My favourite place to visit in Singapore is the Long Bar at the Raffles; it’s a remarkable experience to sip on the famed Singapore Sling, munch on peanuts and gleefully toss the shells on the floor. Not quite proper behaviour in upmarket establishments but this is a time-honoured tradition at the gorgeous colonial-style hotel.
This is the time of the year that Bangalore goes nuts too. Literally so, with mounds of the brown pods piling up for a few days. This is the season of the annual Kadalekai parashe – the groundnut or peanut fair.
The fair is centred around the Bull Temple in Basavanagudi. Legend has it that the statue was built in homage to a bull that used to rampage through these areas when they were farmlands. When the bull defied all attempts to stop it, the farmers resorted to prayers. They promised to offer the first groundnut harvest to the bull each year if it would leave the crop unharmed. The bull acquiesced and the tradition continues with the mammoth stone bull being bedecked with a garland of groundnuts after the harvest.
Another version says that the bull turned into stone when an angry farmer flung his club at it. It kept growing in size even as the penitent farmers built a temple to enshrine it. The people prayed to Lord Shiva who stopped its growth by piercing a trident through its head.
Whichever version suits your fancy, the tradition of local thanksgiving continues with grateful farmers from far and beyond making a special trip to the Dodda Basava (big bull) temple with their crop during the Kartika masa (in November – December).
The accompanying fair becomes a playground for parents and kids alike. Suffused with a carnival spirit, kids have plenty of games to play and adults browse through several stalls to purchase knick-knacks.
The Bull temple and adjacent well-maintained park has been a favourite picnic spot through the years at other times of the year as well. An adventure sequence in a Kannada film in which I acted as a kid was shot here. Armed with badminton racquets, a group of kids thrashed villains and freed our kidnapped friend. Hurray! Another bit of personal nostalgic trivia hinges around the fact that my mother visited the fair on the evening before I was born. Perhaps that explains why I am so fond of peanuts.
Along with the games and shopping, it’s a treat to eat a variety of peanuts – plain, salted, boiled, roasted not just from different parts of Karnataka but also from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Over the years, the fair has been growing in scale and there are vendors of chaat and dosas; yet it’s a festival that takes this growing urban sprawl to its rural roots. The kadalekai parashe is a quaint custom relived complete with the old system of measuring the quantity by the cylindrical ‘paav’ and ‘litre’ instead of grams and kilos.