Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Goddesses give up their powers to gumma, in return for his favours

Excerpt from The Wall by Sowmya Aji:

The wall has been there for as long as anyone can remember. Like the fire, the wind, the rain, the earth and the sky. About twenty feet high, five feet thick. Looming over everything, brooding. A wall that keeps everything out. Or in.

The top layer of the wall is jagged stone, sharpened to slice at anything that crosses it. Four, maybe five, kilometres long, it stretches along the entire village and its fields. Where the wall appears to taper off on either end, there are tightly interwoven thorny shrubs, seamlessly blending with the surrounding hills.

The tales of the wall go further back than the farthest ancestor anyone knows of. As if you can climb the wall, say the villagers. That’s common sense. Oh, and he thinks he climbed the wall – sarcasm. He has gone over the wall, a euphemism for death. Moral stories end with: don’t try to climb ­­­­the wall.

Time has wrought a few cracks in the wall, tempting hot-blooded youths to try and climb it. Almost everyone  who climbs the wall falls and dies. The few that survive, become impotent. They talk dreamily of what lies behind the wall: a sea of colourful flowers mixed with dark shrubs, as far as the eye can see. The brilliance of those colours and the smell of the flowers make them delirious for life.

The villagers point out that these are portents of the gumma who lives beyond the wall. Gumma is spoken of in trembling whispers, with prayers to all known gods to ward off ill. For young children, gumma is the rakshasa who swoops down and carries them away forever if they are are bad. For youngsters who are just becoming aware of each other, gumma is the most desirable boy or girl who taunts them to transgress. For the older folk, gumma is the one who kills his own brother for a paltry piece of land, or the son who turns his old father and mother out and enjoys their hard-earned house and property with his wife and children.

Gum­­ma, whisper grandmothers, is handsome, virile, flowing with strength. He has velvet dark skin and is desired by all women. Women who have been with him are forever after dissatisfied with their partners, whether god or human. Goddesses give up to him their powers in return for his favours.

Once every seven full moon nights, gumma makes mind-numbing sharey, pouring unknown ingredients into a pot over a huge, blazing fire that is fuelled by the limbs of men. Gumma’s naked chest ripples in the wicked glow. As the liquid boils, he dips his goatskin pouch into the pot, scoops out the sharey, throws his head back and guzzles it down. And he roars out ancient words of destruction that everyone fears to explain: Kamanna kattige, kattige ge kolu, kolige benki, benkige dahana. The world reverberates with them.

As the fires rise up, the black night bursts into colour: red, golden-yellow, ochre, orange, pink, magenta, blue, green, mauve, purple, violet, indigo, brown, silver, grey. If he throws red into the air, all is destroyed. If he throws green, all is fertile. Indigo racks the world with pain, and black, of course, is death.

The servants of the gumma are evil spirits – beautiful women who roam freely behind the wall. The locals fearfully call them kolli devvas. They are said to have just only one aim: snag young men for the gumma’s fire.

The kolli devvas were once women whose love was unrequited or who pined for a lost lover. They died of desperately broken hearts and submitted to the gumma in their afterlives. Gumma turned them into these wandering, bloodthirsty things that understand only lust.

The  devvas, are  ravishing. They have exquisite red eyes that mesmerize. They wear white, flowing seeres, with hems high enough to show off glittering, harshly jangling anklets on inward-turned feet. They have long sheets of gleaming night-black hair.

Any youth that roams the old forests and hills around the villages is waylaid by the devvas. They confuse his sense of direction and lay a path for him to their own place in the land behind the wall. From then on, he is in their power. Ultimately, exhausted by their demands, the young man dies in the sexual act, and the devvas go off to trap another one for the gumma’s fire.

The devvas too are cursed by the gumma – they must cook food for the youth they have trapped by burning their own legs as firewood. As they cook, they scream with pain that is a thousand times more than anything humans can feel. As soon as the food is ready, their legs are restored and unblemished, all the pain gone. But the devvas know that they have this reprieve only until the next meal that the man must have, every day until he dies or is fed to the gumma’s fire.

The villagers believe that some unknown god, long ago, built this wall to keep gumma, his sharey and his kolli devvas away from their village. Everyone knows the tales, passed on by grandmothers in every generation. And everyone keeps away from the wall.

(Source: The Good City)

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