The Fourth Day: Joking Rituals between Affines

On the fourth day, both categories of the sponsors’ affinal relatives are largely still in the village. A fixed part of gotr is a concluding set of joking interactions between the affines; bathing together thus becomes a mud fight, but one that - as Pfeffer stresses - is free of the aggressive atmosphere of the previous day (Pfeffer 1991, 84).

Gotr in Ponosguda

Describing festivals like gotr poses considerable challenges to an ethnographer, especially when the general course of the ritual is still unknown (this was Iziko- witz’s situation) and he has no or little familiarity with the sponsors’ village; in this case, it is particularly difficult to tell the different groups and individuals involved apart. Not least for this reason, I had hoped to be able to witness a gotr in Gudapada itself, but this hope was not fulfilled. Around 1996,[1] the village’s lower sai held a gotr. All the Sisa, the Ruda’i, and the Messing participated, and I had the opportunity to collect some retrospective information. Roughly forty buffaloes were given away on that occasion. People recalled over and over, with great pride, how many people had gathered around the external platform, so that not a patch of earth could be seen between them.

A striking characteristic of gotr is the rumors and speculations that circulate every year about the festivals. A decision is made in the villages at harvest as to whether a gotr can be afforded in the coming mag (February). Long before the village’s Four Brothers assemble to publicly announce that the ritual will be performed, the potential sponsors hold secret conversations, about which even the other kuda in the village know little. For example, the numerically largest group in Gudapada - the Kirsani - was due to hold a gotr, with many duma already “accumulated.” However, just as potential sponsors in other villages cloak themselves in silence, the Kirsani in Gudapada likewise stuck to diplomatic and entirely non-binding statements. No one wanted to make himself ridiculous by announcing a gotr and then being unable to carry it out. In addition, no one wanted to wake up any “sleeping panjabai” and their demands. The Kirsani suffer from internal divisions, and for this reason as well, they were unable to agree to hold a gotr, which is still pending.

However, in the last months of my fieldwork, a gotr did take place in which groups from Gudapada participated as bringers of a purani buffalo. The sponsors’ village, named Ponosguda, is located about ten kilometers east of Gudapada. Unlike the area around Gudapada, where the villages are ringed by gentle hills, Ponosguda lies at the eastern end of a broad plain, divided north to south by the Goradi River. Directly behind the village rises a range of hills, beyond which no more Gutob Gadaba villages are to be found. The sponsors of the gotr, the Gumal, belong to the matia of Ponosguda, who have acquired a certain prosperity thanks to the railroad that runs from the coast up into the hills to Koraput, a line that was built in the 1960s and a stretch of which runs through their land. The Gumal are from the Tiger bonso (killo) and are represented by two local lines, the Kirsani and the Maji. Alongside the Gumal, several other Gadaba groups from other villages[2] [3] [4] live in Ponosguda as internal affines, together with the other Desia categories of the Sundi, Kond, Rona, Dombo, and Kamar.

Following the death of a respected man of the Kirsani (among the Gumal), Ranju Kirsani,!50 in December (pond), his son Komlu decided to sponsor a gotr on short notice, even though the ideal time for announcing a gotr (diali, November) had already passed, and even the bur had not yet been arranged. The remaining Kirsani houses - a total of six brothers - agreed to his suggestion to perform a joint gotr. Otherwise, Komlu would have sponsored a so-called sudi gotr, a gotr for just one house. Eleven buffaloes, two of them for the late Ranju, were now to be given away for a total of ten duma. In the end, thirteen buffaloes would be given to the agnates. The Maji in Ponosguda are the Kirsani’s junior tsorubai; the senior tsorubai come from the neighboring village of Chandalaman- da (known as Sirmlia). The Kirsani’s panjabai are the Gutal from the neighboring village of Tikrapada. In the gotr context, these three groups of buffalo-takers were also referred to as the Gumal’s three wives: the panjabai are the first wife (“senior one,” borli), the senior tsorubai the second wife (“middle one,” moja), and the Maji from Ponosguda the third wife (“junior one,” sanli).ш This ranking by seniority was also apparent later when the buffaloes were given away. The Gumal’s moitr did not receive any buffaloes, neither the bai moitr from Kotuput, who are Parenga, nor the koloj moitr of the Pujari kuda (from the Cobra bonso) from Ponosguda. With regard to the latter, the sponsors said that if they ate their buffaloes, they would have to vomit blood (rokto banti korbar). They were supposed to be invited to a separate feast later.

Following Ranju Kirsani’s death, his mother’s brother’s group in Gudapada was also informed of the planned gotr. Ranju’s MBSS is Domru Sisa, who represented his long-dead grandfather as mamu in the context of the gotr. He decided to give a purani, not least in order to be able to demand greater moali gifts, since he was aware of his affines’ relative wealth. He would take home the “whole house,” he boasted in advance of the gotr. The sponsors, possibly guessing his intentions, initially tried to talk him out of the purani gift, but without success.[5] [6] [7] A buffalo was purchased in a neighboring village, and the gift was announced to the sponsors. As Pfeffer has mentioned, mini-gotr take place in the villages of the purani bringers, in parallel to the actual gotr of the sponsors. The following table summarizes the main stages in both locations.

  • [1] Periods of time are not remembered in absolute numerical terms. In other words, no onecan say exactly how old a child is or how many years ago an event was. Events are orderedrelative to one another with the help of other reference points.
  • [2] Upria groups from Auripada, Deulpada, and Totapada live in Ponosguda; all are from theCobra bonso and are thus brothers (bai) of the Gangre.
  • [3] Even his neighborhood in the village is called Ranju sai after the deceased.
  • [4] Some informants from Gudapada indicated that it was unusual to refer to the buffalo-takersin this way.
  • [5] The purani bringers from Gudapada said that the sponsors had asked for a purani. Thisclaim is undermined by the fact that two other villages had initially announced purani but then- plausibly at the sponsors’ request - refrained from carrying through their plans.
  • [6] The dissari was unusual in that he claimed to have learned his craft from a Brahman inNandapur, and he once referred to gotr as pitr sraddha (a Hindu mortuary rite). It was alsonotable that he did not use a jupan, an instrument that usually no dissari does without.
  • [7] The Gadaba from Gudapada who had accompanied me to Ponosguda pointed out to me atvarious points what is done differently in their village. The awakening of the duma takes place atthe cremation site in Gudapada. In front of the house of the kutti bongtel* (the buffalo for themost senior member of the group), a miniature buffalo is made beforehand out of jackfruit(ponos) leaves; for each other buffalo, a small platter of hulled rice is made ready; and a pig isritually killed in the name of all the duma.
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