Several years ago, an old man who lived in the neighborhood told me the story of Aati Amavasye.
He said: “Do you know that tomorrow is Aati Amavasye? You have to drink Kashaya (decoction) tomorrow and it isn’t any ordinary Kashaya that you should drink. It is one of those Kashayas that is drunk only once a year. If you drink it, you will never fall sick throughout the year. It is Kashaya made from the bark of the Devil’s Tree, also known as Paleda Mara in Tulu and Satanacho Rook in Konkani. And you can’t get the bark anytime you like or anyhow you like. You have to follow a procedure. You have to approach the tree before sunrise, before the cock crows, when it is still dark. Since the tree has to be approached naked, only elderly men go to get the bark. And you have to use a sharp rock to tear off the bark. You can’t just use any tool you like. You should then make Kashaya (decoction) out of this bark and spices such as turmeric, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, and garlic and drink it early in the morning before you eat or drink anything else.”
When I heard the story, I nodded skeptically. The old man was good at telling stories and knew exactly how much of masala he had to add. I don’t think anybody goes to the Devil’s Tree at the unearthly hour of 3:00 a.m. without wearing any clothes, especially during the rainy season.
But on Aati Amavasye, people do approach the tree at dawn, long before sunrise, strip off its bark, and use it to make a decoction that is believed to protect them from illness throughout the year. People in Kudla and its surrounding regions follow this tradition and drink the Kashaya irrespective of their caste, religion, or community.
Religious people do not sit quietly after purifying their digestive system with Paale Kashaya. They head over to various Shiva temples in their hundreds and thousands to worship the deity and reap the spiritual benefits of the day.
Here is a brief list of the temples most visited on Aati Amavasye:
- Shree Narahari Parvatha Sadashiva Temple, around 30kms from Mangalore and 4kms from BC Road, Bantwal
- Mahathobhara Shree Karinjeshwara Temple, around 15kms from BC Road and 40kms from Mangalore
- Kirimanjeshwara Temple in Kundapur
- Maharaja Varaha Temple in Maravanthe
- Koteshwara Temple
- Kumbhasi Temple
- Kundeshwara Temple
- Shankaranarayana Temple
- Kudroli Gokarnanatheshwara Temple
- Kadri Manjunatha Temple
People pray to the deities and take a dip in the temple ponds to get rid of sinful ways and purify their lives. Among the crowd are several newlywed couples who believe that they will have a happy married life if they visit the temple on this day.
A word of warning
One always hears stories of people dying after drinking Kashaya made from the bark of the wrong tree. This is because we have another tree that looks just like Paale (Paleda) Mara but lacks its medicinal qualities. On the contrary, the bark of this wrong tree is very poisonous. Since it is very difficult to identify the correct tree in the dark, people are advised to find the tree and mark it on the previous day. Stay safe on Aati Amavasye!
Photo Credit: The unmarked photos have been going round on Facebook and Whatsapp for years
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