Pathak and the speculations

– By Radhika Vasanth

“The Kodavas are a patrilineal ethno-lingual group from the region of Kodagu, in Karnataka state of southern India, who speak the Kodava thakk (language). The Kodavas are a non-Brahminical sect who believes more in reverence towards nature and their ancestors”.

Thanks to Google! When I google ‘Kodavas’, I find numerous articles flowing in. I half read them. Not because I don’t find them interesting, but because it’s an over- dose of speculations. Speculations start from the origin of Kodavas to the present day living. Each of the articles holds a different and captivating story about them.

Among the archive of speculations, the Kodava weddings are one of the most amazing ones. The difference in opinion began because of the peculiar way of Kodava weddings. It’s not about the alcohol that’s served or the appetizing kodava food or the absence of dowry system. In Kodava weddings, the mother of the bride knots the pathak (the kodava mangalsutra, pronounced as pa- tha- kh) around the bride’s neck. Now that’s something, isn’t it? What does the groom do? Put a ring on her finger.

As far as I have heard and read, there are three different speculations.

The first one being: The Gandharva wedding, where there is absolute absence of the priest, the chanting, the sacred fire and ritual of mangalsutra. The wedding takes place with blessings from the elders and the groom slipping the wedding ring onto the bride’s finger.

In the second version, a Deva kanya falls in love with a ordinary human and decides to marry him. The Gods become furious as she wanted to marry the ordinary human who stands low compared to Gods and shut the door of the lords forever. But the deva kanya was adamant. On her way back to earth, she meets the Naga Devathe. The Naga Devathe tells her that, the only way to marry the human was to ask her mother to knot the pathak around her neck instead of the human. By doing so, she is on a par with the Goddess.

The last version as per legend, when Kodagu was a province located on the Deccan Plateau, the muslim rulers of Mysore, forcefully dragged away unmarried beautiful Kodava girls from Kodagu. In order to protect their daughters from the muslim kings, the mothers knotted the pathak around their daughter’s neck.

The stories may or may not be real. But the fact that the women in the Kodava community are treated and respected equal to men is not phony. The women are given rights to their parental property even after their wedding. It is said that the ‘Pathak’ symbolizes the right that the daughter has at her parents place even after her wedding.

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