Folk Dances of Karnataka

Nandi Dhwaja
The dance performance in Nandi Dhwaja consist of an attractively decorated bamboo pole measuring about 20 to 25 feet long and 4 inch wide in circumference. Nandi Dhwaja is performed by skilled and experienced dancers. The performance begins with the erection of the Nandi pole which is initially thrust into a 'Navara'-the pouch worn by the performer. Balancing the pole at 90o , the dancer accomplishes rhythmic movements and intricate acrobats to the emotional tunes of the musical accompaniments. This dance is prevalent in all parts of the state except Kodagu.

Beesu Kamsale
The artistes of Beesu Kamsale are an expert singing community. But vigorous, rhythmic movements dominate the performance of Beesu Kamsale. Narration is regulated to the background.
The Kamsāļe dance is named after the instrument held in hands of the dancer. The Kamsāļe artistes or dancers are found  Mysore, Nanjangudu, Kollegal and Bangalore. The instrument comprises a cymbal held in one hand and a bronze disc in the other. The main element in art is the rhythmic clang, which blends with the melodious music of the Mahadēśvara epic. The instruments, in the course of the vigorous rhythmic beatings, are moved around the body of the dancer in innumerable patterns manifesting both skill and art. In a group movement the dancer provides the vision of a series of offensive and defensive maneuvers. Kamsāļe is closely connected with a tradition of Shiva worship. The artists are from 'Hālu Kuruba' community who have vowed to live a life of devotion to Lord Mahadeeshvara to perform kamsāļe. The dance is a part of a 'dīksha' or oath and is taught by teacher or spiritual leader.

Pata Kunitha
In Pata Kunitha, the major emphasis is more on the manipulation of pata (embellished bamboo pole, each measuring 10 to 15 feet high, carried by 10 to 15 artistes) than the narration. The dances Beesu Kamsale and Pata are widely popular in Mysore region.

Bana Devara Kunitha
In Bana Devara Kunitha, the folk artistes will be preoccupied with attaining perfect harmony to the clinking of bow bells rather than on oral communication of any religious content. The striking feature of this dance is archery. This form of dance is found in places like Hassan, Chitradurga and Chikkamagulur.

Puja Kunitha
In Puja Kunitha dance, the emphasis is more on the visual presentation than the oral narration. Here the spectacular exhibition of colourful bamboo structure is ably matched by the skilful body movements. It is prevalent in Bangalore and Mandya districts.

Karaga is known for its rigidity with high ritualistic significance. It is popular in Mysore and Bangalore districts.

Krishna Pārijāta
Folk theatre is a popular art form of Uttar Karnataka. It is a combination of Yakshagana and Bayalāṭa with themes called from the great epic Mahabharata. Gorava Mela
In Gorava mela which is extensively practiced in Mysore, Shimoga, Belgaum and Dharwad districts, the artistes display immense abilities of oral communication and perception. Goravas are singing tribe who narrates stories of deeper religious value.

Dollu Kunitha
Dollu, a group dance which is widely practiced in Melkote in Mandya district offers a desirable atmosphere for the integration of new ideas in an unusual way, through interaction and exchange of information between the two groups of performers. Dollu, a semi circular dance, with a brilliant combination of sound and speed, performed by the Kuruba community in North Karnataka, Shimoga and Chitradurga districts is worth noting. The soul of Dollu Kunitha is the indigenous folk instrument called Dollu which when struck emits a thunderous sound. Mythological, historical and social themes are narrated by the chief narrator with the powerful musical accompaniment consisting of the Dollu, the cymbals and the flute providing appropriate musical setting to the narration. Messages on loan melas, small savings, adult education and population control programmes have been integrated into this folk dance.
A group of 16 dancers beat the drum and dance to its different rhythms, which are controlled and directed by a leader with cymbals moving at the center. Slow and fast rhythms alternate and group weaves varied patterns. The costumes are simple. Upper part of the body is left bare while the lower one has a black sheet-rug tied on the `Dhoti'. Beats and rhythms are fascinating to the viewer with effect of sounds and simple choreography built by the rural genius. 
In the year 1987 the "doļļu" dance troupe participated in the U.S.S.R. festival under the leadership of K.S.Haridas Bhat, toured two and half month, traveled and presented glorious performances in Moscow, Leningrad, Vibrog Archangel, Murmansk, Pskov, Novogorod and Tashkent.

Veerabhadra kunitha 

Veerabhadra kunitha depicts the story of Veerabhadra, the legendary minor god created by Lord Shiva to teach a lesson to his father-in-law Daksha. Veerabhadra goes to the place of the yagya and disrupts the ceremony. Veerabhadra is a deity around whom a whole of lot of traditions, rites, rituals, customs, and religious practices have developed across south India. In fact, a religious cult has evolved in Karnataka and Veerabhadra is worshipped as the family deity by the Veerasaiva community. Innumerable are the temples/shrines dedicated to Veerabhadra, a name that occurs commonly in the State, whether it is the names of places or humans. Legend has it that Lord Siva, angered by the humiliation meted out to Sati at the yajna performed by Daksha and her subsequent self-annihilation, created Veerabhadra to disrupt the yajna and do away with Daksha, a mission he accomplished.

Lambani Nruthya
Lambani nruthya Lambani women, dressed colourfully, move in a circle with clapping and singing. This dance is uncommon, and performed primarily for important festivals.

Bhagavanthike involves a competition of a witty dialogue between two groups of 10 to 12 artistes, who wearing spectacular costumes recreate the fanciful tradition of folk dance. Bhagavata, who is the chief narrator cum performer makes the folk dance of Bhagavanthike, a viable medium of non-formal communication. There is also a jester. During the performance, the jester sings and dances along with other artistes sometimes following the traditional and sometimes setting up new precedents and serves as a change-agent. Attracting wider attention through his acrobatics, the jester skillfully adapts himself to the changing needs and demands of the audience eventually establishing a rapport with the audience with ease.

Mari Kunitha
The community dance, Mari Kunitha which is wide spread in Mysore and Mandya districts, display an insular flexibility in the presentation and narration. Originally belonging to the Shakti cult, these dances consist of performers standing either in rows or forming a big circle and dancing to the tune of 'Chakravaddya', an indigenous flat percussion instrument. The dance begins at a slow pace, gathers momentum, reaches a frenzied pitch as the tempo of the beat increases and continues till the rhythm fades away. The songs are sung intermittently at each pause and hence could be heard by the audience clearly. In the dances like Kombat and Billat, which is similar to the Mari Kunitha, the artistes attired in customary 'Kodava' costume perform carrying deer-horns to the accompaniment of a drum and the dudi- a small drum.

The folk dance of 'Urimaramma' is performed by a team of a husband and wife. The artistes are nomads, wandering from one place to another carrying an unusually designed mobile temple, eventually facilitating a simultaneous performance of dance and worshipping of the deity, right at the door of the people. The performer, acting like a messenger emphasises on a social problem and he tries to motivate the people to invoke the blessings of the deity so as to enable them to overcome an impending crisis.

Bhoota Nrutya
In the coastal region of South Kanara, the Bhoota Nrutya takes different forms, depending upon the type of the ghost it represents. Koratti, Koraga Taniya, Ali Bhoota, Punjurli, Kuppe Punjurli, Kalkuda, Kallurti, Shiradi Bhoota and many others represent a galaxy of ghosts worshipped in places like Puttur, Mangalore, Bantwal and Uppinangadi.
In Coastal Karnataka (Dakshina Kannada District, India) the term 'bhūta' means a divine spirit which deserves periodic propitiation. The cult is practiced from generation to generation. The bhūta' rituals enormously vary from village to village according to the social structure of the society.
There is a veritable pantheon of the 'bhūtās' whose number is about 350. 'bhūtās' are believed to be capable of shaping the welfare of votaries. The 'bhūta' cult has its own priest class and impersonators who act as communication of the divine spirit through possession act of oracle or prophecy. 'bhūta' worship has different types of folk music, to the tune of musician an impersonator dance and his foot step moves with heavy anklet called 'Gaggara' and in his hand 'Caury' (Yak tail fan). An impersonator wears either metal mask or areca-leaf mask on his head. The make-up is attractive and dress is made out of simple tender coconut leaves. During the performance, musical instruments like ''Mouri' (wind pipe) 'Tase' (percussion) and 'Shruti' (wind pipe) are used. The performer dances to the tune of musical instruments and sometimes wears a mask.
The ritual dance is very artistic and attracts all the spectators. 'bhūta' or divine spirits have their own myths or epics sung during the performance. Some of the 'bhūta' songs or epics are sung in the paddy plantation field by the women folk. They are called 'Pāḍ-dana' in Tulu language. During the 'bhūta' performance women render the songs with a small percussion instrument called 'Tembere' or 'Karande'.

'Mādira' is the dance of women belonging to the 'bhūta' impersonator's community. During the rainy season the members of this community are free from their traditional profession of spirit- possession and dance. Hence the women go from house to house dancing and singing accompanied by the beating of the drum known as Tembere. One woman sings and beats the drum while another woman dances, usually the younger one dances. The song usually describes the beauty of the woman and her love and marriage with a handsome man.
'Kabita' means a small piece of poetry usually sung during planting the paddy seedlings by the women folk. The main speaker sings this narrative poem and after each stanza the co-workers repeat the chorus or the main theme of the song. The content may sometimes be the narration of certain episodes or an incident or a humorous episode. It may also be a satire or a joke passed towards the master or the lord or a grand personality, or it may also be the story of an animal.

Vatte Kola
This dance is another folk dance that comes under the umbrella of the Bhuta tradition. It is dedicated to ghost worship. The presentation of Vatte Kola begins with the preparation of burning coal in an open field. The performers are required to walk over the burning charcoal pits. The performer of Vatte Kola is an excellent communicator who steals the show through his sincere worshipping of deity for the total welfare of the community.

Lingada Birana Kunitha
This dance is wide spread in the southern parts of the state and where the dancers perform splendidly, holding a sword in one hand and a shield bearing their religious emblem in the other to the tune of the devotional narration.

Puravanthike is a highly expressive and credible narrative art which draws its strength from the heavy sprinkling of riddles in its content. These riddles are folksy, woven around familiar things of daily life and also amuse people in the form of simple folk poetry and they serve as excellent channels of social education. In Puravanthike the costumes and ornaments are colourful. Dressed like warriors, the dancers present a skilful display of vigour with a sword in one hand and a trident in the other.

Chennu Kunitha
The folk art of 'Chennu Kunitha', the harvest dance found in Puttur, Coondapura and other villages of South Kanara give an insight into the cheapest mode of communication through entertainment.

Maragalu Kunitha
The folk dance of 'Maragalu Kunitha' consist of unique wooden legs which the artistes literally wear to gain unusual height. Wearing uniquely designed artificial legs the artiste easily captures the attention of the people through executing impressive but difficult feats.

Kolata or stick dance is a kind of valour dance involving groups of people who indulge in bending, swaying and jumping activities to the tune of rhythmic clashing of sticks. With two sticks in hand, each dancer can strike in various patterns and rhythms. There is considerably more flexibility in the pattern of dancing so also singing. Members of Vokkaliga, Nayaka and Golla communities of Mysore, Mandya and Hassan districts and the Hallakki Gowda community of North Karnataka and the Kodavas of Coorg excel in Kolata. There is a rich spread of romantic and valour themes and references to contemporary, political and social issues in Kolata songs.

Alayi Hejje
'Alayi Hejje', a semi religious dance of the Muslim community of Karnataka, is a classic illustration of harmony between the two predominant communities of India, the Hindus and the Muslims. Jointly performed by Muslims and Hindus, the presentation in Alayi Hejje consists of performers dancing around a fire pit. It appears like a rope dance with 20 to 25 dancers holding identical ropes which are hung from bamboo poles. The dancers form a circle and dance around the pole artistically winding and unwinding the ropes like plaits. Alayi dance is an amalgamation of action and dexterous footwork, supported by appropriate devotional theme. Performed as part of 'Muharram' festival, Alayi Hejje provides a favourable forum for accomplishing communal harmony.

Simha Nrutya
The folk dance which is totally free from ritualistic and religious barriers is 'Simha Nrutya' (lion dance), the popular dance of the Honnavara taluk in the Uttara Kannada districts, usually performed by 'Yakshagana' artistes. The dance is in effect a charming imitation of a lion's movements. Hence the dancer wears a costume which closely resembles the lion. The costume is specially made of bark and yarn using natural dyes. The dancer wears a mask which is made up of cotton and is done to look like a lion's face. Two silver pangs are inserted in the mouth to create a visual impression of fangs. With the perfect portrayal of a lion's behaviour, movements, mode of hunting and preying, Simha Nrutya is not only entertaining but educative also. 

During the harvest season in Coorg, people assemble in designated rural centers to perform their annual Harvest Dance. Wearing the ethic Coorgi Costume - black tunic, and a decorative traditional knife, the men present their slow-moving dance to the background music holding long sticks. It is generally known as 'Luttari Kōlāṭa'.

Bolak āṭ
According to a legend 'Lord Vishnu' took various avatars (incarnation) for the destruction of the evil demons. To destroy the demon 'Bhasmāsura' Vishnu danced in 30 varieties and one among them is ‘Bolkat’. This dance is performed in front of oil lamp in an open field. This is performed exclusively by men wearing Kodava Dress. Performers hold 'cavari' (Yak-animal fur)in one hand and 'Kodava katti'(Kodava Sickle)in the other hand. Many regional variations are found in dance forms. Few performers use only 'Cavari' and dance to the tune of 'duḍi'. When they dance with a sickle in their hand it is identified as 'Kattiyāṭa'. They sing to the tune of 'duḍi', an hour glass drum which carries the Kodava heroic deeds of gods and goddess of the region as its theme. 

Participants are exclusively women folk of Coorg ethnic. The myth says that on the occasion of 'Samudra Manthan' (churning motif) the distribution of 'Amruta' (nectar) went in the hands of Vishnu who appeared in the guise of 'Mohini' (female roll). The replica of 'mōhini' and dance is today named as 'Ummattāṭa' in the Kodava region. Kodava women folk wear the Kodava dress with jewels, ribbon on the forehead and Kumkum, holding the brass cymbals in their hands. In a swinging rhythm they dance in the circle. At the centre a woman stands with a pot full of water to represent water deity 'Kāveri'. Kodava people worship 'Kaveri diety' as their community goddess.

This dance form was performed with religious sentiments in the temple premises. In the recent years, it is performed in other places also. Men dancing holding deer horns is the main attraction of this dance. The wind piping musicians and percussionist render rhythmic tunes to the performers. This art has certain martial movements because the Kodavas are known for their war techniques and valour. The performers wear their ethnic dress, and deer horns are used in place of daggers for self protection. In the legend of the horns of 'Krishṇamṛiga' (a dark coloured spotted deer) is used while dancing. 

Hagalu Vēṣagāraru (Day Actor's)
Vēṣagāraru are a group of itinerant actors of Karnataka. They are adepts in the art of miming. They disguise themselves as different characters or roles and present their performances in cities and villages. They can impersonate mythological, divine, or social characters and can present events of even daily life. Some of them have the skill of producing even a full-length play like a professional performing troupe. The Hagalu Vēṣgāraru or "day-actors" don't need any regular stage. They don't need a green-room. They put on their make-up and costumes in their camp and start on their daily expedition. They go from door to door in the village or town where they have pitched their camp and offer to perform their show. They enact amusing scenes, sing "Sarvajña Vacana's" Basavaṇṇa Vacana's. They don't need curtains, or the back stage equipment. Of course they carry their musical instruments with them, a harmonium, a "tabla-daggā" and a pair of cymbals. An assistant will carry a bag to collect the grains which are given as reward. Vēṣagāraru belong mostly to the "Vĩraśaiva" faith. Occasionally they are also of the Muslim faith. Sometimes they are addressed as belonging to "Muslim" community or "Jyatigar" caste. They are known among the people by different names Hagalu Vēṣagāraru (day actors); Suḍugāḍu Siddha (Sādhu of the cemetery); Bahurūpi (one who appears in different roles). As their name suggest, they perform only during day time. Only men folk take part in the performance. Female roles are taken up by men. The Vēṣagāraru mainly entertain their audience, though incidentally by depicting mythological and epic stories. In the form of dialogue and songs they disseminate normal ideas and wisdom.

Kalgi-tura laavani (Ballad) Tradition
"Kalgi-tura" is competitive singing glorifying feminine paws as pitted against masculine prowess. The challenge is thrown and accepted. With rhyme and rhythm, meaning and sound, "Kalgi-tura" is interesting to watch and listen. The performance is in 'Kannada'.
The 'Kalgi-tura' begins when Phakīravva beats a "duff" (percussion) slowly, deliberately, getting herself ready to burst forth in her "Kalgi" songs to challenge the principle of male chauvinism down the ages of "tura" (lāvaṇi) tradition.
Phakīravva leading artist of the Kalgi-tura tradition moves on stage with supreme confidence and strikes challenging postures suiting the theme of the song. Within minutes of singing Phakīravva creates a theatre through content, song and dance.
Phakiravva Gudisagara, a famous name indeed in the contemporary "Kalgi-tura lāvaṇi" ballad tradition. With her rich sonorous voice Phakīravva can regale her rural or even urban audience throughout the night giving glimpses and flashes of the vitality of a challenging rural theatre form. Her male counter part Hanumanta Rao is a fitting "tura" singer and in fact Phakīravva acknowledges him as her "guru" (teacher). 

Gāruḍi Gombe or Taṭṭirāya Giant Sized Dolls or Puppets (Procession Puppets):
In Karnataka the street procession performance includes the giant sized dolls or the puppets made out of bamboo sticks. The body is wrapped with colourful costumes of the regional dress and sometime the replica of the live human theatre i.e. "Yakshagāna". The face of the puppet is made out of bamboo basket and applied on paper mesh with suitable make-up. During the fair and festival the giant sized dolls will be the central attraction to the on lookers. The dolls or giant sized puppets are dummy, huge doll. On manifestation, the whole structure is hollow, permitting a person to get inside to carry the entire structure on his shoulder and dance. Provision is made for the person to see from inside. This kind of processional puppets are also called in different names according to the regions. In Coastal Karnataka this kind of dolls have been called "Taṭṭirāya" (`Taṭṭi' means bamboo sticks `Rāya’ a suffix word; the person who carried bamboo sticks huge doll or puppet) In South Karnataka the same dolls are called as "Gāruḍi Gombe" (`Gāruḍi'- means magical and `Gombe' means puppet). However the use of the giant-dolls in procession is to make fun and also to ward off the evil spirit. The giant-sized puppets are usually found during the temple festivals and they depict various social characters from Indian folk and classics. The total weight of each doll usually will be 10 to 12 Kilograms and height remains normally 10 feet to 12 feet. During the procession few performers wear simple masks of different characters.
Putting on disguises like a tiger (`Hulivēṣa') or bear (`Karaḍiveṣa') and bringing monkeys to dance to the tamers tune are itinerants common to South India.
In Karnataka dancing like animals and making animals to dance are popular entertainment. There is also a custom dancing with a bull-mask, some may use even bear- mask. In Karnataka the peacock dances (Navilu Kuṇita) are part of the dummy horse dance (Kīlu Kudure Kuṇita) is more popular during the procession.

Sōmana Kuṇita
In south Karnataka-region many village deity’s (Mother-goddess) shrine have the Soma (mask) Cult, it has emerged as a local spirit worship and on the occasion of ceremonial day of the deity’s these Soma'(Mask spirits) are honoured. The term Soma- refers to an unsatisfied warrior character who after death becomes a guardian to the Mother goddess. On the other hand the local people call them as DEVA SOMA'S (MASK OF THE GOD/DIVINE SPIRITS). There are many types of Soma's, which differs from region to region. The worshippers of these Soma cult belong to the community of Gangematadavaru (Fisherman group) The colour of the Soma's have special feature and depicts the nature of the spirit, either good or harm (trouble giver) to the devotees. On the ceremonial day devotees offer blood sacrifice to these spirits. Masks are made of Indian red tree or of Pterocarpus Santalinus Linn family tree. Mask wearer observes certain taboos in his habits to keep-up the mind in purity. He holds a cane or stick and peacock feathers bunch in the hand and dances according to the tune of the music which accompanies him. Mask dance starts from the pitch of mother goddess in temple with certain ritual. The process of the ritual and worshiping by non-Brahmin. On the Mask- head a mini headgear will be placed. This will be in the shape of arch (curved structure) decorated with colorful flowers and green neem leaves. Back portion of the headgear contain many colorful cloths hanged down in frill. Somas (Mask) are ferocious in dancing according to the tune of accompanied instruments. Accompanied instruments are "ARE" (percussion) "DOONU" (Percussion) "MOURI" (Wind pipe) "SADDE" (Windpipe for humming sound or śhṛiti). Usually the Soma's proceeds from the mother goddess temple. Priest holds a whip in his hand and controls the spirit- oriented masks. They often sing the epic of the Mother Goddess (Mythological hymn) to the tune of the oracle and music.
In recent days the Somas (Mask) are made out of softwood and much introduced in the city folk with traditional costumes. The whole appearance gives the vision of Chinese or Nepalese masks. 

Jōḍu Haligi
Two artistes produce rhythmic notes of astounding energy and power. “JODU HALIGI” means two percussion instruments. Their movements along the stage expressive of their physical energy harmonize with the notes produced on the instrument. The `Haligi' circular in shape is made of buffalo hide. A short stick is used on it. The notes combined with the bodily movement pervade the stage and overflow to the audience.

Jaggahalige Kuṇita (Jaggahalige Dance) (Folk Dance)
Jaggahalige- a percussion instrument made of bullock cartwheel, will be wrapped in buffalo hides. On ‘Hōli’ (March) and ‘Yugādi’ (New Year eve of Hindu) the whole village of ‘Byāhaṭṭi’ (Hubli-Dharwad Department of Karnataka) folk roll a dozen giant percussion instruments and march in an impressive procession. The biggest percussion instrument and chief choreographer who control the rhythms with small percussion instrument called ‘Kaṇihaligi’ looks like small ‘duff’ instrument, its body is made of clay and it is covered with calf hide.

Goravara Kuṇita (Gorava Dance):
Gorava dance or 'Goravara Kuṇita' a dance of the Shiva-cult is more popular in the Mysore region and North Karnataka regions. In North Karnataka the 'Goravas' worship "Mylara Linga" (Eshwara God) whereas in South Karnataka (Mysore region) the 'Goravas' worship the deity called as 'Mudukutore Mallikaarjuna'. In South Karnataka the 'Goravas' wear colorful costume like black and white woolen rug, fur cap (of black bear) and holds 'Damaru' (percussion instrument) and 'Pillangovi' (flute). Towards North Karnataka the 'Goravas' wear the costume of black woolen rug and hanging bag (made out of skin) on shoulder. Some of them wear black-coat and white dhoti. In traditional context the 'Gorava' devotees dance in trance. Some times they bark like dogs. It is believed that the totem of the 'Mylaralinga' is dog. The dancers’ foot moves in clock- wise and zigzag form. There is no fixed choreography to these performers. The North Karnataka 'Goravas' wear yellow powder on their forehead and give 'Prasāda' to their believed devotees. Artists hold instrument like 'Damaru' (percussion) and sometimes 'Koļalu' (flute). Rarely few artists wear a small bronze bell on shoulder called 'Pariganṭe' and a few followers hold cowbells .

Gondaligara āṭa (Narrative performing art of North Karnataka)
Gondaliga's are "Ambā Bhavāni worshipers, who give theatrical performance in North Karnataka. The performance theme is mainly on divine tales or folk tales or historical legends. The performance will be given in the public during the night time. The performance rendered by the "Gondal" community people is called "Gondaligara āṭa" in Kannada. The Gondal community people are itinerants, and few are now settled. On invitation the Gondal priest goes and gives the performance.
The term "Gondal" means the army of Shiva Spirits. The Shiva spirits are called "Gana" and the troupe of the "Gaṇa" is called "dal" Combining these two words "Gan + dal" becomes "Gan-dal" but in the regional language it is used as "Gondal". The main theme of the “Gondal” ritual appeases the Shiva spirits or mother deity spirits. These mystic spirits ritual is called "Gondal Puja".
The myth states that "Parusharam" son to "Renuka" decimated the demon called "Bāṇāsur". Threading veins from "Bāṇāsur's" body through his skull "Parusharam" created an instrument which, when plucked, yielded a sound approximating "ṭinṭini". Today this instrument is known as Cauḍike. "Parusharam" went to worship "Renuka" while playing on the instrument and thus begun the tradition of performing a Gondal. Alternatively it is also put forward that the gondāl tradition was established when "Parusharama" killed Kshatriya King "Sahasrarjun". The Gondal's who worship "Devi Renuka" is known as Renukṛai and those who are devotees of "Tulaja Bhavani" are called kadamrāi. 

A powerful folk orchestra of North Karnataka the "Karaḍi Majalu" performers are in demand during various auspicious occasions, processions. The orchestra derives its name from the percussion instrument "Karaḍe or Karaḍi". Palm size cymbals yield the metallic sounds while the "Shehanoy" adds to the continuous flow of musical waves. The performers produce very vigorous and soul filling music. 

Vīragāse kuṇita:
Devotees of Shiva-cult dance in groups of two, four and six and sometime hold a sword and dance. They also perform a ritual on stage viz. piercing a long or short needle across their mouth. The Sambal and Dimmu are used as percussion instruments. Cymbals and Shehanoy (wind pipes) are also used while the leading singer narrates the "Dakshayajna" epic with percussion instrument beating creates heroic tempo.

Aṭi Kaļanja
'Aṭi Kaļanja' is a ritualistic folk dance performed by the 'Nalke' Community. Kaļanja is the name of a minor spirit, who is in charge of the protection of the village folk during the month of July- August (rainy season) when the other major spirits take leave for rest. During this period the members of the 'Nalke' Community decorate their body with the costume made of the tender coconut leaves, anklets, colorful cloth, long cap made of areca spathe etc., paint their face with various colors and designs. Holds an umbrella made of leaves, decorated with leaves and flowers. Artist goes from house to house and dances in front of the house. The other members of the group sing the story of the spirit and beat a small drum known as Tembere. The householder gives them paddy, rice, coconut, turmeric, charcoal and the dancers perform certain rituals to ward of disease and other misfortunes of the family and the cattle.

'Karangolu' is a kind of harvest dance of joy and merriment. It is also a kind of prayer for prosperity through harvest. During the month of February-March after the second harvest on the full moon day of the season the members of the 'Harijan' community dress themselves like men, women old men etc., paint their body with white color, wear anklets, deck themselves with areca flower, leaves and beads. Artiste holds a stick and beat their drum. As an itinerant goes dancing from house to house and receive alms from the land- lords.

Kuṇubi ‘Hōli’ (Tribal Dance)
'Kuṇubi's are tribal group who speak mixed Konkani  dialect in the Northern Coastal Karnataka. Being the tribal group the men folk perform the ‘Holy Dance and songs’ during the 'holy' festival. The men folk decorate themselves with a turban and wild flowers 'Abbalige' and hold 'Gummaṭe' a percussion instrument made of clay. The men folk dance in circle by beating the drum and footsteps of the dance while it moves in semi circular shape. Only on the day of 'Holy' festival such performance takes place at countryside. The men folk or the 'Holy' dancers go in group and dance in front of the lord and receive reward either in the form of cash or in kind. The collected money and grains are used for the grand festival on the 'Holy' day. The similar kind of 'Holy' is also popular in the Konkani Naik's ethnic group of Udupi taluk. They also use the percussion instrument which is called 'gummaṭe'.
'Hooly' which takes place in the month of March is an important festival observed by the Konkani's and Kudubis. The kith and kin join together before the chief's house or before the temple on this occassion.
This festival is associated with certain rites like worshiping a coconut in front of the "Tulasi" shrine. After the rites of the initial day they set out on a dance tour in the neighboring villages. they return on the last day and get together in front of the community chief's house or in front of the temple and dance with merry, finally offer the worship to 'Tulasi' shrine, and share the food. The songs are sung in Konkani language while few are sung in Kannada language. The dancing troupe sings the Kolata" (stick dance) songs which are very melodic and the dance resembles the Goa Konkans "Dandia" (stick dance) dance form.

Suggi Kuṇitha
The festival dance of the "Hālakki Vokkaliga" is performed by men folk during the harvest season, the dance is called "Suggi Kuṇita" in the North Coastal Karnataka.
The "Holi" festival begins in the month of march, the dance starts on full moon day or 4 days before the full moon. Either 12 or 14 men folk move from village to village in group by beating the "Gummaṭe" (percussion) drums and sing fertility songs and collect the cash and grains. On full moon day they perform dance in front of the community house. The artist has beautiful costume and headgear made of softwood, decorated with many carved birds and flowers, which look like crown of fertility. The group dance is done holding sticks and sometime peacock feathers. Along with this the clown characters amuses the audiences. The minor comic characters are identified as 'Sōginavaru' or Hāsyagāraru'. 

Yakshagana is believed to have a history of one thousand years. It is also believed to have represented a specific type of music of the 'yakshas'. Yaksha is the name of certain demi-gods attending on 'Kubera'- the god of wealth in the Hindu mythology. 'Gaana' means song. By combining the meaning, the term Yakshagana might mean the 'song of Yakshas'. Yakshagana has established its firm roots in the districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada, Dharwad, Mysore and Hassan. Based on its technique of presentation, Yakshagana has been broadly classified into 'Mudalapaya' (the custom of the east) and 'Paduvalapaya' (the custom of the west). Popularly known as 'Bayalata' or 'Aata', Mudalapaya is widely practiced in places like Tumkur, Bangalore, Kolar, Mandya, Mysore, Hassan, Chitradurga, Bellary, Dharwad, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Raichur, Bidar and Belgaum. While Yakshagana of North Karnataka has assumed varied forms like 'Sannata', 'Doddata', 'Krishna Parijatha' and 'Dasarata'. The form of Paduvalapaya' popular extensively in Uttara and Dakshina Kannad districts has been further divided into 'Thenku Tittu' (south) and 'Badagu Tittu' (north). Paduvalapaya is practiced in places like Karki, Keladi, Ikkeri, Sagar, Kolluru, Maranakatt, Sankuru, Coondapur, Kotesvara, Kota, Udupi, Dharmasthala, Mangalore, Brahmavara, Suratkal and Saligrama.

Mūḍalapāya Yakshagāna
"Mūḍalapāya Yakshagāna" is a village theatre in the eastern part of Karnataka, (Mūḍala = Eastern) of Tumkur and Mysore region. The "Bhāgavat" (singer) and his small group of singers and instrumentalists (Maddale, the percussion instrument and Mukhavīṇe - a windpipe resembling Shehony instrument) form the musical part. The various characters of the play bedecked with gorgeous costumes and speaking flamboyant dialogue also give some vigorous dances. The entry of some demonic characters is awe- inspiring, so also their dialogue.

In Northern Karnataka the open theatre folk performance similar to the Mūḍalapāya Yakshagāna takes place. Geographically the northern style of folk theatre is identified as Doḍḍāṭa. All these art forms are diminishing without patronage. This dying art can be revived only if government takes initiative step to document and promote this art form.

The People of Dakshina Kannada perform an elaborate ritual called Nāgamanḍala to appease the serpent spirit. It is conducted in an extravagant manner throughout the night, wherein dancers known as the Vaidyās dress themselves as nāgakannikās and dance the night away. The Vaidyās cavort around an elaborate serpent design drawn with natural colours on the sacred ground, in a pandal specially erected in front of the shrine. This nocturnal ritual is performed from December to April. 

Bhūta ārādhane
No less interesting is the Bhūta ārādhane or devil worship, very common in the coastal towns of Karnataka. Idols representing ‘bhūtas’ are taken out in a procession to the beating of drums and bursting of firecrackers. As the procession ends, the idols are placed on a pedestal. With sword and jingling bells, a dancer whirls round in imitation of the devil he represents. Frantically facing up and down, he enters into a state of possession and acts as an oracle.

In Karnataka, the puppet theatre is said to have existed since ancient times. Puppetry in the state, is believed to have existed at the time of 'Kanakadasa' and 'Purandaradasa' and its roots are traced to the coastal tract of Karnataka. The health and family welfare department has been using puppetry shows for spreading messages like family planning, anti-dowry etc among the rural and semi urban places. The two prominent forms of puppetry of the state are (a) String puppets or Marionettes and (b) Leather or Shadow puppets.

String Puppets Play Of North Karnataka
Puppetry is one of the most remarkable devices of art, which is capable of universal appeal. India is said to be the motherland of Puppetry. The concept of this earth as the stage for God to perform his plays pervades Indian philosophy. The Sanskrit word for puppet is Puttalike or Puttika which is related to the word Putra which means son. The animation of puppets through imaginative manipulation is what is suggested by the etymology of Puttalika, or Pupa.
Generally string puppets are made of softwood, painted according to the character. The puppets are designed according to the live Yakshagāna or regional folk play pattern. Demon characters of puppets reflect the design of village Mother Goddess temple iconography. String puppets are manipulated from above the stage, manipulator's handling technique is unseen because of the upper part of the stage covered with black screen. Puppets appear from the left wing to right, sometime from above the stage.
Stories selected for the performance are from the Ramayana and Mahabharata episodes. Song and dialogue exchange are delivered by the manipulator behind the screen. Traditional performances were played in the oil lamp which has been substituted by electric bulb in recent days.
Devindrappa troupe "Shakti Yakshagāna Gombeyāṭa Manḍali" has earned very good name in the string puppets play of north Karnataka. Special attraction of the play is that percussionist (Maddalegāra) sit outside the stage and converse with the jester character "Hanumanāyaka" amusing the audience with proverbs, jokes etc. The size of the puppets is 2 to 3.5 feet.
Gorgeous costume of the puppets are similar to the regional Yakshagāna made out of gold paper, ornaments adorned shoulder, chest gears and headgear’s. Demon character will be painted with red colour and bulged eyes with long teeth. The divine characters will be colored with yellow and green while jester characters face will be painted with quite jet black.
Accompanying instruments in marionette play are "Maddale" (percussion) "Shehonoy" (wind pipe) and "tāļa" (metal cymbals). The leading singers sing while the major assistants add to the chorus voice.

Leather Puppets Play - of Karnataka
Depending on the size of the puppets, the leather puppet shows in Karnataka is divided into two major varieties
(1) Chikka Togalu Gombeyāṭa (small leather puppet play).
(2) Doḍḍa Togalu Gombeyāṭa (life size or larger leather puppet play)
Each variety shows several regional variations in the style of music, craftsmanship, stage technique and manipulation.
Leather puppeteers are scattered all over Karnataka. They have vivid name for shadow theatre or leather puppet  play. In North Karnataka the leather puppeteers are called "Kiļļikyāta's".
The puppeteers of the small leather puppet theatre performers use Kannada language and in a box stage manipulator sits behind the screen, raise the puppets held in their hands. During the performance men, women, children, the whole community of the artist, take part. The average dimensions of the leather puppet stage is 12 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The small puppet players have their own mobile stage which measures 9 feet in length and 5 feet in width.
A white screen is tied up in front of the visible portion. Behind the screen the manipulator sits and manipulates the epic characters.. Behind the curtain the hands of the manipulator remain unseen. In front of the stage the puppeteer’s family or associate sit and give chorus
and exchange dialogues with drum beater. In the projected light sources the leather puppets shadow appears with beautiful color.

Togalu Bombeyāṭa:
The ancient art of leather puppetry draws heavily from mythology, especially from the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. This art form is still prevalent in some remote villages. In some places, puppetry is performed to seek rain or a good harvest or to get rid of a disease or pestilence.


Harikatha may be defined as a versatile and a composite art in which a single person indulges in the act of dramatization, consisting all the vital components of the theatre craft such as music, dance and dramatic presentation of the themes. Harikatha, is a solo recitation which is a combination of literature and lilting lyrics which reflects rich musical and literary material in its content. Harikatha is known in one form or the other with different names like Katha, Katha Keerthan, Shiva Katha, Katha Kalakshepam, Katha Prasangam keertan and sangam keertan and Sankeertan etc in the state.
The Harikatha artiste is accompanied by two or more members and wears a simple, casual dress. The principal performer is the chief singer narrator of the story and is called Dassa or Keertankar. He is accompanied by few artistes in background to give him vocal support. Musical instruments like the mridanga, the tabala, the violin, the harmonium and the cymbals are played by them while the Keertankar plays castanets (a two part chinking instrument made of wood). One of its important characteristics is that it enables the artiste to alter the message according to the mood of the audience and in the process of face to face communication, gauge the impact of the message on them. If the impact is adverse, he is free to change or disband the course through smooth switch-over to the old stories.

Classical Dances:
The Mysore style of Bharatanatyam, which is the oldest and most popular form of classical dance in India, is widely performed here. Other mainstream classical dances here include Kūchipuḍi and Kathak.We will see them in separate article

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