Soothsayers see an uncertain future with saffron surge

Madurai, Hindu Munnani, Hindu, Christian, Hinduism, Tamil Nadu, Scheduled Tribe, Kattu Naicker, Soothsayer
The Christians in Satyamurti Nagar, Madurai district, are being harassed by Hindu Munnani members. Image: Prathap Ravishankar

At 10 pm, men dressed in black coats and saffron dhotis, with saffron turbans resting on their heads, walk into a village burial ground. Carrying cloth sacks filled with their bread and butter — cowrie shells, a mat, damaru, picture of their deity — they pray there till midnight, before walking the streets of the village telling fortunes.

They stand in front of each house, rolling the damaru to announce their arrival, and predict the future of the residents, who listen sleepily. The next day, the soothsayers take off the black coats and visit the houses again to ask if the occupants heard their fortunes. If a family has any questions about the predictions and is satisfied with the sayings, it gives the soothsayer some money, food or clothes. The soothsayers roam from village to village doing this.

This is how about 500 Kattu Naicker families in Satyamurti Nagar village in Madurai district eke out a living ever since they migrated from the Nilgiris generations ago.

Origin story

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