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Folk Dances of India

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Folk Dances of Karnataka



Although their exist conflict about an origination of folk theatre form Yakshgana, it is agreed that it is an ancient art. Some believe that it emerged in the 16th century and by others in the 18th century. Its origins and growth can be traced back in Sanskrit literature in its theatre on the one hand, and even in Kannada literature and the many forms of ritual dancing and music prevalent in the area on the other. It relates with many of the traditions and conventions of the Sanskrit theatre or drama, particularly those of the Purvaranga, and the existence of a character, vidushak.

The original form of Yakshgana involves the use of recitative modes of poetry sung in loud voice, melodies of music, rhythm, and dance techniques and above all, costuming and graceful make up. It is distinctly differs in many ways from the norms of the Sanskrit stage, as it does not contain a highly elaborate language of hand gestures and eye- gestures. But it should be noted that it is closely related to developments in literature in the adjoining states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and has some affinities to literary forms.

Unfortunately, hardly anything of the literature from the period A.D. 450 to 850 has survived & accessible today. However, from the work of Kavirajamarga mainly a treatise on poetry, some valuable information can be gathered about literary styles, metrical forms etc; all of which have some relevance to the literary composition called the Yakshgana of a much later period is available.

YakshaThe 15th and the 16th century were interesting from many points of view. The first Yakshgana play although is in Telgu & was written in the 16th century by Peda Kempa Gaudan and was called Ganga Gauri Vilasam. Resurgence followed in the 17th century and this was the time when the Yakshgana form developed in Karnataka, Andhra and Tamil Nadu. In Andhra, this form is known both as a sung narrative and as a dance drama since the 15th century. The form was also related to the Prabandha natak, which originated in slightly later period.

Yakshgana as a theatrical form regained popularity only in the 18th century. Till that time written plays continued to be created but mainly as scripts for presentations. One fact must be kept in mind that the Yakshgana emerged as a full-fledged theatre form in south Kannda at a time of great political unrest and social disturbances.

Sadasiva Nayaka (1544-1565) had ruled the territory `Tulu Rajya` in the time of Portuguese and other threats. The reigns of his successors, namely Venkatappa Nayaka and Virabhadra Nayakla (1629-1641), especially the reign of the Virabhadra Nayakla was full of all kinds of troubles. The scene of political struggles continued well till the early18th century until the British finally entered the region.

But, as a theatrical form, the Yakshgana has recently received due attention of scholars and artists from many parts of India. Its history is known and its connections with forms inside the Karnataka and from other parts of India are also obvious. But, still it remains a vast subject remaining unexplored.


Dollu Kunitha Dance

Dollu Kunitha Dance

Dollu Kunitha Dance:
Dollu Kunitha are considered as the ritualistic dances of Karnataka State. One of such ritualistic dances is the Dollu Kunitha. This is a very popular dance form of State, performed with devotion by people. The dance is accompanied by the beats of drums and singing of dancers. The beating drums are decorated with flowers or using colours.

Only the men of the shepherd community popularly called as the Kuruba community is privileged for the performance of this dance. The Dollu Kunitha is characterized by vigorous drumbeats, quick dancing movements and synchronized group formations. Another dance form of Karnataka is the Puja Kunitha, it is also equally famous. For performing this dance, all the dancers carry a wooden type of structure having a deity on their heads.

One very interesting story is told while tracing the origins of `Dollu` dance that is related with the divine couple Shiva and Parvathi. The story goes like this: To kill time, Shiva and Parvathi once were playing games. While playing they bet as well. The bet was that the loser has to leave Kailasa Mountain to live anonymously in `Bhuloka` i.e. on the earth. Shiva loses in the game and to keep to the bet, he moved into a cave on earth and stayed there in the form of a stone. `Mayamurthi` Shiva`s ardent loyalist guards the cave. As the time passes, Parvathi fed up of managing the universe and therefore sends `Vayu`, the Air god for searching to Lord Shiva. But all efforts are in vain.

But Narada became successful in locating the cave, he kills Mayamurthi and convince `Shiva` to return to Kailasa. Shiva was unwilling to leave the dead body of his trusted and beloved guard on earth. So, they made Dollu out of the dead skin of his body and carried it to Kailasa!

Hence `Dollu` is popular among Saivites. But ingenious `Dollu` instrument used today is made of from skin of either sheep or goats. It is fit tightly from all sides to a frame that is made up of honne or mango tree wood. `Dollu-Kunitha` is popular with the kurubas of `Beereshvara Sampradaya`.

Other forms of this dance like - Devare Thatte Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha are named according to the deity or the symbol or instruments which is balanced on the head or held in the hand of the dancer while dancing. Some of the other common ritualistic dances are the Pata Kunitha, the Gorava Kunitha and the Kamsale.

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