Thousands of years ago human settlements grew up around great rivers and this is how modern civilisation began. Every river has a story behind and one such is of River Cauvery which took birth at Talacauvery at Kodagu district located in Karnataka state, India. For Kodava’s river Cauvery is not just a river but form their lifeline, a chief deity, mother goddess and she generates oodles of emotions in the people of Kodagu. One of the holiest rivers of South India, she flows across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and she is everything for the farmers on both the states. Kodavas worship the birth of Mother Goddess Cauvery every year with utmost pomp and glory and the month of October is one of the most awaited months in the Kodava calendar and the occasion is celebrated on October 17th and 18th, popularly known as CAUVERY SANKRAMANA.
The Cauvery story is quite popular and something which most of the Kodavas grew up listening to and I heard this from my grand-mother, she was my bed time story teller and would sing lullabies while putting me to sleep. As the story says, Lord Brahma had a daughter Vishnu Maya and she really wished to serve the world. At the same time, Lord Vishnu had to transfigure himself as Mohini to kill a reckless demon. So, Lord Brahma decides to send Vishnu Maya as Lopamudra to assist Mohini. After some days, a rishi named Kavera Muni comes to Lord Brahma. His wish was to get a child and hence prays to Lord Brahma. Impressed by the rishi’s devotion, Brahma decides to give Lopamudra for adoption. Thus, Lopamudra becomes the daughter of Rishi Kavera Muni and names her CAUVERY.
Once Sage Agastya sees Cauvery meditating on Brahmagiri hills at Tala Cauvery. Infatuated by her beauty, he asks her hand in marriage. Kaveri agrees to marry on one condition! If at any point in time Sage Agastya leaves her for a long time, she would escape from him. So, it happens that once the sage gets caught in a philosophical discussion and forgets about Kaveri. As per the agreement, Kaveri transfigures into a river and flows to fulfil her wishes to serve the people. People at Bhagamandala, which is located at the foothills of Brahmagiri hills, pleads with Cauvery not to leave. There she is joined by the other two small rivers Kanike and Sujyothi and flows across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, thus entering the Bay of Bengal.
This confluence of the three rivers is known as “Triveni Sangam” and devotees seek blessings by taking a holy dip which is also known to wash away your sins. Post this devotees offer pooja at Bhagandeshwara temple which is a short distance from Triveni Sangam and there after proceed to Talacauvery where the shrine of Goddess Cauvery is located against the backdrop of the Brahmagiri Hills. There are steps leading to the shrine and to the top of the hill; the latter offers a fabulous view of the low-lying valleys. Right in front of the temple is a large open tank for devotees to take a holy dip and then the priest pours three rounds of Thirtha (holy water) on the devotees from the Kundike (pond).
Every year, during this time i.e. Oct 17th (there is a precise moment as per moon signs), mother goddess Cauvery emerges from the Kundike (pond) and devotees dip themselves as it is considered divine. This holy water, known as Thirtha is collected and distributed among every Kodavas and is preserved by every household. This water is also fed to those on deathbed with a belief that they will attain salvation.
The following day, women are dressed in the traditional attire and mother goddess is worshipped which is known as Kani Puje. On a metal plate topped with rice grains, betel leaves and areca nuts, oil lamp, coconut wrapped in red silk cloth is adorned with flowers and jewellery such a Pathak (traditional jewellery) and bangles, family members sprinkle grains on it, offers prayers and seeks the blessings of the elders in the family.
The approximate distance between Bhagamandala and Tala Cauvery is about 8 KM. Kodagu, being surrounded by western Ghats, earlier it was very remotely connected and from the stories what I have heard from my grandparents, people would gather at Bhagamandala and walk all the way up to Tala Cauvery in bare foot to celebrate this holy event. It’s no ordinary walk, it’s a walk to celebrate our chief deity, it’s a walk to hail our mother Goddess, it’s a walk to thank river Cauvery for all the abundant blessings showered on Kodavas. Every step along the way had its own significance.
According to local environmentalists, Kodagu being the main catchment of river Cauvery, the river volume has already reduced by 40 per cent over the past 50 years. Kodagu is under serious threat due to urbanisation since coffee plantations and paddy fields have been converted into resorts and layouts for commercial purposes, deforestation due to timber mafia, while sand mining is another major reason for the river to dry up as the river bed is being illegally tapped. The aftermath of this was the recent catastrophe which took place at Kodagu sweeping away few villages and leaving hundreds homeless. This is a lesson for everyone of us to respect nature.
Lakhs of people live on Cauvery River, as she is the main source of drinking water, irrigation and electricity. The story of river Cauvery is an emotional subject to many, lets celebrate her glory while we continue to #Saverivercauvery.