Our first experience of the Okuli, the grand finale of the six-day Kodial Theru on Car Street in Mangalore, was quite overwhelming. So far I had avoided the Kodial Theru and the Okuli that marks the end of it, believing it to be an exclusive community event. I decided to go this year chiefly because the guy I always purchase milk from told me that “anybody can go there” as it is an “open-to-all community event.” He assured me that he went to Car Street on Okuli day last year and was attacked by small boys holding water guns. I laughed and said that it all sounds very interesting, and this morning saw us heading off to Car Street.
Okuli is just Holi, the day to forget all your woes, guzzle bangh (an intoxicating drink), listen to music, dance, and paint anything and everything in sight with colors. Of course, there are people who do not wish to participate in the festivities and choose to sit sedately on chairs placed on one side of the road. The revelers respect their wishes and do not disturb them. When I overcame the initial shock of viewing the okuli, I felt that it is indeed a cool way to beat stress and have one hell of a great time before heading back to your boring life.
And this event was terrific, a delightful mix of thumping music (alternating between filmy numbers and devotional songs), shrieks and yells of revelers of all ages and from all walks of life, huge water tankers spewing icy cold showers of water in all directions with revelers dancing on top of them as well below them, the hot sun beating relentlessly on my bare head, colors and more colors, huge drums of colored water, people selling a variety of things ranging from peanuts to toys by the side of the roads (I couldn’t help wondering how nobody fell over them), and little revelers wielding water pistols of all sizes. I daresay there was quite a lot I did not notice or could not notice, to be precise.
In fact, I spent the first half an hour wondering where I was (despite the fact that I was on familiar Car Street) and hoping that I wouldn’t lose my only son in these crowds. Things got better after the little scribble bullied me into purchasing a water pistol for him, and shortly after he found a few friends, I could hardly recognize him. He still looks like a strawberry, and I have no idea how to get those colors off him.
I did have a good time. I almost lost my way, turned a few shades darker, got attacked by several little warriors with water pistols, found a few familiar faces, and almost strained my eyes watching out for the little scribble.
If ever you decide to play Holi on Car Street, remember to apply coconut oil over your hair and skin before you start from home. Wear your oldest clothes and leave your cameras, phones, purses, handbags, and other belongings behind. If you cannot leave them behind, give them to a sedentary person who won’t mind sitting quietly and taking care of your belongings while you celebrate. It’s no fun keeping to the sides of the roads on Okuli day. You must step out into the street, right near those water tankers, dance in those showers, and smear colors on anything that moves.
A Brief Note on Kodial Theru
The annual Kodial Theru, also known as Mangaluru Rathotsava or Mangalore Car Festival, is one of the biggest and holiest events on the Gowd Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) community calendar.
An event associated with the Lord Venkataramana Temple on Car Street, it commemorates the wedding of the temple’s chief deities, Goddess Padmavati and Lord Venkataramana. Basically, the GSB community witnesses the wedding of these deities year after year at an event that lasts six days, starting with the hoisting of a flag bearing the symbol of Lord Hanuman and culminating with the above-mentioned okuli.
The event gives the devout an opportunity to view the idols of Goddess Padmavati and Lord Venkataramana, taste delicious temple delicacies (jevan), and participate in colorful processions. The holiest of all the ceremonies performed during these five days is the “Ratharohana,” which symbolizes the marriage of Lord Venkataramana and Goddess Padmavati.