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)

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