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Folk Arts Of Karnataka

Dances of Karnataka are one of the ancient dance forms existent in India. Most of the tribal dances are still in effect and enhanced also due to preservation and nature loving culture of Kannadigas.

Kunitha - A Ritual Dance
The ritualistic dances of Karnataka are known as Kunitha. One of such ritualistic dances is the Dollu Kunitha. It is a popular dance form of Karnataka, accompanied by the beats of decorated drums and singing. This dance form is mainly performed by the men of the shepherd community known as the Kuruba community. The Dollu Kunitha is characterized by vigorous drum beats, quick movements and synchronized group formations. Another dance form of Karnataka is the Puja Kunitha. In this dance form the dancers carry a wooden structure having a deity on their heads.

Other dance form - Devare Thatte Kunitha, Yellammana Kunitha, Suggi Kunitha are named after the deity or the symbol or instruments which are balanced on the head or held in the hand of the dancer. The Pata Kunitha, the Gorava Kunitha and the Kamsale are some of the other common ritualistic dances.

Classical Dances
Among the classical dances of India, the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam, is the oldest and most popular dance form. It is widely performed here. Other mainstream classical dances here include Kuchipudi and Kathak.

Folk Arts of Kodagu
"Huttari Dance" and "Bolak-aat" of Kodagu The Kodavas are a unique martial race, different in customs, traditions and religion from the surrounding populace. This is the annual harvest dance of the Kodavas. The men, dressed in traditional Kodava costumes with the decorative knife, perform this slow moving dance to background music. This dance has different varieties.

Bolak-aat
This is performed by the Kodava men in front of an oil lamp in an open field. The men hold the chavari(Yak fur) in one hand and the Kodava short sword "Odi-kathi" in the other while performing this dance. Many regional variations of this dance exist. Sometimes performers dance only with the chavari without the use of the short sword. When the short sword or the "Odi-kathi" is also used, it is called kattiyaata. The dudi, an hourglass shaped drum is used to provide the rhythm for the dance.

Ummatt-aat
This is performed by the Kodava womenfolk. The women wear the traditional Kodava dress complete with jewellery, adorn the forehead with kumkuma and in a swinging rhythm dance in a circle, brass cymbals in hand. One woman stands at the center holding a pot full of water to represent Kaveri taayi or Mother Kaveri, which the Kodavas worship as their prime deity.

Komb-aat
While the Bolaak-aat and the Ummattat are of a celebratory and festive nature, the Kombat is a dance performed with religious sentiments. It is traditionally performed in temple premises, but, in recent years, it is performed in other places also. This is a dance performed by the Kodava men and deer horns are used as a prop. The deer horns are meant to represent those of the Krishnamruga, a spotted deer in Kodava legend.

The dance is performed to rhythmic tunes provided by wind instruments and percussion. The dance includes certain martial movements that represent some of the techniques used by the Kodavas in warfare.

Dollu Kunitha or Dollu Dance
This is a group dance that is named after the Dollu - the percussion instrument used in the dance. It is performed by the menfolk of the Kuruba community of the North Karnataka area. The group consists of 16 dancers who wear the drum and beat it to different rhythms while also dancing. The beat is controlled and directed by a leader with cymbals who is positioned in the center. Slow and fast rhythms alternate and group weaves varied patterns.

The costumes are simple. Upper part of the body is usually left bare while the a black sheet-rug is tied on the lower body over the `dhooti' or sarong. Dollu Kunitha is also performed by women.

A troupe led by K. S. Haridas Bhat also toured the USSR in 1987 giving performances at Moscow, Leningrad, Vibrog Archangel, Pskov, Murmansk, Tashkent and Novograd.

Beesu Kamsale or Kamsale Nritya(Dance)
This is a group dance form performed by the menfolk in villages in the Mysore, Nanjanagudu, Kollegala and Bangalore areas. It is named after the Kamsale that is used both as an instrument and also as a prop by the dancers themselves. The kamsale comprises a cymbal in one hand and a bronze disc in the other and is used to produce a rhythmic clang.

The Kamsale nritya is closely connected to a tradition of Male Mahadeshwara or Shiva worship by the haalu kuruba community. Most of the dancers are also drawn from this community. The dance is therefore performed to rhythmic and melodious music that is sung in praise of Lord Male Mahadeshwara or Shiva. The dance is a part of a 'diiksha' or oath and is taught by teacher or spiritual leader.

This artform was showcased prominently in Kannada movies like Janumada jodi and Jogi where the protagonist is a kamsale dancer.

Somana Kunita
Somana kunita or the 'Mask dance' is a celebratory form of spirit worship prevalent in south Karnataka region. It is performed mostly in village shrines dedicated to the Mother Goddess. The art is mostly practised by the Gangemata community. The dance is characterised by the dancers wearing elaborate masks painted in different colours. The colour of the mask is also indicative of the nature of the deity. A benevolent deity is represented by a red mask while a yellow or black mask suggests the opposite. There are many types of somas or masks which differ from region to region.

On the ceremonial day, offerings of blood are made to the spirits. The masks are made of the Pterocarpus Santalinus Linn tree which is commonly known as the 'Indian red tree'. The other props include a cane or stick and peacock feathers. A mini headgear containing colourful flowers, neem leaves and colourful pieces of cloth is also worn. The music is provided by the Doonu(percussion), Mouri(wind pipe) and the Sadde(a windpipe to keep the shruti). The dancer starts his dance from the temple of the Goddess and proceeds in a trance like state singing in praise of the spirit. An offering of the blood of a fowl or chicken is sometimes made to propitiate the Goddess.

Jaggahalige Kunita
This is a folk art of the Hubballi Dharwad region, particularly of the 'Byahatti' village. It is performed on occasions such as Yugadi and Holi. Jagghalige is essentially a percussion instrument made of a bullock cart wheel with buffalo hides wrapped around. On the said occasions, the village folk roll out the giant instruments and march in an impressive procession. The entire performance is directed by a chief choreographer who himself uses a much smaller percussion instrument called the kanihaligi which is made of clay and covered with calf hide. The performance usually involves a group of about 15 people.

Karadimajal
This is a popular folk orchestra of the north Karnataka region. It is performed during various auspicious occasions and in processions. The Karadi or Karade is the percussion instrument that is used in the orchestra. It is a palm sized cymbal that produces metallic sounds while the Shehnai is used to produce the melody.

Krishna Parijatha
Krishna Parijatha is a popular folk theater art form of North Karnataka. It is an amalgamation of Yakshagana and Bayalata, portraying stories or incidents from the great epic Mahabharata.

Gondaligara Ata (Narrative performing art of North Karnataka)
Somana Kunita a distinctive sort of dance characterized by excellent rythmatic steps to the beats of Are Vadya and Donu with Mauri. Somana Kunita is widely prevalent in districts of Hassan, Tumkur and Bangalore predominantly and also in Chikkamagalur and Mandya. Though Somas are identified as 'Angarakshakas' of Grama Devathe'[ lieutinants of Village deities], clear-cut distinction is difficult as in some situations while performing ritual dance and rituals, it goes as representative of village deities. Soma literally means Chandra[Moon].

One can enjoy and observe in depth the Dance of soma in Jaatres[ Village festivals celebrating and worshiping deities once in every year]of Yeliyooru, a village in Channarayapatna Taluk of Hassan District of Karnataka and Dandina Shivara of Turuvekere of Tumkur district.

In Yeliyooru, Village deity is DEEVIRAMMA with other deities like Kaalamma, Didamma, Maaramma. Each deity has its own Soma. If Deviramma has Soma of yellow colour, Maramma and Didamma has Red colour Soma, Kalamma has Black coloured soma. Black-colured Soma represents Thamassu .

Jaatre in this year will be held on April 22, 23, 24.

Bhootha Aradhane
This dance form is widely performed in the coastal areas of Karnataka. The Bhootha Aradhane or Holy Spirit (Shiva Gana's) worship, includes a procession of idols depicting 'bhoothas". This procession is characterized by the beating of drums and bursting of firecrackers. After the end of the procession, the idols are placed on a plinth. Then, a dancer personifying a Bhoota (Holy Spirit) dances around the plinth with sword and jingling bells. The dancer dances vigorously at one point of time and then slows down, signifying that he is now a divine person.

Yakshagana
Yakshagana is a dance drama performed in the coastal areas of Karnataka. This unique dance form is a perfect blend of dance, music, songs, scholarly dialogues and colorful costumes. Yakshagana mesmerizes each and everyone in the audience with its enchanting music and colorful performances.

The word Yakshagana literally means celestial music. This dance drama is also performed throughout the night, usually after the winter crop has been reaped.

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