“As the name shows Kavadi is a miniature representation of the Kavu itself with an arched horse shoe like Ajanta Chaitya Vatayana motif. Kumbham and Kutam are both miniature motifs and key icons resembling the Stupa’s global or spherical structure. Both these processions are of Buddhist origin when we analyse the semiotics and cultural significations. But after the middle ages ritual mutilations also crept into this Kumbodam tradition in the form of Sulam Kutu or body piercing using metallic little lancers as a result of Hinduization and its violent sado-masochist Himsa cults in the frenzy of Bhakti. Now the ritual is dwindling. In earlier days it was mostly the Avarna who were the performers in Paravai, Tookkam and Kumbodam. Velan, Viswakarma and Ezhava performers were there in Kottayam.
[…] Since the Tookkam was barbaric and was misused by the caste Hindu hegemonic forces as a ritual re-enacting the symbolic submission and ritualistic mutilation of the Avarna before the Hinduized deity, especially Kali in violent and bloody form; it was banned in places like Ilavoor in the north of Ernakulam. Most of these Kali temples are altered Mahamaya sacred grove shrines or Kavus of Buddhism, violently taken over and modified into Hindu Kali temples.
[…] This ridiculous and absurd story of a blood sucking Kali Mata is a cunning articulation of the demonization and then extermination of the south Indian Buddhists by the henchmen of Brahmanism and then the ritualistic re-enactment of the holocaust and the bloody pogrom in the yearly festivities at the shrine as a re-establishment of the caste Hindu order and hegemony over the Avarna or the former Buddhists.”
The ritual is not dwindling in Mauritius (and Malaysia) of course and this sheds a lot of light on the origins which were always a mystery. We were told it’s mixed with tribal practices of the era people came as indentured labour.
I wish I’d known this blog or similar sources 15 years ago when my flatmates who were North Indian Mauritian Hindus were asking me why my culture has such barbaric practices. The answer shoulda been “it is your Hinduism that made it barbaric – take, for example, the rape culture inherent in your Holi festival”.