Stranger by iv mallari

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Stranger by iv mallari

A few days after my arrival at Kotagiri, the dismal sound of mourning, to the weird strains of the Kota band, announced that death reigned in the Kota village. The dead man was a venerable carpenter, of high position in the community. Soon after daybreak, a detachment of villagers hastened to convey the tidings of the death to the Kotas of the neighbouring villages, who arrived on the scene later in the day in Indian file, men in front and women in the rear.

As they drew near the place of mourning, they all, of one accord, commenced the orthodox manifestations of grief, and were met by a deputation of villagers accompanied by the band. The car, when completed, was an elaborate structure, about eighteen feet in height, made of wood and bamboo, in four tiers, each with a canopy of turkey [ 25 ]red and yellow cloth, and an upper canopy of white cloth trimmed with red, surmounted by a black umbrella of European manufacture, decorated with red ribbands.

The car was profusely adorned with red flags and long white streamers, and with young plantain trees at the base. Tied to the car were a calabash and a bell.

During the construction of the car the corpse remained within the house of the deceased man, outside which the villagers continued mourning to the dirge-like music of the band, which plays so prominent a part at the death ceremonies of both Todas and Kotas.

On the completion of the car, late in the afternoon, it was deposited in front of the house. The corpse, dressed up in a coloured turban and gaudy coat, with a garland of flowers round the neck, and two rupees, a half-rupee, and sovereign gummed on to the forehead, was brought from within the house, lying face upwards on a cot, and placed beneath the lowest canopy of the car.


Near the head were placed iron implements and a bag of rice, at the feet a bag of tobacco, and beneath the cot baskets of grain, rice, cakes, etc. The corpse was covered with cloths offered to it as presents, and before it those Kotas who were younger than the dead man prostrated themselves, while those who were older touched the head of the corpse and bowed to it.

Around the car the male members of the community executed a wild step-dance, keeping time with the music in the execution of various fantastic movements of the arms and legs. During the long hours of the night mourning was kept up to the almost incessant music of the band, and the early morn discovered many of the villagers in an advanced stage of intoxication.

Throughout the morning, dancing round the car was continued by men, sober and inebriated, with brief intervals of rest, and a young buffalo was [ 26 ]slaughtered as a matter of routine form, with no special ceremonial, in a pen outside the village, by blows on the back and neck administered with the keen edge of an adze.

Towards midday presents of rice from the relatives of the dead man arrived on the back of a pony, which was paraded round the car. From a vessel containing rice and rice water, water was crammed into the mouths of the near relatives, some of the water poured over their heads, and the remainder offered to the corpse.

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At intervals a musket, charged with gunpowder, which proved later on a dangerous weapon in the hands of an intoxicated Kota, was let off, and the bell on the car rung. The cot was then set down, and, seated at some distance from it, the women continued to mourn until the funeral procession was out of sight, those who could not cry spontaneously mimicking the expression of woe by contortion of the grief muscles.

The most poignant sorrow was displayed by a man in a state of extreme intoxication, who sat apart by himself, howling and sobbing, and wound up by creating considerable disturbance at the burning-ground.

Three young bulls were brought from the village, and led round the corpse. Of these, two were permitted to escape for the time being, while a vain attempt, which would have excited the derision of the expert Toda buffalo-catchers, was made by three men, hanging on to the head and tail, to steer the third bull up to the head of the corpse.

The carcase of the bull was saluted by a few of the Kota men, and subsequently carried off by Pariahs.

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Supported by females, the exhausted widow of the dead man was dragged up to the corpse, and, lying back beside it, had to submit to the ordeal of removal of all her jewellery, the heavy brass bangle being hammered off the wrist, supported on a wooden roller, by oft-repeated blows with mallet and chisel delivered by a village blacksmith assisted by a besotten individual noted as a consumer of twelve grains of opium daily.

The ornaments, as removed, were collected in a basket, to be worn again by the widow after several months. This revolting ceremony concluded, and a last salutation given by the widow to her dead husband, arches of bamboo were attached to the cot, which was covered over with a coloured table-cloth hiding the corpse from sight.

A procession was then formed, composed of the corpse on the cot, preceded by the car and musicians, and followed by male Kotas and Badagas, Kota women carrying the baskets of grain, cakes, etc. Quickly the procession marched to the burning-ground beyond the bazar, situated in a valley by the side of a stream running through a glade in a dense undergrowth of bracken fern and trailing passion-flower.

On arrival at the selected spot, a number of agile Kotas swarmed up the sides of the car, and stripped it of its adornments including the umbrella, and a free fight for the possession of the cloths and flags ensued.

Stranger by iv mallari

The denuded car was then placed over the corpse, which, deprived of all [ 28 ]valuable ornaments and still lying on the cot, had been meanwhile placed, amid a noisy scene of brawling, on the rapidly constructed funeral pyre.

As soon as the pyre was in a blaze, tobacco, cigars, cloths, and grain were distributed among those present, and the funeral party dispersed, leaving a few men behind in charge of the burning corpse, and peace reigned once more in the Kota village. A few days later, the funeral of an elderly woman took place with a very similar ceremonial.

But, suspended from the handle of the umbrella on the top of the car, was a rag doll, which in appearance resembled an Aunt Sally. I was told that, on the day following the funeral, the smouldering ashes are extinguished with water, and the ashes, collected together, and buried in a pit, the situation of which is marked by a heap of stones.

A piece of the skull, wrapped in bracken fronds, is placed between two fragments of an earthen pot, and deposited in the crevice of a rock or in a chink in a stone wall.

The Kotas celebrate annually a second funeral ceremony in imitation of the Todas.

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For eight days before the day appointed for its observance, a dance takes place in front of the houses of those Kotas whose memorial rites are to be celebrated, and three days before they are performed invitations are issued to the different Kota villages.Into the fort no male stranger may enter, though there is no hindrance to women of other castes to enter.

After marriage, no woman of the caste may be seen by man’s eyes, except those of her husband, father, [ 34 ] brothers, and maternal uncles. The Strangers Story by iv mallari - The Stranger was a short story written by L.V. Mallari. It is a narrative about how the boys accepted a new boy as one of their friends/5(19).

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