02 September 2007

Pulikali - The Story of the Dancing Tigers

'Pulikali' or 'Tiger dance' is a prominent folk art of Trissur, Kerala. Celebrated during the 'Onam' festival (harvest season), hundreds of men from various regional teams dances to the rhytm of the percussionists. These teams accompanied by 2-4 tableaus goes around the city in a procession dancing all their way, entertaining thousands of people gathered to watch them. The art of body painting is intricate in itself and one artist paints on 3-4 men on an average for the occassion. The origin of 'Pulikali' or Tiger Dance has been traced to that of a Muslim folk art called 'Pancha'. It is believed that the tiger dance was first conducted during the reign of the Kochi Maharaja centuries ago by the Muslim officials at the 'Nair Brigade' (army cantonment) in Trissur in 'Moharam' season, which later evolved to its present form. Connection have also been made to a legend in an Indian Epic called Vishnudharmotharam. According to the legend, when the demon king, 'Mahabali' was send to hell ( granting a wish to come back yearly to visit his people in Kerala during the Onam season) by the incarnation of 'Lord Vishnu' called ' Vaamana', an infuriated demon Guru, 'Shukra Muni' sought revenge by unleashing wild animals unto the kingdom of heaven. To resolve the chaotic situation in heaven Lord Vishnu meets Shukra Muni and says that they (the wild animals) can accompany 'Mahabali' during his yearly visit to Kerala and the people will welcome these guests as heartly as they welcome their once supreme ruler. (as told to Jyothy Karat by C Krishnakutty Menon, retired principal of Fine Art College, Trissur) For more details view - http://www.puzha.com/puzha/magazine/html/essay3_sept12_05.html http://www.pulikkali.com/shorthistory.asp http://mutiny.in/category/regional/kerala/

29 August 2007

Kummaattikali At Trissur- Onam 2007

In connection with the Onam celebrations, Keralites indulge in many forms of entertainment of which 'Kummaatti kali" is a prominent art form. It is said to have originated in Kerala from 'Kizhakumppaatukara', Trissur where prominent 'Namboodiri' (brahmin) families patronized the event. "Kummaatti kali " is a form of street dance drama conducted by a group of men (some times by young boys too) , covered in braided grass and wearing a wooden mask. This costume has evolved through the ages and the grass used at present to cover the body is called 'Kummaatti pulle' (Oldenlandia Priorities). Two of the main dancers represent 2 main characters. One is that of 'Kaattaalan' (meaning hunter), depicting an incarnation of Lord Shiva and the other is that of 'Thalla' (meaning , an old hag) depicting an incarnation of Goddess Parvati (wife of Lord Shiva). The rest of the dancers are the 'Bhoothaganam' ( meaning Lord Shiva's army) . It is believed that this little troupe is celebrating the 'coming home' of 'Mahabali' ( which is the legend of Onam festival) because Mahabali was well known as an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and the district 'Trissur' itself is known to be home to the Lord.This group moves from house to house singing 'Kummaatti pattu' ( a folk song) , using 'Onna Villu' (an instrument in the shape of a bow) making the song all the more interesting!!. This little procession and its character exudes a bonhomie like that seen in Santa Clause in the western context. Comparisons of 'thalla' have also been made to that of the 'clown' in the street pagentaries seen in South East Asia and in countries like Romania. Over the years, as the spirit of Kummaatti kali grew, the group slowly expanded and independant 'clubs' from the region began to bring out seperate groups of kummaattis at 'Kizhakkumppaattukara Desham' . A recent addition to this tradition is the exhibition of 'Rangoli' by the clubs. The team i have documented in the given pictures, called 'Prithvi' has constructed a cave temple complete with a Rangoli depicting a scene from an Indian Epic called 'Ramayana' , and models of Goddess Durga (a form of Goddess Shakthi) and 'Shiva lingam' ( the idol of Lord Shiva). The team comprises of voluntary participants from the area. As per tradition, the Kummatti groups from 'Thekkumuri' (Southern part of Kizhakkumppaattukara) starts their procession from the 'Pazhanellippurathu Mana' (a prominent brahmin family) where the eldest person in the household gives his/her blessing to the group by gifting the representative of the group with an 'Onna Pudava' (a new dress given during Onam). The Kummaatti, along with the other folk artists like that of 'Theyyam' , 'Thira' etc who takes part in the procession, makes their first performance in front of this house . thus marking the beginning of the event. The Kummaatti procession usually happens during the four days of Onam celebrations. Inputs from : Dr. Muralidharan (Karappurathu House, Kizhakkumppaattukara, Trissur) Mr. Sreenivasan (well known folk artist, Kizhakkumppaattukara, Trissur)

14 August 2007

Nehru Trophy Boat Race - 2007

The 'Nehru Trophy Boat Race' was first started in 1952 by the then Prime Minister himself, Jawaharlal Nehru as a tribute to the community life in Alappuzha. Known as the 'Venice of the east', Alappuzha is known for its scenic beauty.

For more details please visit: http://nehrutrophy.nic.in/

Nature and Wild life of the Blue Hills..

12 July 2007

The Royal Bath

A temple festival isn't really complete without elephants in Kerala, India. They are flaunted (by their owners), revered and they also enjoy celeb status within the community. These are images from my visit to a bathing session of one such celebrated pachyderm by the name of 'Lakshmikutty'.
Lakshmikutty and her mahout , Trissur, India.
Subrah, the mahout preparing for the task ahead.
The audience watching her highness.
While her entire body was immersed in cool water on this hot summer day, she keeps her trunk out of water to make sure she doesn't drown! Her Royal highness obediently ties her trunk into a knot as per her mahout's instructions.
Lakshmikutty enjoying a nice splash of cool water.
The irony of the bird in the golden cage.
Subrah later told me that this 'scratching' session is Lakshmikutty's favorite part of the bathing session.
Wonder how he balances himself like that!
Ah! My Favorite pose.
Heading back home after a fresh royal bath.