Suggi Kunitha is a festival dance, performed by Halakki Vokkaligas, a community in Karnataka. Suggi Kunitha is carried out by 12 to 14 men, on the full moon day. The main drumming instrument used for the dance is called Gummate.
The dancers are dressed in beautiful costumes and wear a hat made of softwood with carvings of birds and flowers. They carry either a stick or a pea-cock feather while dancing. The group will have a comic character called the 'sooginavaru' or 'haasyagaararu', who will entertain the audience. The suggi procession of singing and dancing with the background of 'Gummate' is greeted in every house with aarti. The procession is believed to eradicate diseases in the village, bring rains and fulfill the wishes of the people. These are usually performed during the months of January and February with the sole motive of entertainment. This is a group dance performed on a level stretch of land.
The performance begins when the drummer warms up his drum on an open fire and beckons the dancers to assemble with jingling anklets adorning their feet. The drummer who is the nucleus of this performance starts beating the drum in various rhythmic patterns. The dances are performed in tune with the music created by the drummer. Some of the drummers keep on making exuberant shouts to enliven the atmosphere. The dance performances are held on a number of days and an all-night show is presented on the final day. Occasionally, dancers from the neighboring villages join the dance. The morning after the final day, the arena is worshipped by young women. Interestingly all the villagers follow these young women in a procession and reach the 'Hero Stone' (Veeragallu) in the village and worship that.
Ezhavas, a tribal community of Coorg have their own brand of tribal dance called 'erakada kuNita'. These dances are held around a fire and both men and women take place in the performance. Tribal musical instruments like 'duDi' and 'cINi' are used to provide the background score. Similar dances are found in other communities such as 'kADu kuruba', 'jEnu kuruba' and 'sOliga'.
Siddis, a community that has migrated to North Canara centuries ago, koragas of South Canara, Coorgis with their own UmmattaTa constitute some of the regional variations of the suggi kuNita ('harvest dance') siddis use special instruments such as 'DhamAmi', and 'BavAngara'.
HAlakki okkaligas from the district from North Canara are renowned for their unique brand of suggi kuNita. There are many stories linking this dance with shiva pArvati, Trimurti and the pAnDavas. On the starting day the leader invites the artists by giving each one of them 'kari rice' sanctified by mantras. They perform their harvest dances on a platform called 'kari kaNa'. 'Kari kaNa' is about six to seven feet in height and is covered on three sides. A huge pole (suragi kamba) located at the centre with a number of branches serves as a place to hang different instruments such as gumaTe, gejje, jAgaTe, kunca, and tALa and heddumbe kOlu. Some times 'heddumbe kOlu' is replaced by sanne kOlu'. The performers wear pajamas which look more like dhotis, white shirts and red jackets. The artists wear beautiful costumes and a headgear made of softwood, decorated with many carved birds and flowers.The head gear looks like the crown of fertility. The group dances with sticks in one hand and a brush made of peacock feathers in the other. They enhance the effect of their dances with their own singing. Heddumbe kOlu, gumaTe and jAgaTe are the main instruments. The troupe consisting of 12-14 performers has a clown who is called 'hAsyagAra'. The Suggi Kunita of haalakki okkaliga community appears to be a fertility rite and it is performed during the 'hOLi' festival. Another aspect of Suggi Kunita is the procession that goes from house to house and village to village. Many characters dressed up in costumes such as the bear, Hanuman, thief and policeman accompany these performers.
There are three categories of suggi kuNita known as
- Hire Kunita (five days)
- Kire Kunita (one day)
- Bola Kunita (with out costumes)