Folk dance is India is always a blend of vivacious art forms and colorful costumes. They are rich with mythology yet entertaining to people of all cultures and backgrounds. Participants are usually either male or female, though in some dances both take part and show equal skill and craftsmanship. Different regions in the Indian subcontinent display their own unique rhythm, style and dance movements. Southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala have their cultural heritage which is wonderfully represented through their folk dances and performing arts. Rural women dress themselves in bright, ornate clothing and shiny jewelry taking part in the dances which is carried out during the festive season or in family functions like weddings, child birth, house warming etc.
The splendid folk dances of Tamil Nadu have contributed to the cultural scenario of the state since time immemorial. Religious ceremonies, family functions are known to be the host of these beautiful performing arts that have been patronized by kings and kingdoms of ancient India.
Paampu Attam is one such dance widely popular in South India. The folk dance of Paampu Attam is a beautiful and intriguing performing art form usually performed by the rural women of Tamil Nadu to honor the revered snake god in their daily lives.
Performed by young women of Tamil Nadu, the folk dance Paampu Attam is originated from a common belief nurtured among the rural communities. According to the popular faith, snake is an integral part of the lives of villagers who feared and venerated the creature in order to save themselves from the deadly poison of the venomous animal. Hence the popular cult of worshipping the king Cobra and other snakes have come to existence. The South Indians have worshipped the snake god before the advent of Aryans and the ‘Naga’ or snake god is also related to Murugan, a popular Hindu deity of Tamil culture. The Naga god or serpent worship is considered auspicious in south India. Paampu Attam which literally translates to snake dance is derived from this cult of honoring the fierce creature to safeguard family, health and overall prosperity.
Music, Movement & Style
Usually performed by young girls, much like Mayil Attam dance, Paampu Attam is performed wearing costumes that resemble the snake-skin. The movement of the dance imitates a serpent’s movement. The dancers put on tight fitting skinny costumes and enact steps as writhing, creeping and quick biting like a snake. The intricate movements are performed by the hand twisting, moving and also through the head. The dance demands a great deal of flexibility and only professionals who are trained in this art form can perform this intensely vigorous art form. Dancers create the hood of cobra by holding their hands together in a stylized way. Their body language emulates a snake’s graceful and poised attributes which serve as the main purpose of Paampu Attam. Their gestural eloquence matches the discreet animal’s movement and style and the beautiful performance never fails to amaze its spectators.
Costume plays an integral part in Paampu Attam. The clothing and make up are done maintaining a close affinity to a snake’s appearance. The alluring paampu attam is a unique ensemble of exquisite poses, elegant costumes and skillfully executed art form cultivated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu since ancient times. The dance is still preserved in its vivacious structure and it is still praised as an amusing entertainment among the rural womenfolk who practice Paampu Attam with tremendous tenacity and craftsmanship. The dance is also a typical display of the age-old tradition of snake-worship, a faith that is imbibed in South-Indian culture since pre-historic times.