Koragajja Temple hosts one of the most sacred and sought after spirits in Tulunadu region. He is believed to be powerful and widely worshipped. He is called by several other names as we proceed from south towards north. But in Mangalore he is popularly called Swami.

There are many spirits which protect the people of Mangalore, but this is a special one. Several shrines dedicated to Him are found in and around Mangalore. The temple at Kuttar is the oldest one with lots of history behind it and other popular temples are at Jaregekatte, Padavangady, Ullal, Urwa, Udupi. (click the link against the place name to get the Google Map location of the Temple). 

Koragajja Temple offerings

When people are in difficult situations in family, health or business, or have lost something valuable, or some work is taking a long time to complete, they pray to Swami. An offering is promised when the wish is fulfilled. The usual offerings are country wine (alcohol), betel nut (Beeda), chakkuli (a snack also called murukku in other parts of India). These offerings are considered Swami’s favorite.

There are many real life incidents where people have prayed to Koragajja images and their prayers have been answered. These Koragajja miracles have made people increase their belief as his existence is a constant source of inspiration. There are people who offer Kola (a cultural and traditional extravaganza to please the spirit for his blessings) as offering and is done annually for well-being of the community. There are special Koragajja songs traditionally dedicated to him as part of the rituals.

Koragajja story – legends from the past

Most of the legends in this context are sourced from folks songs or Pardanas, which have been orally passed down from generation to generation. In such a scenario, its normal for distortions to creep in over time and some portions of the story getting lost. It was all about the perception and cultural revolution of the time. 

Koragajja is believed to have been a living human on earth at some point of time. The name Koraga refers to a certain community of people and Ajja is grandfather, more used out of love and affection. His original name was Koraga Thaniya and lost his parents in early childhood. He was adopted by Bairakke Baidyedi, who take care of him as her own son, along with two of her own children. Arrival of Koraga Thaniya brought prosperity to the family and the family business flourished. Thaniya worked along with other family members where he learnt basket making and handmade bamboo articles. 

One day a Nema was organized for the Daivas in the village and Bairakke’s family had to contribute tender coconuts, banana plants, coconut leaves etc. Carrying all this material needed atleast seven able bodied men. Since nobody was available at that time, Bairakke made a request to Thaniya since it was important temple related work. He agreed to carry the complete load alone with the condition that he should be fed a meal meant for seven people i.e. sufficient rice, curry of 30 mackerel fish and toddy. Bairakke happily agreed to this condition and this super human feat of Thaniya became legendary.

Though Thaniya was carrying the temple material for the Nema, he was denied entry to the main temple area because of his lower caste. There are several versions of how Koraga Thaniya went on to attain salvation and become Koragajja spirit. As mentioned earlier, Pardanas are the only source of these stories and no one source can be termed reliable.

Why is alcohol offered to Koragajja? 

According to Pardanas, he was a historical character brought up in a family that was in the toddy (kali) business. Consuming Kali was part of a family event and hence this tradition has continued. Though in modern times of conveniences, the offering has changed to packaged alcohol.  

Woman were prohibited from attending Koragajja Kola 

In early days, woman were prohibited from attending Kolas or main pujas offered to Swami. This is because the person who is the medium for the spirit is sparsely clothed with palm leaves at the waist. The person dances to the drum beats while listening to Pardanas containing his glorification. Also the event is held in dim lights with alcohol offerings. Hence woman folk were prohibited from attending the Kola.

Source: Interviews with family elders, own research and Vishal Kadri’s blog.

Check out these interesting videos of Swami.