Peter J. Claus
California State University, Hayward

"Since societies are processes responsive to change, not fixed structures, new rituals are devised or borrowed, and old ones decline and disappear. Nevertheless, forms survive through flux, and new ritual items, even new ritual configurations, tend more often to bevariant of old themes than radical novelties". (Victor Turner: "Symbols in African Ritual", Science, March 16, 1972)".

I described and discussed the Siri Cult of South Kanara in several earlier papers (Claus 1975, 1979). There I addressed myself to the general questions of how the Siri myth and spirit possession might be related to the Tuluva social structure and the particular conditions of the specific households from which Siri novices were drawn. The story of her life covers an array of tragic situations, generated by the structures of matrilineal kinship and marriage which are experienced also, in their particulars, by living women. It is in the possession cult where the mythic and real people come together and women overcome their personal difficulties and find solace in their plight by allowing themselves to merge with the spirits of the myth.

In the present paper I will focus on a different episode in the legend cycle and explore the coincidence of myth and social structure from a different perspective. This episode centres around a game which engages two sisters in a competitive and aggressive relationship climaxing in sorricide and suicide. My attention will be given to the game and how it comes to serve as a key metaphor in this possession cult.

The game is called cenne, the Tulu name for mancala, familiar to anthropologists and folklorists as a popular game played throughout a region extending from Africa through India to the Philippines. Thegame is common in Tuluva villages, where a number of different forms are played. It's play has become impressed by the stamp of Tuluva society and culture, and it's imagery is found in a number of Tulu stories and legends. In the Siri cult, one of Tulunad's most distinctive, as wel as wide-spread religious cults, the game serves as a catalyst for the transformation of human devotees into vehicles for the personalities of mythic characters.

The occurrence of mancala in such a diverse range of contexts presents us with several interesting problems and thought provoking questions. In analyzing games we rightly place their play in the context of the cultures in which we find them. Games draw meaning from analogous social actions. They often consist of limited and highly generalized metaphors of other sets of activities in a culture. When a game further becomes imbedded in tales and rituals, it becomes at once a reference to the game as played in ordinary life as well as a metaphor in its own right explicitly linking various action sets to a moral order. Thus, in pursuing the process of the transformation of a game into a ritual metaphor we delve deeper and deeper into the specific framework of a culture's symbolic system and the particular expressions of a people's feelings and motivations.

But this approach neglects - even so far as to prelude - another approach which seeks to place cultural constructs in the framework of time and place by recognizing that cultures are dynamic, unbounded entities shifting, developing, and borrowing from one another. The presence of mancala in India suggests we have a greater task in this regard than we generally are willing to face up to as Indologists. Games of mancala, and the cultural themes associated with them, are found in a wide range of cultures both within India and outside. Yet from India there seems to be no classical (Sanskritic or otherwise) references to the game. The tendency in Indian anthropological and folkloristic scholarship is to think too narrowly in terms of the Indian subcontinent and the relationship between great and little traditions. Here we havebefore us a game, as well as a significant religious metaphor, which forces us to consider other directions influencing the dynamics of Indian culture. Still, while it may seem as though accounting for the intensity of the cenne metaphor within the peculiar distribution of mancala games presents us with unprecendented difficulties, it may lead us to a perspective in which some of the long unsolved issues of Indian cultural interpretation may be more clearly understood.

The way I shall proceed to analyze the various dimensions of thegame I have just set forth is as follows: first I shall describe the forms of the game as played in ordinary life in Tulu villages. From there I shall examine it as played in ritual, looking also at ritual symbols with which it alternates, or serves as an equivalent. For exegetical interpretation we turn then to the metaphorical use of the game in stories and legends. Then I consider cenne mane in relation to several other games associated with Tuluva rituals and legends. This will conclude the internal comparison and we should be at the point of understanding the meaning of cenne mane in the terms of the structures of Tulu culture. But still we will not know much about the process by which this game came to be incorporated into Tulu culture. But still we will not know much about the process by which this game came to be incorporated into Tulu people into a religious metaphor. It is this very process which tells us most about the Tulu folk andtheir particular etos and world view. To get at this, we must compare the Tulu uses of the game to that of surrounding cultures in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. Admittedly, cross-cultural comparison is an imprecise tool for the study of cultural dynamics, but it is the only one we have, and can becounted on to provide at least a certain measure of confidence in the speculations we may make on the basis of a single-culture analysis.

CENNE IN ORDINARY LIFE1. I would like to thank the many people who assisted me in the preparaqtion of this paper. Dr. Mark Nickter took time from his own fieldwork to gather a great deal of invaluable material for me on cene mane in Tulunad. Possibly, his greatest reward is that (if I know the manner in whch he does his work) he has become a master at the game. Kamala Shedti, of Maracala, taught methe game, and if I have failed to master it, it was not for want of a good teacher.1

The phrase cenne mane, strictly speaking refers to the board (mane) upon which the game cenne and several others (or other forms) are played. The word cenne in other contexts means "pretty, beautiful, or attractive" and its association with the game, or the board upon which it is played, is not at all clear. It could refer to the beautiful shapes in which one sometimes sees especially the metal "boards" constructed; or, to the attraction which who are the customary players of the game.

Although in the Siri legends the board (mane) is silver and the playing pieces parel?) are gold, I have never personally seen games made of these, or any other metal. Informants reported that only royal families had the right to use such boards. Ordinary boards are usually made of hard, dense woods, such as rosewood or ebony. The ones I have seen were of two varieties. A portable one made of two separate pieces of wood about 14 inches long, each with one row of seven pits hinged on one side so that they fold on top of the other; and, the more traditional one, consisting of a single board eighteen inches long, with fourteen playing pits and two larger cavities at either end used for storing captured pieces on the topside, with legs at either end on the bottom side.

While in the Siri myth the playing pieces are called parel? ("grains", in the sense of 'grains of sand'; or "pebbles", or "broken bits", such as glass) in ordinary usage they are usually called kayi ("seeds" of fruit, trees, etc.) or bitt? ("seeds" of cereal grains, flowers, etc.). the seeds I have seen used are the small, hard seeds of the arnotto tree (Bixa Orellana in Tulu : manjoi, manjei, or manjei), or seeds of the coral tree (pongare, in Tulu), or of cowrie shells (Kau·ige, or Kawa·a). One form of the game, puu (or huu), I was told requires the use of cowrie shells, but all of the others are normally played with seeds.

The pits are called guri, "pit", or ill? (in Kannada, mane), "house", or kone, "room". The former is perhaps used more as a general description, and the latter two terms may be the more usual words during play, especially in certain froms of the game. In all forms there are special terms forpits containing certain numbers of seeds; e.g., in cenne, a pit with one seed is jeppe ("a sleeper", from jeppunu, "to sleep"); a pit with three seeds is murte, probably from mahurta, an auspicious moment of time, but possibly derived from the word for "three", muji; a pit with four seeds is wanas?, "a meal". In the form of the game called puu at least someof the seven pits on a side have special names: e.g., the first is puu; third, cakka, seventh, cauda.

Nickter reports the name of eight distinct forms of the game, listed below, played using the same board. His list is more complete than my own, which only contains six (# 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8).

Name of game


Number of Players

1.  arasu āa
2.  j°·u perga
3.  bule perga
4.  kodi mule
5.  devare āa
6.  cenne
7.  pu¶¶u gobbanu
8.  sīta dēvi ā¶a

‘king’s game’
‘pair’s profit’
‘harvest profit’
‘god’s game’
‘ ? play’
‘goddess Sita’s game’


Nickter provides notes on how to play three of these games - arasu aa, bule perga and cene. Both Nickter and I have notes o arasu aa and cenne and I have sketchy notes on puu gobbanu (or kawa·aa) and sitaa. However, space and time limitations prevent me from presenting this material here. I shall concentrate my attention on cenne, since this is the game referred to in the legends.

In cenne the players take opposite sides of the board. Each of the seven 'pits' (guri, or illu, 'house', or, according to Nickter, k°ne, 'room') are filled with four seeds (kayi). The play begins by one player taking all of the seeds from any one his pits and distributing them one by one in the pits to his right until thelast seed is placed in a pit. Then he removes the seeds from the pit (now 5 seeds) and continues to place them in adjacent pits in a counter-clockwise direction. His turn is over when he encounters an empty pit while hehas only one seed in hishand. He places the seed in that pit and his turn is finished - that pit is said to be "a sleeper" (jeppe).

His opponent may not start wit the jeppe pit with one seed, but may take the seeds from any other pit on his own side, and continue in the same manner. A player may not place a seed in a pit with three seeds in it (called murte) unless he has only one seed in his hand. In that case, he may, and the pit becomes wanasu, a 'meal', allowing him to take all four seeds out of play and place them in his stores as winnings. He continues to play, taking the seeds from the next pit and distributing them as before, until hehas to relinquish his turn again to the first player. So the game is played until, when many of the seeds have been removed from play and most pits have but a few seeds in them, one player can demonstrate that in four consecutive draws he does not have to place a seed in one of his opponent's pits. That player wins all of the seeds remaining on the board for his own store.

A second or successive rounds are played by filling the seeds on your side with the seeds won from the previous round. One player will have less than the requisite number to fil all of his pits and the other will have excess. However, it is possible, albeit difficult, to regain one's losses on subsequent rounds and win the game.

There is a cdontingency rule to meet a certain circumstances which sometimes occurs in the game. If all of the houses on the board have three seeds in them and the player has one or more seed in his hand, he puts these in the pit to his far right (called a·appe, 'the heap'), but may not remove these from play. The opponent then takes the seeds from the pit to his far right (containing three seeds), puts one seed in his opponent's 'heap'), but may not remove these from play. The opponent then takes the seeds from the pit to his far right (containing three seeds), puts one seed in his opponent's 'heap', one in that pit from which he removed the seeds and the remaining seed in the next adjacent pit, giving it four seeds, which he must remove from play.

The game is over when at the beginning of a round, one player can fill less than four houses with his store of winings. The phrase used to claim victoy is poli maipunu, "plunder". Nicketer reports that the person who wins is said to make a marriage for his opponent. Themeaning of this phrase is unclear, but is certainly consistent with the remarks made by the winner of the game in the Siri cult legends.

A much briefer description of the other forms of the game played on the mancala board must suffice for the present. In the description ofeach of the forms below I shall only point out the major difference between it and cenne. Two of the games listed by Nickter are omitted for lack of sufficient data.


Bu½e perga is played between two people, each having his own side of the board. All fourteen pits are filled with four seeds at the beginning of the game. Play is counter-clockwise, as in cenne, and the procedure is much the same except that when a pit becomes filled with four seeds (after being altered by the initial round) it is "ripe" (bu½e) and may be 'harvested' by the player on whose side the pit lies. If that player does not see his 'harvest', or chooses not to collect it before his opponent begins another play and exclaims 'nir?' (water), the seeds remain on the board in play.

Another difference is that in bu½e perga when a player places his last seed, he picks up the seeds from the next adjacent pit to continue his play. Thus, when a player places his last seed in an empty pit, it entitles him to "eat" (i.e., take) the seeds in the next adjacent pit and continue play. His play stops when he encounters two adjacent empty pits while he has only one seed in his hand. The turn goes to his opponent.

While much of the terminology of this game is the same as in cenne, the idiom is of food and agriculture: a ful pit is a 'harvest'; a passive one, 'water' (-filled?); setting up a house with three seeds is 'straining off the water', as in readying rice for a meal (aripuni). The strategies are somewhat different, too, since in bu½e perga one may only harvest from his own pits, and in this, too, there are parallels to the strategies in the competition in agricultural economies.


This game is played in essentially the same manner as bu½e perga, with the major difference that one harvests the seeds from the pit on the opposite side at the same time his own pit becomes filled with four seeds. The strategy changes somewhat in accordance.


In arasu ata, thee are three players: a king (Uarasu), a minister (pradani, pradanika, or mantri), and another, variously called a soldier (puyinka), a jester (kuyinke) or a barber (chaurika) by different informants. In this game, instead of sides, each play has territory, theking receiving the six pits in the center of the board, the minister and the jester each getting the four pits to either side:

The pits are filled with four seeds and the right of the first play goes to the king. He picks up the seeds from any of his pits and distributes them in the same manner as bu½e perga, i.e., taking the seeds from the house adjacent to the one in which he placed his last seed. A player 'harvests' (koypunu) its in his own territory when they have four seeds in them (bu½e).

The king has the initial advantage in the game, and the minister and jester usually join forces. Not only does the king have more pits, and initiates play for the first three rounds (the fourth and fifth go to the minister, sixth to the jester), he receives one seed from each of the other players as 'tax' (geni, tribute, rent, tax) at the beginning of each round he starts. On the other hand, in order to stay in the game the king must be able to fill three houses at the beginning of each round, while the other two players need fill only one (plus one additional seed when theking initiates play). All in all, it is said that the king must be the most competent player if he is to win.

The agricultural idiom arasu aa share with bu½e perga is overlaid with that of court politics and feudal economy. So, too, the strategy becomes analogous to political alliances set in the framework fo the socially stratified state bureaucracy.


This is a solitaire form of play. The player fills the pits on his side, starting at his far left and proceeding in a counter clockwise direction, with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 seeds respectively. Continuing to the other side of the board he fills each pit with one less seed, starting with 7, then the one before it, until, in the last pit, he places one seed. At the start of the game the player takes the seed from the first pit and places it in the second. Then, taking these seeds (3) he distributes them to the succeeding pits, and so forth. At the end of play, each pit wil have the same number of seeds it did in the beginning.

Sitaa is, obviously, not a game of skill; the outcome is always the same. The play leads the player back to where he started. It is strongly associated with women, being regarded as an appropriate way to while away the hours in the solitude of an empty house. Informants say that Sita of the Ramaya¸a played the game while shewas held in Ravana's stronghold in Sri Lanka. It is no doubt the same game which Cennada Parawati plays in the Tulu story of Mayaga and Maipage. The story is provided in the appendix.


Even in "ordinary life" the cenne mane and the games associated with it, especially the form cenne, are imbued with a "religious aura" (as Nickter puts it) conveyed by prescriptions on the use and abuse of the board.

There is a strong prohibition against playing the game during the period when the paddy seed-beds for the first rice crop (the monsoon crop, anel?) are in. More generally it is said that the game may only be played after the seedlings (neji) are in the growing fields and up to harvest time, November or December. Sometimes this period is expressed in months rather than agricultural season: from kartel? (June-July) through jarde (November-December). One informant stated the period from s°na (August-September) to jarde, which begins only after the inauspicious (dangerous) month of ati is over. Yet other informants put the cut-off date in terms of religious holidays, k¤À¸a asami in one case and n°mpu (a first fruits offering) in another. It may be noted that this is the period during which families with girls of marriageable age seek marriage alliances. At least one informant spoke of an old custom among people of the Bant caste of playing the game of cenne among the male heads of the girl's andboy's families during the marriage negotiation ceremonies (niscaya). It is considered a good omen if the girl's party loses (Nickter, 1979). This association with marriage is, of course, overtly mentioned in the Siri Legends (see Appendix).

There are other prohibitions associated with the game. I was often told (aso Nickter 1979) that a family should not lend the board out overnight. Other informants say that gambling is prohibited for the games played on the cenne mane. It is not likely that this prohibition is meant to separate the secular act of gambling from an activity associated with ritual. A number of gambling games, especially a game played with coconuts, and several competitive forms of cock-fighting are played by men in association with religious festivals and ceremonies. Gambling, in itself, is not regarded as inappropriate in a religious contest.

The strongest prohibitions associated with cenne concerns the players. Sisters are not supposed to play the game together - nor are brothers, nor husband and wife. Since the game is not normally played among men (except above, in association with marriage alliance), the prohibition against husband and wife playing is rather weaker - almost amusing to contemplate - than the prohibition regarding sisters. As might be expected, the example of what happened between Abbaga and Daraga in the Siri legend is quickly cited as the reason for this prohibition. Even classificatory sisters are prohibitory from playing together. One informant mentioned that a woman may not play the game with her husband's older sister. It is also felt to be inappropriate for a woman to play with her husband's elder brother. In both of these cases (Nickter 1979) the relationships are the focus of potential conflict and jealousy and there are other restrictions on the behaviour of individuals in such relationships which tend to ensure respectful distance. Finally, men who are mother's brother (tammal) andsister's son (arawate) to oneanother may not play against oneanother; nor, in the three person game of arsa?, in alliance as jester and minister against the king. In the latter case it is said they always lose. The relationship of mother's brother and sister's son entails a host of customs restrictive of their interaction in other arenas of behavior, and it is not surprising to see this pattern instanced here as well. For the purpose of trying to understand themeaning of the cenne metaphor in the Siri legends where it is played among women, it is enough to note that the game prohibitions coincide with an asymmetrical relationship characterized by potentially strong feelings of jealousy, competition, aggression and self-interest which would be destructive to the ideal of a strong and unified matrilineal family.


To sum up the materials presented in this section we can see that the games played on the cenne mane utilize the vocabulary of village life. The play and conditions encountered during play draw analogy from the activities encountered also in agriculture, food storage preparation and consumption, and the political relations of feudalism. The occasions of play place the game within an annual cycle which is reglated by agricultural activities and the process of crop maturation as well as social activities. All of this would suggest that the various forms of the game are at least in part consonant with one or more sets of the daily activities of Tuluva villagers. Lack of adequate field data prevent me from being able to state more precisely the conscious "fit" between the games and specific action sets. Experience with games in other cultural settings would indicate that the analogical relations between the game and social activities are of a highly generalized nature in any case. The vast distribution of mancala games through a wide variety a remarkably consistent basic form, would seem to substantiate this hypothesis.

Still, the large number of specific prohibitions associated with the game, particularly those regarding the sexual and kinship relations of the players, and those relating theplay to the agricultural cycle, indicate a certain connection between the game and cultural systems surrounding it and that involvement in the game affects the players relationship in those other systems. For example, in themselves, competitive games such as cenne which give victory to the more clever, more skillful player pay no heed to the pre-established statuses of the opponents. They pit individual against individual. For this reason, the extent to which the play of the game presents a serious analogy or carry over to social structures in which the participants are ascribed differential statuses, the game must be considered inappropriate. Or, to suggest season example, women of different (but often related by matrilineal kinship) households work in cooperative teams to transplant the paddy seedlings from the seed beds of the growing field. This is a critical period of intense woek in the agricultural cycle. It is essential that women of households maintain a congenial and cooperative spirit. The feelings of jealousy andsuspicion which could be aroused by cenne-playing amongst women would be inappropriate. This is no doubt one component to the prohibition against playing cenne during the months the paddy is in the seed beds before transplanting. However, there are les pragmatic reasons for this prohibition as well. The whole of a families monsoon crop lies condensed in the seed bed. The mystical effects of jealousy, avarice, ill-will as such could be aroused as a result of cenne-playing are thought to be capable of destroying the beauty, the bounty, and the auspiciousness of the tender young plants.

One can see, then, the complexity and subtlety in the ways a game can be related to culture. When a game is further used as a metaphor in a story or as a symbolic act in a ritual, any or all of these associations can be significant. The religious metaphor is different from the game, though, in some important ways. It is a "frozen" instance of the game, robbed of the uncertainty of the outcome. Yet the particular outcome of the game in the legend pulls together and contains therelationship of the players to the wider cultural context more specifically than does the game in real life. In ritual the game focuses the attention (perhaps not consciously, or abstractly) of the participants on the moral issues of that relationship. It serves to involve the "players" in the actions representing these issues at a deeply emotional level. But the ritual context also adds a measure of control above and beyond the rules of the game. If it were otherwise, the "players", so closely identified with the legend, would possibly carry through the murder and suicide which disastrously conclude the legend.


As in the case with other of the Tuluva spirit possession cults, there is considerable interdependency and consistency between cult practice and the imagery of the oral traditions associated with the Siri cult. A major part of many cults, in fact, is a possession-dance dramatization of the legend performed by professional dancers. Their dance is interspersed with narration of the legend. And, like many folk dramas, the dress, make-up, expression and paraphernalia iconographically elaborate the themes and characteristics of the spirits portrayed.

So, too, in the Siri cult rituals the participants sing the legend of Siri as they enter possession and allow themselves to become a vehicle for the spirit's expression. The singing starts out (after preliminary ritual, sometimes occasioning possession among participants) similar in form and content to the song version provided in the appendix, but the singing is frequently interrupted by intense possession and various types of ritual. During possession the singer continues recitation and acts out the legend-indeed, merges with the legend. The narrative at this point becomes highly idiosyncratic, relating the singer's personal history and that of the characters of the legend in varying degrees. In response to this other singers, especially the male leader (priest, or medium, patri) and other female adepts, deviate from their more standard recitation in an attempt to establish thenature of the possession and resolve any difficulties the singer might be experiencing with it. I have described this process more elaborately elsewhere (Claus 1975, 1979) in terms of the larger framework of unwanted possession and its 'cure'. Here, I shall onlynote that all verbal communication between the participants throughout the process is in the form of a melodic, rhythmic chant and thus does not "leave" the medium of the legend. In fact, the effort on the part of the adepts is to draw the idiosyncratic behaviour more into that of thestandard legend. However, in the course of the cult activities, the participants do not complete the legend, or even any of its episodes. Instead, as the night wears on, the singers tend to focus - individually and in groups of two or three, and repeatedly - on certain episodes. At the different locations where thecult holds its rituals there is considerable variation in how all this occurs, although at any one place all of the participants, standing in groups of 5-20 co-partners, all adhere to roughly the same general format. This variation from locality to locality is no doubt partially attributable to the extremely strong personal identification the participants have with the legend, which the act of possession - a near complete merger of self with the character of the legend - evidence.

At each of the cult locations I visited the episode(s) revolving around the game of cenne was the one on which many of the participants focused2. This was also the case with one of my closest informants, the woman who sang the stories included in Appendix-B and C. she became possessed during the recording session also, despite the uncustomary surroundings.2. But in one location, Urmbitotta, the cenne episode is given extraordinary prominence.

On the night of the Siri jatre, the temple manager invites the five or six religious males group-leaders (patri) to his manor for a light meal of a parched rice preparation. After eating, the manager, the patris, the women participants and a Brahman go in procession to the Siri Shrine. In that procession they carry a ritual cenne board, which becomes the core cult symbol. At the Siri Bermeru3. There are a number of temples to this deity in Tulunadu. Several spirit cults are closely associated with him, notably the Siri cult and the cult of Koti and Chenayya. Some scholars derive Bermeru from Brahma. For further discussion see Claus 1978a : 4-10.3. One of the patris (senior to the others) brings two of the women forward to the shrine where they all receive prasada from the Brahman priest. All three immediately enter the state of mild, stylized possession. The patri, now identified as Siri's son, K£mar (he is in real life a man of the Oilpresser caste), leads the young women, now identified as Siri's grand-daughters, Abbaga and Daraga (one is of the Toddy-Tapper caste, the other of the Oilpresser caste), to an earthen platform (kae) under a tree. The young women are seated to the patri's right and left, facing each other, with the cenne board between them. Meanwhile, the other patris right and left, facing each other, with the cenne board between them. Meanwhile, the other patris and women form rectangular groups (dalya) of six to (sana). The two young girls begin to recite the episode of the Siri myth in which Abbaga and Daraga play cene. The patri leads them in the song, and holds their right hands which he moves around the board as if playing the game. Their trance deepens all the while. Finally, as the story comes to the place where one sister kills the other, the girls enter intense and violent trance as one tries to lift the board. She is restrained by the patri and the bodies of both women stiffens as they swoon. At this point, spontaneously, the patris and the women in their groups enter possession as well. After a few moments the two young women are splashed with "holy water" (tirtha) and are led to the temple to receive a prasada of areca flowers from the Brahman. When their trance has lessened they all three join one of the other groups where the rituals are proceeding (roughly, as described in Claus 1975, 1979).

The possession enactment of the cenne episode, using an actual board as a prop, is a catalyst here which affects the identification of all of the cult participants with the characters of the legend. The young women are chosen from the current year's participants to serve in the next year's ritual. They are distinguished as vehicles, rather than professional actresses4. I'm not sure whether these women are paid for their services. The male patri whose body is possessed by Kumar receives a payment (kanike) from each of the cult participants and others who come to present their problems to the spirits. The amount of money is not great, but it does make it worthwhile for many patris to continue to serve as a patri here and at other temple locations as well as at their homes. I know of several instances where the patri shares his income with the female adepts.4. Their bodies serve to give expression for the spirit characters to play their mythic roles. Their performance initiates, focuses and controls the actions of the other cult participants but they are not leaders in the community. The nomination is regarded as an honour but the honour is thattheir bodies, representing those of the spirits, are pure enough for the spirits to enter. It is a requirement that the girls be unmarried, but of marriageable age. The year I witnessed this remarkable jatre, the women chosen for the next year were twins, just as in the legends.

I have seen the Siri cult performances at a number of different locations. In each, the initial stages, corresponding to the enactment of the cenne game described above, are somewhat different. At all of the locations the ritual acts which precede the participants' possession serve to set the stage: abstinence from certain foods, abstinence from sexual relations, ritual bathing, special attire, prasada, and standing in the group (dalya) with other participants, most of whom have no other association with one another. Merely singing the legend is enough to initate possession among many participants.

At the larger, more famous temple locations (Hiriyadka and Kabitar) the power of the place is said to be a important contributing factor. Most locations are mentioned in the legend as places where certain important events took place. Urimbitotta is a relatively new site for the Siri cult and is not mentioned in the Siri legens. This is no doubt the reason the ritual cene-playing assumes such importance as a catalyst for mass possession. In other locations the place itself serves to identify the participants with the spirit characters. The spirits "presence" is felt to be strong. Having prepared the body to receive the spirit, the participants need only to sing the legend to attract the spirit and complete the transformation playing cenne, too, invokes the spirits and greatly intensifies their "presence".

For further exegetical elaboration on the significance of the cenne game in bringing about the identification of cult participant and mythic character, I trn, now, to a discussion of the game as it occurs in Tulu legends. As we shall see, it serves as a metaphor of, among other things, certain social relation, and, more deeply, the individual constrained by social structure.


The translations of the three short pa·danas provided in the appendix typify the three verbal contexts in which we find theimage of cenne-playing used in Tulu folklore. At least two different games played on the cenne board are mentioned in the legends. In the "Story of Maiyage and Maipage" Cennada Parawati plays a solitaire form of the game called Sitaa. in the other references the game played is cenne.

One common life cycle theme which relates the mancala playing inseveral of the stories is marriage. In the Maiyage-Maipage story it is explicitly stated that the sisters play the game while their parents are searching for husbands for them, andit is implied in the Sonne-Ginde story that their "grandfather" is preparing them for marriage. Family honour and prestige as related to marriage are explicitly raised in the Maiyage-Maipage story,and also implied in the Sonne-Ginde story. In both stories the loss of a game is equated with the shame of giving personal honor to the relatives of a woman's spouse. The stories seem to suggest that from a female point view marriage entails a sacrifice and subservience of personal values for the greater honour of one's family.

These themes are placed in temporal proximity with the girls attainment of puberty which is itself described in imagery associated with the investment of wealth to augment the natural beauty and vitality of the young girls. The prestige andhonour of a family is contained in the fertility, wealth and natural beauty which is invested in its daughters and distributed among other families in a system of marriage exchanges. The image is similar in some ways to certain types of traditional economic systems, except that the medium of exchange here is real people with personal relations and values of their own. In particular, it seems the focus of the personal relations which conflicts with those of the family unit is the competitive relationships between sisters.

It is probable that the relationships of "sisters" itself is a metaphor for other kinds of relationships, such as the relationship of classificatory sisters, the relationship between collateral matrilineages or the relationship of women, generally. The elder/younger aspect of the sisters' relationship explicitly represents various qualities of seniority, leadership, proprietry, and natural tendencies perceived to be inherent in the relative order of sibling birth. A similar phenomena is seen in the relationship between brothers as expressed in other paddana but the characteristics are different in many ways (the Claus 1978b) and never ( to my knowledge ) suggest open hostility or aggessiveness in the relationship.

In the two other contexts in which we find the image of mancala-playing, the characters are already married. The mother of Maiyage and Maipage, Cenneda Parawati, is advised to play the game of sitata to alleviate her loneliness and sadness which may be regarded as both a cause and an effect of her apparent barreness. While she plays the game, the god Bermeru (Brahma?) visits her and tells her a course of action which leads to her conception of twins - a symbol of abundance and prosperity. The play in this case is clearly a form of invocation to the Tulu god of family properity and propinquity. The manner in which the deity appears - in the form of a "poor Brahman" (bada beramaneru) - suggests a form of divination. Infact, the deity does not confer progeny on Parawati immediately but tells her that, in effect, rituals of auspiciousness performed at the marriage ceremony are not enough to confer fertility and that a pilgrimage to the ancestral shrine, where an offering is to be made to Bermeru, is yet required. This dual role of the deity diviner and receiver is characteristic of this and other cult practice is Tulunad.

In fact, mancala-playing in each of the episodes discussed so far invokes the presence of the god Bermeru. While in the initial situation his intervetion leads to boon of progeny, later in the story his intervention leads to destruction of the very same boon. A pervasive element in the pronouncement of boons (shapa) in Tulu myth and cult is the presence of a double entendre. The implication is, I think, that a boon carries with it responsibilities. A boon can be either a blessing or a curse depending how one acts in reagard to it. Both properties seem to be inherent in the gift itself. With proper action the good can be maximized and the bad minimized.

In the Tulu paddanas one often encounters boons which give one the supplicant an opportunity to be generous, or it may be seen merely as an opportunity to satiate oneself. There is self-gratification in both cases; but of a very different kind. In the former the individual is elevated in his relationships (society) by social justice. Such utilization of a boon is more lasting for the individual and provides the fuel for social continuance. In this case, twin girls represent a bounty and an opportunity for their family to partake in marriage exchange, the very root of the social system. The reversal of the boon which the Lord Bermeru instigates takes place in a setting heavily imbued with overt expressions of self-pride, outright selfishness, potential jealousy and impropriety, all of which are contrary to the highly valued qualities of modesty and acknowledgement of god as the determinant of worldly prosperity and its distribution among his reverent adherents. The girls' play is a mockery of theindividual's social responsibilities. The story is a mortality tale; theritual is a morality play.

In the final instance of cenne imagery, Siva and Parwati, husband and wife, are the players. Bermeru is not associated with this story, nor is the story a part of the Siri ritual (nor any other cult ritual to my knowledge). The themes of competitiveness, submission and sexuality are, however, associated with the play here as well. Parwati proves herself to be more clever than Siva, so Siva attempts to win the game by cheating, but Parwati sees through his deception. She violently disrupts the game and engenders Siva's curses. The scene then abruptly shifts to follow seemingly unrelated conjugal matters. At a more abstract level, however, we can easily see that the two episodes repeat a similar structure. Siva's curse and Parwati's reaction to it provides a bridge between the two episodes by engaging Parwati in a more real life conjugal "game" with her husband. Here, again, we find Siva "cheating" on his wife, while Parwati explicitly follows proprietous relations with the washerman (ma ·iwala). In both "games" Parwati is the more clever player. There is a difference, though, in that her reaction to Siva's cheating in cenne was open, eliciting his curses, while in the "game" of sexual deception she achieves unmitigated satisfaction at all levels.

The Siva-Parwati story is a clear instance of the way in which cenne-playing is used in folklore as a metaphor of other types of social relations, supporting ourcontention that it does so in the instances discussed earlier. An important element in this, and the other instances where there are two players, is that it represents a relationship in which a person of inferior social position can beat his superior by virtue of wit and intelligence. In all instances the cunning inferior prevails; but, thegame itself ends abruptly and disastrously. In the story of Parwati and Siva the scene shifts to more real life situations where the clever wife achieves her goals by adhering to the rules of the system, but disguising her person. The moral is that clever manipulation of the system, not direct confrontation, is the best course for the subordinate to satisfy his individual needs.


At this point it is useful to look briefly at the range of contexts we find in reference to other games in Tulu myths and cults. I shall limit discussion of two instances - one in an oral narrative and one associated with a religious ritual.

In the very popular legend of Koti and Chenayya one of the very first adventures of the young Billava (Toddy Tapper) heroes revolves around a game between themselves and the children of a court minister5. See Burnell 1894-7 for the translation of several versions of this story.5. The encounter takes place in the pasture fields where youths play while their cattle graze. The game they play varies in different account, but it is always a game of skill with cashew nuts as prizes. The young heroes, anxious to join, ask if they may play, too. Theminister's son, confident they cannot be beaten by the inexperienced lower-class boys, accept them into the game. Koti, the elder, plays the first few rounds and loses each time. Then the younger brother tries his hand and succeeds in winning all of the cashewnuts from the other boys. The minister's sons go back and tell their father who then comes and takes back the cashewnuts from the heroes. The young heroes vow: "We are young and you take the nuts from us by force. Keep them well, and when we are grown up, we shall get them from you".

And, indeed, when the boys grow up they have their revenge. At that time, Koti and Chenayya are working in a field which is adjacent to that of the minister. The minister tries to trick the boys into plowing their field after hehas already finished, so that there would be no competition for acquiring the number of plowmen he needs. The heroes learn of his trickery, begin their plowing earlier, finish their work and celebrate the end of their labor with a buffalo race. Only after all of this do the plowmen go to the minister's fields. Following several other incidents during which the minister provokes the heroes' anger by impeding their work in the fields and with insults, chenayya kills the minister, thus avenging their earlier unfair loss.

It is interesting to note that here, as in the Siva-Parwati story, game-playing serves as a device to anticipate a subsequent real life "game" (trickery). In this case the analogous daily life activity concerns agricultural operations. But, as was true of the sexual "games" of Parwati and Siva, competition is the common theme which links the two types of games. Furthermore, we note again that when a game is played between people (the children) of unequal status, the result ends disastrously for the innately superior victor (the heroes) but, when the action shifts to real life, skillfully played by the rules, the inferior regains complete satisfaction.

A type of ritual cockfighting in association with the worship of a village goddess provides a neat observation of this situation: When a game is played between people of equal status the outcome is auspicious.

Cockfighting is a prevalent form of village entertainment in Tululand. It is usually with gambling and high prizes and great prestige for the owners of winning cocks. There is an elaborate vocabulary distinguishing the different color patterns, and complex systems of determining which types of color patterns are likely to be successful in matches against others on given days and astrological moments. Some men are impassioned with the sport and spend enormous sums of money to obtain a renowned cock. Perhaps a majority of village farm families raise a number of fighting cocks, giving them special foods and pampering them with attention and care. Cockfighting with its accompanying gambling could be said to be a regional obsession of the Tuluva people.

It would not behard to demonstrate that there is an identity relationship between man and rootster. In the recent past, for example, two or more families of the landlord class would challenge one another in cockfight "wars". The tenants were required as part of their "rent" to contribute a certain number of cocks to thebattle. The reputations of the lords and their tenants were caught up in these mock battles to no small extent.

Another form of cockfighting occurs as a form of offering (parike) to the village goddess. This form is called so·ti. Indicative of the sacrificial, ritual nature of this kind of game, cocks chose to fight in this context must never have lost blood in a previous battle, nor bolted from a fight. Ideally, the cock should not have even fought before. There is a ritualistic indifference to the outcome of the fight. Generally, each party brings two cocks to fight with his opponent. Whatever the outcome, each party gets one of the two defeated cocks to take home and eat as prasada. (In other contexts, the winner receives the body of the defeated cock. Chicken curry made from fighting cock is said to be especially delicious no doubt a measure of the savor of the manner in which such chickens end up in the pot, rather than one of the tenderness of their flesh). I have seen households bring matched pairs of fine looking cocks, but no one pays any attention to astrological timing in selecting an opponent. In fact, most participants select their so·ti partners long in advance. Many families have long-standing so·ti relationships which are renewed each year. Generally so·ti partners are friends and equals. Although there is certainly an element of competition, of win and loss, it is glossed over with light-hearted teasing and joking. Both sides have won more than either might have lost. The game itself is, after all, a form of sacrifice which pleases the goddess, and they both receive her auspicious blessing (prasada).


It is obvious that one of the underlying themes which cenne mane metaphorically represents has to do with competitive situations. The legends and the idiom of the games in ordinary life clearly suggest this. What is less clear is what relates the situations in which the competition is embedded. He two most consistent contexts are agriculture and marriage alliance. Here, the seasonal restrictions on the play provide a clue to one possible connection. In my investigations into traditional beliefs about agriculture I occasionally heard the rice the crop (especially the first crop, anel?) likened to the human life cycle. The seedlings wombs the transplanting similar to birth; the plants in the growing field matured like children and when ripe brought bounty and prosperity to people as do women when they are married. Some of the terminology and notions of pollution associated with the human life cycle are common to agricultural stages. The fertility of women and the fertility of plants are linked in many ways (see Claus 1978b). The season one looks to find a mate for one's eligible daughters coincides with the season one watches his crop come to fruition. Both coincide with the season cenne is played. Cenne is particularly appropriate near the conclusion of these activities.

However, competion is not aspect of either crop maturation or human development. Instead, it is rituals of control and protection which dominate these processes and lead them to an auspicious outcome. If there is an obvious and direct connection between cenne mane and these maturation processes I would suggest that it is most clearly represented in the form of sitaa, where the rules, like those of ritual, lead the play invariably back to the original point of departure. In playing sitaa one gives up one's person to the game, which one always wins : a result one hopes to attain in ritual too.

Competition - striving for an uncertain gain from an opponent - is meaningful only in contradiction to the contexts in which the game is played in the legend. The game is prohibited in these contexts in ordinary life unless, like sitaa and ritual, the outcome is fore-ordained. When a man plays with the father of his daughter's future husband, he plays to lose; otherwise, the result augers an inauspicious outcome. When, in legend, the game is played competitively, the outcome is disastrous.

It is not competition itself which lies at the core of significance on the game in the legends. The focus is the uncertainty of outcome, jealousy, and the overstatement of the individual to which competition gives occasion. When the game is played by peers, when it is played as a ritual, or when it is played to lose, the outcome is auspicious. The statuses are equal; and the individual does not pit himself against the social structure. It appears that the customs restricting the play in ordinary life give recognition to individuality and structural uncertainly by defining it away from real life situations in which a wrong outcome would be inconsistent with proper social relations which in turn lead to prosperity. In the myth, the players dare to defy restrictions and suffer the consequences.

It is significant that the game in both legend and cult is played by women, "sister". While we might 'explain' this by merely noting that cenne is in the real life usually played by women, the fact that even there, sisters are prohibited from play suggests there is more to the reference in the legend than just coincidence with real life. I would suggest that it is meant to emphasize the inappropriateness of women's individual aspirations even in their relations with one another. Perhaps female individuality is a less serious concern in relationships with men (e.g., Parawati and Siva) in these legends because the dominance and control of women by men pervades every aspect of public life. Indeed, in general, so strong is the assumption that women are the pawns and men the players, that society seems not to give credence through recognition of the possibility of female individuality. Relations among women lie outside the purview of these cultural assumptions, but not beyond the facts of life. Matrilineal households grow large and prosperous if sisters remain together and compatible. The prestige and purity of a man's status is directly related to that of his sisters over whom he has little control unless he can keep them together peacefully at the maternal estate (see Claus 1975). Working against the development of strong matrilineal estates (kutumba; similar to the Naya tarwad) are the obligations associated with exogamy, the limits of which families try to keep as restricted as possible. Quarrels among sisters are self-destructive, because they injure the reputation of the entire family as well as the prospects of each resultant lineage should they split apart as a result. None the less, sisters, not brothers, are apt to quarrel over family property since it is the direct line of descendants related through sisters who have rights in the family property. For support in these matters women often turn to their husbands, each sister pitting her husband against the other's and both against their brother. Internal feuding often becomes very bitter and opposing factions - each spearheaded by woman - frequently resort to mystical warfare and avail themselves of the considerable arsenal of magical weapons dispensed for a fee by local sorcerers and bhucta priests. In such situation Tuluva diviners grow rich and more prosperous than do the families. And, to my knowledge, other than paying a stiff price to the very sorcerer or priest to cut off the ammunition he supplies to one's opponent , the Siri cult is the only place to turn for relief and arbitration. A great many of the difficult cases of unwanted possession brought to the Siri cult are the result of a woman secretly polluting the food of her sister's daughter, or of mystically influencing her sister's descendants through sorcery. In such cases the Siri spirit cannot easily enter the woman's body unless the unwanted influence is discovered and removed. Once all the family's ill will is laid open and mystical influence retracted or nullified, the Siri spirit enters painlessly and joins (at one level) her kinsmen as (at another level) the girl's kinsmen reassert their mutual good-will.

The activities at the Siri cult, the focus of the Siri legends around two sisters playing a game of cenne, and the idiom of its play in ordinary life thus find an explanation in describing their common underlying themes and showing how they can become interrelated in a larger moral system which embraces society, agriculture, properity and concepts of the individual.


The ad hoc interpretation of a folk metaphor solely in terms of its part in a specific cultural tradition is open to several lines of criticism. The game of mancala has been played over a large region of the world for a long period of time. Even a cursory look at the cultural elements surrounding its play strongly suggests that many of the elements found in Tulunad were imported along with the game as sort of "historical baggage". Some of these are inherent in the nature of the game and some are "peripheral" associations. The reason for taking the trouble to perform a comparison is, of course, to see the degree to which we may view the specific metaphoric character of cenne as a product of specificually Tuluva culture. If the Tuluva material is but a specific occurrence of a larger comple, than we must use more general terms than uniquely Tuluva ones to explicate its meaning. If Tuluva material represents a significant reinterpretation or reintegration of a complex found elsewhere, then we must be certain correlate it with the proper "original" before we may elaborate upong the significance of the perculiarities in terms of Tuluva culture.

Recent comparative studies of mancala in Africa by Philip Townshend (1977, 1979a, 1979b) provide a very useful summary of the variant of game there are insights into the correlation of associated cultural features of its occurrence.

In his short article, "African Mancala in Anthropological Perspective", Townshen does not deal with the details of variation in the game's form. Indeed, the variation is enormous, as is the persistence of the basic game anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 years - on the African continent. He writes :

"It seems to me certain that the spread
and persistence of mancala owe something to
its peculiar potential for expressing, through
its rules, a wide range of ethnic options",
(1979b : 794).

Nevertheless, a number of its features seem very widespread, if not universal, throughout Africa. One of these is the way game is associated with social prestige. In stratified African societies mancala is a game of chiefs and elders. Almost everywhere women and children are prohibited from playing; or, at least, their play is restricted in relation to men.

"The reason behind such restrictions was the preservation of adult male prestige: for a child or a woman to beat a man in a public game or just to participate in, or be present at, the ridiculing of the loser in an all-male game would have been a source of a most hurtful shame and damaging to the political power enjoyed by men". (Townshend, 1979 : 794).

Another widespread feature is the metaphoric associations of the game :

"… expertise in mancala is indicative of competence in other fields, and of accomplishment in accepted social norms, paralleled perhaps by the notion of favorable auger . . ." (Townshend, 1979 : 795).

Victory in a game of mancals is symbolically used to characterize superior intellect or cunning. Cheating is reportedly commong and little stigma is attached to it except that, if detected, the cheater is regarded as an "incompetent fool". Townshend composes a list of eight attributes associated with the game: cunning, vigilance, foresight, resilience, perserverance, discretion, memory, self-control - all of them personally achieved, rather than socially ascribed, characteristics relating to an individual's unique intellectual strengths. He further observes :

". . . [These] attributes [are] most admired in societies where there is no institutionalized sanction to appeal to or where personal standing and reputation count for more than concepts of absolute truth and right and where the typical hero is the trickster. (1979b : 795).

Finally, Townshend notes the widespread association the game has with rituals of passage - funerals, boys' initiation, girls' first menstruation, coronation, etc., - as well as ritual prohibitions relating to the temporal use of the game, the construction of the board, and abuse of it.

In all, there is such a remarkably high degree of concordance between the significal Tulu features of the game and the more general features of the game as it occurs in Africal - most especially in the associated social and cultural aspects, rather than the rules and the form of the game - that one can hardly dismiss the likelihood of a common history frothe game. Tracing that history is not, however, the goal of this paper. It is enough for the present to indicated that the historical path along which the game of mancala has traveled, touched and influenced the culture of each place.

I turn now to another direction and another insightful paper on mancala, this time on the ethnography of Kedang in Eastern Indonesia by R.H. Barnes (1975). One of the two versions of the games Barnes describes is clearly the "same" as the Tulu j°daa. It is on this one that Barnes concentrates his attention to try to resolve the question of whether a "total structural analysis" is possible in comprehending the significance of the game in Kedang culture. That is, is this an insitution ". . . whose feature could be entirely accounted for either by reference along to comparable institutions in other areas, or only by reference to material in the society within which it is found (1975 : 72)"? Although to my own interest in mancala are clearly related to his, I shall not pursue his conclusion, but instead mention some of the cultural features he reports to be related to the Kedang game.

The layout of the game, Barnes reports, consist of several strata of images :

"The two rows compose opposite territories, each containing seven ordinary villages, plus one village for dead souls. In play, souls are constantly being transferred singly to their appropriate village of the dead. In Kedang . . . there is a distinction between good deaths and bad deaths, the latter resulting from various kinds of diaster such as injury in warfare. It is only good deaths which lead to orderly progress into the land of the dead . . . The souls of victims of bad deaths remained trapped . . ." (1975 : 78).

While the Tulu versions of the game do not make reference to souls in ordinary play, in its association with the Siri cult it becomes directly related to the same notion of good and bad deaths and the different classification of spirits. The violent deaths of the sisters - one from murder, the other from suicide - and the untimeliness of their deaths, occurring as they do before fulfilling their earthly functions of sexual and reproductive fertility, would certainly class them as masti ghosts, a group of spirits recognized throughout soughern India as dangerous, if not malevolent wandering souls trapped in this world by their unfulfilled desires.

Barnes goes on to report :

". . . The game is a war between inhabitants of the two territories . . one burns an opponent village, taking all the captured souls to one's own store. . . . Taking of heads (. . . trophies one attempts to acquire in war . . .) is another element of this culture which finds expression here". (1975 : 79).

On a general level this, too, is an element in the Tulu forms of the game, in that the word used to describe a win is poli malpuna, the nearest English equivalent of which seem to be "to plunder", to deprive one's opponent of his productive resources. In other games, the words used for victory are gendunu or s°pawunu, both of which merely mean "to beat, to win". In ordinary play, however the Tulu "plunder" appears to refer more clearly to the material resources rather than, as appears to be the case in Kedang, the regenerative human population of souls. Only in the context of the Siri cult legends, is there some implication that there is a connection between the loss of a game and the loss of a group's source of prestige in regards to both human and material resources.

There are parallels also in the direction of play (counter-clockwise) and number of holes and pieces, but these features do not seem to have the significance in Tulu culture that Barnes perceives in relation to Kedang culture. In all, aside from the manner of play and the association with death (and funerary ritual) and plunder mentioned above, one cannot see as strong a connection between the Tulu game and that of Kedang as one can between the Tulu and African material.

Published reports on mancala elsewhere in India are few. I have been fortunate, however, in receiving personal reports from a number of folklorists and anthropologists from Tamilnad, Karnataka and Kerala, and I attempt to summarize these below.


H.J.R. Murray in his comparative study of games, A History of Board Games Other than Chess (1952), reports that mancala games are played throughout South Asia. In Northern India, although there is some variation in the number of pits found on the board, and number of seeds in the play, in each area only a single game (roughly equivalent to the Tulu game of bu½e perga) is played. In Southern India and Sri Lanka, however, there is commonly fond a variety of games in each cultural region. In the following section I shall briefly describe some of these games. In each case I use as a reference the closest Tulu equivalent. Much of the material I present here is published for the first time, and was generously living in India and Sri Lanka. Their contribution taken together vastly expand the amount of published information on the game in Southern Asia.

Murray, citing H. Parker's Ancient Ceylon (1909), reports that there is evidence from two ancient sites in Sri Lanka that the game was known in southern Asia from at least the Second Century B.C. (Murray 1952 : 160). In both cases, the board was carved in bedrock. The setting in which they are found suggests a ritualistic function for the play. D. Shive Gowda (of Mysore) writes (personal communication) that a board may be seen in the Twelfth Century sculptured temple of Belur, in the Karnataka section of the Western Ghats. The context there is a representation of the amusements and material culture of the aristocracy.


Mancala is played throughout Tamilna·?, although under different names and associated with different practices. Dr. Brenda Beck (personal communication) collected information on the game as it occurs in the konkuna·? (Coimbatore) region. There, the game is called pannankuri ("14 pits"), or pantinkuri. There appears to be only one version of the game, which is similar to the bu½e perga from in Tulunad. In Pannankuri there are fourteen pits (seven in each row) and each pit is filled wit five seeds. The game is normally played among women and children; but men, too, occasionally play amongst themselves. There is no ritualistic function of the game and it appears to have no seasonal association.

Dr. Saraswati Venugopal (of Madurai) reports (personal communication) several versions of play collectively known as pallankuri. Oneversion she describes, called kaci, resemble the bu½e perga game of Tulunad, and another, reportedly a variation of this, resembles the Tulu j°daa. she also mentions the solitaire game of sitaa. In kaci, twelve seeds are placed in each of the fourteen pits.

A final Tamilnad report comes from Charlene Allison (two unpublished manuscripts). The game of pallanguri she describes also resembles the Tulu bu½e pega, but uses either fouror six seeds to the pit. She, too, mentions that the game is played between women, or between men, but not men and women together. She notes that the game is sometimes (amongst men) played as a gambling game.

Ms. Allison also describes a ritual context for the game. According to her material, the game is played during the nalangu (anointing) rites, which occur during the "liminal" period following the core marriage among people of the Saiva Pillai caste. There the game is publicly played between husband and wife with female on-lookers from both parties actively encouraging and advising the play of one or the other player. In this context a metal board is preferred over a wooden one, and the pieces are cowrie shells. Both sides play to win and in one case an on-looker took over the play from a less-than-competent newlywed in order to save the day for her side.


Murray (1952 : 170-173) citing Parker (1909), lists four forms of the game in the Sinhalese-speaking region of Kandy. Another version is found around Columbo among Tamil-speakers. This latter version, called pallankuri or (conku), appears to be the same as that described by Dr. Saraswati Venugopal, above. All forms are played primarily by women and children. Basic information on each of the Kandian forms is provided below. For more details, see Murray 1952.



Number of

Nearest Tulu Equivalent




Walak pussa
Dara mutu(?)

Ash-pumpkin peel
Tying-up holes
Row of pearls




Bu½e perga

Dr. Anuradha Seneviratna reports (personal communication) an additional game, called olinda deliya, "game of the licorice-tree seed", which appears to be similar to that of the Tulu bu½e perga. He further mentions that the game is associated with the goddess Pattini, but does not explain in what way. Further information about this would have been valuable to this paper since, as I have noted elsewhere (Claus 1978a), there are some tantalizing similarities between the Siri cult and that of Pattini, and also between the Siri legend and that of Kanagi (Pattini).


According to Mr. Raghavan Payanad the game of mancala is a common game played among children in Northern Kerala, where it is called nikkikka½i or 'licking game'. It is apparently generally played in the dirt, scooping out two rows of seven holes. The game is usually played with tamarind seeds, but pebbles or other small objects serve as well. It is played similarly to bu½e perga. The game gets its name from the fact that, upon reaching an empty pit, a player "licks" (wipes) that pit with his hand before taking the seeds in the next pit. Also, carrying the play on the term further, the loser is said to "take a licking" and must "lick" wit his hand all of the empty pits.


Karnataka (of which the Tulu-speaking District of South Kanara is a part) has the largest number of games reported.

Shive Gouda (of the Central Institute of Indian Languages) reports (personal communication) that there are at least five forms of thegame (called collectively, cene mane) from the Hassan region. These are summarized below with their nearest Tulu equivalent.



Number of

Nearest Tulu Equivalent





Ordinary play
Gambling game
King’s game
Benaras game
Sita’s game




Bue perga

According to Mr. Gouda all games are plaed only by women except I one instance - a man will play the game with a woman on the occasion of the birth of a daughter of his wife.

Mr. A. Hiriyana (Institute of Kannada Studies, University of Mysore) reports (personal communication) a somewhat different list of terms for the board and the collectivity of games played on it:

Board NameMeaningGames
Guli mane aaPitboard gameAllu gulimane aa
Haralu manePebble boardHunse pace aa


What conclusions can we draw from this comparative perspective? How do these affect the earlier summary and analysis of the cenne metaphor and its significance in Tuluva myths and cults? Despite the purported goal of anthropology to study comparatively the cultures of the world, most anthropologists are remarkably culture-bound to the civilization in which they do their primary fieldwork, and are ill-equipped to consider a culture as a process enmeshed in a larger historical network of influences along with other cultures.

Over the past three or four decades, since Radcliffe-Brown pronounced the futility of explaining custom by reference to "conjectural history", social anthropologists have minimized the significance of cultural change and exchange, shunning the conceptualization of cultures in process, and ignoring the problems of analyzing comparative material. British social anthropologists, especially, seem intent on ignoring culture change, and dealing the adoption of borrowed features, and the peculiar elaboration of borrowed elements once they enter a new culture. American cultural anthropologists have had only minor succeses in dealing with the diffusion of material culture and comparison of aspects of social structure which can be quantified and handled statistically. There are few fuccessful attempts in dealing with ideology, concepts, beliefs, systems of rights and obligations and other less material aspects of culture. In this, we find a parallel set of problems amongst our sister disciplines of linguistics - where phonological change and affinity are much more easily dealt with than comparative semantics - and comparative religion - where the names and attributes of deities are more easily traced than how people feel about them.

In dealing with the mancala material, I cannot claim to have discovered any fail-proof method of handling the massive problems of comparative cultural study. What I hope to have done is raised again the need to include such materials in our study of Indian folk traditions. I also offer some very tentative suggestions o how we might consider some of this material in the future.

South India shares the game of mancala with Africa to the West and Indonesia to the East. Two of these culture areas must have "borrowed" the game from the third, or all three must have borrowed from a fourth, not mentioned. The fact that all three lie along ancient trade routes and that the earliest representation of the game comes from Egypt would suggest that thegame originated in the Middle East that the game originated in the Middle East and traveled along trade routes even before Christ. It was readily accepted into the folk (and elite, as well) cultures of these regions. Some of the basic forms of the board, and basic modes of play are common througout the entire area of distribution. In many areas, though, the basic mode of play became elaborated into two or more forms. In some of there areas the board, too, was elaborated upon-either in terms of decorative ornamentation or, seemingly in conjunction with more elaborate forms of play, additional numbers and arrangements of the 'pits'.

In many places, too, the vocabulary has certain common features, especially in reference to agriculture and the distribution of agricultural products. Another very common idiom has to do with rites of passage. In India and Africa this has to do with puberty and marriage; in Indonesia, with the souls of the dead.

Another common feature of the game, especially in Africa and India, concerns whom many play the game together. In both place it seems to be resticted to play among peers. I would suggest that this feature is associated with another, namely, that the game strongly symbolizes intelligence and cunningness. These last two common features of the game are further linked by the fact that nearly everywhere, ompetence in playing mancala implies competence in other fields of activity.

In an attempt to tie all of these feature together, I offer the following sugggestions for consideration. The mancala board and basic mode of play readily finds acceptance in traditional agricultural societies because it is consonant with the broad structure of exchange, and patterns of consumption of agricultural products. What this would suggest is that there exists a common "conceptual structure" of peasant agricuture which is also inherent in mancala. Admittedly, I have not been able to demonstrate this in any of the material covered except, minimally, for the Tulu material. However, the fact that the game does borrow the idion of agriculture in many areas without drastically altering the form of play would suggest this might be so. That competence in mancala is thought to the indicative of competence in other areas of life seems also to support this hypothesis. Some of the elaborations in forms of play - for example, arasa? in Tulunad - quite clearly represent the application of additional dimensions (in arasa?, social stratification to the basic conceptual structure.

But it is how the activities of agricultural products are coordinated by social structure, which lends an additional dimension to the play. If, on one hand, the inherent conceptual features of the game are correlated to the conceptual structureof agricultural economics, and on the other, agricultural economics is embedded in social structure, then we would expect the individuals who play together would be those who may engage in the competitive activities of a society. Societies vary in their structure and I suspect variation on who may, who may not and who should play the game could be correlated with this variation.

Finally, it appears that some cultures acknowledge an association between some of their processes, as seems to be the case, say, in the Tulu example where the processes of agricultural growth and economics and those of human reproduction and marriage exchange are linked through common metaphors. Mancala, to the degree it is able to represent one set of processes, could represent theother as well, and therefore may serve as a metaphor linking the two. In these cases we wold not expect to find a high degree of commonality between cultures since the manner in which cultures integrate their systems of symbolsand collective representations is specific andmeaningful only to its internal structure. This would appear to be the case in Tulunad, where the metaphoric significance of the game is not shared even with those cultural regions closest to it, and sharing both the common basic forms of play and some of the different areas of idiom.
In sum, then, looking for the "source" of significance of cenne in Tulu culture and religion, I see the game itself coming from outside the culture and bringing with it certain "inherent features" which find ready acceptance because of concordance with existing conceptual structures already basic to Tuluva society. Peripheral aspects of the game - such as the restrictions on who may play together - are also implied at its introduction and acceptance, but much more general and superficially variable level. The metaphoric level of meaning of the game is understandable only in terms of Tuluva, in that it meaningfully links fields of cultural activity which are specific to Tulunad society and culture.


Allison, C.1972

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Manuscript Draft of Doctoral Dissertation.


Barnes, R.H. 1975

“Mancala in Kedang: A Structural Test” Bijdragen tot de Tall-Land-en Volkenkund.  Deel 131, le Afl, 67-85.


Beck,Brenda E.F.1979

Personal Communication


Burnell, A.E.1894-97

“The Devil Worship of the Tuluvas (from the papers of the late A.E. Burnell)”.  Indian Antiquary 23 seq.


Claus, P. 1975






“The Siri Myth and Ritual : A Mass Possession Cult of South India”.  Ethnology. Vol.XIV, No.1, January, pp.47-58.

“Oral Traditions, Royal Cults and Materials for a Reconsideration of the Caste System in South India”.  Journal of Indian Folkloristics.  J.1 N.1, pp.1-25.

“Heroes and Heroines in the Conceptual Framework of Tulu Culture”. Journal of Indian Folkloristics.  Vol.1, No.2, pp.27-42.

“Spirit Possession and Mediumship from the Perspectives of Tulu Oral Literature”.  Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.  3 (1979), pp.29-52.


Gowda, D.S. 1979

Personal Communication


Hiriyanna, A. 1979

Personal Communication


Manner, A. 1886

·danolu (in Tulu) Mangalore : Basil Mission Press.


Murray, H.J.R. 1952

Board and Table Games Other than Chess.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Nickter, Mark 1979

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Roberts, J.M.,
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A. Kendon 1963

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Journal of Social Psychology.  Vol.61, pp.185-199.

Seneviratne, P. 1977

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Townshend, P. 1977





“The SWA Game of 11 hūs (das Lochspiel) in the Wider Context of African Mankala”.  Journal of the South West  African Scientific Society.  31, pp. 85-98.

“Games of Strategy : A New Look at Correlates and Cross Cultural Methods”.  Play and Culture, ed. By Helen B. Schwartzman.  West Point, N.Y.: Leisure Press.

“African Mankala in Anthropological Perspective”.  Current Anthropology. 20 : 4, pp.794-796.


Venugopal, S. 1979

Personal Communication



In this appendixm, I present some of the versions of the Siri cult legends and one additional story, "Ishwara Devere", in which the game of cenne plays a significant thematic and structural role.

The first legend, presented in synopsis (from Claus 1975), is what I refer to in the text of the present paper as thefull Siri legend. In it are told the story of Siri, her daughter, sonne, and her grandchildren, Abaga and Daraga. This full Siri legend I collected in essentially similar form from thre informants, one man and two women. Both of the women attend the Siri cult at Kabbitar.

The second and third legend - "Sonne and Ginde" and "Mayage and Maipage" - were sung by the same informant, a woman who attends the Siri cult at Hiriyadka. For her, there are three separate legends associated with the Siri legend which ends with the maya of Siri. I have not included her version of the legend of Siri, since my concern in this paper is with the metaphoric significance of the game of cenne, which is not a part of the life of Siri herself. This informant's version of the life of Siri does not differ in essence from the corresponding part of the full version of the legend by the other informants.

For the legend of Sonne and Ginde, I give a nearly literal translation. The story of Mayage and Maipage, by the same informant, is somewhat more looselytranslated, but the reader will be able to see many of the same phrases and images. The informant becomes possessed by Sonne (and/or Ginde) during the cult rituals, and did so when she sang for me. I have included the portion of her recitation something of the transition from standard legend to cult verbal interaction. A full presentation of cult interaction would havenecessitated the participation of other cult members. Theinformant also became possessed when she sang the song of Mayage and Maipage for me. Here, I omitted the passages she sang while possessed since they are similar to those in the Sone-Ginde recitation.

The final story was obtained and translated by Mimi Nickter, who gave it to me. I include it here in the same form as she presented it. I heard the story in essentially the same form several times from Tulu informants living in different locations to the north of where I believe Mrs. Nickter collected this version. The story belongs to a distinct group of stories in which Siva and Parvati seemingly fortuitously meet 'distinguised in human forms' to become lovers, as happens in this one. The stories are not part of a cult tradition, though, as is true with the group of Siri legends. That the characters are gods taking human form, rather than humans assuming spiritual form may be the key difference.

There is at least one other story (p a·dana), concerning a legendary petty chief, in which the game of cenne figures significantly. Mark Nickter also makes reference to this game in his material on cenne mane (Nickter 1979). In there, the game is played between husband and wife, and leads, as it does I the Iswara Devere story, to a quarrel. I do not include the story here since it is not immediately available to me and does not, in my recollection of it, alter the analysis I have presented on the role of the metaphor.

The Legend of Siri
(A Synopsis)

Once there was an old man named Berma Alva (called ajjeru, "grandfather" from Lanka Nadu, a place to the north, whoestablished a huge estate with many fields and tenants in a place called Satyanapura. Although wealthy, he had no descendants: "no males going in front to give support, no females coming from behind to give support, no nephews by his side, no grandchildren on his knees". Lamenting his situation, he vowed that he would give all his wealth as alms to beggars if he could have a child.

Shortly afterwards,the god Brahma came to his door disguised as a beggar. Berma Alva, followinghis word, but not aware of the beggar's real identity, ordered his servant to give alms generously. The beggar, however, refused to accept alms from the maid but insisted that the master of the house personally give him alms. When Berma Alva appeared, the beggar asked him why he was so sad.

After the beggar heard Berma Alva's complaint, he told him that he had neglected his family's ancestral home, and had forgotten the needs of his kinsmen, had let his family shrines go to ruin, and for these reasons the family deities (bhuta and devaru) had prevented him from having children. To remedy the situation Berma Alva was instructed to renovate his ancestral house and shrine.

With an enormous retinue of his tenants, Berma Alva returned to Lanka Nadu and repaired and renovated the family shrines. Following strict purity observances, Berma Alva had a large ceremony performed for the family god, Brahma, and all of the family bhutas. In outstretched arms he offered Brahma a flower pod from the areca nut palm (pingara), and begged the god to accept it and forgive him his neglect. At that moment the pod opened, revelaing a baby girl. Because the baby was born of happiness (sant°sa) and truth (satya), the old man named her Siri.

Siri grew up at such a phenomenal rate that when she was but five years old it was decided that she should be married. Berma Alva arranged for her marriage to Kantha Alva of Kadengadi and a huge sum of gold and land - all of Berma Alva's wealth - was given to Kanta Alva as Siri's dowry. But Kantha Alva had a mistress with whom he was very much in love, and even Siri's beauty and faithful devotion could not dissuade him from favoring a prostitute on whom he squandered all of Siri's wealth and property.

When Siri became pregnant, her husband neglected his obligation to alow her to return to her natal home for delivery. He refused to perform the bayake ceremony, which honors the wife as she departs to her natal home. When Siri had not returned by the eighth month, Berma Alva went to see what was wrong. He insisted that Kanta Alva to buy a sari for Siri's return trip. Kantha Alva did buy a sari, but gave it to his mistress instead, and presented Siri with a gaudy sari that had belonged to the prostitute.

Siri, dishonoured by her husband's indifference and neglect, returned to her home alone where she gave birth to a son, who she named Kumaru. The father refused to come and acknowledge the child, so Siri cursed her husband's lands and estate, saying that born is fields and family would thereafter be barren (and so, it is said, they are today).

It was foretold at the boy's birth that if the grandfather, Berma Alva, ever saw the child's face, he would die instantly, his father would go insane, and his mother would be forced to beg in distant lands. One day, when Siri was bathing the baby, she left the room momentarily to get a cloth. Kumaru was alone in the room when the grandfather walked by the door. Hearing the child play was too great a temptation for the old man. He went in, picked up the baby, and held it to his chest. He collapsed, and was found dead on the floor with the baby still in his arms when Siri returned.

Overcome with grief, Siri took the child and wandered aimlessly. She had renounced her husband, had lost her only kinsman, and her wealth had been squandered on her husband's mistress.

As she wandered southward, she met two warriors (ksatriyas) who both desired her greatly, but recognized her as a virtuous woman. She bagged their help and asked them to regard her as their sister: "If you are older than I, call me meggedi, younger sister, if you are younger call me paldi, older sister". They brought her to a man named Kodsara Alva of Kotrapadi who asked to marry her. He insisted that it did not matter that she had been married before as long as they were married in a special ceremony called kaipatawuni ("taking-the-hand"). No dowry, no Brahman, no feast, no kinsman's consent would be necessary for this ceremony.

Kodsara Alva was already married, however, and when his first wife got word of his intentions she devised a curse that if Siri were to look into a certain oil lamp she would go blind. Siri intuited that Kodsara Alva had another wife, and guessed that the woman might be angered. She told him that she could not return to his house until his first wife consented and led her into the house herself. When Alva's first wife saw how honest and fortnight Siri was, and how pitiable her plight, she welcomed Siri into the household as a co-wife.

At Kodsara Alva's house Siri became pregnant with a second child. Just before her time of delivery, Siri went to an areca nut grove at the edge of the jungle where she made a bed of betal leaves. There at dusk she had her baby, a daughter, whom she named Sonne. She buried the placenta, but in the night foxes came, dug it up, and ate it. She cursed them saying that they could never go near that place again. (Now there is a pondthere, where, it is said, the foxes never come.) At dawn she blessed the land that it might grow rice, dal, coconut, and bettle nut in plenty. Then she disappeared (maya) , but her spirit still guards the land.

Sonne grew up in the home of Kantha Thola and later married Guru Marla of Urikitota. Together they made a vow to Brahma that they would make him a big offering if he would favour them with a child. Sonne soon became pregnant and gave birth to twin girls, Abbaga and Daraga. Caught up in the joys of family life, they neglected their vow to Brahma.

Brahma appeared to Sonne and Guru Marla disguised as a fortune teller. He foretold that they would suffer most deeply if they neglected their vow to him. All that the god had given them would be taken back. Quarreling would be their downfall. Guru Marla was angered by the fortune teller and told him to leave.

One day, Sonne and Guru Marla went away from home, and left the twins alone with the warning not to quarrel. Knowing that they often quarreled about games, they locked the girls' favorite game, cenne mane, in a chest. After they were gone, Brahma, in the diguise of a Brahmin sage, opened the chest and suggested to the bored children that they amuse themselves with it. Soon they fell to quarrelling, and one hit the other over the head with the game board. She fell down dead. In terror of facing her parents for committing such a heinous crime, the other twin jumped into the well and drowned. When the parents returned, thery were met by the sage who warned them that they should never neglect a promise made to a god, for all that they were, all that they had, was god's gift. What was given by god was taken away.

The Story of Sonne and Ginde

At that time Grandfather (ajjer?) Bermu Ballaveru lived in a manor in Lokanadu. Narayana Ajjeru! Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru!

At that time Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru lamented "If only I had been blessed with descendants to (carry on) the manor. I must go to the adiko·i"11. An adikodi is a type of ancestral shrine, implying the original location where a deity has been installed. There are numerous terms used in this legend which refer to different types of shrines, temples, features within temples and rituals performed at these. These terms are not easy to translate and would require a lengthy discussion of their function in the religious system of the people in order to distinguish them one from another. The singer is not a Brahman - in fact, she is a member of an untouchable caste - and her conceptions of these matters differ significantly from those of the temple priests, which complicates matters even more.. Oh, he was the Ajjer? of Narayana's Narayane!

Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru went to the steps of the adiko·i and climbed to the inner court yard (anga¸a). "Our mulasana2. Literally, "original shrine".2 is Lokanadu", said Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru.

"Today you must bless me with two girls to succeed me", said Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru presenting himself in front of the dambekallu3. The stone in the courtyard of a temple on which coconuts are broken in offering to deities.3.

At the instant he asked, the Lord Bermeru created and bestowed to him two girls, Sonne and Ginde, on the right and the left sides. He created Sonne on the left side and Ginde on the right side. Lokanadu Bermeru.

"For the pleasure of my words he gave (me a blessing)! As soon as I asked he gave (me a blessing)"!

Two grandchildren: Sonne and Ginde: younger sister and elder sister, children4. The phrase megedi paldi balelekulu "younger sister older sister children" might also be translated as simple "sisters". Other informants regard Sonne as the elder sister and Ginde as theyounger. However, her usage throughout is consistent, and I see no significance to her apparent "mistake".4.

Then Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru at the adiko·i mulasana of Lokanadu picked up the children and carried them to the manor house. "Ah, children! You must stay and play and dance in the house", said Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru.

Thus Sonne and Ginde remained playing and dancing. Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru saw the beauty of their feet, saying, "Ah, that the feet of those grandchildren of mine should be most beautiful"! Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru had gold foot-chains prepared for them. Then Ajjeru looked at the beauty of their waists and had waist bands of three strands prepared for them. Grandfather Bermu Bellaveru! He saw the beauty of the children's necks: he had bracelets of twisted bands prepared for them. For the beauty of their ears he had earrings like bables prepared.

Then Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru called to them: "Sonne and Ginde, children of Narayana, your infancy is gone, you leave it (behind)", Bermu Ballaveru said.

"Oh Grandfather! Please listen, Ajjeru. When our infancy is gone and we are grown, you must listen Grandfather, we must play the game of cenne. We must have a cenne board. Our must be one with a silver board and gold playing pieces. A wooden board with playing pieces of pongara seed is not suitable for our play", the children Sonne and Ginde said.

When she heard the words of Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru Sonne, younger sister, asked: "Narayana, elder sister, oh!, are you getting the game of cenne which is in the family chest (kelembi) or am I?"

"Narayana, younger sister, do listen, Sonne, you go, child, break open the lid of the family chest, bring back the golden playing pieces and the silver board", said the elder sister, said elder sister Ginde.

She gor the golden playing pieces and the silver board. She went to the seventh floor. Younger sister, Sonne, went. She broke open the lid of the family chest and came (back). She opened the lid of the family chest. She took the golden pieces and the silver board and returned, Sonne, younger sister.

"Come, sister. Let us play cenne" The cenne players; They sat. "The first game, child … will you go first, or shall I play first, child?". Asked the elder sister.

Then Sonne said, "Oh elder sister, Narayana, elder sister! You play first, sister, you beat me"5. Usual words for win (or beat) in a game are gendunu and sopawuni. Theword used here is poli malpule.5.

"Oh, child, younger sister, listen", said the elder sister. "You listen, child, child of Narayan, even though you were born after me, I am not (becoming) as smart as you, child. Listen, Sonne. I do not know your cunning and skill and cleverness. Fill the cenne board with the pieces. Put the seeds, the golden pieces in the cenne pits, the fourteen pits".

Younger sister, Sonne, put (the pieces into the pits). Then they played cenne. They sat, Sonne and Ginde, the two girls. Thus as they were playing, Sonne won a game from the elder sister. "Narayana elder sister, a defeat for you"! she said, Sonne, the younger sister. "Narayana elder sister, listen! This defeat offer (bamile) to the honor (sammana) of your father-in-law (mami), the younger sister said.

Then, she said, "We must reverse the cenne game, we must turn the board and play, elder sister". She had the board turned and they sat playing the game. As they played, thus, the elder sister was defeated a second time. "Ohy elder sister, listen! This defeat, elder sister, you must offer to the honor of your brother-in-law after your marriage. Narayana elder sister, you played two games of cenne. We must sit for a third game, elder sister. You play first".

"Narayana child, Sonne, I will not put my hand to the board. I will not play with pieces you have left while playing", elder sister Ginde said.

Then for the third game they kept the board upside down6. Such is themeaning of the phrase, used, although I do not see how the game could be played on the underside of the boards I have seen. Perhaps the singer intended that the direction of the play was reversed - i.e., from counter-clockwise to clockwise, which would be a very inauspicious direction.6. while they were sitting and playing the third game, Bermeru came and stood behind Sonne and Ginde7. In illusion form, apparently.7. Lokanadu Bermeru! When they played the third game Sonne (again) defeated, do you hear, elder sister, you offer to the honor of husband's younger brother (maitinaye)", said the younger sister Sonne8. The word maitinaye could also mean male cross-cousin; hence, potential future husband.8.

Then the begging Brahman was standing there. "Ah, children, listen! Of you who is younger sister, who is elder sister?" asked the Brahman, the begging Brahman.

"Narayana Brahman, you! You must listen! She is akka9. Address term for elder sister. Reference term is paldi.9 to me, I am to her younger sister".

"Child, listen. What are your names?"

"I am, oh, Brahman, hear, Sonne. Elder sister is Ginde".

"Narayana, child you hear. Sonne, did you (yourself) having caused your elder sister's defeat, say (to give) the honor to (her) husband's father?" asked the Brahman. "In the second defeat did you say to give the honor to (her) brother-in-law?" asked the begging Brahman. "Narayana child, listen! Elder sister is you: you are elder sister. You are Ginde! No girl like yourself would listen to such insults. This very day they would raise the cenne board to Sonne's pate (netti)". The child muttered to herself. Sonne squirmed this way and that hearing these words of the elder sister10. The language here is frustratingly ambiguous: is Ginde imagining the words are those of the begging Brahman? Is she possessed be Bermeru?10. Narayana Ginde's anger is (filling) the seven realms; she is getting angry! Picking up the silver playing board she raised it to Ginde's head. (Ginde) left body and life and went to the heavens.

Then the begging Brahman said, "Alas, child, Sonne, listen! You take a life for an anger? That is a great sin (papaga)", he said.

Thenthe younger sister lifted up the corpse and carried it out to the Lokanadu tank (kere). "Alas, Bermeru! Bermeru, you must make us, younger sister and older sister, Sonne and Ginde, (into the realm of) maya. In maya you gave uslife (j°ga): in life you must join us to maya, Bermeru!"11. From here on, the singer begins to enter a deep trance and the song takes on a ritual chant quality.11. As of now we are of Lokanadu ancestors. Make use maya of Lokanadu shrine, Bermeru!" So saying, Sonne stands on the right side. She herself has asked Lokanadu Bermeru. He faced to the east and placed Sonne and Ginde in the left and the right. "Alas, children, you Sonne and Ginde, are Narayana children. On the right side of Lokanadu Bermeru you are called Sonne and Ginde. You are Siris, from this time on, in Lokanadu bu·u (manor). You who face the east, I shall cause to fly (parawe) and make maya. Fromnow on, you must go into the place of the ancestors (periya tana)12. The singer identifies this with the town of Hiriyadka, or, to use the Tulu name, Periyadka. The name Periyadka means place, or shrine (possibly cremation ground) of the ancestors. There is a temple there containing a popular Siri shrine. The singer herself is from this place.12. having become maya you must remain as theeast ward faces on the Eastern gate, "he saids. "Narayana children, you are Sonne and Ginde, younger sister and elder sister; you are the children in themanor house of the place of the ancestor. Leaving the place of the ancestor (you must go to) a very great place, Kabattar Shrine, children. In the Kabattar Shrine you will be playing in many incarnations and they will call you Sonne and Ginde".

At this time Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru says, "Alas, children, leave Kabatar Shrine. Children, it is a great shrine! You, Sonne and Ginde, playing and dancing in Urikitota! Today leave :Urikitota, children, take up Bolliyottu Shrine, children. There are silver playing pieces. They are leaving Bolliyotta Shrine. There is a very great shrine, children. They are called Sone andGinde at Nandolige shrine, children. There is Pangala Shrine -take up Pangala Shrine, children, Sonne and Ginde. Leave Pangala Shrine, children, Sonne and Ginde. Take up Kangottu Shrine, children. Setting out from Kangottu Shrine, go to Kallottu Shrine, children, Sonne, Ginde … the origina shrine (adi ko·i) of Goddess Kanchamma … for you, Sonne and Ginde, for Sonne and Ginde, for you … children, Sonne, Ginde, inside … in the circle inside … sutu puja!13. The singer is deeply in trance by this time and convulsively throws herself to the ground as the continues to chant in a possession-voice.13.

Narayana children! Inside, children, in Kallottu Shrine (sana) … suttu puja. Inside … shrine (gu¸·a), Sonne and Ginde … The Siris, children, get kaa puja, children. Leave Kangottu shrine, children … Inside the shrine there is suttu puja, outside there is kaa puja.

Sonne, Ginde, seven Siris, children, leave Kallottu shrine, children and take (a place in) Kangottu … In Kangottu Shrine, children in the circle within … in the circle without … suttu puja and kaa puja … children, Sonne, Ginde. Narayana, children, Sonne, Ginde … Children, seven Siris, leave Kangottu Shrine, Sonne, Ginde. Take (a place in) Pangala Shrine. At Pangala Shrine in the inner circle, children, there is Suttu bali, in the outer there is kaa puja. For you, children, Sonne, Ginde, seven Siris. A very great place children, Sonne, Ginde, is Nandolige Shrine. Inside is the inner puja (playi puja); outside is kaa puja. Sonne and Ginde, seven Siris, leave that place, children, seven Siris, enter Bollivottu Shrine, children. In the inner circle there is bali puja, children, for Sonne, Ginde. In the outer circle there is kaa puja, children Sonne, Ginde, seven Siris, children. Leave Bolliyottu children, in Urikitota there is a very great shrine. In the place called urikitota, in the inner circle, children, the bali puja inside, in the outer circle, children, the kaa puja are for you. Leave Bolliyottu Shrine, Siris, seven Siris children. Kabittar Shrine, children, is a very great place for Sonne and Ginde, a very great incarnation, children for Sonne and Ginde. Stand in the inner circle, children. In theinner circle a bali. Stand in the outer circle and get a kaa puja. Seven Siris, leave Kabittar, children. Let us take a place in our ancient place, children. Let usstand in theEastern gateway. Seven Siris, we Sonne and Ginde, in the inner circle, we have bali puja; in the outer circle … There are seven Siris, Grandfather, in Lokanadu. Grandfather Bermu Ballaveru, we are our ancestoral Shrine, in the Eastern Gateway, standing firm doing penance, Grandfather. There is bali puja of the inside circle for us, Grandfather. In the outer circle there are fourteen kaa puja for us. We have joined the shrine (gu¸·a) in the ancestoral place, Grandfather …14. A short untranslatable portion is left out.14 Our ancestoral place is the original shrine (adi k?di) of Lokanadu Bermeru. We get Lokanadu Bermeru's blessing (baya), Master15. Ths is an honorific title for a person ofhigh status - the ethnographer, in this case. This is the end of the possession, since the ethnographer merely thanked the spirits, apologized for any possible improprieties in their invocation, and requested them to return to their place in the Hiriyadka Temple. Otherwise, the Spirits would have been available for divinatory requests, boons, etc., but the ethnographer had no reason to take advantage of the opportunity at the time.15.

The Story of Mayage and Paipage

At that time lived Cenneda Parwati andDevenda Gali Krishna Kumar. Gali Krishna Kumar had a cenne board prepared out of silver andhad the playing pieces made of gold. He kept these in the family chest.

"Oh, Parwati, even though you were married with proper mystical libation, you have not born a child within the year. You have not had a menstrual period either. You are all alone in this palace. If you are sad, there is a silver cenne board with gold playing pieces in the measure chest. When you are lonely and sad, take it out and play.

Parwati rose and went to the chest. She opened it and removed the silver board and the gold pieces andbrought them out. She set the game up, filling the fourteen holes with the gold playing pieces. While she was playing, Lord Bermeru of Lokanadu appeared behindher in the guise of a poor Brahman.

"Child, Cenneda Parwati, listen! You have not had your monthly period, nor born a child this year. There is no seed I your womb1. There is possibly an analogy being made here between the parelu (seed) and guri (pit) of the cenne board, and the seed (bitt?) in Parwati's womb (nar?).1. Why are you sitting alone here playing the cenne game?", asked the Brahman.

"Oh, lord! Who is behind me talking?", cried the startled Parwati. She looked behind and saw theBrahman. "Alas!, You, Brahman, where did you come from? Where are you going? What do you want?"

"Child, Parwati, will you listen to me? Come to Lokanadu. Lord Bermeru of Lokanadu will give you descendants", advised the poor Brahman. Then he went away as mysteriously as he had come.

Soon afterward, Gali Krishna Kumar returned. "Oh, husband, did you hear that?2. This seems to suggest that the deity appeared in some illusion-form, perceived only by Cenneda Parwati.2 We must go to Lokanadu. God will bless us with children", said Parwati.

"Let us go then", Kumar replied at once. They bathed head and body and set out immediately to the primordial shrine of Lord Bermuda of Lokanadu.

"Children, why have you come?" asked the Lord of them when they presented themselves.

"There is nothing for us in my Parwati's womb. She has not born children", said Gali Krishna Kumar.

Then Bermeru called Parwati forward. "Come, Parwati, hold your sari out and receive my blessings". Parwati did asshe was instructed to do and stood before Lord Bermeru. As she received his blessing, he gave two children to her womb, twins.

They took prasada and returned to their palace. As they were returning, the water of life3. Nir?, "water", by which is meant female semen which, if conception does not occur, turns to menstrual blood.3, which had hithertofore gone uselessly from Parwati's womb, was retained and began to develop. Month after month of pregnancy passed for Parwati until on the ninth day of the tenth month her term was filled4. The usual phrase for a full-term pregnancy.4. Thelabor pains indicated two children were in her womb. "Oh, husband! The pain of twins is in my womb!" she called out. She gave a mighty push and bore two babies. She tied their navels and wiped up the after-birth. She sprinkled water around them to protect them and placed them on the flower of the arecanut palm.

She observed the proper ceremonies for the removal of pollution on the third, the fifth and the seventh days. When the sixteenth day came, she spoke to her husband saying, "Husband, according to our cste, we must have the great pollution removed during the night of the sixteenth day. You must call the people of the village. We must set up a cradle for our children and give them names.

Kumar went down among the villagers and called them to come to the palace for the ceremony on the sixteenth night. (On this night a cradle will be tied to the house beams and the children would be placed in it for the first time and they would be given names).

On that night, when all the guests had arrived, Parwati herself tied the cradle and put her children in it. As she put the children in the cradle, she gave them their names: Mayage and Maipage.

The girls grew at a phenomenal rate. When they were but sixteen days old they looked to be a month. When they were one month, they appeared to be two months. By the time they were three months old they were able to turn themselves onto their stomach and crawl to the dooraway where they would rest their heads on the doorsill. Their father would look at them fondly and think, "What remarkably beautiful children we have".

Soon they had grown to be beautiful young girls. Kumar said to Parwati, "We must get ornaments to adorn our two girls fitting of their beauty". For their waists he had three-stranded gold chains made; for their armshe got thebracelets of twisted gold bands; for their necks he got golden necklaces and pendants; for their ears he got them large golden earrings; and fortheir feet he got them anklets with tiny golden bells. He got them each every kind of fine ornament they needed.

At that time,the girls had fully grown. From girls they became women. Thye told their mother, "Oh, Mother, we have grown up. We are no longer girls. We wish to play cenne: you must get it for us".

"Is the one with the silver board and the golden pieces suitable for you or should I get one of wood with pieces made of the red berries of the coral tree. Which, children?"

"We don't know how to play with a wooden board, and even if we did, we, Mayage and Maipage, would not play on a wooden board with the coral tree seeds".

"There is the ancient one, children, the one with the silver board and the glden pieces. Will you play on that one?"

The two children cried, "Indeed, we will mother. We shall sit and play cenne with the silver board and golden pieces".

Just then, Parwati spoke to her daughters on another sbject. "Children, you have grown up now. You became women. When girls come of age, there is one blessing which is given in this world. By the grace of god, for each man there is a woman. This is your fate. We shall go to find a husband for each of you", said Cenneda Parwati.

"Oh, Mother, you must listen. We shall not get married. We shall not look at a man's face"5. In other folk stories this phrase is used as a euphemism for having sexual relations.5.

Alas, children, if you will not marry, we your father andmother, will be disgraced. Terrible things may be said about us. Our honour and prestige will be eroded", relied Parwati.

"Oh, Mother! It will not come to that. It is simply that our line will end. We don't want to look at a man. Weshall not get married", replied Maipage. "There are the gold pieces and the silver board in the ancestral chest. We shall play cenne". She got up quickly and went to the chest and threw open the lid. She took out the silver board and gold pieces and brought them to the palace courtyard. There older sister and younger sister sat playing cene.

Meanwhile, their mother and father went looking for husbands for their daughters.

As the twins sat down to play, Maipage said to her elder sister Mayage, "Elder sister, although you were born before me and I after you, you do not have my cunningness and cleverness. I take pleasure in learning tricks and delight in new strategies even though I am the younger sister". They filled the "house" of the silver board with the gold pieces. "Sit and play, elder sister", said Maipage encouragingly. As they began thegame, she challenged, "Who will win, elder sister, you or I?"

"You go first, child", said the elder sister. So Maipage began to play. She played until soon she won over her elder sister.

"Elder sister, listen! Our mother and father went out to find husbands for us. If they come back having found one, you give what you owe as a presentation to your mother-in-law, your husband's mother". So saying, they began playing another game of cenne.

In the second game, again, Maipage was victgorious over her sister. "Older sister, I have won again! The winnings from the second vistory you must give to your husband's older brother, your brother-in-law. Offer it as a presentation".

At that time, Lokanadu Bermeru appeared disguised as a poor begging Brahman, holding a flute. He went to where the twins, Maypage and Maipage, were playing cene and quietly stood behind them. Maipage said, "Elder sister, we have only, played two games. We must play another. Let us turn the game around. Then, perhaps your luck will change". They turned the game and illed the 'houses' with gold pieces. Whilethey played the third game, the poor Brahman stood behind them unnoticed. The younger sister won this third game they unnoticed. The younger sister won this third game as well. "Oh, elder ister, this winning you must give to he who is born at your husband's back, his younger brother, your youngest brother-in-law and to your husband himself".

The Brahman heard these words and spoke to the eler sister, saying, "Oh, child, did you hear the Maipage? Do you hear the younger sister's pride over victory in the cenne game? Your self-perfect has been utterly destroyed. If it were I, I would raise thecene board to the top of her head".

Hearing these words in her mind, the elder sister lifted the cenne board and raised it over the top of her younger sister's head. She brought it down with a crushing blow. The younger sister fell dead. The Brahman told Mayage, "Child, alas! Having killed your ister, can you wander o this earth any longer?"

"Rama, Rama, Lord, what can I do?" She picked up the body of her younger sister and went to the well. She put the body into the well and then threw herself into it, taking her own life. In the well, two flower pods of the areca palm appeared and floated on the surface.

Son afterwards, Gali Krishna Kumar and Cenneda Parwati returned. "There are no men suitable for our daughters in the village", dismayed Parwati. Coming to the palace, they called out to their chidlen, "Mayage, Maipage, where are you? When tey received no answer, they began to search all around the premises. Wondering where her childen would have gone to, Parwati looked in the well. There she saw the pair of areca flowers pods floating on the water. "Oh husband, come here! Quickly! Our children are missing and there are two areca flower pods floating in the well! That can mean but one thing".

Kumar came and went down in the well and removed the flower-pods. . "Quickly, husband, we must go seek help from Bermeru", Parwati cried.

Taking the flower pods, Kumar and Parwati go to Lokanadu. Kumar went before Bermeru and stood. "Till today, our childen were born into this worldly realm. God made them to become flower pods of the areca palm in the realm of maya", replied Bermeru.

Cennada Parwati cried, "We, too, want to leave this worldly realm and join in the realm of maya".

To this Bermeru replied, "For you, also, there is a shrine, Cenneda Parwati and Gali Krishna Kumar. Go and stay at the south door of the temple at Hiriyadka. Your children are there. In the form of a pair of areca flower pods, Mayage and Maipage, girls, to and stay at the east door of thetemple at Hiriyadka". Thus Bermeru commanded a boon to both parents andchidlren. Mayage and Maipage, twin girls, stood at the East door, Elder Sister and Younger Sister.

(Following this, the singer, Kargi becomes possessed and thevoice are those Mayage and Maipage, who speak to one another. Their speech, strictly speaking, is not part of the Pa·dana).

Ishvara Devere (translated and annotedby Mimi Nickter)

Ishvara Devere and Parvathi Devi decided to play cenne chaduranga1. Chenne is a board game popular in Tulunad, and the board is sometimes set up at buta k°la. It is a war game and symbolizes ritualized conflict.1, so Parvathi went up to the 7th floor and brought down the golden and silver beads needed to play the game. They set up the board andbegan to play. Ishvara Devere lost the first house in the first game, andwhen they played a second game, he lost the second house. When they played the third game, he lost a third house and hen they played a fourth game, he lost a fourth house. They played a fifth game and a sixth game and a seventh game andhe lost them all. After he had lost the ninth game, Ishvara said, "I'm hungry and thirsty. My head's spinning and I feel giddy. Quick, Parvathi, go inside and bring, me milk and water".

Parvathi got up to get the milk and water for him. As she crossed the threshold of the room she tripped and banged her head on the top of the door. "Ayyoyo papone! Ullane dosane! Why has the threshold obstructed me and the upper part of the door hit me?" then she thought to herself, "These obstructions may be a sign of some inauspicious act which is to befail me!"2. A threshold is a transitional point and is therefore dangerous. Brahmans, for example, do not hand anything to another person across the threshold and a conversation will not be carried out across a threshold. Parvathi expreses here a common village notion that if you hit your head while crossing a threshold it is a bad omen andan indication that you will be cheated. This is substantiated by Ishvara's acts. Ayyoyo papone! Ullane d°sane! is an expression meaning.2

Bringing the milk and water, Parvathi returned to the cene table. As she sat down, she notied that the cenne board had been turned around so that the winning side now faced Ishvara. Parvathi became furious and kicked the board over. Seeing what she had done, Ishvara became angry and grabbing her by her braid, he slapped her. Jumping in anger, Ishvara said, "I'm going to shoot birds". Then he cursed Parvathi by saying, "I hope your silk sari is eaten by white ants!" He stormed out of the house, taking with him his golden knife, silver snuff box and silver lime box.

As soon as he left the house, Parvathi began to menstruate. For three days she remained outside, and on the fourth day she made preparations for her bath3. She crushed soap nuts and she called theMadivala boy to bring her ma·I clothes4. Madivala is the washerman caste whose ritual job is to perform purificatory rites. Ma·i is washed, unpolluted cloth, usually of silk worn during the performance of rituals. In this context, it refers to the clean clothes that Parvathi must put on after her 4th day purificatory bath. On the 4th day after menstruation has begun a Brahman must take an oil bath and dress in ma·i before she can re-enter the house and begin performing her obligations.4. When be bought them she said, "Keep them on the plank on the porch".

Then she brought him water to wash his hands and she gave him a large rice me3. Menstruation is a time of impurity and it may be implied here that Parvathi became impure because of her actions of angering her husband.3al. when he was through eating, Parvathi said, "Take betal leaves and arecanut as you want". He chewed and then she brought him a cup of oil with a spoon and she poured heaps of oil onto his head. Then she took a measuring pot and she filled it with rupees and gave it to him5. This passage describes ritual payments for services rendered by the Ma·ivala. Here, as in other pa·dana, circumstabnces and actions of everyday life are depicted and commonly exaggerated. In this case, Parvathi gives the Madivala a pot of rupees as payment. This may reflect on her stature and wealth as a Devi and the wife of Ishvara and on the singer who wants to keep the attention of his listeners by depicting grandeur and wealth.5.

"Now, I'm leaving, elder sister6. Elder sister, pa ½i is an honorific termused to address older woman of one's own caste or of a higher caste.6, said Madivala.

"Yes you may go now", said Parvathi.

As soon as he left, Parvathi thought to herself. "Now I think I'll have a look at my god silk sari in that trunk". When she opened the trunk she found that it had been ruined by ants! "Ayyoyo papone! Ullane dosane!" she cried, putting the sari back into the trunk.

Parvathi quickly pounded some charcoal and added water to it to prepare a paste. She smeared the paste on her face to make herself black. Then she changed her sari, put on a muale cap of a Korpalu, and took a curved knife7. Mua ½e is a distinctive cap of Tulunadu made of the stalk of an arecanut branch. All agricultural labourers wear them and traditionally each caste had their own marking on their cap. A Korpa ½? is the term used for a woman of the Marijan caste, Koraga, ka ·? Korpa½?, forest Koraga woman is th specific term used for these caste members because they traditionally inhabit hilly remote forest regions.7.

Then Parvathi went to the forest and sat down at the base of a tree. Using her curved knife like a comb, she began to pick the lice from her hair. While she was doing this, along came Ishvara Devere.

He stopped by her and said, "What are you doing here, ka ·? Korpa½??. "Oh nothing Devere! I'm just sitting here and picking lice from my hair!" replied the Korpa½u.

"Don't stop what you are doing because of me", said Ishvara. "I've got some arecanut, so sweet that the bats have chewed its outer husk and I have the choicest of betel leaves. Let's chew together!"

"Oh no, I don't want to Devere!" said the Korpalu shyly. "I have my own arecanut that I collected from fallen nuts, and I have some wilted leaves that have already turned yellow. What's mine I wil chew!"

But Ishvara was insistent. "What you have, you keep for later. Let it remain with you. Let's chew the tender leaves that I have and let me hold your hand!"

"Ayyoyo devere! What kind of a way is that to speak to a ka ·? Korpa½??" she said.

"What difference does it make if you are a ka ·? Korpa½?? You're a human being aren't you? I'm a human being aren't it? Our blood is the same ins't it?" answered Ishvara.

"What you are saying is not right", she said. "You are a Devere and I am a ka ·? Korpa½?".

The Ishvara and the girl remained in the firest together for two days and three nights8. In the Tulu original it says "To Ishvara and ka ·? Korpa½? good happened, and this indirectly refers to sex. See Footnote 11.8.

On the third day, Ishvara said, "I'm going now, ka ·? Korpa½?".

"If you are going, then go, but just one thing. If I get pregnant, who will pay for my expenses?"

"I will provide for your needs. Here, I have a golden knife, a silver case for lime and a silver snuff box. I also have a golden ring with my sela. Take these things. Use them for your expenses if you get pregnant!" said Ishvara "Now I am going back to my palace, ka ·? Korpa½?.

Ishvara ran back home by one path while Parvathi ran home by another path.

When she returned to thehouse, Parvathi quickly took a bath, put on kumkum, the red dot, and combed her hair. Before she even had a chance to put on her sari, Ishvara arrived home. He sat down on the swinging plank and Parvathi brought him milk in a dish and water in a bowl.

As she gave him the water she said, "I have the feeling that you had some sex with someone"9. The text here reads:9.

"No, I didn't", said Ishvara.

"Didn't you have sex with a ka ·? Korpa½?? When you left here you took your golden knife, your silver box for lime, and the silver snuff box. Didn't you give those things to the ka ·? Korpa½??"

"I didn't give them to her", said Ishvara. Don't say things like that about me. I don't do it!"

"Don't lie to me! The ka ·? Korpa½? came here and gave those things to me!"

"Where did you see her?" asked Ishvara.

"She came here and gave them to me", repeated Parvathi.

"Didn't white ants eat your silk sari?" asked Ishvara.

"No, even though you gave vara as you were leaving, nothing happened"10. Vara, a word meaning blessing, boon, or favour, is often used in pa·dana when the intent is Àapa or curse.10, answered Parvathi.

"While I was gone, what did yu do? What happened here?"

"Nothing happened here!" said Parvathi. "I didn't hold the hand of a Madivala nor did I eat the enjal? of a Madivala"11. Parvathi denies having had sexual contact with another man. When a woman had had illicit contact with a man it is said that she has his enjal?, that she has eaten from his food leftover on his leaf.11.

Then Ishvara drank the water and the milk she had offered him and said, "You have no defects. You were born from truth. Let us be on god terms together".