MODI – MATA (MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT)
(mODi) (ಮೋಡಿ) and Mata (mATa) (ಮಾಟ) have
two different connotations in Kannada. Evil intentions are not involved in
mODi. On the contrary ‘mATa mADuvudu’ has definite harmful connotations. A
particular individual or a family becomes the victim of 'mATa'. Modi is usually
an act of make believe providing awe inspiring and hair-tingling entertainment. These practices are prevalent all over Karnataka and
other regions of
These skills are learnt through the time-honored ‘guru-shishya’ tradition. They are supposed to have mastered occult powers with the help of chants (mantra) and they are adept in many tricks of the trades.
Usully, modi artists sport long hair and luxuriant moustaches. They wear a waistcoat (vyAsakOTu) and a colourful turban. Jingling anklets are mandatory. They are called ‘penDe’ or ‘gaggara’. Modi is usually contested between two opponents or opposing groups. The opponents challenge one another to undo the effects created by them. This contest goes on and on till one of them accepts defeat. Once in a while, a single magician exhibits his wears in the absence of any competitor. Entertaining tricks such as converting a piece of paper in to a currency note, producing sugar starting from a stone are some of these skills.
There are two major varieties of mODi called ‘rAja mODi’ and ‘raNa mODi’. The former is relatively harmless. RaNmODi is dangerous, occasionally ending up in the death of one of the contenders.
In ‘rAja mODi’ eight enclosures are drawn on the ground and objects such as a lemon, a 25 pise coin, an egg, a pumpkin seed, a slipper and a broom are kept in these enclosures by one of the parties concerned. The challenge is to remove the object from its enchanted habitat. The first party does every thing in its power to retain the object at its original abode. Sometimes he keeps on shifting the coin from place to place and it is pursued by the other party. For instance the coin may be found ultimately in the stomach of a frog hopping around in the neighbourhood pond. In case of the pumpkin seed the challenger is expected to make the seed sprout, bloom and finally result in a big pumpkin. More often than not these tasks are accomplished by the challenging wizard. After all the eight regions are covered alms are collected from the bewitched onlookers and surprisingly they are shared by the challengers and the challenged.
Ranamodi is a serious matter and previously it was necessary to obtain government permission to stage this. Of late, this performance is becoming very rare. Here, the main performer is assisted by a team. The contestants are bound by an agreement which forbids legal action in case of accidental death.
It is usually practiced out side the village in a special pendal erected for the purpose. The Goddess Chaudi is installed, worshipped and invoked by both the parties at different places. The world famous Indian rope trick, removal and re installation of eyes, swallowing a two feet sword, causing physical pain to the opponent, burial of a living person are a few of the practices that could be seen during raNamODi.
Forces of modernization are pushing these practices into oblivion and some of these sources of entertainment as well as harassment are fast vanishing.