The State's first folklore study centre was inaugurated at M.M.Hills in Chamarajanagar district recently to revive over 180 varieties of folklore traditions and provide support to the artistes. The setting up of the centre was a long-pending demand of the people. The Chamarajanagar MP, Druvanarayan, while inaugurating the centre, said it should protect folklore traditions and culture and document them in a scientific way.

Presiding over the function, the Vice-Chancellor of the folklore university, Ambalike Hiriyanna, said the State bagged the credit of opening the world's first folklore university. He said the study centre at M.M.Hills will train 25 students in folklore art, free of cost. A committee of expert will be formed to streamline the functions of the centre. A survey of local Soligas, Jenu kadu kurubas and Bedagampanas will be done for the sake of documentation.

The previous Janata Dal(S)-BJP coalition Government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy decided to establish the study centre at M.M. Hills and allocated Rs. 3 crore for it. The present Cooperation Minister, H.S. Mahadev Prasad, who was Minister for Kannada and Culture in the JD(S)-BJP coalition government, took keen interest in the setting up of the centre.

The proposal to set up the centre at M.M. Hills was welcomed by folklorists because of the heritage value and eco-tourism potential of the place. Manteswamy and Siddappaji, who contributed to the rich folk heritage of the State, hailed from this region. Though funds had been earmarked and land identified for the study centre, work on it is yet to be completed. Now, the move to inaugurate a folklore study centre has caught the attention of folk artistes and folklore experts.

Jaanapada jatre is the confluence of rural and urban cultures for better mutual understanding. The distinction between folk culture and mass culture rests on the difference between two basic types of societies. The jatre is an attempt to reintroduce urban people to their rural beginnings.

Folk artistes from all the districts of Karnataka have given awesome performances in various parts of the State and have satiated the cultural thirst of urban people. The rural people of Karnataka have also largely benefitted from this. The Jaanapada Jatre has achieved an unprecedented success in and outside Karnataka. The urban people have extended their love and affection to folk artistes who have come from distant villages to perform.

Where it began

The shows began on October 14, 2006, in front of the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore and continue in various places even today, fulfilling the ambition of the government to bridge the gap between the villages and the cities. One jatre had been organised in Mumbai in February 2008 to reach Kannadigas residing in different parts of Mumbai and promote harmony of language and culture.

For the show in front of the Vidhana Soudha, there were over 300 folk artistes from every nook and corner of Karnataka. One senior artiste was chosen to be honoured by the Chief Minister and that was Puttamalle Gowda,a legendry Goravara Kunitha artiste hailing from Chamarajanagar.

Chamarajanagar and other backward districts of Karnataka have a rich folklore tradition. There are more than 180 folk forms including karaga, Chowdike Mela, Pooja kunitha, Kinnari Mela, Halakki Suggi kunitha, Kangeelu kunitha, Jogathi kunitha, Khani vaadana, Tamate, Pataa kunitha, Veeragaase, Neelagarara Hadu, Beesu-kamsale kunitha, Sobaane pada, Gee Gee pada, Keelu kudure, Goravara kunitha, Gaarudi Gombe and Maragalu. The artistes of Sutrada Gombe and Togalu Gombe are settled at Yediyur in Chamarajanagar taluk and Kabballi in Gundlupet taluk.

Mari-kunita artistes are seen in Yelandur, Kollegal and Chamarajanagar taluks. The Kaademme Dodda kunita is a rare folk dance form which is popular in Kollegal. The Dollu kunitha of the Halumata (Kuruba) community is popular in Chamarajanagar district. Artists from Halumata community participate in fairs which are held in M.M.Hills during Deepavali, Shivarathri and Ugadi festivals. Lingada Beerana kunitha from Chamarajanagar taluk is one the famous rural folk forms.

Most of the major forms of folkfore of the district are connected with mythological characters or local gods and goddesses such as Mallikarjuna of Mudukutore, Male Mahadeshwara, Rangaswamy of Biligirirangaswamy Hills, Mallappa of Kongalli and the disciples of Manteswamy, namely Siddappaji of Chikkallur and Rachappaji of Kappadi. Professional singers, called Devaraguddas and Neelagaras, are found all over Chamarajanagar district. The folk song tradition relating to deities such as Himavad Gopalaswamy, Honakarappa, Parvathi, Maddanesha, Yagamma and Baragi Mari is popular in Gundlupet taluk.

Kamsale is performed by the devotees of Lord Mahadeshwara. "Kamsale Mela" is a popular folk song which deals with the history of Male Mahadeshwara. The name refers to brass cymbals held in the hands and its origin is traced to the mythological period.

Beesu kamsale is a unique dance form combining religious fervour with marital dexterity. The artistes dance in synchronisation. The instruments in the course of the 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 manoeuvres, which is a testimony to the Kuruba people being of marital stock.

Veeragaase is related to Veerabhadra. "Gejje" or anklets, brass "gaggara" at the knee, "vastra" at the waist, saffron "jubba" and "kacche, Rudra's image on the chest, and "vibhuti" on the forehead characterise the attire of the Veeragaase dancer.

Holding swords in his hands the dancer begins with a narrator describing the story. The percussions "karade" and "samala" provide the background sound track.

Dancing to this the artistes display their war techniques. They also narrate Shiva's demolition of Daksha. The Veerashaivas of Karnataka take part in this art form on all important ritualistic occasions.

Dollu kunitha

Dollu kunitha is a big percussion instrument famous in Karnataka. The dollu is a drum cut out of the trunk of a tree. On the left side the skin of the female goat and on the right side the skin of the male goat is mounted.

There are many kinds of Dollu kunitha in the State. In north Karnataka, the dancers wear a "kambali" at the waist. In Shimoga, the dancers wear leaves. "Gejje" is common for both. Around 20 dancers, bearing the dollu, beat and dance rhythmically. This unique group dance not just combines sound and speed but even integrates new ideas in an unusual way -through vigorous drum dance, powerful drumming, acrobatic movements and synchronised group formations. One can feel the thunderous beats the dollu emits, listen and understand mythological, historical and social themes narrated to the powerful musical accompaniment of cymbals.

Kurubas ritualise Lord Mylaralinga whereas Deevas celebrate the Gowri festival and Deepavali festival.

The opening of the folk study centre at M.M.Hills will help in rejuvenating traditional folk arts.

The study centre was opened with a grand display of various folklore dances. Folklore experts from various universities were present.

V. Paneesha

Study centre at M.M. Hills will enrich folklore, say experts

The Jaanapada Jatre has been a big hit all over the State, and urban dwellers loved the show