HOLI-POLES
AT VILLAGES
OF SOUTHERN MAHARASHTRA



- First survey with Dr. J. J. Roy Burman
February 1997 (only Hasne village presented here) -


HASNE



1
View down on Hasne village: 1 sacred grove of whole village (main deity: Gangoba) in front of wooded mountain range at the back; 2 'village', that is cluster of three main upper caste hamlets (Pahliwari, Majhliwari, Warsiwari) and temporary sacred meeting place (Chauhatta); 3 cowherd grove; 4 Thal grove, that is, sacred grove and village of scheduled cast Harijans; 5 paddy fields.



2
View on Radhanagari Water Reservoir.



3
Typical house and granary. Note also woven fence.



4
In this hot climate, the open space in front of the house entrance is the social meeting place in all family affairs.



5
All lanes are defined by woven fences mixed with living plants.



6
Typical public village lane.



7
Entrance to the temporary sacred grove and meeting place in the village.



8
The cults and rites in the whole region give the impression that the temporary sacred grove and meeting place in the village, the Chauhatta, as an institution, was primary in regard to the temple with its evolved buildings. The big Holi Pole representative for the whole village is erected here (see next report). Similar relations between historical sacred places and their prototypes exist also in other cultures ('o-tabisho' in Japan, 'thing' place among German tribes).



9
View over wide plain with paddy fields. It is not surprising that these wide open spaces produce a strong toposemantic system which clearly regulates everyone's rights and duties in the framework of a system of high ontological values handed down since ancient times as cyclically ritualised cultic behaviour.



10
River landscape below Hasne village during the dry winter season. Except where it could be exploited for tourism urban theory of the rural has always neglected the strong identification of the rural population with their environment through aesthetic principles.



11
Sanctuary in the special Satichamal hamlet (see photo made by Dr. Roy-Burman in introductory report). This hamlet was originally in the dam area and was transplanted. The founder of the new place put up the sanctuary at the present place. The hamlets name refers to an aristocratic lady of the Kolhapur kingdom named 'Sati' who had commited suicide (cha-mal means 'her forest'). Note the two elevated levels above natural ground. The sanctuary consists of three toposemantic elements which are described in the following.



12
Elevated stone altar with sacred stones and bell. It is devoted to lady Sati, who commited suicide. No temple is built because there is a local saying that any building would brake down.



13
Three levelled square-formed altar. Every Divali festival (in October and November) this altar is broken to pieces and made anew. The red clay is taken from somewhere nearby. The four protruding parts in the corner allude probably to the ancestor stones in the sanctuary (see below). The white stone represents the deity. There is also a tulsi-plant.



14
At the left side of the central access-place axis we find the stump of the holi pole erected at the previous holi festival. It has been cut down one month after the holi festival. See the photo made by Dr. J. J. Roy Burman. The pole decorated with fresh mango leaves is still there. The round stone implies the place of a deity.



15
The main house of the Satichamal hamlet related to the sanctuary has a very beautiful open entrance hall with colourful pillars (note the red polarity symbol!). Colourful papers indicate the categorically mobile upper part or 'heavens', an element that is very frequent also in the local Hindu temples.



16
Since most of the time peoples are outside working in the fields or uniting in front of the house, the inside is essentially for cooking and sleeping. The most important space is occupied by the house sanctuary. Most of the objects on the sacred board are related to cultic performances.



17
Similar stumps of Holi poles were found in the paddy fields related to the three main hamlets Pahliwari, Majhliwari and Warsiwari. The hamlet of the pastoralists has no pole, but in the Harijanwari, in the hamlet of the scheduled cast there is one in the centre of the corresponding house group.



18
At the entrance of the sacred grove stones are found in rows or groups. They commemorate wealthy ancestors of the main villages (not of the scheduled casts). The stones are brought from the coastal area and are thus relatively expensive.



19
Main altar of village temple devoted mainly to the deity Gangoba.



20
Representation of Gangoba. This arrangement is reproduced at the Chauhatta meeting place on an earth altar during Holi festival.



21
Five laquered wooden staffs represent deities venerated in the temple, from right to left: Gangoba, Lingoba, Ugliwai, Ithlai, Paunai. They will be taken to the Chauhatta centre of the village at Divali dhussera and shinga. Five men take them and get possessed during the divali festivities.



22
There are some treasures in the temple indicating local history. They are thus important for local politics. Buddhist tablets hint to a high age of the village. Nine stones are symbolizing the main caste. 12 stones at the back represent the lower caste of the village. And 5 stones within the sanctuary stand for the higher caste.



23
In the frontal axis of the Gangoba temple there is a stone altar with a tulsi (basilicum) plant. In its immediate reach is a stump of a thin and small Holi pole (see next photo).



24
At the first day of the Holi festival a small Holi pole (any type of tree from any place in the village) is brought to the temple. It is decorated with mango leaves and then raised and fixed in front of the temple. The priest (Guraw) performs a ceremony (puja) first in front of the pole, then in the Gangoba temple. See next report.


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