Libmonster ID: U.S.-1434
Author(s) of the publication: I. LAPTEVA

The people of Kerala still offer sacrifices at the altar of Goddess Bhagavati. They revere her as the Divine Mother. The goddess is characterized by a wayward nature and often sends diseases and misfortunes to her children. Sacrifices are necessary to propitiate Bhagavati. And then, as a sign of favor, the terrible goddess dances for people.

Bhagavati is considered one of the incarnations of Durga, the consort of Shiva. Legend has it that once upon a time a terrible demon Darikasura (Dariku) was born on earth. For his asceticism, he received the gift of invulnerability from Brahma. It was impossible to kill Him with either stone or iron weapons. In addition, Brahma gave the demon a protective mantra. As long as the spell remained secret, no one could defeat Darika. Having received the gift, he began to harm the celestials and people in every possible way. Then indignant at the demon's behavior, Shiva opened his third eye. Out of the fire and smoke, a terrible goddess appeared. Shiva ordered her to destroy Darika. But in the first fight, Bhagavati was unable to defeat him. Shiva told her the secret of the demon's power. Bhagavati, disguised as a beggar, entered the fort, where hundreds of women chanted the sacred mantra (prayer). The goddess became aware of her words. She took on an intimidating form and entered the second battle. Bhagavati grabbed Darika by the hair and killed the demon at dusk by driving her thumb nail into his ear. Then she appeared before Shiva, carrying the severed head of Darikasura on the tip of her sword. As a token of gratitude, Shiva elevated Bhagavati to the rank of supreme deities and allowed her to take possession of any part of the land. The goddess chose Kerala.

In honor of the goddess, temples in Kerala play a legend telling about these events. On the day of celebrations, giant warriors walk along the rural roads. They head to the temple, where they join the solemn procession. The actors ' faces are hidden by huge black - and-red masks with shells instead of teeth. The mask is worn so that the artist's eyes are visible through the slit of the mouth. Warriors of the goddess entertain the audience gathered at the temple to see Bhagavati.

The goddess and Darikasura appear in the temple late at night. Bhagavati wears a semicircular golden headdress attached to a crown in the shape of a hood. She has a black face and a bright suit. She and Darika are carried around the temple on a special stretcher. The actors stage the story of Darika's murder. The narration is accompanied by violent gestures and facial expressions. At dawn, the battle dance completes the action.

Bhagavati Thirayattam festival is held annually in every Kerala village. In front of a small temple, where the image of the goddess is kept, a whole mystery takes place. About 60 actors are involved in the theatrical performance. The exit time of each is clearly defined. The roles are played by the villagers themselves. Only members of individual families who carefully preserve the secrets of their art participate in the performance. Costumes and roles are inherited from father to son. However, there are a number of characters whose clothing is updated annually. These are the demons of Bhagavati's retinue. It is believed that their participation in the festival for a whole year expels evil forces from the village. But the terrifying masks after the performance should be destroyed in case some demon wants to take possession of them.

The festival lasts for an entire night, during which the goddess appears in several images. At first, it comes out in a radiant form. Her head is crowned with a silver tiara made of snake heads, decorated with red flowers. On the chest is a golden collar and a garland of sacred flowers. The goddess is dressed in a long jacket and skirt with pleats. Thin silver bracelets cover the hands and ankles. There is a song describing the beauty of the goddess. It is believed that at this time, the spirit of Bhagavati enters the actor's body. After performing the preparatory rites, the goddess performs a slow dance with a clear rhythm, and then blesses the faithful.

At midnight, Bhagavati assumes the form of Valiya Tamburatti, the "great goddess". Her bulging eyes are surrounded by black circles, and silver fangs protrude from her mouth. The skirt is completed with four fans, a sparkling headdress. Swaying with rage, Bhagavati ascends to the high throne. Suddenly, to the sound of drums, she jumps down from her throne and dances, swinging a sharp sword. The gaps between the goddess's appearances are filled with performances of her retinue - lower deities and demons.

The last incarnation of the goddess takes place at dawn. She leads a costumed procession that goes around the temple. At the end of the procession, a huge headdress made of palm leaves is replaced by a silver tiara. Bhagavati again blesses the faithful and utters prophecies.

In India, there are many ritual practices associated with the service of the Mother Goddess. But it is only in Kerala that they have taken on the form of a theatrical performance, where the participants seem to feel the presence of the goddess.


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