Kolattam is a popular folk dance belonging to the state of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The southern India is famous for patronizing performing art and cultural activities which has transformed the social scenario of these states. From Bharatnatyam to Theru Koothu, the spectacular dance forms of Tamil Nadu never fails to mesmerize the spectators, be it home or abroad. The graceful movements, benign expressions and alluring rhythms all blend magnificently in the performances of southern dancers. Folk dance plays a vital part in the dancing history of Tamil Nadu. Many have originated in an early period and are still continually practiced by rural habitats. Folk dances are performed either during festivities or as part of family occasions like weddings, childbirth etc. Kolattam is one such folk dance originated in the state of Tamil Nadu performed after the festive season of Deepavali or Diwali.
According to historical records, Kolattam dance have originated in seventh century. Kolattam dance is known by different names in different states of Indian subcontinent. In the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh the dance form is known as Kol Kolannalu, Kolattam and Kolannalu. The dance is also familiar as Koladi, Kolkali and Kambadi Kali in some regions. Kolattam is mentioned in Kanchipuram as ‘Cheivaikiyar’ which testifies its rich heritage and antiquity.
The ancient village dance Kolattam has religious significance. According to legends, once there lived a menacing demon that cannot be controlled. The demon Basavasura was his name and he was known and feared for his viciousness. One day a group of young girls went to the Asura and performed Kolattam dance accompanied with endearing music. The charming ambience and agreeable music appeased the demon. The graceful dance influenced Basavasura so much that he gave up his evil acts. According to the popular belief, the dance has been performed since the time of the Basavasura legend. Myths say that Basavasura is none other than a personified form of Lord Shiva, the Trinity who is revered through Kolattam folk dance. ‘Basava’ means bull and is honored as a form of Shiva in Hindu mythology.
Music, Movement & Style
The word Kolattam has derived from two separate words ‘Kol’ which means a small stick and ‘Attam’ meaning play. The dance is acted on by playing sticks which the performers hold in each hand during the dance. Practiced usually by young girls, the dance form is one of the most entertaining dances practiced in the state of Tamil Nadu. Essentially a religious dance, it accompanies the rituals of Kolattam festival which begins on the new moon of October-November after the diwali festival. The dancers strike the sticks as they move in circular motion with the rhythm of music. The striking of sticks produces the main rhythm for the dance movement and this unique feature sets Kolattam folk dance apart from other dances.
Different types of Kolattam dances can be seen such as Pinnal Kolattam where women hold ropes to perform the dance and the other end of the rope is tied to a poll. As the dancers move in rhythmic steps, they form beautiful, intrinsic patterns in the ropes. The colorful ropes form attractive lace-like patterns which is a typical characteristic of Pinnal Kolattam dance.
Kolattam dance group is formed usually with 8-40 dancers consisting mainly of girls who immerse Basava deity in the river as part of the festival. The girls also visit houses in the rural community to play Kolattam dance in every house they go. It is also part of the ritual to worship the clay idol of god Basava and pay homage to the deity after cleansing themselves. Kolattam is performed in every stage of the celebration.