Tuesday, April 20, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Remembered village, this


Remembered village, this

Dalits form the majority population in Benavara village, Amruthur
hobli of Kunigal taluk. The Markonahalli dam might have changed the
landscape of the region, but there are still families struggling to
make ends meet, reports Janagere Venkataramaiah

The Holeyas, regarded as untouchables, often dwell outside the
village. This unwritten rule is followed scrupulously in many villages
across the State to this day. The exception to this rule is Benavara,
belonging to Amruthur hobli of Kunigal taluk, where Dalits form the
majority population.

The Dalit elders in the village look after their affairs in a fair
manner, responsible for all the joys and sorrows of the community.
Benavara, with its hundred houses, also has a couple of families each
belonging to the upper caste Okkaligas and Akkasaligas (goldsmith).
These families have settled in the village to tend to their lands
situated close by. However, there is no oppression of the Dalits by
the upper castes found in most villages!

The road from Amruthur is asphalted and in good condition. A
government lower primary school takes care of the children's studies
along with an anganwadi. The three or four borewells meet the drinking
water needs of the people.

Then, there are ten temples in the village. Village deities Arivina
Maramma, Pattaladamma, Bettada Thimmappa, Anjaneya, Channakeshava,
Maramma, Eshwara, Varadarayaswamy and Doddamma-Chikkamma all dwell in
these temples.

The pooja and other rituals for these deities are performed on rote by
the five fishermen families of the neighbouring Benavara Koppal. The
Lingayat priest of Hanchipur anoints Bettada Thimmappa. The Dalits
look after Varadarayaswamy who migrated here, following a devotee of
the village, though an idol is yet to be consecrated. Apart from the
shrines to Doddamma-Chikkamma, the others are falling apart.

The population numbers 450, of whom there are only a handful of senior
citizens while literates can be found in large numbers, some working
in Bangalore, Mysore, Tumkur and other cities. Indeed, most of them
are employed by the government, the most famous of them being the
recently retired deputy conservator of forests B M T Rajeev.

Why only Dalits?

Benavara has had a school since pre-Independence and children of the
surrounding villages also attended classes here. The maastikallu,
three-four dried-up temple tanks (kalyanis) and other 'ruins' indicate
that Benavara was once a big town, where people of all castes and
professions resided. As such, the village has an interesting story on
the absence of the upper castes. It goes thus: The village priest had
two beautiful daughters, who were of marriageable age. But it was
difficult to find grooms for them from the same caste. Some youths
belonging to the upper castes ravished them and the two girls became

A horrified priest then prepared a holy site ostensibly to conduct
some rituals, after discussing the matter with the Patel of
neighbouring Valagerepura. The priest built a stone tomb and asked the
sisters to enter it to perform pooja and meditate. As soon as the
girls began meditating, their father dragged a stone slab across and
entombed them alive!

The priest then cursed the entire village and left Benavara. Soon, the
upper caste people were beset with death and other problems. Fearing
the priest's curse to be at work, they left the village with their
families while the Dalits remained behind, saying they hadn't hurt the

A while later, a few Dalit families came from Nagamangala to settle
down in the village. The villages belonging to Amruthur hobli,
including Benavara presented a barren landscape 50-60 years back. The
construction of Markonahalli dam in the 1940s changed the luck of the
farmers of the region.

Not everything is hunky-dory between Benavara and surrounding
villages. When they were denied entry into the temples of the village
deities, the Dalits built the Doddamma, Chikkamma temples.

But there is harmony within the village. Dalits are allowed entry
into the headman's house as well. Says Puttaraju of the Akkasaligas,
"Except for eating together, there is no discrimination amongst us and
we live like brothers."

Though Dalits are in greater number, they are yet to succeed in a big
way on the financial front. The Markonhahalli dam might have changed
the luck of farmers of the region, but there are still families in the
village which have five-six acre plots, and are struggling to make
ends meet with agriculture.

(Translated by B S Srivani)


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