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Thursday 29 June 2023

The Narasimha Cult: The Rannebennur Naiks

A view of the temple on Oakli day

Lord Narasimha, the fourth avatar of Vishnu, has been worshipped in various forms for centuries now. Some families in Karnataka, Telangana, Tami Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have retained the Narasimha cult even today. 

The Naik Clan

One such family are the Ranebennur Naiks from Bhadravati who have been celebrating Narasimha Jayanti for hundreds of years. Earlier, they traveled all the way to Koppara Shri Lakshminarasimha temple in Devadurga taluk, Raichur district. But due to long distances, they decided to carry on the tradition in Bhadravati, their place of residence. This tradition therefore shifted to Lakshminarasimha temple at Bhadravati where the deity is in a relaxed state, protecting Bhakta Prahalad, his devotee.

Naik clan carry the deity on Oakli day

On the day of Okali when the entire clan congregated, the deity was brought to the house with all fanfare. Also, devotees were fed on this occasion which was a simple affair. This could not continue for long and arrangements were made with the Sri Raghavendra Mutt in the old town and the Okali celebrations shifted to the Mutt in 1960s. Till date, this tradition continues.
Another view of deity being carried

According to family elders, the tradition of Lord Narasimha being permitted to enter the Naik household for one day started from 1915-16. Around this time, three acres of rich cultivable land was given by Vasudeva Naik and wife Sundara Bai for the development of the 800-year-old Lakshmi Narasimha temple. 

Seeking blessings of Lord Narasimha

In fact, Sundara Bai was fostered by the local chieftain Yadava Rao and his wife Savitri Bai. They left all their lands and riches to her. Thus, the colorful Narasimha cult started from this era wherein the Lord was allowed to be taken home for a day during Okali.
Family members from different parts of the state taking part in the celebrations

However, as time passed, this tradition passed on to Narsimhmurthy Naik (Baji Kaka), their youngest son who lived in the Old Town near the temple. But this tradition stopped in the 1960s. The Naik family
then decided to take the deity to the nearby Raghavendra Swamy Mutt to keep the seva tradition.

Lord Narasimha is at Raghvendra Swamy mutt, brought by the Naik clan

A view of the deity at the mutt

 For the clan, taking part in the festivities – it is a moment of joy and enriching their connections and memories. The family vies for the sprinkling of holy waters and the blessings of the God with all devotion. After this, the richly decorated and ornamented deity comes to the Mutt – traversing almost 2 kms of narrow, congested roads with musicians rendering devotional songs on folk instruments. 

The Folk element in the Oakli celebrations

At the Mutt, the day is marked by pooja, chanting of mantras, rendition of devotional songs by family members, devotees, musicians and then followed by a sumptuous feast which is served to all family members, devotees, and visitors to the Mutt. Later, in the evening, the deity goes back to the temple after the Mahamangalaarthi.

Sprinkling of holy waters on Oakli day

Come May, every year, the Naik clan congregates to celebrate the festival with younger, older and newer members participating with all fervour and zest.
The baton has now passed on to the fifth generation. But keeping the clan together and the traditions alive is not an easy task for the Naik family as the younger generation is spread across the world. However, they hope the ones who are in India will keep their connections as culture touches and expands humanity forever.

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