Finn Family Fieldwork

Our travels on the Malabar Coast and lovely Kerala

Lucia 2000 - 2012

Our darling little beastie was hit by a car in Los Angeles and is no more. 

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Young Nambudiris help out with an important moment in the ritual: an animal sacrifice of eleven victims. Since 1975 the killing has been symbolic: the eleven “victims” are eleven banana leaf packets of rice, arrayed below on a bench. The victims, in bowls, are tethered to the sacrificial stake by ropes of braided grass.

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The hotar, lead officiant of the Rigveda, chants inside the sadas. He is Naras Itti Ravi Nambudiri from Edappal.

At the hotar’s back is a post with cloth and grass loops bound around it. The Samavedins tie a new grass ring for every chant they complete (29 in all). Anyone looking can track the progress through the liturgy by counting the rings.

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Waiting for the cue to begin the procession to welcome King Soma, the plant wrapped in a bundle on the cart.

Soma-pressing gear.

Samavedins inside the sadas—“sitting place”—where the pressed soma is drunk and chants are performed for three days straight.

The soundman. Without him, nobody could hear the mantras.

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Sunset. Most visitors to the Atiratram arrive at this time. For 12 days, the rice paddy becomes a temple of sorts, attracting the pious and the curious alike. After work, families come and walk around the ritual ground. They move pradakshinam, always keeping the altar and the priests inside to their right.

Chanting for Rudra during the “flow of milk” offering on the altar’s northern wing. This is one of several moments when the interplay between this ancient Vedic liturgy and modern Hinduism comes into bold relief. While the praise of Rudra is chanted by the priest inside, women on the outside spontaneously praise Shiva with their own mantras: “OM NAMO SHIVAYA…”

After taking darshan, devotees bow low before the ritual enclosure.

Finn chats with Tottam Krishnan Nambudiri, one of the Samavedic priests, across the bamboo divider that separates the real, mundane world from the sacralized space where the ritual takes place.

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How to explain the strange and wonderful world of a Vedic Soma sacrifice in Kerala? 12 days of feverish work, chanting, and fire offerings…Here’s a series of images from the 2012 Nambudiri Atiratram, Kodakara, Trichur.

Dawn at the rice paddy where the ritual enclosure has been built. Speaker stacks to amplify the mantras. (Mahadevan walks the red carpet…)

In the ritual, fire must be made the old-fashioned way.

It’s all for Agni, god of fire: seated Samavedins take in the column of flame during the pravargya rite.

Brick by brick, the labor of ritual proceeds.

Agni ultimately takes shape as a bird-shaped altar, five layers thick. On the final day, he’ll burn the whole thing up.

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Fort kochi transportation

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Susan & Danesh. We still miss our bohemians even at 2000 meters Munnar style, Varkala is calling.

Susan & Danesh. We still miss our bohemians even at 2000 meters Munnar style, Varkala is calling.

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Passion fruit off the vine & vetiver from the garden for breakfast in Munnar (vetiver is soaked in water to drink)

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Good morning Munnar

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Addie got some alone time with Kamila and a few elephants

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The long bohemian goodbye.  Kamila hanging out

The long bohemian goodbye. Kamila hanging out

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Danesh getting rad

Danesh getting rad

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Bohemian masala good times.  Danesh & Finnian with Agni….the fire god cooks a mean banana wrapped fish. Our farewell dinner with the beautiful Bohemians, Susan & Danesh.  Our hearts are breaking with the thought of leaving the magical Varkala.

Bohemian masala good times. Danesh & Finnian with Agni….the fire god cooks a mean banana wrapped fish. Our farewell dinner with the beautiful Bohemians, Susan & Danesh. Our hearts are breaking with the thought of leaving the magical Varkala.

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Kamilla, Tara & Amanda! A little Brooklyn in India YAY

Kamilla, Tara & Amanda! A little Brooklyn in India YAY

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