The Kadlekai Parishe is an annual festival, usually heralding the onset of winters.

Keep calm and eat Kadlekai Going nuts at Bengalurus own festival of nuts
news Culture Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 17:53

Each region in South India has its own special festivals and commemorative events. Many of the non-religious events are connected to day to day human life, crop cycles or to celebrate nature in some way or the other. And in winters, Bengaluru goes nuts, quite literally. No other city in the country welcomes winters like Bengaluru does with thousands of fresh little nuts.

The Kadlekai Parishe is an annual festival, usually heralding the onset of winters. The annual harvest of groundnuts arrives around this season. A large fair is organized in one of the oldest markets in the city. Hundreds of farmers from across the neighbouring regions of Mandya, Chikkaballapura, Mysore, Kolar, bordering regions of Andhra like Anantapur, Dharmavaram, and Bellary throng to this place. Most of these sellers are poor farmers who travel with their stock from far off places. They barely make a profit from what they sell. Many of them don’t even make enough to sustain a proper livelihood.

Basavanagudi, one of the oldest residential areas in Bangalore, gets its name from the famous local temple dedicated to Shiva’s bull Nandi, worshipped as Basava. The local legend goes that a bull was destroying the groundnut crop around the regions of Hosakerehalli, Gavipura, Guttahalli, Sunkenahalli and Mavalli in what are all now integrated into the city of old Bangalore. Farmers in the area offered their harvest to appease the bull and thus the fair started on the last Monday of the month of Karthika.

In 1537, Magadi Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore city, built a temple on a hillock and dedicated to Nandi, the pet bull of lord Shiva. The road where this temple is situated today gets its name after this temple. The temple is built in the Vijayanagara architecture style. The central deity is a large monolithic Nandi in the form of Basava. Legend goes that it was carved out of a large cement-coloured stone. Over centuries of devout praying and showering the statue with oil, the statue has turned black.

Basava in the temple

A close-up of the statue reveals the exquisite artistry of the times. Intricately carved bells around the neck, the thin tail, legs and hoofs sitting down, all of them make you feel the bull could have been a real one. The annual Kadlekai Parishe takes place as an offering to this Basava.

Other fancy things, like olives displaced the groundnut. But this has made a comeback recently. Groundnuts can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted or fried. Groundnut oil is used for cooking across the region. They also use it for therapeutic purposes like oil baths and to keep the skin soft and moisturized during the winters. Groundnut butter has been revived as a high-protein supplement for fitness freaks. Tender groundnuts are used in almost all the local cuisines. From chutneys to masalas and curries to dressings, the groundnut is utilized in the most creative ways you can think of. Nutritionists have reemphasized the importance of groundnut consumption in day-to-day food habits.

This year’s ‘Kadlekai Parishe’ falls this weekend. Show up at Basavangudi and you will find a grand mela unfolding across the Bull Temple Road. Over the last few years it has also spilled into adjacent areas like Bugle Rock Road, Mount Joy Road and Karanji Anjaneya Temple Street. Flower sellers, toy sellers, men going about selling colourful glass bangles, cheap and cheerful plastic masks, cotton candy sellers, peacock feather fans, round paper fans that fan with the breeze, the inevitable traffic congestion, little circles of women catching up, Chai and coffee sellers peddling about, devout trekking up the hillock to have a view of Basavanna the bull and more. For those of you interested to explore the area, there are smaller temples like Dodda Ganesha temple where the central deity Ganesha is carved out of a large monolithic rock. There is also the Bugle Rock garden next door. If you are hungry, you can always walk down to trusted old Bangalore establishments like the good old Vidyarthi Bhavan for a delicious Dosa. The whole area comes alive when the Parishe is on.

The Kadlekai Parishe is a must-visit for every tourist this season. If you are an old Bangalorean, you might find several friends who can reel into nostalgic stories about their older visits to the fair. By evening the entire stretch of the road is lit up by string lights. Groundnut vendors also have little makeshift stoves. Some of them sell roasted nuts and others steam them. As you walk amidst little mounds of groundnuts, you’ll enjoy a different kind of Bangalore.

Over the years, the event has become a landmark festival of Bangalore. It is a delight for photographers and old Bangaloreans. The large Mela that goes on long into the hours after sunset is a must visit if you are in Bangalore this season. This year, the last Monday in the month of Karthika on the Hindu calendar falls on November 28. But groundnut vendors start coming in a couple of days ahead and stay on for a couple of days more. If you plan to go there, try and avoid bargaining with the poor farmers and sellers while buying groundnuts. They aren’t really looking to make any great profits and riches from the little aluminum cupful of groundnuts they sell. Be sensitive to them. Be thankful they continue to come, year after year, to keep this five-hundred-year-old festival tradition going. In days when malls and supermarkets have taken over every form of commercial transaction, the Kadlekai Parishe is one of the few traditional fairs that continue to survive. The popularity of this festival has also churned out several known Internet memes. You can find several enthusiastic youngsters sporting ‘Keep Calm And Visit Basavangudi’ and ‘Keep Calm And Eat Kadlekai’ T-shirts.

(Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He writes extensively on Indian performing arts, cultural history, food and philosophy. He lives in New Delhi and can be reached at vs.veejaysai@gmail.com

Images : Rajesh Satyamurthy, Shailaja K P, Keshavamurthy. 

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