Thursday, 16 June 2011

The tradition of tulunadu

Bhuta Kola or spirit worship is an ancient form of worship prevalent among the Tulu-speaking community in Udupi, Dakshina Kannada districts in Karnataka and Kasargod district in Kerala. The nearest to it is Theyyam in North Kerala.
The coastal Karnataka is known for two great art forms, namely Bhuta Kola, a highly stylized version of the ritual dance of the spirit impersonator and a fine tradition of Yakshagana, creating a world of divine and supernatural beings with all the paraphernalia of costumes, make-ups, music, dance and dialogue.
The coastal districts of Karnataka, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, collectively known as Tulu Nadu have always been unique from the rest of Karnataka. Rituals like Bhuta Kola, Nagaradhane (snake worship) have given an identity, distinct from other parts of Karnataka.
Among the religious beliefs of South India, the spirit worship of appears to be the most primitive one. This complex system of rituals and beliefs can be traced back to the tribal era. The music and narratives, dances and dialogues, trances and oracles reflects the socio-economic orders, thought patterns, artistic achievements and socio-cultural values enshrined in the rustic societies of different regions.
Among the religious beliefs of South India, the spirit worship of appears to be the most primitive one. This complex system of rituals and beliefs can be traced back to the tribal era. The music and narratives, dances and dialogues, trances and oracles reflects the socio-economic orders, thought patterns, artistic achievements and socio-cultural values enshrined in the rustic societies of different regions.
The most important aspect of Bhuta Kola is possession, trance and the dialogue of the possessed impersonator with the devotees. The Bhuta impersonator behaves like an incarnation of concerned spirit, listening, solving, warning, comforting the problems of the devotees. He acts like a healer and solves the legal and judicial problems of the village.


Pili Vesha

Tiger Dance is a unique form of folk dance in Dakshina kannada that fascinates the young and the old alike. Since tiger is considered as the favored carrier of Goddess Sharada (the deity in whose honor Dussera is celebrated), this dance is performed during the Dussera celebration. It is also performed during other festivals like Krishna Janmasthami.
There are more than 50 troupes who perform this famed folk dance. Popular and probably the oldest one among them is the Kesari friends circle group headed by Bajilkeri Kamalaksha. The Mangalorean style is distinctive by its body paint, the satin chaddi or knicker and the headgear which is made of papier-mache and adorned with raw wool – the ‘fur’ of the Tiger.
The grand Hulivesha performance  is preceded by a long body painting session. Several layers of paint is applied on the artist’s body carefully. Each layer is applied such that the end result reflects the grandeur of the carnivore. Typically the body colour is layered with yellow and black colour with occasional touching of red near the mouth. During this period which lasts several hours the artist stands erect so that the paint doesn’t get distorted.
Hulivesha is accompanied by the familiar drumbeat which can be heard from very far off places. On hearing the beat, herds of children flock to place where the dance is being performed and start moving with the troupe. Every child in Kudla can play the popular Hulivesha drum rhythm (of course with their mouth). We wish we could play it here.
During the dance the artists perform many heroic acts which depicts the power of the carnivore. ‘Killing sheep’ is one the famous acts performed. A skillful tiger dancer is expected to kill  a sheep, which means the artist holds the sheep by his teeth toss it in the air and throw it away. The sheep is not actually killed and it is only a ritual. Many such acts are performed, some of the popular ones being picking the note with his mouth by bending backwards, swinging the mace etc.
A typical troupe consists of 7-15 members. But there are troupes of much larger sizes also. The formal dance begins with a Ganesh pooja following the Navarathri festival. The tiger dance occupies a prominent place throughout the Dussera procession. It is a tribute to the royal cat which is the favored carrier of many gods and goddesses.


Yakshagana

Yakshagana is a dance drama popular in tulunadu and Malenadu regions of Karnataka. It is believed to have evolved from pre-classical music and theatre. Yakshagana is popular in the districts of Uttara Kannada, Udupi, Dakshina Kannada, Shimoga and Kasaragod district of Kerala. Yakshagana is gaining popularity in Bengaluru since a few years. It has drawn comparisons to the Western tradition of opera. Actors wear costumes and enact various roles. Traditionally, Yakshagana would go on all night. It is sometimes simply called as AatańĀ in both Kannada and Tulu, meaning “play”.Yaksha-gana literally means the song (gana) of a Yaksha. Yakshas were an exotic tribe mentioned in the Sanskrit literature of ancient India.
Yakshagana consists of a Himmela (background musicians) and a Mummela (dance and dialog group) which together perform a Yakshaga Prasanga. Himmela consisting of Bhagawata who is also the facilitator (singer), Maddale, Harmonium for drone (Pungi was used earlier) and Chande (loud drums). The music is based on pre-Karnataka Sangeetha Ragas characterised by melodic patterns called Mattu and Yakshagana Tala. Yakshagana Talas are believed to be based on the groves which later have evolved into Karnataka Sangeetha Talas. Both Yakshagana Raga and Yakshagana Tala have some folk influence. A Yakshagana performance begins at the twilight hours with the beating of several fixed compositions on drums called Abbara or Peetike, for up to an hour before the ‘actors’ get on the stage. The actors wear resplendent costumes, head-dresses, and face paints which they paint themselves.
A performance usually depicts a story from the Hindu epics and puranas. It consists of a narrator (Baghawatha) who either narrates the story by singing or sings precomposed dialogs of a character, backed by musicians playing on traditional musical instruments as the actors dance to the music, with actions that portray the story as it is being narrated. All the components of Yakshagana, music, dance and dialog are improvised. Depending on the ability and scholarship of the actors, variation in dance and amount of dialog may change. It is not uncommon for actors to get into philosophical debates or arguments without going out of the framework of the character being enacted.


Kambala

The historically famous Kadri Kambala race is held annually at Kadri Kambalaguthu. Historians date the roots of this race back to more than a thousand years. At that time Kambala was the event when farmers paid tribute to their gods for protecting their crops. There used to be lot of celebration and games as part of this festive atmosphere. Some say Kambala also marked the beginning of sowing operations for the second round of crops. Traditionally, there were two types of kambalas, Pookere Kambala and Bale Kambala. Bale Kambala was discontinued some 900 years ago.
The Mangalore Kambala, popularly known as the Mangalore Hobali Kambala, is an annual feature at the Kadri Kambala fields here. Run in a paddy field by pairs of buffaloes, egged on by a strong-musled ryot in an atmosphere so taut that it can be slashed by a knife, the kambala event is closest to horse race. According to people associated with the sport, it flourished under the royal patronage of kings and famous households in Mangalore. In the olden days, the buffaloes were brought in procession to the accompaniment of `dolanalike’ (drum dance).
According to Times of India, there are more than 45 Kambalas held annually, starting from November to March in the distrct. Nearly 18 are held under a Kambala Samithi and the rest are held under the suspices of temples and with political patronage. The increased interest in Kambala has given rise to a similar sport known as `kare’. The difference is that the traditional Kambalas are not held on Amavasya and Sankramana days. A recent addition has been tug-of-war for men and women in the slushy paddy fields.

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