Siri Jattre
The Siri Jattre: the annual celebration in honour of the goddess Siri, which takes place during the first full moon of the harvest, and is attended by masses of women, and is believed to be curative. The women take the spirit of the goddess within them, and emerge from the trance, healed. Because of this, the women attending the festival have increased over the years. It is a whole cultural festival: with attendees, participants, drums, and dancing, and typically takes places in temples known as Alades: the ancient shrines for the local land spirits, which are flanked by fields of paddy.

Laterite and the Goddess Siri
There is an event in the Epic of Siri, where Siri curses the lands belonging to her husband to lose their fertility. I began to associate this curse to the presence of laterite. Laterite is a soil that exists in abundance in Tulu Nadu, and reduces the surface fertility of the soil because it disqualifies its ability to hold water. But it allows water to collect in the form of an aquifer within the soil, which contributes monumentally to fertility in the long run. I began to think that the real curse is that the land began to be termed as a wasteland, despite its multiple uses. Since the background of the curse is a succession battle, rather than rendering the ground barren, Siri changed the nature of the land itself, which made people need to re-learn it. Therefore, it was a curse only for those who viewed the land as an inheritance, rather than something living and breathing. The piece was born out of musings regarding how someone would learn a land again. How would you respond to the changed texture, the changed flora? How would you begin to test the grass, and mould it to your measures? And how would the nature of the land affect the kind of animals who live on it? From a perspective of biodiversity, animals such as the Great Indian Buzzard, and the grey wolf thrive in lateritic grasslands, and are are becoming extinct as the grasslands erode. Mythologically speaking, it could be Siri’s curse which gave rise to this aspect of the landscape.

Descent complete hd cleaned
Since Siri is a goddess of the land, and the series was about establishing a connection with the landscape that is otherwise not explicitly stated, I could not ignore the mythology of the land itself. According to the legends, Tulu Nadu was created when Parashurama flung his axe into the ocean and asked the waters to recede. While underwater, Tulu Nadu was a kingdom of snakes. I postulate that instead of the waters receding, and the land being reclaimed, the water sunk into the levels of the soil, rendering it one of the most fertile belts of the world. This would also explain why the Western Ghats are a hotspot for snakes today, since they never really flowed away with the water. And since Siri was born from the earth, with her patron god as the Naga form of Bermer, it is possible that she counts the snake in her line of descent.  The inspiration for the structure of this piece was a cross section of the soil.

Ascent of the goddess Siri
Siri being a land deity- or having this affinity to land, specifically, grain, made me look at where she is located within the larger Goddess pantheon. She isn’t, or rather, there isn’t a lot of information about it, especially since she is very firmly rooted to this area. I began to look at Siri being this very local form of Parvati. But since the worship of Siri predates the worship of Shiv and Vishnu- with Bermer, her patron god, being an ancient nature form of Brahma, the major pantheon was possibly formed by using commonalities in the various local pantheons, and coming up with a general form for all of them- more like a concept, by disassociating it from the context- which in this case, is the Tuluva region.  Tigers, for example, are a pan Indian symbol of divinity, however, there are multiple of tigers and gods abounding in Tulu Nadu. Additionally, the place where she disappears (and gives birth, in the narrative) to become a mayi is today, a lotus pond . The lotus is another very general symbol of the goddess pantheon: all the Goddesses are depicted as holding it in one of their many hands. The lotus also establishes a pan-Indian sense, as opposed to a flower which would be more locally rooted: like the areca nut, which is a local symbol of divinity.  I postulate that Siri had two births: one, out of the areca nut, and the second, when she was reborn as a member of the pan Indian Goddess pantheon. 

Presence of Siri-1
In this piece, I wanted to pay homage to the orality of the Epic of Siri. For thousands of years, it has been passed down only through song form.  It is also a working song, sung by women in the fields. I began to think that therefore, the air also, is part of the landscape. The scene depicted is takes place during harvest-time, and the women interspersed within the narrative are engaging with the end. Another aim of this piece is to also convey the ripeness and lushness of the Tulu landscape. 

The Tulu Otherworld jpeg
Where the Tulu Nadu Otherworld characterises frenzy, and lawlessness, and a breaking down of the rules that exist only in domestic civilisations. It is full of supernatural beings: the  bhutas, who are the local land spirits and a threat to domestication; the female spirits, who heal themselves by feasting on carcasses of animals, the half human-half animal creatures who exist in many worlds at once.

Body of Siri
Where the Tuluva countryside constitutes the body of the local Tulu goddess, Siri. The countryside extends along the south west coastal belt of India, including the Western Ghats, and consists of crops like paddy, coconut, areca nut trees, and isolated groves of bamboo. The imagery that I wanted to communicate was that of a central goddess rising from the fields, since the way goddess enter society in India is cyclical. They rise, and then go back to where they came from: typically the sea or the earth. Also, in India, there exists a relationship between land and bodies. In Hindu mythology, the world was created by portioning the body of Purusha, the cosmic man, and I began to think how this logic could be applied to local gods, whose worship has boundaries. Perhaps for local gods, their bodies would be the extent of the area that they are active in; where they are believed in. For Siri, this area is the countryside of Tulu Nadu.