Friday, November 09, 2007

Soul Dukra

Every year in the village of Mutt in Sindhudurg during the colorful festival of Holi, there is a unique custom. The people of the village hunt a dukra for a special ceremony. Dukra is wild boar. There are lots of cashew trees in Mutt (as well as mango, tamarind, kokum, papaya, and much more) The dukra love to eat cashews.I will share my experiences cashew harvesting in Mutt later here at Soul Cocina Blog, today's story is about the wild boar of Mutt called dukra. Mutt sits in a valley surrounded by hills and trees. There are monkeys and rabbits and boar in the hillside. The famous Alphonso mango grows in Mutt and the surrounding areas. The locals are expert mango growers. There are giant jackfruit trees (picture on right). Papaya trees too. One of my students/ assistants at ACE, Sachen, has family in this village and he invited me to stay there for Holi last year. I was amazed to find out how self sufficient the homes in the village were. There were four houses that shared a courtyard/ patio under a huge tamarind tree. Beneath the tamarind tree
Each home had several additions that had been built on over the years to accommodate the growing families. There were chickens and cows and cats and birds. There was a big well in the back yard under a papaya tree, next to a chicken coup. Most of the homes also owned cashew and mango fields. The mango season was only weeks away by the time I had visited Mutt for Holi, and there were empty crates stacked high in the yards awaiting the season’s harvest.
It was in the middle of cashew season, so the families were also busy harvesting cashews, separating the fruit from the nut, and opening the nut from its armored shell.above- Sachen and his auntie during our cashew harvest.
below- Seperating the cashew nut from the fruit is a family affair.

Tune: Family Affair by Doctor L and Antibalas from Mind Records 2006 7"

It was also rabbit season. I went on a rabbit hunt with a group of the men.

We set up long nets across fields and then some of us hid in bushes with stones, ready to be used as ammunition, while rest of the crew would roam the field with sticks, scaring any rabbits that may have been in the bushes towards the net. The one day I went out we did not catch any rabbits, but on the walk home, I saw two young kids carrying a rabbit they had caught down the road. The next day we went out for the dukra hunt.

In Mutt, it is a strict necessity for a proper Holi celebration to kill a wild boar and to offer parts of the animal up to the gods at the temple in the kitchen and on the roof of houses.Above- Food is offered to the gods on the roof
Below- Food is also offered to the gods on the stove

The men do not return home until they kill a boar. There were a few groups out hunting and I was not part of the group that caught the dukra, but we were close by and as soon as the news was out that a dukra had been killed, we were quick to make it to the scene under a supari tree.
There was already a crowd of about 10 guys that grew to 30 in the next ten minutes. They cut branches from a nearby tree to make a “stretcher” for the dead animal. They tore fibers from some branches to use as twine to tie up the swine. More people joined the gathering as the dukra was being tied to the branches and the sounds of drums approached as we were ready to march the dukra procession to the temple. It was a festive 20 minute walk complete with the retelling of the “hunt” story describing in detail, in Malvani how the dukra was found and killed. When we reached the temple there was a whole ceremony the five elder village leaders (panchayat) had to decide according to astrology, when the best time would be to butcher the Dukra. They decided that the following afternoon would be best.

So, after a few hours of debate, discussion, and drumming with the dukra stretched out on the floor of the temple, we decided to call it a night and got some rest for the next day's big events.

While the men were butchering the dukra at the temple in the afternoon, I walked back to the houses to to check up on the curry preparation. In the heart of the Malvan coast, coconut is the base for most curries. So, the ladies were at home grating coconuts, browning onions and toasting spices for the dukra curry. In many local recipes, I learned from Sachen, the secret to the curry is slowly cooked grated coconut. The coconut slightly browns over low, gradual heat, giving the curry a unique nuttiness and a golden hue. By slowly toasting the coconut, it's essential oils are released, and this helps to make the curry extra fragrant. The ladies of the house all prepare large cauldrons of curry for the men to take back to the temple after the dukra is butchered. All the different curries are set on top of open fires in the yard of the temple and the men put down their knives and drums to take care of the curry as they add fresh wild boar to each cauldron. The meat is rationed off to each families pot of curry.
Being a guest, I was obligated to try, at least a spoonful of each pot of dukra curry. They even charred the skin to create something similar to chicharrones

Tune: Chicharron by Oro Solido



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