Soothsayer Koravanjis of Mysuru stare at bleak future
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Soothsayer Koravanjis of Mysuru stare at bleak future

May 3, 2020

Mysore/Mysuru: “Barutayti barutayti, Olle kaala barutayti, aa Yellamma Devi Ellarannu Kaapaduttale (Good times will come, Goddess Yellamma Devi will take care of everyone).”

This is the soothsaying as told by the Koravanjis who travel all around the city, to the doorsteps of the houses singing melodiously and praising Goddess Yellamma, clad in Ilkal sarees, round vermillion on the forehead, cowry-shell bowls in hand.

The above quote describes nothing but good things and optimism which is the need amidst the current Coronavirus crisis in the world.

But now, with lockdown in place and people strictly ordered to stay inside their homes, the plight of 30 families of Koravanjis, who reside near the Srinivasa Theatre in Bannimantap is disheartening. With no income or any means to earn either, these families are finding it difficult to even fend food for themselves.

As per their culture, at least two women in each family take up this as a profession and go door-to-door praising Goddess and predicting future fortunes. While at the doors on individual houses, the residents, as a token of appreciation and gratitude, present these Koravanjis with Rs. 11, a piece of coconut and 1 cup of rice. During festivals and other such events, many even present the Koravanjis with new clothes, Rs. 50-100 along with rice and coconut.

Since the last one-and-a-half months, with no scope to step out of the house, the living conditions of these Koravanjis have deteriorated. The men of the family are also employed in menial jobs like selling plastic chairs and hand-made ropes which they sell in villages. But now, with no means to commute, everyone’s stranded at home with no job on hand or no income.

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A brief history of Koravanjis

The history of Koravanjis dates back to Dwapara Yuga, during which Lord Krishna himself dressed as Koravanji once. Many ladies during that time took up this as profession and were a respected lot.

Even to this day, the eldest daughter and the daughter-in-law of every family compulsorily become Koravanjis. Most of the Koravanji families residing in Mysuru came to the city from Shiggaon, near Hubballi (writer and philanthropist Sudha Murty’s hometown), during the time of Dasara.

They used to travel in and around the district during Dasara and stay for six months, then start their journey back to their respective hometowns in North Karnataka during Panchami, by the month of February, in time for the famous ‘Yellamma Jaathre’.

But due to some constraints, some families stayed back in Mysuru for almost three years, making the city their home. Later on, many other families who came into the city, also stayed back and made it their home. Three years turned into 10 years, 20 years and these Koravanji families continue residing here.

No jobs or means to earn

One of the senior Koravanjis, Gaaliyamma, speaking to ‘Star of Mysore,’ said, “During the initial days of the lockdown, many donors provided us with groceries and food packets, which helped us for a little while. But now, with the whole city being shut for almost 40 days and with no jobs or means to earn, we are finding it difficult to get through each day.”

“Initially when we used to go door-to-door, people used to present us with some money, a little rice and coconut. But now, we have nothing. Goddess Yellamma Devi has bestowed us with knowledge that is what we share with others, including Ministers, telling them about their future. The Koravanji tradition has been in our families for generations and we will never stop doing it in spite of all the difficulties we face every day,” she adds.

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Gaaliyamma further said, “Yellamma Devi Koravanji profession has been there for generations. Many of us don’t have proper houses, we live in huts. The family runs on our income and there are no loan facilities or schemes for us provided by the Government. If at all the Government comes up with new schemes and job opportunities for the menfolk of our community, we too can lead a good life like others.”

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