Kotturu Ratha Yatra (chariot festival) is the biggest ratha yatra in Karnataka. This is held just before Mahashivaratri. Lakhs of devotees participate in and witness the chariot festival.
This ratha yatra is a part of reverence to Sri Guru Kottureshwara, who was said to be an incarnation of Nandi, the vehicle of Lord Shiva.
The people of Kotturu (earlier calles Shikapura), about 19 kilometres from Kudligi taluk, had lots of problems. The saint (Nandi in disguise), arrived there on the instructions of Lord Shiva. The locals initially abused the saint because of his untidy looks. All the tormentors soon lost their eyesight. They realised their mistakes and sought the saint’s forgiveness. As soon as he forgave them, the blind people regained their sight.
On another occasion, a boy approached the saint saying that his buffalo died. The saint touched the dead buffalo on its head, bestowing life upon it. The saint’s powers soon became the talk of the town and the locals started revering and respecting him.
The locals and people from far away places approached the saint with their problems, sought his advice and got them solved. Thus they respectfully called him as “Sri Guru Kottureshwara” (“Kottu” in Kannada means “give”, and “Ishwara” means Lord Shiva).
The Kottureshwara Chariot Festival, in reverence to the Guru, is held just before Maha Shivaratri. Milk from a cow or buffalo that has just given birth to its calf, called “ginnu haalu” (ಗಿಣ್ಣು ಹಾಲು) is offered to the lord.
The speciality of this chariot is that it moves a bit on its own, only if the particular star (nakshatra) called “mula” (origin) matches at that time on that particular day; else, it will not move. Once the “mula nakshatra” matches, the chariot moves on its own, signifying that Guru Kottureshwara is now seated in the chariot.
The devotees pull the chariot chanting the “Om Sri Guru Kottureshwaraya Namaha”.
Prasada (್food offered to the lord) will be distiributed to all the devotees on the chariot festival day.
Picture credit: @kiranKS Twitter