Category Archives: Folk Dance

Poikal Kudirai Attam

 Poikal Kudirai Attam

Folk art and culture has been an age old tradition prevalent in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu. Through centuries these ancient performing art forms have been preserved by dancers and enthusiasts alike who continue to mesmerize the spectators by its elegant craftsmanship. Poikal Kudirai Attam or Dummy Horse Dance is one such ancient folk art form which is also popularly known as Puravai Attam in South India. The folk dance is a typical folk performance executed with colorful costume and a dummy horse tied around the waist. Hence it is also called the Dummy Horse Dance.

The state of Tamil Nadu is home of great Indian folk performances and Poikal Kudirai Attam is not an exception. In fact this dance holds a prominent position among all the folk dances that have originated in the state since the dance form is accepted all over the country and the it is popular by other names in different regions. The dance is known as ‘Theelu Gurram’ in Andhra Pradesh, ‘Kuthikali’ in Kerala and ‘Kachikoti’ in Rajasthan. Poikal Kudirai Attam is a brilliant example of the rich cultural heritage of Southern India.

History

Traces of historical evidences suggest that Poikal Kudirai art form is about 2000years old. The dance has been mentioned in epic Tolkappiyam which is considered one of the earliest recorded Tamil literatures in history dated between 3rd century BCE and 3rd century CE. Traces of Poikal Kudirai dance form have been found in epic Silappatikaram or ‘The Tail of an Anklet’ which is one of the Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature. The epic Silappatikaram has recorded that the dance has been performed by one of its main protagonists Madhavi, a charming courtesan dancer. Hence the dance form proves its antiquity. Some believe the dance was brought to Tamil Nadu during the Maratha reign.

Mythological stories illustrate the dance’s origin by relating it to Goddess Durga who, according to myth, has enacted Poikal Kudirai dance to annihilate her enemies who could transform themselves to venomous snakes and scorpions to poison her to death. Goddess Durga performed this dance while attaching wooden pieces around her leg to protect herself and this made her steps heavier as she managed to squash her enemies with her heavy legs. Hence the other name for this dance form ‘Marakkaladal’ have derived from this mythical story referring this dance as ‘dance with wooden legs’.

Music, Movement & Style

Performed by both men and women dancers, Poikal Kudirai dance uses a bright-hued and gorgeously embellished dummy horse made of jute, cardboard box, glass etc. and ties it around the performer’s waist. The well decorated horse has hollow spaces and holes for the dancer to fit inside the costume. The dancer’s legs go inside the empty space designed as the horse’s legs and it seems like the performer is sitting on the horse. The dancer’s shoes are made out of wood to match the hovering sound of a horse movement. Much importance is given to this well-planned horse outfit to give a spectacular dance show. Intricate steps and skilled acrobatics play a major role in Poikal Kudirai Attam dance.

Drums are used extensively as source of music. These are called Thavil, Pambai, Sinukuchatti in Kongu Nadu region of the state of Tamil Nadu. Musical instruments such as Naiyandi Melam and Urumi, a double-headed drum with a V-shaped pattern are also used in folk arts like this. At times eight to ten dancers form a group and participate in Poikal Kudirai Attam.

Some places have added their own regional flavors to this dance, like in Madurai the dance is enacted sans the wooden legs and performed bare foot by the dancers who wear anklets during the show. The dance was recently performed in Chennai Sangamam festival which made Poikal Kudirai a popular performance.

Puliyattam

Puliyattam

The state of Tamil Nadu is home to many spectacular cultural activities. Folk dances form an integral part of these activities. There are several types of folk dances that are played at times during the special occasions and other times during the festivities. Many of such traditional folk dances have emerged centuries ago and gradually evolved in form. Folk dances of the southern region essentially portray the cultural diversity of Indian subcontinent with their exotic display of costumes, graceful gestures and incredible style of performance that is truly a rare combination. Puliyattam is one such majestic folk dance belonging to the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The word ‘Puliyattam’ literally translates to ‘Tiger Dance’. The vigorous and euphoric folk dance Puliyattam imitates the graceful movement of the majestic and awe-inspiring tiger. The dance is unique in its expression and style like the other performing art forms that aim at impersonating animal movements and style like the Peacock Dance or Mayil Attam which mimics the colorful bird’s movements and costumes, Poikkal Kuthirai Attam or False Horse Dance which is enacted wearing a horse-like costume. Puliyattam dance is similarly executed by creating a replica of the fierce tiger through the dancer’s body and practicing the movements of the menacing beast.

History  

Puliyattam is considered a very ancient dance form dating back centuries ago. Old Tamil literature has recorded version of Puliyattam dance. According to historical evidences, there are three modes of entertainment classified in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. These are Iyal ( Literature ), Isai ( Music ) and Nadagam ( Drama ). These separate mediums have their origin rooted in Therukoothu or the rural folk theatre. Hence many folk dances are performed solely for entertainment purpose. This dance is also commonly performed during harvest festival or other religious ceremonies in the southern region. Some even call it ‘Pulikali’ in parts of Kerala where the term ‘kali’ stands for ‘attam’ or ‘play’ in Malayalam, the native language of Kerala.

Music, Movement & Style      

Puliyattam dance is heavily dependent on its music which helps the dancers execute the movements in a swift yet synchronized manner mimicking the unpredictable, ferocious nature of a dangerous tiger. The dance is a close observance of the movement and motion of a ‘puli’ or tiger. The dance initially begins with steady music, gradually rising in pace and rhythm. Drums are the main instrument used as the performers try to match their movements with the beat of music. Their fast movements, lofty jump and pouncing are all reminiscent of the menacing animal. Enacted chiefly by the male performers, Puliyattam dance so realistically portrays the action of the fierce beast that they even tie a goat or a sheep to a nearby pole to enact the pouncing movement vividly executed by Puliyattam dancers. The tiger’s slow, graceful walk, his majestic leap and silent maneuvers are wonderfully represented through this elegant folk dance.

Costume

Since tiger’s movement and his style is the theme of Puliyattam, the dance demands intricate costume and heavy make up to resemble the beast in order to execute a life-like performance. Men get painted by trained artisans who carry out extensive labor to apply tiger-color paints on these crafty Puliyattam dancers. The paint is applied all over the dancer’s body, whiskers are fixed along with a painted head gear of a tiger. They even add a long, fake tail resembling that of an original tiger’s. After completing the paint and costume, the dancers finally hit the stage to perform Puliyattam, the dance of a tiger.

The dance is usually performed with six men in a troupe as they perform together like a group of tigers. The upper portion of a Puliyattam dancer’s body usually remains covered with a loin cloth painted with yellow and black pattern similar to the body paint. With the beatings of drums and in the midst of vigorously energetic music, the dancers sway their audience with their magnificent display of tiger’s movements.

Oyilattam

Oyilattam

Folk dance of Tamil Nadu had begun its journey as a sacred art form from the ancient temples as part of worshipping Hindu gods and goddesses. Divine songs and dances were performed and acted as a source of devotion to their deities. The dances evolved gradually and later were performed in the king’s court as ‘Thevara Nayakams’ or the leaders were responsible for arranging the worship in king’s court or palace. Many folk dance forms have kept their unique heritage, ritual and rich culture through the ages. They are still resplendent with their grace and beauty preserved through centuries and carried over by skillful practitioners of traditional southern dances.

Oyilattam literally means elegant dance since the term ‘oyil’ means beauty or elegance and ‘attam’ stands for dance. The graceful dance Oyilattam has emerged from the southern districts and is still considered a popular folk dance in the region.

History    

The elegant dance Oyilattam is said to have originated from the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu such as, Tirunelveli, Trichy, Madurai and prevalently practiced in Kongu Nadu in particular. The Southern part of the state was once a regal territory and many kings have ruled Madurai and other regions where devotional dances hailed from. The dance gradually got popularized in Trichy, Tirunelveli and the entire state of Tamil Nadu. The great epics of Ramayana, the Mahabharata and mythological stories of Lord Murugan act as the main source of this beautiful folk dance form. The dance, in earlier times used to be performed near temples during mornings and evenings and sometimes continued past midnight, mainly as form of a ritual.

Music, Movement & Style

Initially men were the sole performers of Oyilattam dance as they practiced standing in line performing steps of the dance along with the rhythm of the music. Gradually women started participating in this folk performance since the number of Oyilattam dancers started rising. Thavil is the main musical instrument used in this dance. During earlier times, special movements of the feet were executed by the dancers and around ten or more men used to perform the dance with a forward movement of hand and body with the beat of the music. The dancers carry matching colorful flags in their hands and colorful dressing is part of the dance. Women dancers wear bright-colored saris, tied with a cloth around their waist while men put on bright-hued dhoti with a band around their waistline. Ankle-bells are also worn by the performers. The radiant, sparkling costume and lovely glittering jewelry make Oyilattam a great cultural extravaganza. The Oyilattam artists display intricate footwork used in Martial Arts, such as Silambattam. The dance is full of beautifully poised movements as the dancers enact them gracefully and their passionate performance is the main reason behind the sponsorship of royals they continue to receive in order to sustain this vivacious folk dance form of ancient India.

Oyilattam is usually performed during festivities and important occasions. Beautiful music accompanies Oyilattam dance. The percussion instrument Thavil is hung on the shoulders and beaten by the artists providing the theme music which accompanies this graceful Southern dance.

The theme of the dance are mainly borrowed from the ancient Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and enacted in a graceful and enlightened manner by the performers passing on the lessons and morals to the common people. To transfer this rich heritage and abandon knowledge the great epics carried in them, certain parts and segments from the epics were chosen as a theme for Oyilattam dance and enacted with lot of enthusiasm and vigor.

Paampu Attam

Paampu Attam

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.

 History                                                                                                            

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.

Mayilattam

Mayilattam

Tamil Nadu is home to many exotic, cultural dances that have been practiced over centuries. Some of these dances are more local than others and have a regional flavor in them. Dances are sometimes performed to honor the gods and goddesses and sometimes to celebrate the family occasions. Mayil Attam, Bharatnatyam, Kavadi Attam, Kummi, Bommalattam, Villu Paattu, Kai Silambu Attam, Kolattam, Kargam, Oyilattam, Devaraattam, Chakkai Attam, Theru Koothu are some of the most popular dance forms belonging to Southern India. Mayil Attam which literally translates to ‘Peacock dance’ ( ‘Mayil’ means peacock and ‘Attam’ means dance ) is an artistic and devotional form of dance enacted in the Hindu temples of South India especially in the state of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

History  

Mayil Attam dance is believed to have originated in the state of Tamil Nadu where women used to practice this dance to venerate Lord Subrahmanya, also known as Kartikeya or Murugan, son of Shiva and Parvati. Lord Subrahmanya is worshipped in Tamil Nadu since the Sangam age spanning from 3rd century BC to 4th century AD. The Lord is worshipped in many names in the southern state and according to legends, god Subrahmanya rides a peacock and uses his bow to lead the army in battle. The dance Mayil Attam features women dressed as peacocks while dancing to honor the great god Subrahmanya. The dance is usually executed by well trained professional dancers as it requires immense skill and competence to perform the peacock dance. This delightful art form is widely recognized and greatly enjoyed by everyone in the state.

Music, Movement & Style

The peacock dance is widely performed in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu during arattu festival when women carry out Mayil Attam in Hindu temples and holy places. Some of the venues where this charming folk dance is performed include Thiruvambadi Sree Krishna Temple in Thrissur, Varkala temple in Kerala. In order to pay tribute to Lord Subrahmanya’s most sincere attendant, the peacock, the dancers dress as peacocks wearing peacock feathers and movable beaks that can be operated using a thread from within the costume. Wearing the glittering outfit, women Mayil Attam dancers execute the graceful dance moves by dancing on a piece of wood attached to their feet instead of dancing bare feet. Hence the dance demands great focus and skill to perform and could be a daunting task. As per its mythological origin, the dance literally represents the dance of peacock, the beloved ride of Lord Subrahmanya. The dance movement includes imitating a peacock’s movement and style. With careful planning and execution, the dancer shows how the bird cleans its feathers using both beak and legs. This follows by close steps moving at a slow rhythmic pace accompanied by the music. Each movement follows a circular pattern as the time and rhythm quickens. Finally, the order of circular pattern is broken when the music reaches at its peak.

Due to its complexity, the number of Mayil Attam professional dancers is steadily decreasing. Similar to other dances like Kaalai Attam where dancers dress as bull, Aali Attam where performers dress as a demon and Karadi Attam where they dress as a bear, the lovely, shiny attire of Mayil Attam dancers attract the spectators unlike any other performance. In fact, this costume is so vibrant with its large peacock feathers and beaks, the dancers resemble actual peacocks with their whole body covered in the shimmering peacock-like costume.

Urumi or the double-headed drum accompanies the peacock dance as one of the main sources of music.

Kumaranalloor Mani is one of the notable Mayil Attam dancers.

Karagattam or Karagam

Karagattam or Karagam

From the rich, cultural history of Tamil Nadu, have emerged many spectacular folk dances that are both vibrant and skillful. These dances are mainly religious and ritualistic performances enacted in rural regions of the state. At times they are popularly performed in urban locales as well. Folk dances are also performed to enliven family occasions and in marriages, family reunions etc. Some of the famous traditional folk dances belonging to the state of Tamil Nadu include Bharatnatyam, Chakkai Attam, Devaraattam, Kolattam, Kummi, Oyilattam Paampu Atam, Theru Koothu etc. Folk dance form ,Karagattam or Karagam though less popular but nevertheless a colorful and exotic dance form enacted to praise certain Hindu deities.

 

History

Karagattam which is also known as Karagam is an ancient dance form containing rich history behind its origin. According to history, the dance was practiced by the villagers to appease the rain goddess Mari Amman and river goddess Gangai Amman. Karagattam dance is mentioned in the Sangam Literature which is a compilation of poems composed between 300BCE and 300CE, as ‘Kudakoothu’. The birthplace of this intricate dance is said to be Thanjavur though it is popular all over the state of Tamil Nadu and in southern India.

 

Music, Movement & Style

Karagattam dance is performed by both male and female dancers balancing vertically arranged pots on their head. This is the best feature of this dance —-just a position of balancing act and simultaneously executing intricate body and foot movement. The dance is a delicate balance of these subtle skills practiced by the dancers since an early age to master them. Karagattam is divided into two parts- ‘Atta Karagam’ and ‘Sakthi Karagam’. Atta Karagam is mainly performed in temples sympolizing joyous merrymaking. This dance is of devotional nature and it is performed with balancing colorful and ornate pots on the head. The latter, known as Sakthi Karagam is performed as part of rural entertainment. The dancers in the villages perform this dance in special occasions for pleasure and amusement. During the ancient times the dancers used to carry out Karagam dances for mulaipari ceremony, a popular South Indian festival praying the rain goddess for a better harvest season. In the festival, the women carry earthen pots filled with plants of nine different types of sprouted grains on their heads. The pots of Karagam have originated from this mulaipuri ceremony and at present time they have evolved to a more sturdy bronze or stainless steel pot which is delicately balanced by the performers coupled with body and arm movements and subtle steps. Acrobatic feats are also part of the dance as it involves performing on a rotating block of wood, moving up and down a ladder and at times the dance also includes threading a needle with a backward bending pose. Usually conducted by two dancers or by a single individual, in its movement and feats, Karagattam is much similar to a circus.

Number of musical instruments accompany Karagam dance such as –‘Thavil’, ‘Nadaswaram’, ‘Muni’, ‘Udukkai’, ‘Pambai’ to name a few. The vessels are also decorated with flower cones and a paper made parrot on top of it. As the dancers swing and move their bodies along, the paper parrot rotates. Karagattam dance is a brilliant example of visual masterpiece blended with beautiful craftsmanship preserved through centuries. In the beats of Thavil and Nagaswaram, the dancers move rhythmically and pose with colorful costumes and ornate pots displaying a gorgeous folk performance mesmerizing its audience.

Many artists have practiced and contributed to this beautiful, ancient performing art of Tamil Nadu. The dance is also quite popular in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka where it is called Garagalu and Karaga respectively.

 

Kolattam Dance

Kolattam

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.

History

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.

Kummi Dance

Kummi Dance

Many ancient folk dances have originated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu which plays a significant role in the history of culture and entertainment. As the state is home to many tribal communities like the Todas, the Kotas, the Badagas, the Irulas and the Kurumbas who resides mainly in the district of Nilgiris. Many other tribal existences can also be found in the state enriching the cultural diaspora of Tamil Nadu. These tribal people used to engage in various form of folk dances as part of their religious ceremonies or at times to take a leisure hour from work. Kummi dance is one such engaging folk dance performed by the villagers and tribal community of Tamil Nadu. The dance revolves around the daily lives of villagers.

History  

The origin of Kummi dance is dated back to the prehistoric times when no traces of any musical instrument were found. The word ‘Kummi’ has derived from Telugu word ‘Kommai’ which literally means dancing with clapping of hands to time and singing poems. Since the dance has originated without accompaniment of any musical beats, the dancers clap their hands to keep time. Kummi is one of the most primeval folk dance forms practiced by the native villagers of Tamil Nadu. These native dwellers are essentially agriculture centric and thrive on occupations like farming, harvest etc. which is reflected in their dance performances.

Music, Movement & Style            

Performed usually by the womenfolk, Kummi dance is enacted in circular movement. The dancers form a circle and clap their hands rhythmically to the music. The dancers move in a slow pace at times to mimic the reaping and harvesting of crops. The women hold each others’ hands moving and bending in a repetitive pattern. Their movements and steps perfectly synchronize along with a song sung by the leading singers of the group as the rest takes up the dance. The slow and vibrant rhythm of the dance is spectacular to watch. During the performance, each dancer sings a new line and they halt the dance when the dancers get tired. The facial expressions along with the gestures enacted by the performers are the special features of Kummi dance. Several forms of Kummi dance are popular among the natives of the state. One of the variations of this folk dance includes participation of male dancers who hold sticks in their hands forming a circle inside which the women performers gather in a smaller circle. The main characteristic of this type of Kummi dance is the harmony and balance between male performers striking the sticks and the females clapping their hands in unison to match the rhythm of the entire performance.

Different styles of Kummi are practiced among the Tamil Nadu tribal community such as Deepa Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Poonthatti Kummi etc. Colorful and attractive costumes are part of Kummi folk dance though the dance does not have any specific dress code to follow.

Young girls and teenagers usually dress up in pavadai chattai and pavadai dhavani respectively where as older and adult women wear saris. Kummi songs are intrinsic part of the folk dance performance. The dance is carried out in temple festivals, during harvest season and is often a joyous addition to the ceremonies like in family functions, weddings, Pongal and Manjal Neeratu Vizhaan which is a ritual done when a girl reaches puberty. Apart from Tamil Nadu, Kummi is also a popular ceremonial dance performed in the state of Kerala. Tamils residing in Sri Lanka also practice this enchanting dance form of south India.

Many poets have encouraged Kummi dance including Subramania Bharathiyar, a famous Tamil poet and social reformer who wrote Kummi Pattu employing the folk dance Kummi.

Devarattam Dance

Devarattam

Devarattam which literally translates to the ‘dance of gods’ is an alluring folk dance performed by Kambalathu Nayakar community residing in Tuticorin and Virudhunagar regions of Tamil Nadu. According to popular belief, the Kambalathu Nayakar community members are the successors of heavenly gods or ‘devas’. Hence they perform the Devarattam dance during festivals and special occasions which are celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu. Many folk dances have emerged in the southern state including Bharathanatyam, Oyilattam, Kokkali Kattai Attam, Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai, Chakkai Attam, Kaniyan Koothu and Devarattam to name some of the mesmerizing folk dances that belong to this cultural hub of Southern India. The ancient dance of Devarattam has a rich history and has been protected till today by royal descendants of the state.

 

History              

Tamil Nadu was once home to many rich and regal dynasties whose successors still carry the ancient traditions and cultures beautifully preserved through many fleeting generations. Veerapandiya Kattabomman was once such valorous entity and the founding father of Kattabomman dynasty. He refused to surrender to then ruling British Raj. The regal leader’s dynasty was situated in Kodangipatti region of Madurai district. It is said that Devarattam dance is performed by the female dancers to appease the kings of Kattabomman dynasties and has become a mainstream dance form gradually. According to the researchers, the dance is a blend of ancient ‘ muntherkuruvai’ and ‘pintherkuruvai’ belonging to the Tamil kings of ancient time. The dancers used to perform Devarattam in front and at the chariot of the kings returning from the battle after victory to honor their glorious conquest. At times even the king and his troupe participated in the dance with them to celebrate the triumphant victory. Female performers and fighters used to form lines behind the chariot in order to perform this spectacular dance. However the dance form has significantly evolved through the ages and the present form of Devarattam imitates the lives of farmers and common man residing in Madurai.

Music, Movement & Style        

The new generation Devarattam dance does not have elaborate songs though music still continues to play a major part in the show. ‘Urmi’ which is a drum-like double-headed percussion instrument is one of the main sources of music used in Devarattam. The dance which is truly believed as a ‘rendition to God’, has thirty-two rhythmic steps known as ‘adavu’. On the beat of ‘Deva Thunthubi’ the dance is performed. Legend has it that Lord Shiva’s ardent devotee Nandi once overexerted his own expertise in the drum or ‘melam.’ Seeing this, Shiva created deva thunthubi which, only when played by Lord Shiva can welcome the heavenly dancers Rathi, Tilothamma to perform the dance. Hence use of thunthubi plays an integral part in the performance.

The dance is enacted in two parts. For one, the performers begin the dance by worshipping the musical instrument and the music player. Then the dancers perform Devarattam dance with fluid movement and fast steps. The captivating performances of the ancient courtyards are reflected in the rhythmic flow and style of Devarattam dancers who enact the performance with equal dexterity and craftsmanship. The dance accompanies in many religious and cultural occasions like festivals and marriages adding a flavor of entertainment. The dancers wear colorful costumes and hold handkerchiefs in each hand while performing the dance. They move gracefully in the beat of Urmi Melam, Thappu Melam and the occasional use of elongated flutes. Performed by both male and female performers, Devarattam dance is a stunning artistry of Kattambomman dynasty still prevailing its undeniable charm and purity, mesmerizing the state of Tamil Nadu from time immemorial.

Kamandi Dance

Kamandi Dance

Kaman Pandigai, also known as Kamandi dance is a popular folk dance belonging to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The state is famous for its tribal dance and cultural activities passed on from generations. The folk culture of Tamil Nadu is much revered and beloved at home and abroad. All the major arts and entertainment in the state are broadly classified into three groups like Iyal ( Literature ), Isai ( Music ) and Nadagam ( Drama ) which is said to have originated from Theru Koothu or Street Play. All forms of folk art have said to be derived from either of these sources.

Folk dance is a major mode of entertainment in the state of Tamil Nadu and the popular ones include Bharathanatyam, Devaraattam, Theru Koothu, Kol Kal attam, Chakkai Attam, Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai, Kai Silambu Attam etc.

Dances are expressive ways of depicting the devotion to their respected gods and goddesses worshipped in the community and these religious folk dances are very common cultural celebration in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai is one such devotional dance form enacted to reiterate Kama-Dahana or the event of incineration of Kamadeva, the Hindu deity of love.

History  

The exotic Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai dance has originated from the mythical stories of Purana. According to Purana, the god of love ‘Manmada’ or Kamadeva was burnt to ashes by the third eye of a furious Lord Shiva who was in deep penance at the time. Legend has it, so strong was Lord Shiva’s atonement, that even the celestial gods were unable to break it. The gods, nervous and afraid of his rage, sought the assistance of Parvati who in turn endorsed Kamadeva or Cupid of Hindu god to aim and shoot his flower arrows towards the meditating Shiva to wake him up from his yoga. Kamadeva hit Lord Shiva with his arrows with Parvati’s consent. An angry Shiva woke up and looked at Kamadeva with his third eye which burnt the love god to ashes. This tale of Purana is celebrated in form of Kamandi dance which is held during the auspicious eve of Maha Shivaratri.

Music, Movement & Style

Kamandi dance comprises of two separate characters: Kaman and Rati. Two groups perform this delightful dance revolving around the mythical tale of Shiva and Manmada or Manmatha. The duo is called ‘Erintha katchi’ and ‘Eriyatha katchi’ respectively. One party argues that Manmada or Kamadeva was not vanquished while the other stresses that the god of love was burnt. The main protagonists Kaman and Rati are dressed in gorgeous colorful attire to perform the spectacular dance of Kamandi. The ecstatic movements and style of the dance is a visual treat and the rural dancers perform this dance with much enthusiasm and gusto. The dance is popular event in some urban areas of the state as well where people perform this dance during cultural festivities and events. The colorful villagers and performers showcasing rhythmic movement and alluring music make the dance an exotic extravaganza of the spring season. The dancers stand out with their glittering costumes which they wear during Kamandi performance. The dance is enacted during shows in the state of Tamil Nadu as part of the entertainment.

Costume  

Beautiful, ornate jewelry and enchanting costume play a very important role in the dance performance as the villagers decorate themselves with colorful attires and shiny ornaments while they debate on issues of Puranic legends enacting the Kamandi dance performance. The dancers exhibit exceptional skill level in order to bring the characters of Kamdeva and Rati come alive as the enactment continues to mesmerize the audience with its colorful depiction of the Puranic stories of ancient times.