first (Figs. 8b. 9a and b). In 1963, for example, 
there were altogether five such generation levels 
in 0:rana:yi, whereas the neighboring village of 
Ka:te:ri, which is larger, had six. Gauda men of 

which we were spectators, no calf was brought near the 
corpse, and ihe celebrants of the rites were satisfied with 
the mere mention bv name of a call . . ." (Thurston 
l l X>6: 195-96; see also Francis l l *)X: 134; Thurston and 
Rangachan I WW. I: l!7>. 

'Akkivettudu sa:stira or akkive: ta:stara. 

41 Not ever) hamlet has a cremation or burial ground. 
It was common, particularly in the past, lor several small 
contiguous hamlets to share one ground. 

4: Called xarikc. or Cynodon dactylon. Thurston 
(1906: 196) said that a little cow dung is added, but he 
may have been mistaken: it could have been the butter 

■"This is koraji, or foxtail millet {Setaria itaiica). 
Nowadays it is not normally grown, and rice is com- 
monly used. I knew one old lady who kept some foxtail 
millet that was then a quarter of a century old. retained 
just for this ritual. Badagas or Todas will still occasion 
ally walk to the Me:l Si: me area (the neighboring Bili- 
giri-Rangan Hills) to purchase some of this millet from 
the small Badaga community there. 

44 Hence this giving of grain cannot be done for dead 
children. A dead child is kept lor a lew minutes in the 
front yard, where it is held by some old man of the 
lineage, though not one of his or her household. After 
this, the corpse is carried straight to the funeral (irass 
land, held there for a few minutes too. and is then carried 
on to the burial or cremation ground. The corpse cannot 
be carried by a woman or child. Another old man. gen- 
erally the oldest in the village, leads this procession and 
carries a crowbar (see below ). Hvcry cremation or burial 
ground has a separate place for the burial of children. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


the same generation as a dead woman do not 
place the grain mixture on her corpse. Lingayat 
men of that generation do, however. Lingayats say 
that an elder brother's wife is "equal to a moth- 
er," and hence they perform the rite as they would 
for a classificatory mother; but Gaudas claim that 
a brother's wife can become one's own wife, and 
so they do not place the mixture under these cir- 
cumstances. No one does it who is of a senior 
generation to the deceased. 

One by one the people in the file come up to 
the old lady, who gives each a small quantity of 
the grain mixture from a winnow she is holding. 
They hold this above their heads between their 
two hands, 45 with the grass and a knife projecting 
from between the fingers. The leading man of 
each generation level, who must also carry a small 
knife, 46 has an umbrella held over him by a man 
of the village; he cannot be an affine. This man 
stands at his left side, as a mark of worthiness, so 
that the various generations in the line are clearly 
to be seen. 

The line of people is led by a Kota band, if 
present, and then by the oldest male of the sen- 
iormost generation, 47 who walks with bared chest 
and carries a billhook (Fig. 9a; remember, he may 
not be of a generation senior to the deceased). The 
women, who follow all the men and boys, are also 
organized according to age. This is the only part 
of the funeral for which they remove their head- 
cloths. Behind them and last in the order is the 
surviving spouse, if there is one (but he/she may 
be followed by a second Kota band). A few close 
male relatives who accompany this person may 
hold a canopy attached to four umbrellas over the 
head of the surviving spouse during this proces- 
sion, while they chant "o: hau haiC The coun- 
terclockwise circuit of the other relatives, by con- 
trast, is conducted in complete silence. The widow 
or widower, as the case may be, also carries the 
grain mixture, but in her/his case, the tool is a 
sickle, held with the point upward (Figs. 9a and 
b). This, as well as the other knives used in the 
ritual, are all kept ready in the house where the 
grain was distributed. Aside from the widow, 
women in this line carry no implements at all. 

The Kota musicians, if present, lead and also 
follow as a group, but everyone else comes in 
single file. They all go around the corpse three 
times in a counterclockwise direction, while the 
widow or widower goes around three times in a 
clockwise direction and stops at the foot of the cot 
(whether or not the surviving spouse was the 
younger one). Until she/he is in that place, the 

45 The youngest children in the line may have to be 
carried by others, but still the grain is in their hands, or, 
if it is more convenient, it is just held against a hand. 
During the time that they hold the grain, people should 
not chant "o: hau hau," because this implies comple- 

Natesa Sastri states that balls of this mixture are made 
in a set number, either 31, 41, 51, or 61 of them; each 
person would get several. In his day, the direction of the 
procession for placing the mixture was seemingly re- 
versed for the females who were participating: "all the 
males go round by the right and the females by the left" 
(Natesa Sastri 1892: 835; see also Thurston 1906: 196). 
Also of interest in his quite detailed account is that the 
empty pot from which the cooked rice and butter and 
several other kinds of grain were distributed is taken up 
on the end of a reaping hook by an "old woman," pre- 
sumably the widow. After all have thrown the balls of 
food onto the corpse, the woman "breaks the mud vessel 
at its feet." He adds that this means that "enough has 
been done for the departed and that the dead man's con- 
nection with those alive has entirely ceased by the break- 
ing of the pot" (Natesa Sastri 1892: 835). Todas have a 
similar pot-breaking rite at the conclusion of their fu- 
nerals, and the practice is widespread in India (Rivers 
1906: 383, 698). 

46 Indeed, anyone who wants to may carry such a 

47 The women who take part follow the males and are 
not so important; in some funerals, no women travel in 
this procession at all. Only daughters, sons' daughters, 
and daughters' daughters, whether actual or classifica- 
tory, participate. These women are divided up in order 
of generation level. However, the leading woman — the 
oldest — of each generation level is not "marked" by an 
umbrella, 'as the men are. 

All men who participate ought to be bare-chested as 
well as bareheaded, but now most of them wear shirts. 

In very exceptional cases, a man may have two wives 
and may be about to perform the seventh-month-of- 
pregnancy ceremony for one of them when the other one 
dies. In such a situation, he will need to keep his beard 
in order to do the seventh-month ritual, and, therefore, 
he will not perform the funeral obsequies for his other 
wife but rather will allow his brother to do so. 


Chapter Two 

leader of the file cannot deposit some of the grain 
mixture on the corpse. Then, one after the other, 
everyone places a little of it on the head of the 
body. When they have all finished, the widow or 
widower places some of the mixture at the feet of 
the corpse (Fig. 1 lb and Drawing 2A). 4 * 

Next, the right and then the left earring of the 
widow or widower are removed and. with a wid- 
ow, the finger and nose ring are removed as well. 
If she has a necklace, it is taken off and the 
(marriage emblem) is broken. All this is done by 
an agnatic relative for a widower or by a classi- 
ficatory husband's brother for a widow. The ob- 
jects are given to a man from the dead person's 
family. Special funereal earrings and a nose ring 
may then be put on or twigs of false bog-myrtle 
or rolled-up bits of palm leaf may be placed in 
her ears. Once this ritual is over, the couple is no 
longer considered married. 4 '' The bits of twig or 
palm leaf are removed and tied into a corner of 
the corpse's cloth as a memento (Belli Gowder 
1923-1941: 9). 

Next, a sister of the deceased, whether male or 
female, should cut some hair from her head and 
tie it to the right big toe or even to both big toes 
of the corpse (Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 
1 1 8). 50 She must then go around the cot once in 
a counterclockwise direction, starting at the leg to 
the right (east) of the head, bow down, and touch 
the ground with both hands, each time with some- 
body helping her up. Similarly, other close female 
relatives, such as a classificatory daughter, son's 
daughter, or sister, may go around doing this too 
(though this rite is no longer always done). Then, 
after they have fallen down like this, "throwing 
themselves howling to the ground, the women 
press around the body again, talk to it and sob" 
(Jagor 1876: 198, trans.). Some of them will say 
things like. "Tell my husband I'm too old to live 
in this world now: ask him to beg God to let me 
come there!" Or, "Tell my father 1 now have 
many children!" And perhaps, too, "Women at- 
tached to a (dead] man by an illegitimate tie 
sometimes also cut off a lock of hair, and, tying 
it to a twig of (false bog-myrtle], place it inside 
the cloth" (Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 

At last the corpse is carried off by four men to 
the burial or burning ground while it is still on its 
cot (Fig. 15b). The order of the procession is, first, 
the Kota musicians; then the man who led the 
grain-placing rite (now carrying a pot of fire from 
the Great House, with which to drive away ghosts 
that lurk near the funeral ground) (Fig. 16a); then 

In Kc:ti and one or two other villages, where there is 
a (vestigial) hunting ceremony (br:da habba). one fu- 
nerary knife is very elaborate (see Fig. 1 2a and Drawing 
3). This is owned by the entire village hut is only used 
very rarely at the funerals of particularly important men. 
Thurston (1906: 191-92) described such a tool as "a 
double iron sickle with imitation buffalo horns on the 
tip which is placed with a hatchet, huguri (flute), and 
walking-stick, on the cot or on the ground beside it" by 
the Kota associate who brings these. 

4 * This grain is not considered food for the dead but 
rather is a reminder that this is the fruit of their labor, 
now being offered out of respect for the dead. There is 
an implication that the more junior people will feed the 
senior people. 

If a widow dies, since her husband is already dead, 
his brother performs this ritual on her body — indeed, he 
does all the appropriate rituals — or else this item is omit- 
ted. When a widower dies, however, no one places grain 
on his feet. 

In the early 20th century and before, if a man was an 
outcast or if he converted to Christianity (which amount- 
ed to the same thing), his Hindu brother would perform 
all the funeral rituals when his Hindu wife died. 

4 " The plant is moranda. or Dodomra angustifolia. I 
have heard of a funeral being delayed for some time 
while everyone hunted for the plant. 

A Wodeya widow also used to break an iron bangle on 
the cot beside the corpse, but now she breaks one that 
simulates iron but is made of black glass. Only when a 
woman does this ode (breaking) ritual at a dry funeral for 
her long-missing husband is she then free to remarry fol- 
lowing the korumbu ritual, and she remains with her sec- 
ond husband even if the first one eventually reappears. 

A widow is not obliged to perform the ritual at her 
husband's funeral if he had not yet paid the bridewealth. 
His relatives, however, would pay the sum at once to 
ensure that she does it. This money is put on the funer- 
ary cot next to the knees of the deceased by the headman 
or the go-between (bejega.ra). so that when the guar- 
antor (honega.ra) arrives, he can take it straightaway to 
the woman's father. 

In the extraordinary funeral described by Mrs. Schad 
(1911). the ceremony occurred on the very day that the 
dead youth was supposed to be married. His young bride 
was therefore given a or marriage emblem, from 
his own dead hand. She was then stripped of it and her 
jewelry, immediately became a widow, and was led 
away (Schad 191 1: 6). The gift of the tali to such a girl 
can also be made by a brother or a classificatory brother 
of the deceased. He says. "Shall I give the'J" three 
times, then touches it to the hand of the corpse and puts 
it around the girl's neck. (Often the hand cannot be 
moved because of rigor mortis.) Similarly, if a pregnant 
woman dies without having received the, her hus- 
band will tie it to her body at this point. 

yt Wolf has written at length about the symbolism of 
tying the toes together (1997: 212 217). though without 
coming to a particular conclusion. My feeling is that 
there is a functional explanation. If the two feet were 
not tied together somehow, it would be quite likely dur- 
ing the transporting of the cot over rough ground that 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 




Procession of Relatives 

Spouse's Procession 

•"V*. V '''Trees and Shrubs -^> '^•'~'i'"i / i L -^. -'■"" 


spsi v52JPK Q5U33 <5*Y&k »i» 
•*^V^^ r i^s^f Ground ^i??^ '"** V 

Burial with headstone 
(Christian Influence) 

Burials covered by piled stones 


^Vy. Hedge 

William A. Noble 

Drawing 2. A. Funeral processions. B. Burial and cremation grounds. C. Funeral knives. 


Chapter Two 

one of the women who have just been falling 
down (either a sister of a dead man or a husband's 
sister of a dead woman); then the cot with the 
corpse; then the catafalque (if indeed there is 
one); then the male mourners; and finally a few 
women, some of whom carry baskets of food of- 
ferings and kitchen implements/-' The woman 
who precedes the corpse shakes the loose upper 
part of her body cloth from side to side all the 
way, while still wearing it, to drive any evil spirits 
away (Thurston 1906: 196). In many funerals to- 
day, a few rupees' worth of small coins (sukka are thrown away. Some are thrown in the 
air before or behind the corpse as it proceeds to 
the burning ground, and the remainder are mixed 
in with puffed amaranth or puffed rice and are 
thrown onto the pyre. On reaching the edge of the 
burial or burning ground, the party continues on 
with the corpse, but the Kotas stop there, sit 
down, and go on playing. As people enter this 
ground, they remove their footwear, out of respect 
for the dead. 

one log might roll askance, revealing the genitals of the 
deceased to view. Not onl) would this he an embarras- 
menl to the beholders, but it would reveal bodily orifices 
that foul-intentioncd hovering spirits might then invade. 
For this same reason the jaw is tied, thus keeping the 
moulh shut. That there was once more than casual in- 
terest in the orifices of the dead is evidenced in Dubois's 
account of the Hindu funeral in premodern Mysore 
(l l M)6: 486). where he describes, with some disgust, "a 
most extraordinary ceremony. . . . the chief mourner 
placing his lips successively to all the apertures of (he 
deceaseds bods, addressing to each a mantram appro- 
priate to it. kissing it. and dropping on it a little ghee. 
By this ceremony the body is supposed to be complete!) 

51 If the dead man happens to ha\e left a widow who 
is pregnant for the first time and who has never gone 
through the seventh-month ceremony, then she must re- 
ceive the marriage thread (kanni) at this time, to make 
her child legitimate: "The pregnant woman is . . brought 
close to the col. and a near relation of the deceased, taking 
up a cotton thread twisted in the form of a necklace with- 
out knots, throws it round her neck. Sometimes the hand 
of the corpse is lilted up with the thread, made to place 
it round the neck" (Thurston l l X)6: 196; see also Thursion 
and Rangachari 1909. I: 117). 

" The embers arc carried in a new pot. formerly made 
by Kotas. It is grasped by the rim with a bunch of hill 
mango leaves (iu:di\ or Meliosma simplicifolia), so that 
the fingers do not touch the pot. In a Wodcya funeral, 
no woman precedes the corpse. 

The Funeral: Taking Away the Corpse 


Fig. 1. b. Lingayat corpses are displayed in 
cross-legged position. 

Fig. 1. a. Lingayat corpses are displayed and 
buried in a cross-legged position; 0:rana:yi. (Note 
the coin and handbell.) 

32 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 2. a. Bereaved Lingayat son carries grave-digging hoe; 0:rana:yi. 
b. Kotas playing at an 0:rana:yi funeral. 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 


Fig. 3. a. Special dancing skirt at an 0:rana:yi 

Fig. 3. b. Divisional headman (pa.rpatti) danc- 
ing to Kota music at an 0:rana:yi funeral. 

34 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 4. a (top) and b (bottom): Dancing to Kota music at an 0:rana:yi funeral. 1963. 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 35 

Fig. 5. a. Special dancing dress at an 0:rana:yi 

Fig. 5. b. Kota band in procession, 0:rana:yi. 

36 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 6. a. Kota helps construct a gu.da.ra at an 0:rana:yi funeral. 

b. Gauda funeral (with gu.da.ra) at Mainele. 1963. (Photograph: William A. Noble.) 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 


Fig. 7. a. Catafalque at a funeral in Hubbatale, ca. 1925. (Figure continues on opposite page.) 


Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 7. b. Widower approaches wife's corpse at a Hulla:da funeral. 1963. 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 39 

Fig. 8. a. Funeral of a Ha:ruva in Osatti, 1963. (Photograph: William A. Noble.) 
b. Funeral procession of agnates in Hulla:da, 1963. 


Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 9. a. Lingayat funeral procession. 0:rana:yi. 

Fig. 9. b. Lingayat funeral procession, 0:rana:yi. 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 41 

Fig. 10 a. Funeral procession in 0:rana:yi. 

b. Funeral procession of agnates in Hullarda, 1963. 

42 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 11. a. The litany of possible sins being recited. 

b. Bereaved man pays respects to dead spouse. i (see Drawing 2a). 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 


Fig. 12. a. Widower carrying a complex knife in 
Hulla:da (See Drawing 2C). 

Fig. 12. b. Young boy pays respects to a dead 
agnate, Hulla:da. 

44 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fig. 13. a. Offerings brought for a dead woman' 

Fig. 13. b. Bridge of thread being strung across 
a Lingayat grave, 0:rana:yi. (Note two small lamps 
in niches in the wall of the grave; see Drawing 3.). 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 45 

Fig. 14. a. Food offerings on corpse in a grave. 

b. Puja at the feet of a guru standing on a Lingayat grave. 

46 Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

Fit.. 15. a. Puja at the feet of a guru standing on 
B a Lingayat grave; Ka:|e:ri. 

Fig. 15. b. Corpse being taken to the burial 
ground: 0:rana:yi. 

Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 47 

Fig. 16. a. Toreya man with fire pot leading a Gauda funeral in Accanakal, 1963. (Photo- 
graphs: William A. Noble.) 

b. Cremation in Accanakal, 1963. 


Badaga Funerals: A Photo Essay 

The Ultimate Separation 

Burial of the Dead 

All Lingayats bury their dead, as do all Badaga 
Christians. Other phratries normally bury children 
who die before puberty, and very poor families 
may also bury their dead because they cannot af- 
ford the firewood. An old person sometimes has 
asked to be buried. Bad weather may also make 
a cremation impracticable: it is a very bad omen 
if it rains during a funeral, for this might indicate 
that heaven is weeping over the heavy sins of the 
deceased (according to Metz 1864: 79). In all cas- 
es, except for those involving Christians, the 
corpse is placed directly in the ground and not in 
a coffin. 1 This, like the cremation, should occur 
between noon and sunset (Rhiem 1900: 505). 

In a Lingayat funeral, the corpse is carried 
counterclockwise once around the grave, and then 
the cot is put down at the north side, in a north- 
south alignment. There, all the jewelry and or- 
naments are taken off the corpse and given to a 
responsible man of the bereaved family, an act 
that is witnessed by some leading villager, such 
as the headman. An exception is that a dead fe- 
male must wear a silver finger ring or at least 
must have one thrown into the grave. The liriga 
emblem hanging around the neck is then taken 
off, and, if the corpse is male, it is tied up in a 
piece of woolen cloth on the upper left arm; if it 
is female, 2 the linga is similarly tied to the upper 
right arm. After this, whatever colored cloths and 
cloaks are on the body will be wrapped around it 
in a special way known only to a few villagers 
(in order to make a bundle). The grain still lying 
on the cot is put inside this bundle. 


1 An earthen heap or rocks are sometimes piled up 
over the grave, hut others remain unmarked. Recently a 
very few have acquired formal headstones, in imitation 
of Christian practice. 

In cases in which a Lingayat woman had married a 
Ha:ruva man. or vice versa, the woman's corpse is dis 
posed of according to the custom of her hushand's clan. 

Among ( i. aulas who hahitually cremate, when the) 
decide to bury a corpse instead, the cot is put down on 
the edge of the burial ground. A small lire is lit with 
dry twigs in a circular clearing of the turf. Apparently 
this is a vestigial pyre, as the lire serves no further pur- 
pose. Before the corpse is put in a coffin (a Christian 
influence) on the burial ground or. more often, is just 
buried in a bundle of cloth, it is swung three times over 
the grave (see below). Once it is interred and baskets ol 
grain are heaped on top of it. the grave is filled, and then 
the small tire is put out with a potful of water. A second 
man brings another potful and throws it onto the cold 
embers of some recent cremation. Then men go through 
the act of looking for a piece of burned bone there; they 
put it on a small bed of fern fronds and place this on a 
fragment of white cloth that was previously torn from a 
loincloth of the deceased. This is placed on the ground, 
and everyone there bows to it. The same two men who 

The Ultimate Separation 


In the south wall of the pit, a niche is cut to 
support the head. The corpse will not be laid out 
but rather is seated with the feet to the north and 
the head toward the south, propped up with mud 
and with its legs crossed, so that the face seems 
to be staring toward the north. This is because the 
abode of Siva, the great "natural /wgas," and the 
sacred places (kse.tra) all lie to the north, in the 
Himalayas; north is also the direction of rest. 

Before the corpse may be buried, the grave has 
to be made into a temple (which probably ex- 
plains why non-Badagas and Christians are not 
allowed to dig the grave). This involves a purifi- 
cation process, with a man first sprinkling a so- 
lution of cow dung into the grave. Then two small 
shelves are dug out of the wall at the head end of 
the pit and a piece of cow dung is placed on each 
shelf. A hollow is made in the middle of each, 
and into this is placed some clarified butter and a 
new cotton thread. Each wick is then lit with the 
fire that was brought from the village (Fig. 13b). 
A place without light, they say, is like Hell. Using 
this fire, some incense is also lit and is circled 
once around the pit. The officiant 3 then lights a 
lump of camphor and places that in the bottom of 
the grave at the head end. Next, two coconuts are 
broken with a large knife. A single half is left on 
the floor of the pit, while the other three halves 
are thrown out on top (and should not be eaten 
by anyone). 

The corpse bundle is now held and swung three 
times over the grave by three, five, or seven men 
(Belli Gowder 1923-1941: 10). It is said that in 
early times, people were not always certain that 
the person was dead, and occasionally the corpse 
woke up, so this movement was a precautionary 
shaking (see above, p. 16). Once its visage has 
been covered up, it is lowered into the grave by 
several men who are standing above the grave, 
and it is received by two men who are in the pit. 
In the case of a rich man, he may actually be 
buried on his cot. In all other cases, the corpse 
has sacking and one or two pillows beneath it. Its 
face is now bared once more. 

Then, four sticks, each some ten inches long, 
which have been cut from the holly-flowered 
spindle tree 4 are placed at the edges of the grave, 
as in Drawing 3. 

A single long thread of new cotton is then tied 
around these upright sticks in the manner illus- 
trated, beginning with the one to the west of the 
head (Fig. 13b and Drawing 3; the head is always 
at the south end of the grave). Then four men 
stand so that each can take up one of these sticks, 

got potfuls of water now do so again. Then the chief 
mourner pours one pot onto the wet charcoal. He takes 
a piece of plantain leaf with sprigs of Bermuda grass on 
it and throws this into the puddle at the burning place 
so that the grass is under the leaf. The piece of burned 
bone and fern fronds are then wrapped up in the cloth 
and buried nearby with a fork. A small stone is placed 
on top of the spot. Finally, the men wash their hands in 
the second pot of water and take some millet from a 
bag. They stand in a circle with a break in it while an 
old man says a prayer, and then all throw their handfuls 
of grain into the wet charcoal (see the description of 
cremation, pp. 54-56). 

2 If the deceased was a young woman, this could be 
the first time that the liriga has been given to her. The 
tying of the liriga should really be done when the body 
is being bathed in the house, but if it is forgotten, then 
it will certainly be done at the graveside. The bathing 
itself may be inconvenient to do and is not a necessity. 

Wodeyas bury not only the person's liriga — even if 
the person never previously owned one — but some sa- 
cred ash (vibu.ti) too. 

3 The officiant must be a Lingayat but can be any man 
there who knows the ritual well, provided he is not an 
affine of the deceased. 

4 Called ottarane, or Microtropis ovalifolia. Wodeyas, 
though Lingayats, do not practice this thread ritual. 


Chapter Three 


NW acick 


6 Cart) 
SMtf fttick 

Drawing 3. "Bridge of thread" over a Lingayal grave. 

and with great care they hold them together over 
the middle of the grave, then gather together 
sticks and thread and put it all on the floor of the 
grave beside the head. This is considered a very 
important ritual that must be performed carefully 
by older, knowledgable men. To get into paradise, 
the Lingayat soul must walk along this thread 
over a great fiery chasm full of monsters. 5 If there 
is one knot in the thread or if it is broken some- 
where, the deceased is said to be a sinner and, as 
such, will fall off the thread. Consequently, there 
are detailed rules for how to pass the thread care- 
fully around the four sticks. 

Then another puja is done, which makes the 
Lingayat corpse itself into a liriga. This ritual is 
not to be witnessed, and so four men hold a cloth 
across the top of the grave. It must be a new cloth, 
bought by the bereaved family. The cloth also pre- 
vents polluting matter like bird droppings from 
falling in. Underneath, the face of the corpse is 
washed and sacred ash (vibu.ti) put on its brow. 
Then they take the liriga emblem off the arm, 
where it was tied earlier, place it in the mouth, 
and close the mouth. Puja is then offered with 
plantains and two more coconuts on a plate that 
is circled vertically in a clockwise direction (from 
the officiant's viewpoint). One plantain and half 
of a coconut are left in the grave, and the rest 
may be given to some nearby Harijans, but it is 
certainly not to be eaten by any Badagas. 

Some of the women who come to the funeral 
bring sweets and grain, which are now placed be- 
side the corpse in special baskets'' made by Todas 
(Figs. 13a and 14a). Women may also bring 
wooden ladles, pounding sticks (probably not 
genuine), etc., all of which are placed in the grave 
alongside the body. (Previously, the affines have 

5 The indigenous Badaga belief tor all phratrtes is that 
the soul's journey begins alter its tinal meal at the kth 
rumbu ritual. According to some, the soul crosses five 
seas by itself in a boat. Landing in the other world, it 
goes through thick jungles and then crosses a chasm on 
a bridge of threads. This chasm contains seven terrors, 
including a wide river, a great fire, poisonous snakes, 
demons, and wild beasts, which arc referred to in the 
litany of sins (see above, p. 26). The soul comes to a 
door that is ever closed, and the living relatives pray 
that it will yield to let the soul enter. If fortunate, the 
dead thus reaches the place of judgment, where a trial 
is conducted. With a heavy load of sins, a soul ma) still 
be relegated to Hell. 

Jagor provides further details of Badaga belief 

"The Nilgris were surrounded by a sea. the ring of 
which however has not entirely closed to the north. 
There one would find the canal unattainable by 
mortals, which joins the world of the dead with 
Mahaloka: across it there is a bridge made of one 
thread. Fire and frightful monsters terrify the wick- 
ed; but whosoever's sins arc buried at the fed of 
Bassava will go across without hindrance. On the 
slope on our side in a narrow path running down 
to the bridge, where the Sunkadavanu 'customs of- 
ficial' stands. . . . The customs official is a dead per- 
son" (Jagor 1914: 50. trans ) 

" The basket is slightly different in design for a male's 
funeral than for a female's, since in the former case a 
big central basket, which has four tiny ones attached to 
it. has a kind of raised rib panel about a half of an inch 
wide running around its middle. Another basket (he:gi 
kukkc) is only used in the funeral of a female. It holds 

The Ultimate Separation 


danced around the front yard carrying all these 
offerings.) Until the two men in the grave have 
climbed out of it, after completing everything 
there, no one may throw anything into the grave, 
as this would imply that they were being buried 

Once they are out, an old man, generally the 
one who carried the crowbar, throws at least one 
flower, and preferably more, onto the corpse. As 
he throws the first flower, a Kota must sound a 
long note on his horn, and after that, there will be 
no more music. Then the same man must pick up 
some mud three times and throw it into the grave 
(or else take up one large clod and throw it in 
three separate parts). 7 Someone should also throw 
in a small coin, considered to be money for a toll. 
Once this is done, everyone else can throw some 
mud in, either once or thrice, with or without 
flowers. As they do so, the leader says this prayer, 
and the others follow verbally: 

Join, alas, with your caste group! 

Join, alas, your people! 

Join, alas, the begotten forefathers! 

Join, alas, the ancient ancestors! 

(Hockings 1988: 145, no. 148a; Natesa Sastri 
1892: 839) 

The soul of the dead is thus being requested to 
go to the ancestors. Even if the grave has been 
half filled in, the men may stop work if someone 
is seen running to contribute his handful of earth. 
Once all this has been done, anyone, even an af- 
fine, can help fill the grave. It is then leveled off, 
with four big stones placed in a square pattern 8 
over the location where the chest lies, and a little 
pointed stone is brought by some elderly person 
and placed in the middle of these; all are called 
lingas. These stones can be taken from anywhere, 
even from an older grave. 

Then another nameless ritual is performed. Two 
or three of the tools used are picked up by one of 
the gravediggers, and the metal heads of these are 
put on the reverse way around, such that the tools 
are rendered useless. Then this man holds them 
with the crowbar and stands on the south side of 
the grave, facing west. He swings the tools back 
and forth three times while saying, "Once, twice, 
thrice," and then he throws them across the grave 
toward the north, using an underhand motion to 
do this (Natesa Sastri 1892: 838). As he does so, 
he simultaneously turns his head away from the 
grave and toward the south. Old men say that this 

sweet preparations brought to the funeral. The female 
dead should also be presented with a needle and a piece 
of fiber (manji) from the Nilgiri nettle or harmless nettle 
(of various species; Hockings and Pilot-Raichoor 1992: 
444-45); the needle is stuck into the offering basket. 

In 1963, although younger people were then skeptical, 
almost all the old people (born before the turn of the 
century) believed that the baskets, food, and thread put 
into the Lingayat's grave were actually used by the soul 
of the dead individual. They recognized that these arti- 
cles would rot in the earth, yet they thought that another 
body would emanate from these items with exactly the 
same form as the original and that this body would go 
to the afterworld. Such entities, like the soul itself, are 
invisible to mortals. 

7 There are specific rules about filling in a grave. All 
the earth that has been dug out must be replaced, al- 
though it will form a heap, because it might contain 
pieces of bone from some former burial. As it is being 
dragged into the grave with hoes and shovels, the out- 
ermost earth must be dragged first so that no "islands" 
of loose earth remain on the ground. A further ritual 
requirement is that a man filling a grave may not pass 
any tool between his legs but can pass it only on his 
outer side (Natesa Sastri 1892: 839). 

8 This, however, is only done for adults: for a dead 
child, only three stones are put on the grave. 


Chapter Three 

ritual act, and the disabling of the tools for it, 
imply a wish that there should be no more death. 

Persons related as classificatory brother or fa- 
ther to the dead person bring fresh flowers to the 
burial ground while the others wait. These are col- 
lected, together with fresh fire and milk, 1 ' from the 
Great House, the house of the village's founder, 
or else from a "second Great House." The men 
should also bring at least one knife. The man who 
had led the grain-giving ritual carries some little 
millet 10 in one of his body cloths and waits quietly 
with it until everyone is ready. 

Then the man" who performed the pilja in the 
grave now does a puja for a third time while he 
is on top of it. First he washes the five stones, 
puts flowers on them, and touches them with sa- 
cred ash. Then the milk from the Great House is 
poured first on the central liriga and next on the 
other four stones. The man breaks two coconuts 
and splits some plantains over the grave. Imme- 
diately after the milk-pouring, at an adult's or 
male child's funeral only, people stand in a circle 
around the grave, with a break on the north side 
of the circle, through which the soul may depart. 
The leader of the grain-giving ceremony now 
goes around the circle, and each man takes a small 
amount of millet from him.' 2 Afterwards the man 
asks, "Is anyone left?" and throws a handful of 
grain onto the central liriga stone; all the others 
follow suit. Each man touches that stone in turn: 
if of an older generation than the deceased, he 
touches it and then touches his fingers to his 
brow; if of a younger generation, he touches the 
stone itself with his brow. This procedure is not 
performed in order of seniority: the person stand- 
ing to the west of the gap in the circle does it 
first, then the man to his right, and so on around 
the circle until all have participated. This is the 
milk-pouring ritual, which traditionally should oc- 
cur on the following day." Five measures of fox- 
tail millet (about 18.5 liters) and a pot of milk are 
taken to the grave. As these are thrown over the 
central liriga stone, the men say, "Join, alas, with 
your forefathers!" (Natesa Sastri 1892: 840; 
Hockings 1988: 146-47). 

Then the men sit down in a group and are 
shaved 14 by one or two barbers. If time is press- 
ing, at least one prominent man will be shaved 
and the rest will shave later, whenever it is con- 
venient, but definitely by the final korumbu ritual. 
The rules for shaving are that all Badaga men 
shave for dead men, women, and male children; 
but in every case, men of a generation superior to 
the deceased should only remove their beards and 

* In former times, ihe milk had to he hrought in a 
small new pot; now. any vessel will do. Previously, that 
pot (go.Jikc) was to he thrown away afterwards, since 
it could not he hrought hack to the house for further 
use hecause it was polluted. 

10 Called or Panicum sumatrense. 

11 Since the middle of the past century, that faction of 
Badaga Lingayats who approve of intermarriage with 
people from Mysore — perhaps one-third of the entire 
Lingayal community — have a jangama priest, guru, or 
guru's representative come to do this on the day of the 
hurial. They helievc that from the moment he starts the 
puja. he is a liriga himself. Other Lingayats have the 
same puja on the 1 1th day after death (sec below). 

12 Today women no longer take part in this ritual, 
though they formerly did. 

"For example. luiLitiuva jena. milk-pouring day. 
Non-Lingayats call it kari jena. charcoal day. Poorer 
people perform the milk-pouring ritual on the same day 
as the hurial to avoid the additional expense of enter- 
taining the visitors for another day. For dead hoys, it is 
performed on the evening of hurial. although it ought to 
be performed on the following day. The milk-pouring 
ritual is not done at all for dead girls except hy Linga- 

14 No Wodcya. unless he is the son of the deceased, 
shaves his head, nor docs any woman. Belli Gowdcr 
reports that no Lingayat Adikiris do. cither (1938-1941: 

The Ultimate Separation 


moustaches, whereas the other men should shave 
their scalps too, even for male children. The wid- 
ower shaves only his beard, and women do not 
shave at all. Among Lingayats, all the men who 
perform the grain-placing ritual must shave their 
scalps and beards completely. 15 

Before returning to the village, people go to a 
stream near the burial ground, wash their hands 
and legs, and sprinkle water over themselves to 
signify that they have bathed. Then they go back 
to the village and, on the way, some youths should 
fall down and bow their heads to the ground. 
Some older men bless them and say, "Let there 
be no more death!" Afterwards they leave all the 
tools near the veranda of the dead person's house. 
At the time of their return, a light should be burn- 
ing in that house. 


Gaudas, Ha:ruvas, Toreyas, and two other tiny 
phratries of Be:das and Kumba:ras all cremate 16 
their dead (all except the Ha:ruvas are tradition- 
ally non-vegetarian groups). If more than one 
phratry lives in a particular village, all use the 
same cremation ground, which is usually located 
beside a little stream (Reclus 1885: 211; see 
Drawing 2). Local non-Badagas would certainly 
not be allowed to use it. Although not essential, 
in some areas Toreyas carried a corpse to the cre- 
mation ground. But this is hardly evidence of the 
servile status of Toreyas, since Gaudas, who rank 
higher, may carry a Toreya corpse in return for 
the obligation related to a service that a Toreya 
has previously performed for a Gauda family. 
"Cremation may take place on any day, except 
Tuesday" — an unlucky day 17 (Thurston 1906: 
190; Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 111), and 
it should really occur between noon and sunset 
(Rhiem 1900: 505). 

Once the procession (Fig. 16a) arrives at the 
burning ground, people remove their shoes, the 
cot is put down near the wood, and an old man 
assumes the charge of building the pyre. 18 Mean- 
while, some of the cloth on the cot is distributed 
to very close relatives; it will be used later in a 
household puja. The flowers and garlands that 
were deposited on the cot by mourners are now 
thrown away. All jewelry except for a dead man's 
silver waist chain is removed and will be taken 
back to the household of the deceased. However, 
wealthier families should always leave one small 

13 By the 1960s only the closest relatives and some 
old men were observing these rules correctly, whereas 
younger men would just cut one hair from their heads. 
Lingayats in general do not shave for dead affines, 
whereas non-Lingayats do: thus, the daughter's husband 
must shave his head too. By the 1960s, older men would 
still shave their beards and moustaches off for male chil- 
dren who died, but they would not do so for female ones. 
The older men shaved completely for adult male dead 
but not for adult females. 

16 Much of this section follows closely the description 
in Noble and Noble (1965: 262-66); this is because we 
were all working in the same area in 1963, attended 
some of the same funerals, and even made use of the 
same primary informant, K. Lakshmanan, B.A., to 
whom I extend thanks. I am also indebted to William 
A. Noble for much help in providing some of the dia- 
grams and photographs in this monograph. Other draw- 
ings were kindly made by Raymond G. Brod, cartogra- 
pher in the Department of Anthropology, University of 
Illinois, Chicago. 

17 This restriction is no longer observed. Tuesday was 
perhaps once prohibited because for each weekday, there 
is an unlucky cardinal direction, and for Tuesday (as 
well as for Wednesday, however), this direction is north. 
The soul starting out on its journey to the north on that 
day could therefore encounter some misfortune. 

18 There should be no need to purchase firewood, since 
each house should provide a little of the wood (kasa 
mora) for the pyre. One person from each house carries 
the wood to the cremation ground beforehand so that the 
pyre can be built quickly. In former times, when wood 
was more plentiful, some of the villagers would go to the 
forest nearby to cut logs. As they returned to the village 
with their loads, shouting "o: hau hau," one or two men 
from the bereaved house would meet them and bow to the 
ground in expression of their thanks. Those just returned 
would bless them and ask them to get up and would then 
dance again to the Kota music before going to eat. 


Chapter Three 

gold or silver ornament on the body, and a female 
of any age or phratry must have a silver finger 
ring at the time of cremation. '■* 

At this point, the sturdy cot that has been 
brought thus far may be substituted by another 
one fit only for burning, and the corpse is trans- 
ferred to it. The face is covered, and the corpse 
on the cot is swung over the pyre three times by 
three, five, or seven men (Belli Gowder 1923- 
1941: 10). After a few moments' delay the de- 
ceased is placed, lying on the back, on a bed of 
logs, with the feet toward the south; alternatively, 
although very rarely, a pyre of bundled sticks and 
logs, brought previously, is also built up over the 
cot to be burned. Normally just the body is cov- 
ered with other logs, and perhaps the wooden 
parts of the catafalque superstructure. But before 
this, favorite possessions, like clothing or a walk- 
ing stick, are placed beside the corpse, and then 
an embroidered shawl is laid over the entire body 
so that the head is covered. Once the pyre is com- 
pleted, women, who have generally been sitting a 
hundred yards away, pour the contents of their 
baskets (Fig. 13a) over the pyre and toss the emp- 
ty baskets on top. :o 

Before the body is burned, the son may say the 
following invocation: 

O begotten forefathers! O ancient ancestors! 

With all the charity [you've done] I. 

Who was born to my mother and my father. 

[Here at the] funeral of my dead mother [or 

Without fail, alas! I am placing the first fire- 

Witnessed by all the hundreds of gods. 21 

Then the man, preferably the eldest son of the 
dead, lights the pyre ("Miles" 1933: 75). It is not 
a ritual requirement that the pyre be lit at the head 
end first, as in Sanskritic funerals, nor that the 
man avert his face, although the smoke may cause 
him to do so. Everyone present adds a token stick 
to the fire. All the foodstuffs brought are usually 
burned, but no clarified butter is thrown on the 
pyre today (although kerosene sometimes is). In 
former times, the corpse was covered in "large 
quantities" of clarified butter (Muzzy 1844: 359), 
and some of the foodstuffs were given to Kotas 
or Harijans (Jagor 1876: 199; 1914: 44).- Once 
the pyre is burning well (Fig. 16b), a final handful 
of coins may be thrown into the flames by several 
of the bereaved relatives as payment for a toll in 
the after world. Most of those present will then 

" Early accounts describe more wealth being de- 
stroyed at a cremation than is seen today, e.g.. "gold or 
silver rings for lingers and ears, silver chains which are 
wound around the neck and waist of the corpse, some 
monc) which is tied in his upper cloth . . ." (Morike 
184": KM. trans . see also Jagor 1876: 199). Later, "the 
molten silver and gold are cleaned and kept." This de- 
scription suggested thai other items were also needed lor 
the journev to the realm of the dead, including a bow 
and arrow to protect oneself (Morike 1849: 105). Today 
anyone finding some molten metal later may keep it. The 
widow may even later wear any of her husband's jew- 
elry, except for the neck chain. 

20 According to Malinowski's student. A. Aiyappan. a 
"relic of Sati is now seen . . . when the widow's robe 
is thrown on the funeral pyre" ( 1948: 1 17). He is prob- 
ably referring to King (1870: 6-7), who mentions, in 
regard to Badagas. that "the widow merely pretends to 
rush towards the blazing pile to sacrifice herself with her 
husband's dead body, and is pulled back by her friends, 
who throw her robe on the funeral pyre instead, and she 
herself commences a new lease of life with new cloth- 
ing." Harkness (1832: 134) and Muzzy (1844: 359) had 
earlier observed the same thing. Today the widowed 
woman is not allowed close to the pyre, and none of her 
clothing or hair is burned. 

Among those throwing coins into the (lames nowa- 
days may be women and children, some even vying with 
each other to see who will throw the most money. It is 
below the dignity of adult Badagas to pick up anv seal 
tered coins, but Untouchables and Badaga children may 
do so. 

:i The full Badaga text is given by Hockings (1988: 
144-45. no. 147) and Nalcsa Sastri (1892: 842). 

"The Badagas of the 19th century were given clari- 
fied butter by their Toda partners, but such transaclions. 
for the most part, ended long ago. The Todas to this day 
typically pour such butter on top of the pyre. Ignited 
butter drops and spreads flames to lower parts of the 
pyre. Thus, in a strange way. the pyre is ignited from 
the top downward. 

The Ultimate Separation 


leave, although a few men always stay to the end. 
To purify themselves, people first go to the stream 
nearby to sprinkle some water on their heads and 
rinse out their mouths before returning to the vil- 
lage. Those remaining listen for the sound of the 
skull cracking open, which in Hindu thinking 
marks the moment when the soul leaves the body. 
Weather permitting, the fire burns into the night 
(but a corpse burns up in an amazingly short 
time). A villager carries the cot back, in earlier 
times getting the half of the embroidered shawl 
that was left on the cot for his trouble. 

Early reports speak of the Kotas tending the fire 
(e.g., Schad 1911: 7). In recent times, they quick- 
ly returned to the bereaved house's veranda, 
where a son or other close relative gave each of 
the musicians from the associate's band 7 mea- 
sures of flour in one of the cloths from the su- 
perstructure that stood in the yard before the 
house. Those in other bands traditionally got 4 
measures. The former group of men would also 
each get 8 annas, a half-rupee, and the latter 
would receive 6 annas (in the 1930s). The source 
of the flour is a levy of 4 measures (about 15 
liters) from each household, which is collected by 
a man designated by the headman. The son and 
son-in-law of the deceased would each give the 
Kota leaders 2 rupees (in 1937). At the same time, 
the Kota associate of the son is told to come on 
the morrow with his wife and to bring five pots 
(made by Kotas). 

Concluding Rituals 

On the first night after a cremation or burial, close 
visiting relatives remain in the village, and men 
gather at the bereaved house or at the Great 
House. There they sing or talk during much of the 
night, perhaps having a noted local singer there 
to perform the traditional ballads (Hockings 
1997). They tend the one central lamp in the in- 
terior doorway, which must remain lighted right 
from the time of the death until the coming morn- 
ing, and so this rite is called di.vige ka.padu, tak- 
ing care of the lamp. 23 

The next morning the Kota associate and his 
wife should come, deliver the new pots, receive 
one balla (about 1.4 liters) of grain, and take a 
meal on the veranda of the bereaved house. Then 
a few Badaga men, at least one from each house- 
hold, go back to the cremation ground for the 
karitallo.du (picking through the charcoal) cere- 

In the 1960s Gauda women sometimes gave the foods 
to Toreyas. If the korumbu ritual occurs within the next 
day or two, the elder of the family now reminds every- 
one of this before they disperse. If it is to occur some 
days later, he has to send a messenger to remind relatives 
about the ceremony. 

23 Badagas believe that after cremation or burial, the 
soul immediately starts its travels to the otherworld and 
that this light will guide it. They also believe that if the 
lamp dies down by itself, prosperity will leave that 
household. Hence, on a normal night, a Badaga pays 
respect to the lamp but then carefully extinguishes it 
before sleeping (Natesa Sastri 1892: 839). 


Chapter Three 

mony. They carry the pots filled with water in 
order to dampen the ashes, then collect all bone 
fragments on a bracken frond' 4 and tie them in a 
small cloth. Children may not take part in this rite. 
The men now look for any coins in the ashes. 
Sometimes a larger denomination coin was pur- 
posely thrown into the pyre: if found, it indicated 
the men had indeed picked carefully through the 
ashes for bone. One fragment, with a little ash, is 
kept in another separate cloth or small box. Later, 
in remembrance of the dead, puja is performed on 
the remains. 25 

An old man, usually the one who led the grain- 
placing rite, calls everyone together and gives 
each a handful of little millet. 2 '' The man asks, "Is 
it alright?" and some answer, "Yes." After that, 
if someone comes late — he had been behind a 
bush, for example — he cannot receive millet from 
that man but can still get some from another man 
present. They stand in a circle around the cre- 
mation spot, with a break usually on the north side 
of the circle, through which the soul may depart. 
A little clarified butter is put on a leaf and placed 
on the puddle of water at the burning site. Each 
man throws some millet into the puddle (batta 
bi.rudu), in order of his lineage's seniority, as 
though sowing a field, while simultaneously ut- 
tering a final prayer for the dead, the words of 
which are as follows: 

May the old ones and the young ones who have 

died [and become] clay; 
May people of that age and people of this age, 
Those [who have become] dust, 
Who have died [and become] clay. 
May they all mingle with their maximal line- 

** Called la: \r. or Pteris aauilinv. 


Then the leader holds the bone in the white cloth 
while each person touches it. This is the most im- 
portant act of the day. 28 

The bundle of bones, together with some culms 
of Bermuda grass, is buried by any man two feet 
down in a stone-lined depository found in every 
cremation ground. After each funeral, the stone- 
lined depository (Drawing 2) is dug out afresh, 
and water is poured into it. 29 

When the people return to their village, they 
bathe and perhaps shave their heads and beards, 
and so regain a state of purity. They may recom- 
mence their work, which was halted at the begin- 
ning of the funeral. Some of those who performed 
the grain-placing ritual, including affines, go to 
the village green and have their heads shaved by 

: * It is wrapped in a piece of cloth that was saved at 
the cremation. While no special power is attributed to 
the remnant, people think they arc retaining something 
of their ancestors. On the other hand, it would seem that. 
at least in the 19th century, ashes had a sacred power, 
since "The younger Badaga children almost all carry on 
their necklaces small talismans in the shape of discs 
kneaded out of earth which is collected from under the 
pyre of burnt corpses" (Jagor 1876: 196. trans. — or docs 
he mean the cremation ash?). 

26 Formerly, this was foxtail millet (Setaria italic a). 
and he should take 18.5 liters (five measures) of it with 
him. together with a small amount of clarified butter 
carried in a cup made out of the leases of the castor-oil 
plant (Ricinus communis. Natesa Sastri 1892: 842). 

A modern informant says that the break in the circle 
may not necessarily be at the north side, since the realm 
of the dead is thought to be in different directions, de- 
pending on the particular village or commune. 

27 The full Badaga text is given in Hockings (1988: 
147-48. no. 152) and in Natesa Sastri (1892: 843). As 
they arc about to throw the grain, the leader says. "Al- 
right, shall we throw?" If there are any delays because 
someone is not ready, he cannot say "No." so just says 
"a:h," which would mean "Wait!" 

2 * For the full Badaga texts, see Hockings ( 1988: 147. 
no. 151) and Natesa Sastri (1892: 844) If the family 
wants, the bundle may be brought home and kept in a 
safe, clean place until it can be buried in some special 
patch or in a favorite field or even until it can be taken 
to the great Pcrur temple in Coimbatorc District. In this 
unusual case, puja is performed there, and then the bun- 
dle is thrown into the River Noyyal. Harkness's account 
of the funeral, our earliest, is unique in claiming that the 
bones were buried in "an earthen pot. that they would 
bury . . . some three or four feet deep, marking the spot 
with a circle of stones" (1832: 135). This observation 
links early Badaga practice directly with the prehistoric 
cinerary burials on Nilgiri hilltops (Hockings 1976; No- 
ble 1976). 

The Ultimate Separation 


a Badaga or a Tamil barber. 30 Members of the 
dead person's major lineage (kutti), however, 
should not bathe until after the korwnbu ritual 
some days later. 

That afternoon there is a common feast for all 
who were at the funeral. Closer friends and rela- 
tives must attend this feast. The meal- 11 must be 
prepared in the house of the bereaved, but it is 
not necessarily eaten there. It may instead be 
more conveniently taken in the largest house of 
that lineage. Male affines cook the food, which 
should include mutton, and they meet the cost. 
Meanwhile, their wives, who are daughters, sons' 
daughters, or sons' sons' daughters of the de- 
ceased, take the bone fragment collected that 
morning, wash it in a nearby stream, and bring it 
back to the house to be the object of a piija. It is 
afterwards thrown in a stream if the family does 
not wish to keep it on a shelf in an ancestral 
shrine, and the feast begins. Later that house is 
cleaned and the floor purified in the usual manner 
by sprinkling cow-dung wash. 

Some days after the funeral, 12 a ceremony to 
release the soul, called korwnbu, is performed at 
the Great House. This is not done for children or 
for any vegetarian Badagas. For men it will be on 
the next Sunday night after the funeral, for wom- 
en on the next Thursday or Sunday night. Since 
Monday is the day sacred to male gods and Friday 
the day sacred to goddesses, the korumbu must be 
performed on the eve of either day, and it contin- 
ues until dawn. Only men participate, beginning 
late in the evening, while the widow must stay 
outside the house. A Toreya village servant should 
beat a drum and ring a bell to summon partici- 
pants to the ceremony. In the 1930s he was paid 
1.25 rupees and 10 measures of rice (about 37 
liters) for such services. Otherwise the headman 
himself comes to the bereaved house and sends 
some other messengers to invite the villagers to 
attend, at least one man from each house. 

They start by lighting a stick of the berried box 
wood, which burns like a candle. However, it is 
soon substituted by an oil lamp. A large, flat dry- 
ing basket (Hockings 1988: 368, Fig. 26) is filled 
with grain and held at the arched doorway (Hock- 
ings 1999: Fig. 4) between the inner room ( 
mane) and the outer one (ida mane) by two men, 
including the man who led the grain-placing rit- 
ual. He stirs the grain around several times with 
a knife previously carried in that earlier ritual. 
Some other men who carried knives may do like- 
wise. Then each person in turn comes and bows 
his head down to touch the raw millet (nowadays 

29 One such pit was described as being 4 meters in 
circumference (Schmidt 1894: 257). 

30 The prime reason for shaving the head and beard is 
to ensure that no grain that was intended for the corpse 
has fallen there: it is thought that this could have a bad 
effect. For the same reason, one man stands beside the 
cot and, as people deposit the grain mixture on the 
corpse, he brushes their heads to remove any grain that 
may have fallen in the hair; otherwise they do this for 
themselves. Thurston reports a more elaborate shaving 

they repair to a stream, where a member of the 
bereaved family shaves a Toreya partially or com- 
pletely. Some take a razor, and, after removing a 
patch of hair, pass the Toreya on to a barber. All 
the agnates are then shaved by a Badaga or by a 
barber. The chief mourner then prostrates himself 
on the ground, and is blessed by all. He and the 
Toreya proceed to the house of the deceased. Tak- 
ing a three-pronged twig of Rhodomyrtus tomen- 
tosus, and placing a mlnige (Argyreia) leaf on the 
prongs, he thrusts it into a rubbish heap near the 
house. He then places a small quantity of samai 
grain, called street food, on the leaf, and, after 
sprinkling it thrice with water, goes away (Thurston 
1906: 198; Thurston and Rangachari 1909, I: 119). 

The Toreya is shaved first because of a fiction that he is 
an "eldest son" of the deceased (Belli Gowder 1938- 
1941: 12). 

31 Their eating of rice and beans, however, once used 
to be forbidden until the korumbu ceremony (Belli Gow- 
der 1923-1941: 11; 1938-1941: 10). 

32 It was reported that early in the 19th century, the 
korumbu was always performed on a Monday, but this 
must have meant Sunday night and Monday morning 
(Birch 1838: 104-5). 

It is not performed for any boy without a moustache 
or for any girl before she has undergone menarche, un- 
less she was already married at the time of death. How- 
ever, on the morning just after a child's funeral, well-to- 
do parents will give a meal to any relatives present, 
while poor people at least give coffee. Then, on that 
same day, the relatives always purify themselves. 

Traditionally, four plant leaves, four measures of 
grain, four measures of beans, and four new pots were 
used in the rites (Natesa Sastri 1892: 841). 

In former times, but not today, it was the practice, if 
a headman was widowed, for his brother to perform the 
korumbu ceremony in his place. This was so because a 
headman would lose prestige and the right to make of- 
ferings ( to the gods if he ceremonially became 
a widower. 

After the burial, Wodeyas go back to the house of the 
bereaved, view the lamp that is burning there, and then 
feast themselves. No prayers are offered. On the follow- 
ing day, they pour milk, along with nine different kinds 
of grain, onto the grave. Then, on the Monday after the 
burial, the titti ceremony is accomplished during day- 
time, unlike the korumbu in other Badaga phratries. If 
the burial occurred on a Monday, the most sacred day 
of the week, then the titti will be performed on the fol- 
lowing Monday. Invitations are sent to all the male rel- 


Chapter Three 

perhaps rice) in the basket. As each man touches 
the grain he says, "May he go to God and be in 
a good state." 33 Then all the men, still standing 
in the inner room, pray that the soul of the dead 
may rest in peace. Women, who are standing out- 
side on the veranda, must begin to weep on hear- 
ing this. 

There follows another rite called "pot-black- 
ening" (madake kanapadu). u Some sticks of the 
false bog-myrtle are used to make a fire in the 
hearth of the house from which the grain mixture 
had earlier been distributed. Two new pots are 
used: one should be supplied by the Kota asso- 
ciate of the eldest man in the bereaved family and 
the other by the Kota associate of the guru or the 
mother's brother. The group says a prayer: 

He says he has eaten. 

[Just as) our ancestors acted, as those strong 
ones acted, we have acted too. 

New has not become old. and old has not be- 
come new. 

No youth carries his head [high forever]. 

Join, alas, with your caste-group! 

Join, alas, with your people! 

Join, alas, with your clan! 

Seize hold [of them] too!" 

When the fire is burning well, the man in 
charge takes the old man's pot around to the other 
villagers who are his agnates and who now touch 
it. He then takes the guru's pot around to the af- 
fines, and they touch it. Then he holds each pot 
in turn over the fire in order to soot its interior 
somewhat and thereby make it usable. 

"The chief mourner, accompanied by two Bad- 
agas carrying new pots, proceeds to a stream, 
where the pots are cleaned with cow-dung, and 
rubbed over with the culms" of geranium or lem- 
on grass (any of three species of Cymbopogon; 
Thurston and Rangachari 1909, 1: 120). The chief 
mourner takes with him a lit torch, consisting of 
dry grasses (bambe; Hockings and Pilot-Raichoor 
1992: 397) or false bog-myrtle leaves, to light his 
way, and he drops it outside the door. The men 
who accompany him to the stream or tap are from 
among the second, third, or fourth men in the ear- 
lier grain-placing line: one carries the guru's pot 
and fills it. They bring water, mainly to use in 
cooking some of the freshly husked grain, and put 
it in the inner room of the house. Although both 
pots are supposed to boil, only one is actually put 
on the hearth. 

Then the mortar, set into the floor, is cleaned 

Btives. The feast is initiated h\ the same man who had 
carried the crowbar to the burial ground. At the titti cer- 
emonv he carries a crowbar again, and cooks a special 
IihhI in the house of the bereaved. Nine elders are called 
from the village, and the) sil cross-legged, each with a 
brass plate on his lap The man serves them the special 
food. The eldest son of the deceased is the only Wodeya 
to receive a tonsure. If there is no son. the younger 
brother of the deceased receives it The tonsured man is 
then given the luiga case [kanujage) that had belonged 
to the deceased, but w ithoul a /men. 

All this takes place in the back part of the inner room 
where the men are sitting. The one who has cooked 
stands in the doorway between the two rooms, then lies 
prostrate in it while the nine elders \a\ blessings ova 
him. Then the) cat the food, and the remainder is given 
to any others present. 

° Among Lingayats, after the eldest male of the fam- 
ily has done this, the guru must be the second one to do 


u Among Lingayats, it is compulsor) that a guru be 
present at this rile, as he symbolizes the cooperation 
between aflincs and agnates 

" For the full Badaga text, see Hockings < 1988: 146. 
no. 149) and Natesa Sastri (1892: 841). 

The Ultimate Separation 


with a brush consisting of a bunch of hubbe* 
One man pours some grain from the drying basket 
into this stone and pounds it for a few seconds. 
Then another close relative takes over and does 
more pounding, then winnowing, then pounding 
again, winnowing again, pounding for a third time 
and winnowing once more, in order to remove all 
the husks. This work takes about ten minutes. 
Some grain is left in the pounding hole, beside 
which the brush now lies. A brass tumbler of wa- 
ter is left all night on top of this grain; it is for 
the departing soul to drink." When the water is 
nearly boiling, the husked grain is added, together 
with a few beans and a small amount of rice that 
has been especially preserved from the grain-plac- 
ing ritual. These items are cooked together with- 
out any salt until all the water is absorbed. "Then 
the eldest member eats a handful . . . and the 
others also do the same. . . . This eating is called 
the eating of the hindiya kulu — the tasting of the 
funeral rice and is considered a great sign of at- 
tachment and caste union" (Natesa Sastri 1892: 
840). Afterward it is eaten by all the men, who 
have stayed awake all night, tending the lamp, 
drinking coffee, and talking. Some beans (usually 
Viciafaba) and peas are boiled in a separate pot. 
They are mixed with some of the grain and made 
into three little balls, and this offering is imme- 
diately placed on the roof as food for the depart- 
ing spirit. 38 

On the following morning a handful of straw is 
pulled out of the thatch (but today has to come 
from somewhere else, as roofs are tiled) and is lit 
inside the outer room to remove pollution. The 
family members and other close relatives of the 
deceased do not bathe until the entire funerary 
ritual is over, but on the following morning, they 
can all take a much-needed purifying bath and are 
then free to resume their normal household activ- 
ities. They have regained sudda, a state of purity. 
Those who have not yet paid their tella.ti (see 
above, p. 5, n.ll) now do so. The tools used in 
digging the grave — and the funeral cane cot, if it 
was not destroyed by flames — are washed, and the 
latter is sprinkled with a purifying cow-dung 
wash. Until this point in the funeral, the cot may 
neither be washed nor reenter a house: it is kept 
in the yard. At the same time, the knives, sickles, 
and winnowing basket that were used in the grain 
placing and the drying basket used the night be- 
fore are all cleaned with water (the great purifier 
all over India). Then the baskets are also smeared 
with cow-dung wash. Thereafter they may be re- 
turned to normal household use. 

36 Small plants of various species (Hockings and Pilot- 
Raichoor 1992: 596). 

Lingayats do not have this custom. 

38 In former days, we are told, "the eldest son of the 
deceased places seven balls of cooked rice on plantain 
or mlnige (Argyreia) leaves, and repeats the names of 
his ancestors and various relations" (Thurston 1913: 

Lingayats do not put food on the roof, but they do 
pound a little millet and then cook it. Most Lingayats 
now have a high-level jangama priest or a guru (spiritual 
advisor) or guru's representative come, probably from 
the Mysore area nearly a hundred miles away, to per- 
form a puja on the grave (Pis. 14b and 15a). Except for 
the minority faction that approves of intermarriage with 
Mysore Lingayats, this is performed on the 11th day 
after death. The man stands on the southernmost of the 
five liriga stones facing toward the north, which is the 
abode of Siva, and he himself is thought to become a 
linga. One or two men wash his feet, dry them, and put 
sacred ash on them. Then they put some flowers on 
them, light some incense sticks, and wave these around 
in a circular motion on the north side of the man's feet. 
The sticks are then stuck in the soil beside the stone. 
Then the same motion is performed with some camphor 
burning in a special 18-inch metal ladle only used at 
funerals (ba.kana). Then a ritual offering ( of 
money, totaling 1.25 rupees (formerly 5 silver 4-anna 
coins), is placed on the guru's feet. All these acts of 
puja take place to the south of where the corpse is bur- 

Then two coconuts are offered at the feet of the guru. 
Their water falls on the grave, and some is sprinkled on 


Chapter Three 

The widow or widower may now reenter the 
inner and more sacred room ( mane) of the 
home or the outer room of the Great House for 
the first time since the death, may again work in 
the fields, and, in the case of a widower with a 
second wife, may now have intercourse with her. 
A widow can now wear jewelry again, except for 
her necklace. Should the bereaved spouse want to 
remarry, it is possible once the korumbu is over, 
although for one year afterwards, the household 
cannot be the site of any auspicious ceremony. 
Another funeral, on the other hand, would be per- 
formed there if necessary. 

Since about 1940. some families have revered 
a little cremation ash in the house on each anni- 
versary of a death, before a photograph of the 
deceased. This ilu muttudu (touching the bone) 
may be done by day or night. Some perform such 
an act at the burial or cremation ground instead. 
A few have buried family members in private 
plots or fields, and so pay their respects there at 
a stone erected to mark the burial. Some may in- 
vite relatives for such a ceremony; others do not, 
but distribute food to the participants. Some peo- 
ple work afterwards, others take the day off. Ev- 
idently such innovative observations are copying 
the Hindu or Christian practice but are quite var- 

the guru's feet. The coconut halves arc placed on the 
earth fill beside the stone the guru is standing on. Next, 
any flower is plucked and dipped into a tumbler of milk. 
It is used to sprinkle milk on the central stone, then onto 
the guru's feet, and then onto the remaining three stones. 
the hand moves around them clockwiie as it sprinkles 
the milk. After this, some milk is poured from the tum- 
bler, first on the guru's feet and then on the stones. This 
is poured with a clockwise motion over the stones, and 
whatever little milk is still remaining is poured over the 
central stone. So long as the guru stands on the central 
stone, he is a lihga. 

The man who has performed these acts now stands 
aside, and the guru, still on the stone, puts his hands up 
with palms together and his eyes shut, and says a prayer 
in Kannada that roughly translates as. "Now we witness 
that the soul of has gone to heaven. In the pres- 
ence of all this big crowd I pray to God mat if he [she| 
has done any sin. all the sins may be forgiven through 
Lord Bassava. and the soul may rest in peace with you. 
O God!" This is repeated by the crowd, line by line. 
Then one or two of the men wash and dry the guru's 
feet before he steps off the stone. 

Commemoration of the Ancestors 

Finally, there used to be an eight-day commem- 
orative ceremony (manevale) for an entire gen- 
eration of the dead once all had passed away. 
However, the last one was performed in 1936, af- 
ter which it became too costly to stage.™ 

This event commemorates all of the recently 
deceased in a particular commune and is cele- 
brated in its head village during March. It would 
only be observed after the last member of a par- 
ticular generation had died, and then only if the 
heavy expenses of feeding several thousand visi- 
tors for eight days could be afforded. Monday be- 
ing the most sacred day of the week, the manevale 
begins and ends on a Monday. But before this, a 
large supply of requisites for the guests has been 
purchased in town: rice, legumes, ghee, curry ma- 
terials, tobacco, and at one time opium. The vil- 
lage community as a whole meets these expenses, 
sends out invitations, and organizes the function. 
The site of the celebration is readily seen from a 
distance, because a superstructure perhaps 40 to 

w Wodeya and other Lingayat villages, as well as the 
Ha:ruvas. all traditionally vegetarian in diet, did not 
have this custom. Although it was not observed for the 
past 60 years. I will use the present tense in this account. 
I rely here on a few elderly informants and on the cur- 
sory descriptions that may be found in Birch (1838: 
105); J. Josenhans (in Metz 1852: 42-43); Metz (1864: 
89-90); Hesse (1870: 77); Basel Evangelical Missionary 
Society (1879: 75); Thurston (1906: 199-201); Francis 
(1908: 134); Thurston and Rangachari (1909: I: 121- 
23): Samikannu (1922: 30-31); Belli Gowder (1923- 
1941: 13-15); and Noble and Noble (1965: 268-69). 

Unfortunately, we do not have a full roster of the ma- 
nevales celebrated during the past two centuries. A par- 
tial list of celebrations would include the following: 

at Kadanadu. began March 1795 (estimate) 
1845 (estimate) 
1905 (Thurston and Ran- 
gachari 1909.1: 121- 


The Ultimate Separation 


50 feet high is erected there and covered with 
cloths of various colors. This will be destroyed on 
the following Monday, until which time every- 
body celebrates by eating, drinking, dancing, 
singing, and smoking (Birch 1838: 105; Hockings 
1980: Pis. 13-14). 

The celebration would seem to be modeled on 
the dry funeral of the Kotas (and to a lesser extent 
on that of the Todas), but it is not at all similar to 
any event that the ancestral Badagas observed in 
Mysore. 40 Kotas perform their celebration for all 
who have died in one village during the preceding 
year (Mandelbaum 1959: 193-98). 

The Badaga commemoration is held at the head 
village of a commune, but only after the appro- 
priate permission has been obtained. This has first 
to be gained from the Hette temple at Be:rage:ni 
(Hette being the divine ancestress of the Bada- 
gas), and then from Tandana:du village, and then 
again from any Todas, Kotas, and Kurumbas liv- 
ing in the vicinity. Finally, permission is obtained 
from all the headmen of the four plateau divi- 
sions, or na.du, and from some prominent priests 
(Belli Gowder 1938-1941: 11). 

The ceremony could actually be said to begin 
on Sunday, when a man boils 5 measures of korali 
and then dries it before dehusking. 41 

The next morning, a puja is offered in a local 

"Later some earth from a well-used place was dug 
up with an iron-pointed dibble made especially for 
the occasion by Kotas. The earth, which represent- 
ed all who had died during the past twelve years 
[i.e., in the case of Ittalar], was tied into a seelai 
([i.e., si.le] shawl-like cloth which Todas embroi- 
dered for the Badagas) and placed on a funeral-cot 
which was brought to the earth-digging locale. 
From this place the cot was carried to the funeral- 
temple kerie [i.e., front yard], where villagers 
placed a stick, also representing those who died, 
upon the cot" (Noble and Noble 1965: 268). 

at Pedduva, began March 1840 (estimate) 

" March 21, 1921 (Samikannu 1922: 
at K. u : kill February 23, 1852 (Josenhans, in 

Metz 1852: 42-43) 
at Ke:ti " March 24, 1879 (Basel Evangelical 

Missionary Society 1879: 75) 
at Ittalaru " March 1902 

" 1914 
at Attubailu April 1902 

" 1914 
at So:lu:ru March 1908 (estimate) 

at Tanga:du " " 1908 

" 1936 
at Nundua " 1915 

These nine villages are remembered as doing the ma- 
nevale; eight of them are the head village for their re- 
spective communes. They are located in the three main 
divisions of the Badaga territory, but not in Kunda, the 
fourth and latest one to be founded. Numerous other 
head villages are not remembered as having had this 

4(1 The Kanarese Gaudas, who appear to be the popu- 
lation from which most 16th century Badagas broke 
away, have an annual family commemoration for dead 
ancestors in the month of Mituna (June-July; Thurston 
and Rangachari 1909, II: 269-72). 

41 "The person in charge of this operation should be 
careful that no flies sit on the grains while they are dry- 
ing; not even the shadow of a human being should fall 
on them. The grains are kept in a new pot in the cere- 
monial house in the village" (Belli Gowder 1938-1941: 

As more and more guests arrive from other 
places, some Todas greet them and act as recep- 
tionists, while Kotas or Kurumbas play music. 
The Kurumba watchman for the village brings a 
bamboo ladder to build the catafalque. 42 He cer- 
emoniously cuts the first bamboo, and then the 
work begins. The segregation of the low-status 
Toreya phratry is now symbolized by the building 
of a second catafalque specifically for their an- 
cestors. Once both are ready, which will be before 
nightfall on Monday, the Kurumba stands on the 
work yard between them, surrounded by the Bad- 
aga elders, and the dancing begins. This and the 

42 That at Kadana:du in 1905 was seven tiers high. It 

"was built of wood and bamboo, and decorated 
with silk and wollen [sic] fabrics, flags, and um- 
brellas. Inside the ground floor were a cot with a 
mattress and pillow, and the stem of a plantain tree. 
The souls of the ancestors are supposed to be re- 
clining on the cot, resting their heads on the pillow, 
and chewing the plantain, while the umbrellas pro- 
tect them from the sun and rain. The ear ornaments 
of all those who have died since the previous [com- 


Chapter Three 

public feeding continue all week, without any fur- 
ther ritual. At night, mythological street dramas 
may be performed. 

At Kadana:du, in 1905. 

memoration] ceremonv should he placed on the 
cot" (Thurston 1906: 199). 

"sixty-nine petty ba/ars and three beer taverns had 
been opened for the convenience of all classes of 
people ... On Wednesday at 10 a.m. people from 
the adjoining villages were announced, and the 
Kota band, with the village people, went forward. 
greeted them, and brought them to the tower (car) 
As each man approached it. he removed his turban, 
stooped over the pillow and laid his head on it. and 
then went to form a ring for the dance. The dancers 
wore skirts made of while long-cloth, white and 
cream silks and satins w ith border oi red and blue 
trimming, frock dresses, and dressing-gowns, while 
the coats, blouses, and jackets were of the most 
gaudy colors of silk, velvet, velveteen, tweed, and 
home-spun. As each group of people arrived, they 
went first to the temple door, saluted the god. and 
went to the basement of the tower (catafalque | to 
venerate the deceased, and then proceeded to join 
the ring for the dance, where they danced for an 
hour, received their supplies of rice. etc.. and 
cleared off. Thursday and Friday were the grandest 
days. Nearly three thousand females and six thou- 
sand males assembled on Thursday. To crown all 
the confusion, there appeared nearly a thousand 
Badagas armed with new mamoties (spades). They 
came on dancing from some distance, rushed into 
the crowd, and danced round the tower. These Bad- 
agas belonged to the gang of public works, local 
fund, and municipal maistries" (i.e.. foremen: 
Thurston 1906: 199-200). 

On the following Saturday. Kota men arrive 
carrying wooden spears, their one-time weapon, 
and are received ceremoniously by the villagers. 
Men who are affines to the Badaga village dig 
some holes to hold pots in an appropriate spot, 
and then rice and beans are cooked in the big pots 
in a process that goes on throughout the night, 
under the direction of affinal men. 4 ' 

The next morning, Sunday, a goat or sheep is 
sacrificed to the heaps of cooked rice by a Ku- 
rumba priest, and a little rice is mixed with the 
animal's blood and buried in the ground. Some 
food is served by way of alms to any low-caste 
people who may be present. 

On the Monday, the final day, another goat is 
sacrificed at one leg of the main catafalque, after 
which the catafalques are removed and disman- 
tled. 44 "Cloth, floral decorations, paper and poles 
were carried to the cremation ground and burned 
along with the bound up earth and the dummy 
stick," which represented each deceased person 
(Noble and Noble 1965: 269). Men affinal to the 
village then have their heads shaved in token of 

41 Women are ne\er involved in ceremonial cooking. 

44 The Nobles (who were not eyewitnesses) report that 
at Ittalar commune. "On the seventh day funeral dancers 
and musicians visited four peaks adjacent to ithalar (i.e.. 
Ittalar]. where music-making and dancing continued on 
the top of each one in turn. Upon returning from the 
peaks in the afternoon the crowd dismantled the gudi- 
kattu" (Noble and Noble 1965: 269). 

The Ultimate Separation 


their mourning. In the evening, korali grain that 
had been kept in a pot since the Sunday before 
the ceremony began is now cooked together with 
beans. This food is offered to the dead as prasdd 
by placing seven balls of it on the roof of the 
temple. An elder then pronounces this prayer: 

Earlier ancestors, these are for you [two balls]; 

Ancestresses and forefathers, these are for you 
[two balls]; 

Mother and Father, these are for you [two 

Your share has come, this is for you [one ball]. 

For any deficiencies we made during your fu- 
nerals, we now make compensation. 

May death cease! May sorrow cease! 

May [everything] quickly become good! 

By both the meritoriousness of our ancient an- 

And the merit of our begotten forefathers, 

May these dead go and join [them]!" 

Afterwards, the rest of the food is eaten by all 
belonging to the bereaved families (Belli Gowder 
1938-1941: 12). Then, the next morning, "every- 
one took a purifying after-funeral bath" (Noble 
and Noble 1965: 269). 

64 Chapter Three 

Funeral Symbolism: Some Conclusions 

What has been described to this point is the 
traditional Badaga funeral, with all the de- 
tail available. Even forty years ago it was evident 
that numerous items in the ritual were being omit- 
ted, partly through faulty memory, partly through 
disinclination, and partly to save time. The se- 
quence of events, too, was sometimes not fol- 
lowed "correctly." Many villages have not seen 
Kota musicians in a lifetime. It is thus not uncom- 
mon for much of the described ritual to be omitted 
today, while some items have been moved in the 
protocol. Some people now do the grain-placing 
ceremony with rice in the front yard, while oth- 
ers — just very close relatives — actually do it in- 
side the house before removing the corpse. And 
although women are not supposed to proceed be- 
yond the Funeral Grassland, as they have no fur- 
ther rites to perform, I have often seen them 
throwing earth or food offerings into the grave. 
Nor does anyone stop them any more if they come 
to the korumbu rites. 

The normal state of a Badaga being is one of 
purity, sudda, which is promoted by daily worship 
and forbearance from sinning. That state is sus- 
pended or, rather, replaced temporarily by a state 
of impurity, ti.tu. under certain circumstances 
(such as contact with menses, childbirth, and 
death). (Impurity can also be acquired in other 
situations, such as through marriage, intercourse, 
or simply by eating with a non-Badaga.) 

From the moment of death, the corpse and all 
immediate family are polluted, and the people re- 
main so until the conclusion of the funeral. Use 
of the household's milk store (ha.go.tu), if still 
extant, is now suspended, for milk is a pure sub- 

stance. We have seen, however, that there is nor 
mally a liminal phase, a transitional period, be- 
tween the earlier state of sudda in the household 
and the moment of death: this is when the invalid 
lies, corpselike, inside the house as relatives come 
from elsewhere to bless him or her and to seek 
blessings in return. After the ti.tu, which all (ex- 
cept priests) who participate in the funeral will 
suffer, a second liminal phase follows immediate- 
ly on the disposal of the corpse and continues for 
the nearer relatives until the departing spirit has 
been fed at the korumbu rites (see Drawing 5). 

It is noticeable that in the Badaga Hindu fu- 
neral, unlike in the Christian one. priests do not 
play a central role. A priest will often be present, 
but only as a member of the village community 
or as a relative of the deceased. He tries to main- 
tain a certain sanctity and residual purity by not 
eating any of the food offered, for it is polluted 
by its association with death. He never touches 
the corpse by way of respecting it. (There is no 
special procedure for the funeral of a priest.) 

The funeral itself, for all its multitude of petty 
rules and ritual observations, has a quadripartite 
dramaturgical structure to it, which my presenta- 
tion of the data under six headings may have ob- 
scured somewhat. Those data, moreover, were 
given as far as possible in a chronological se- 
quence, whereas the quadripartite structure is one 
of themes that pervade the entire observation. 

The loss of a member of the community, es- 
pecially of an elderly one. threatens the stability 
not just of the deceased's household but also of 
the community as a whole, which explains why 
the hamlet headman rather than a son of the de- 

Funeral Symbolism: Some Conclusions 


ceased is given charge of the operations. The 
headman's prime concern is to reestablish the so- 
cial stability that has just been ruptured. This is 
done — unconsciously, no doubt — by performing 
rituals that promote four basic principles of social 
stability, namely hierarchy and social divisions, 
auspiciousness, sex distinctions, and kin relation- 
ships. A dramatic tension is present throughout 
the funeral, because each of these principles is 
associated with a counteractivity of serious im- 

A fundamental principle of Badaga society is 
that each phratry is divided into clans or, more 
specifically, into intermarrying categories that an- 
thropologists label agnates and affines. At every 
point in the funeral, this separation is reempha- 
sized through quite specific rules about what the 
agnates must do and what affines can or cannot 
do. There seems to be a latent tension between 
the two categories during the funeral, arising from 
the fact that the local people, the agnates, have 
either lost a daughter entrusted to them by the 
affines or, alternatively, have lost her husband, 
which therefore raises questions about the wid- 
ow's future security. 

The social hierarchy is threatened by evil spirits 
that are thought to be attracted under these sor- 
rowful circumstances and that congregate espe- 
cially near any funeral ground. The idea is com- 
mon to many cultures: 

It is a belief familiar to anthropologists . . . that the 
body is at certain times particularly exposed to the 
attacks of evil spirits . . .; its diminished powers of 
resistance have to be reinforced by magical means. 
The period which follows death is particularly dan- 
gerous in this respect; that is why the corpse must 
be exorcised and be forearmed against demons. 
This preoccupation inspires, at least partly, the ab- 
lutions and various rites connected with the body 
immediately after death: such as, for instance, the 
custom of closing the eyes and other orifices of the 
body with coins or beads; it also imposes on the 
survivors the duty of keeping the deceased com- 
pany during this dreaded period, to keep watch by 
his side and to beat gongs frequently in order to 
keep malignant spirits at bay. (Hertz 1960: 33-34) 

Evil spirits ipe:i) are the embodiment of ambi- 
guity: they are neither human nor divine, neither 
male nor female, neither living nor dead; they are 
present yet invisible. At numerous points in the 
funeral, they need to be thwarted in order to pro- 
tect social stability by ambiguous performances. 
Thus, we see Badaga men and women dancing 
energetically in front of a gaily decorated, tem- 
porary abode. The impression is of a sort of sec- 

ond wedding, with the widow dressed rather like 
a bride, covering her face while weeping and 
wearing a special nose ring. Men shout "o: hau 
haii" in jubilation, as they do at auspicious cere- 
monies. When the other mourners circle the 
corpse three times in a counterclockwise direc- 
tion, the spouse circles it in a clockwise direction, 
which in all other ritual contexts is the auspicious 
one. In nineteenth-century reports we read of 
shots fired in the air and can still see processions 
with knife blades, some of which are fantastic in 
design, held in the air with points upward (Fig. 
9a and Drawing 2). Even the lime halves stuck on 
some of these blades are believed to "put lime 
juice into the eyes" of the hovering spirits. Iron 
protects the living from evil spirits, so heavy iron 
tools are carried in procession to the graveyard, 
although some are not actually used there. The 
site of the grave is first stabbed with a crowbar. 
Elsewhere, milk and grain are thrown onto the 
ground. Drums are beaten and horns sounded dur- 
ing the procession to create a frightful noise, 
while food and coins are thrown in the air. Prob- 
ably, too, the giving of a turban to a female corpse 
and the ritual requirement that some men dance 
in what might be viewed as a female dress are 
further attempts to confuse the evil spirits through 
sexual ambiguity; some men nowadays dress up 
as Kotas, Todas, Kurumbas, or even as Europeans, 
which is considered very humorous (cf. Elmore 
1915: 35-40). 

Throughout the entire ceremony, the rigidity of 
the social hierarchy is reemphasized by reference 
to generational levels, especially, to the separation 
of affines from agnates, and to the particular role 
obligations of Kotas and Todas (low- and high- 
status tribes) as well as of Toreyas and Wodeyas 
(low- and high-status Badaga phratries). 

Second, auspiciousness must be sought in the 
face of this most inauspicious of events: there are 
thus many references to it. Three in particular is 
a lucky number, and nine is the luckiest number 
of all. It is therefore easy to see why so many 
things occur in threes throughout the entire fu- 
neral, and why the Wodeyas invite nine elders to 
eat at the titti ceremony in the house of those be- 
reaved. All even numbers are inauspicious, how- 
ever — a belief that perhaps explains a curious say- 
ing: "If death [comes] today, [it will be] three 
days by tomorrow" (Hockings 1988: 105, no. 54). 
The morrow is, of course, the most common day 
for holding the funeral, at least in modern times. 
The concept applies equally in counting the days 
of menstruation, for the second day of that im- 


Chapter Four 



"" e... .-tf ,,>;••',/ "-•4.. 

i y/ M\ \ >--z '"- 

= AS 1^6 ""=- 

i Money 
2. Musicians 

3. Embroidered 


4. Ebanna doth. 

5. Puka:su doth, 

6. Rate ol food. 

7. Musicians. 

bag ot grain. 

8. Kacce cloth. 

hair, string, 


9. Catafalque 

cloth, money 



a \ A^> 

Department ol Anthropology. UIC 


Kota Associate 
Drawing 4. Offerings made by specific kin at a funeral. 

purity is also considered to be the third: for ex- 
ample, in counting which will be the sixth day on 
which a woman may return to her kitchen duties. 
(For purposes of calculation, each day ends at the 
next sunrise, not at midnight.) Considering the 
day after the death as the third day may further 
confuse the evil spirits with a sense of auspicious- 
ness and celebration and so counteract their bale- 
ful influence on the vulnerable mourners. 

A third basic principle of social life, empha- 
sized throughout the funeral, is the distinction be- 
tween the sexes. There are different rules of pro- 
cedure for a male and a female corpse, and dif- 
ferent ritual obligations for male and female par- 
ticipants throughout. At all points, men and 
women stand, sit, or walk somewhat separate 
from each other. Whenever something is done to 
or for the corpse, it is the men who do it but the 
women who weep. Yet everyone is polluted, in- 
cluding the corpse. The corpse will only become 
purified by fire or, alternatively, by being sancti- 
fied as a liriga inside the Lingayat grave. Women 

will be habitually impure for a few days every 
month, whereas for men. this present impurity is 
an exceptional circumstance, although, like wom- 
en's pollution, it is something quite beyond their 
control. The insistence on sexual distinctions in 
role playing throughout the ceremony is an at- 
tempt to evade the leveling effect of pollution and 
so to reassert one of the major principles of social 
stability. Shaving, the act that separates men from 
the impurity they have suffered, is not required of 
women, for they will soon be polluted again. In 
this respect, too. men are different. 

Fourth, kin relationships are ruptured by the 
death of a family member. Virtually all categories 
of kin are obliged to make some kind of offering, 
whether it be food, cloth, implements, money, or 
music, during the course of the funeral, as the 
diagram makes clear (Drawing 4). Not only do 
such gifts reaffirm specific kin ties but they also 
reflect the time depth of the community, since 
they can be regarded as linking one generation 
with another — in both marriages and funerals. 

Funeral Symbolism: Some Conclusions 


Here it may be mentioned that the materials given 
to the Badaga corpse are, in general, very similar 
to those offered to a dead Brahmin in other parts 
of India. These materials include cotton cloth, iron 
vessels, salt, earth, grain, clarified butter, balls of 
sweets, and a cow (Stevenson 1920: 140-41). In 
this respect, as well as in the methods of disposal 
and the evasive measures directed against evil 
spirits, the Badagas affirm their Hindu ancestry, 
(if not an ancient Brahmin ancestry). 

Yet, counter to the above obligations to assert 
their links with the dead individual, there is a 
measured process of separation going on through- 
out the entire funeral, beginning from the moment 
when life leaves the body and ending when the 
spirit leaves the household after its final meal at 
the korumbu. Counter also to the common Hindu 
belief, Badagas do not think the soul will be re- 
incarnated anymore. It has already gone through 
seven births, and only the seventh incarnation was 
as a human. Thus no one expects to encounter the 
soul again on earth. 

The steps in this separation of the deceased 
from the community seem to be marked by an 
increasing appeal to God on the part of the com- 
munity: at least, this is what the incidence of pray- 
er suggests. There is no formal prayer while the 
body lies in the house, none when it comes out- 
side, and none when it is before the Great House. 
It is only when the corpse has reached the Funeral 
Grassland on the edge of the village that the first, 
very long prayer is pronounced. Then, as body 
and soul move on toward the conclusion of the 
entire funeral, more and more prayers are uttered. 
All of them are worded so as to introduce and 
relate the deceased to gods (Siva and Brahma) and 
especially to the spirits of departed ancestors, and 
they specifically plead for acceptance of the soul 
into the supernatural realms. By the end of all the 
ceremonies, the transformation of a personality 
from household member to ancestral spirit is com- 

During the course of the funeral (Drawing 1), 
the dead body is moved to five successive loca- 
tions in a scenario that, step by step, moves it 
farther away from the household and progressive- 
ly separates it from Badaga society. By the time 
the corpse has reached the burning ground, a few 
people can be heard giving it messages to bear to 
their loved ones who have already gone: thus, 
"Tell my husband that our daughter is . . ." There 
is nothing in the successive funereal acts to sug- 
gest that the family survivors are unwilling to let 
the dead go; on the contrary, everyone collabo- 

rates to send off the dead with food and fanfare — 
unless he or she was a small child. 

The first act of the family at the moment of 
death is to provision the body, and their last act 
at the conclusion of the last rites is to provision 
the soul. This is paralleled by the simple act of 
placing a small coin in the mouth at the moment 
of death and later by throwing a coin into the 
cremation flames or into the Lingayat grave as it 
is about to be filled. In this manner, the entire 
process of disposal of the dead is bracketed in 
time with two monetary offerings, often inter- 
preted as "tolls" by Classical analogy. Both kinds 
of provisioning mark the division between the 
liminal phase and the period of ti:tu, or pollution: 
they are both natural, human, and everyday. In 
between, the above-mentioned prestations (Draw- 
ing 4) link categories of relations across what I 
might characterize as the "great divide" of Bad- 
aga social life, that which separates agnates from 
affines. Everyone within his phratry who is 
known to Ego is actually or potentially one or the 
other, for everyone belongs to an exogamous clan. 

By the very act of dying the human body ob- 
viously becomes separated from its former social 
life. After some preparation of the body inside the 
house, it is moved outside onto the front yard, but 
it still rests on a cot. Thus it is definitively and 
visibly separated from the household, for no liv- 
ing Badaga would lie on a cot outdoors. (It would 
be terribly inauspicious for a resting man to be 
mistaken for a corpse!) Next, the body and cot are 
taken to one side of the yard in front of the Great 
House. That house was the first one to be built in 
the village and hence symbolizes both the found- 
ing ancestral couple and the entire village com- 
munity that has descended patrilineally from 
them. Here, as the body lies insensible, dancing, 
music, wailing, greeting, and gift-giving go on 
around it as the village community prepares to 
separate itself permanently from a member who 
is no more. Then the corpse is moved to the vil- 
lage green and the Funeral Grassland, where the 
final offerings of milk, harvested grain, mud-for- 
food, and grass (i.e., grazing) are made to one 
who had been a participant in, and dependent 
upon, a mixed farming economy. At the Funeral 
Grassland, the deceased is separated by certain 
rites from his or her spouse and by absolution 
from sinful acts of the past. Finally, the burial or 
cremation separates the body from the soul, which 
goes toward the north. There is nothing here of 
the orthodox Hindu idea that the cremation rep- 
resents a sacrifice, as Parry has argued (Bloch and 


Chapter Four 

The Funeral: A Conceptual Model 

Phases of separation (passage of time) 



Ti:tu (pollution phase) 



Drawing 5. The funeral: a conceptual model. 

Parry 1982: 77-80). Later on, some relatives at 
the house light the soul on its way and leave it 
food and water for the journey. Thus the funeral 
has reiterated "the proper precedence among the 
constituent parts of society" (Mandelbaum 1959: 

197). After it is all over, the survivors quickly 
begin to separate themselves from the pollution 
that this death has caused, and life goes on. 

A final diagram (Drawing 5) is offered to sum- 
marize the major features of this transition. 

Funeral Symbolism: Some Conclusions 


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