Kere Habba (lake festival), is usually an annual celebration of traditional tanks in Karnataka. The festivities mark the importance of lakes. However, the celebrations have long been forgotten in many villages, including Kempesandra, a village in Malur Taluk of Kolar, Karnataka, for the last forty years, because the village tank was not storing much water, owing to heavy silt and reduced water storage capacity.
However, this year brought renewed hope as tanks were brought back to life. The tank desiltation and rejuvenation work carried out in Kempesandra village resulted in increased water storage tank capacity and multiple water fillings. For more than two weeks, locals saw tanks brimming with water. Tanks helped to recharge the groundwater of the village as well as increase the surface water availability.
Seeing plenty of water in Kempesandra village, people were motivated to revive the age-old tradition and celebrate kere habba in the KG Halli Panchayat. The tank desiltation and rejuvenation works were carried out under the guidance of a Tank User Group (TUG) formed for facilitating the project executed by Sehgal Foundation with financial support from The Coca-Cola Foundation.
Kere Habba is a community festival and a symbol of water sufficiency in the village, expressing unity. The entire village gets together for and prayers (pooja), dancing, and food. Men and women, including elders their nineties, were seen dancing to a local band. The day-long ceremony of kere habba included a villager making the rounds of the entire village, carrying a huge lamp made up of rice flour on his head. Village women revere the lamp, which is brought to the tank as a massive gathering follows. Nobody in the village cooks in their homes as a community kitchen arranges lunch for everyone, which is generally a vegetable pulao.
The lamp is kept inside a decorated raft constructed locally and released onto the tank water, which is followed with a collective pooja by villagers. A couple of goats/sheep are cooked in the evening and the whole village enjoys the local dishes such as ragi mudda, sambhar, rice, etc.
In Kempasandra, more than 200 people gathered on the tank during the occasion, including villagers, a few local leaders, and relatives from nearby villages. People were thrilled and amazed to see the results of the tank desiltation. Villagers wholeheartedly extended their thanks to Sehgal Foundation and The Coca-Cola Foundation for their wonderful work to desilt and rejuvenate the Kempesandra kere tank, which has proved to be a model tank for tank development in the region.
Authors: Salahuddin Saiphy and Subhashini G.
(Salahuddin is principal lead, Water Management and Subhashini is project associate, Local Participation and Sustainability with S M Sehgal Foundation)