Raising the 'Mantap' (Part 3 of 11)

Kolada Dompa
(This is the third post in an eleven-part series, on the event we organised recently. To read the earlier posts, click the link at the bottom of this post. Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

"Isn't the mantap too low?", they ask.
"If anyone asks me this question again, I'm gonna hit them across the face", declares a cousin.

And the D-day arrives. Most of the things required for the Kola have been bought and stacked away securely at my ancestral home. Except for the flowers. Dad makes an early morning visit to the market along with another cousin. It's a Sunday, the flower season is at a low with the demand exceeding the produce, and no vendor seems to be in a mood to bargain; buy-it-or-leave-it is written across their face. After an hour or so he comes home with large quantities of fragrant jasmine, chrysanthemum, wilder variety of jasmine (kakda), and firecracker flower (aboli/abbolige). And we set off.

The mess!
As we near our home in the village, we spot a few people around with some activity going on- they seem busy. We're met by our relative I mentioned earlier, who's come there to monitor the goings-on. The people in charge of setting the mantap/mandap (I'll refer to them as "specialists") have arrived, they're trying to throw their weight around, and are tackled well by him. There are long poles procured locally, areca palm-trees to make up the main support of the mantap, and many other things lying about. And the work begins. The mantap has to be built from scratch.Thanks to the spirited lads of the family, the job looks easy. Everyone joins in and helps put up a skeleton for a small, neat mantap, with continuous advice and guidance from the specialists. Dried fronds of coconut palm woven together make up the roof, secured with thick strings.
Coconut tree fronds, woven together
But isn't it built a bit too low, we ask the specialists? It looks like that's the question they've been waiting for, for they set about explaining why it's been done that way. It's built low initially to help us decorate it comfortably. Following this would be the crucial part, wherein it'll be raised to a height of about 10-12 feet, very carefully, to rest on the two tall areca tree-poles on either sides, on a fork-like arrangement that's been fashioned (there's a picture below). Satisfied with the answer, we start doing up the area. (This is when many others ask us the same questions, irritating my cousin to the point of frustration!)
Mango leaves, a mark of anything auspicious
This entire activity reminds me of school, when we'd decorate our classrooms for Christmas to vie for the prize for the best classroom. Along with the usual paraphernalia, we also have a lot of tender fronds of the coconut palm (siri); the colour is very pretty and somehow adds extra elegance to the mantap. The inner portion has a red background, and is decorated only with siri and pingara flower. 
Siri, tender fronds of the coconut palm
The Specialists! :)
We're always ready to pose!
The inner area
Baby leaves of the coconut palm (siri)
A pingara flower is added. This particular flower is used for all auspicious occasions, especially by some communities. It is also used for poojas involving the serpent god. And finally, the decoration work is done for the moment.
Pingaara flower
Now comes the most important bit. Raising the Mantap. Ideally, two people should slowly climb up the pole with the outer edges of the mantap on their shoulders, just like how someone climbs up a coconut tree. But we have only one person who knows this technique. So what do we do? Benches from the village school do the trick. My uncle has foreseen this problem, and he's brought a few already. So on one side, we place three benches one over the other, over which the tallest cousin is to climb; and on the other, it'll be raised the aforementioned traditional way. It is imperative that this has to be successful in the first attempt, else people are likely to attribute any hiccups in raising it to the idea that the Spirits are dissatisfied!
Note the poles at either ends, with the tops designed into a notch-like structure.
The Mantap is raised to sit on the notches on either sides.
Everyone gathers at the area for a quick prayer before it's raised. Now this is an interesting bit for me, as I'm surprised to hear the prayers being said in Tulu by an elder Uncle, and not our mother-tongue Konkani as is the usual practise. It's very nice to listen to. 
Prayers, for the success of the program!
Prayers done, it's time to get going. With continuous words of encouragement, both of them co-ordinate very well. And the mantap beautifully sits on the place it's meant to. Part one is a success, and everyone is happy.
[The cousin gives meaningful looks at everyone who'd asked him why it was built so low ;)]
Note the person on the right climbing up slowly.
The specialists add the final touches. The inner area is cleared of all extra leaves, flowers etc. And finally, this is how it looks!
Finishing touches
So, how does it look?
We realise we need to rush back to the city. Some work still needs to be done. In-spite of all the planning, crackers have been forgotten and need to be bought; we need more flowers too. We have a hurried lunch and start back.

Things have gone well so far, and we hope the streak of good luck continues for the rest of the day and night!


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