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Puthari: sepia memories of the harvest moon

2011 December 10
by Shalini

Today is Puthari, the Coorg harvest festival. December, with its brilliant blue skies by day and a nip in the air at night, is possibly the most beautiful time of year in Coorg. In contrast to our Autumn harvest celebration here in Canada, it’s a gloriously green land that is the backdrop for the Puthari festivities.

By the light of the full moon, families and friends will be wending their way down to the rice fields, calling out “Poli, Poli, Deva” into the silvery night – a full-throated call to the gods to increase the bounty of the land.

Many moons ago, we – uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings and parents – would make our way to the family estate to celebrate Puthari. My older cousins led the march from the house  down to the paddy fields, carrying lanterns and calling out “Poli, Poli, Deevaaa” a little self consciously at first, but full of youthful exuberance, determined to drown out any upstart frogs and cicadas in the vicinity. It’s hard not to be caught up in the atmosphere of such a magical setting, and by the time we were down by the fields, we’d all be calling out like we really meant it. Puthari was also our Diwali, in the gifting of new clothes, as well as the celebratory fireworks, funded by generous grandparents!

Puthari kad Sheaves of paddy Puthari payasa

Growing rice requires hard labour and, with the changing times, paddy is being cultivated in fewer family run properties. My parents maintain a tiny kitchen garden rice patch, just so that they can cut the “kad” (new paddy) in the comfort of their own backyard. So, every year, while the hills around echo with the calls of distant and not so distant neighbours making their way to the rice fields in the valleys, we can add our voices too.

One year, some wild beasties (I’d like to say wild boar, but it was probably rats or bandicoots) destroyed the little patch that had been so lovingly tended, just before the time of harvest. Without missing a beat, one of the neighbours swept in with an entire replacement crop, fresh from his own fields and, with surgical precision, planted it on the devastated patch. Now that’s a different kind of transplanting of rice!

Puthari is a time of thanksgiving, and year after year, it’s these precious memories I’m most grateful for, and for the people who helped create them. I’m thankful, most of all, to my parents, for making those long ago journeys back to Coorg, so that we got to be a part of something special.

To all of you, wherever you are in the world, Happy Puthari!!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. jyoti permalink
    November 1, 2016

    This is one of my favourite reads among the many favourites in your fabulous blog. I can’t imagine how I have not left a few words of thanks and appreciation for bringing so poignantly a celebration truly beautiful. One day I hope to be in Coorg again on Puthari. It is just magical. I remember so fondly your recipe for Thambuttu cookies . What a cracker of a celebration that Puthari turned out to be with those Bthose .

    • November 30, 2016

      Thank you so much, Jyoti, and sorry for the delay replying.This bug has knocked me off stride, but things should be back on track soon.I think I need to revisit those thambuttu cookies!Puthari is on the 13th of December- make your plans! 🙂

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