One of the widely revered gods in Tamil Nadu is the god Murugan. Legend goes that Murugan fell in love with Valli, a descendent of the Kuravar tribe and married her. Thereafter, the Kuravars have followed a unique way of worshipping the goddess and the god. In Madurai, the Kuravars offer prayers at the Valli temple by offering traditional feasts with hunted items from the forests. Adivasi Awaaz creator Kavipriya talks about the experience of witnessing this form of worship, in person.
The Kuravars have built several temples to honour Valli, their patron goddess. A significant number of Kuravar families, approximately around 250 of them, who claim to be the descendants of goddess Valli, reside at Ellis Nagar, Madurai. Hence, Madurai has a large number of temples dedicated to Valli and Murugan. At Ellis Nagar, a temple dedicated to Valli has been erected, where a three day festival is held every year, in the month of Purattaasi.
During this festival, the Kuravar tribes of the Kurinji land, venture into the forest to hunt pigs, doves, quails, rabbits and to collect honey, jack fruit and millet flour. These are offered as a feast to the goddess Valli and god Murugan as per their tradition. During this festival, a procession is held where women carry hunting weapons and walk to the sounds of the melam. Children dress as hunters, carry bows and arrows, and dance Koothu, along the way. Upon reaching the temple, hunted offerings were spread and laid down on banana leaves before the goddess. Thereafter, the worship began.
I have known about this festival through reports and media coverage. However, witnessing this festival in person was altogether a different experience. It was enthralling and mesmerizing. I witnessed different rituals and customs and captured those moments, to cherish them forever.