December 5, 2016
Udhagamandalam: With just a few weeks for the start of Hethai Habba, the main festival of the Badagas (the largest indigenous social group in the Nilgiris), religious fervour is beginning to grip members of the community not only in the district, but across the country and abroad.
Community members said that a panchayat, with representatives of 14 villages in and around Kotagiri, was organised recently to draw up the timetable for the festive season. Stating that arrangements have already been set in motion, they told The Covai Post here that preparations will gather pace from December 11, when a very significant part of the festivities is celebrated at Pedhala and Beragani, near Kotagiri.
Hethai Habba falls on the first Monday after the full moon in the Tamil Margazhi month, and the main festival is scheduled between January 9 and 16.
During the festival, thousands of devotees in the traditional white dress throng Beragani to pay obeisance to their presiding deity, goddess Hethe. They hold processions, with many holding aloft the Hetthe Dhadi, the holy shaft which symbolises the miracle of Hethe. Community feasts are also held.
Apart from the main venue, the festival will also be celebrated in different villages, including Jagathala, Dhavani, Nunthala and Ketti.
Senior members of the community pointed out that according to an ancient belief, the ancestral goddess of the Badagas “showers the entire community with her unfailing boons and presides over the wellbeing of all her progeny” from her sacred abode in Beragani.
With the large throng of devotees in Beragani, police said they will put in place extra security arrangements for the festival. One day of the festival will be a local holiday.