Friday, June 27, 2008

Tribal Dances of Kerala

In the background of mystery shrouded nature, tribal celebrations originate and the dances which work up intoxicating excitement physical expressions of their joys and griefs, hopes and fears. The primitive inhabitants of Kerala, the tribal people are scattered in the jungles and hills of Malabar, Kochi and Travancore.

There are about 35 different types of the tribals, chief among them being the Kurichiyar, Nayadi, Mullakurumbar, Uralikurumbar, Paniya, Mudaga, Irula, Ernadar, Kadar, Muthuvan, Kanikkar, Uralees, Paliyan, Malavedan, Vettuvar, Eravallam, Veda and Malayan.

They are unique examples of communities in isolated existence, still preserving their life, customs and manners almost untarnished by the advancing waves of urban civilization. Though adapted to different dialects and customs, their artistic expression evidently reflects the distinct, secluded and primitive social structure and nature of the people and it still survives as virile a state as ever in the tribal hamlets of the hilly tracts.

Each of these aboriginal tribes has its own distinct dance traditions and invariably all of them are interwoven with the life of the people who dance it, so much so that it seems that some of their daily tasks are given to rhythmic pattern. In the background of mystry shrouded nature,tribal celebrations originate and the dances which work up intoxicating excitement physical expressions of their joys and griefs, hopes and fears.

In some cases the dancing is extremely simple and consists of little more than meaningless shuffling of the feet or waving of the hands. At other times it is mere swaying of the body to the clapping of hands or beating of primitive drums to mark time. Yet another form shows only the monotonous movement of the hands and feet. But, generally speaking, a wide range of movement involving all parts of the body, the head, back hips, arms, fingers and the feet and even facial muscles are utilized in tribal dances.

There are very complicated tribal dances as well in which dancing harmonises gesture,
expressing the whole gamut of sentiment, where rhythm is kept by swaying the body and intricate steps executed with adept foot-work. Usually the dances have a slow beginning, but gather momentum and work up to a heavy tempo of the vociferous climax of the drums, and the ecstacy of the ever-mounting rhythm of spontaneous music. Many of these dances are heroic or martial in character.

Some tribes have songs to accompany their dances. Either the dancers themselves sing or the onlookers sing and thus participate. Special musical instruments are sometimes used, but the drum is almost an indispensable feature. The costumes of the dancers vary from approximate nudity to full attire and ornaments which are extremely colourful and gaudy.

Like all tribal arts, Kerala’s tribal dances are spontaneous. It is the most direct expression of the inner most spirit of a people and the instinct of rhythm is as natural and basic as human nature.

Some of the more well known tribal dances of Kerala are Elelakkaradi, Kadarkali,
Kurumbarkali, Paniyarkali, Edayarkali, Mudiyattam and Vedarkali. Tribal people constitute an important segment of the teeming millions in our country. India has the second largest tribal sects in Kerala, the Paniya, Adiya, Urali, Kattunaikka, Irula, Muduva, Aranadan are the prominent tribal communities.

Ente Keralam

Ente Keralam എന്റെ കേരളം is a slender strip of land in the southern tip of Indian subcontinent. Beautiful and benign, this Indian state lies along a sun drenched coastline flanked by the Arabian Sea on the west and the mountains of the Western Ghats on the east.

Cascading delicately down the hills to the golden coasts covered by verdant coconut groves, Kerala is located between north latitudes 8 degree 18' and 12 degree 48' and east longitudes 74 degree 52' and 72 degree 22'. Encompasses 1.18 per cent of the country, this land of eternal beauty is the abode of more than 31.8 million Malayalees

Of the customs peculiar to Kerala, the most important ones are the Marumakkathayam and the joint family system. Marumakkathayam is the matrilineal system of inheritance. During the past ten decades, there had been an urge for a thorough change in the old family customs. Legislative sanctions were given to claim partition from the joint families and adopt Makkathayam (inheritance through the male line). Due advantage has been taken of these legislations by the majority of the communities.

The population of ancient Kerala is an assortment of different groups of Dravidian stock. The dominant view is that the present day hill tribes, the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, might have been the main groups of people who inhabited this region from times of yore. The ancient Dravidian kingdoms of South India (Chera, Chola and Pandya) as well as their people were held together by intimate bonds of blood, language and literature and that was the force which promoted a sort of cultural homogeneity in South India inspite of occasional intrigues, feuds and wars that caused not infrequent disharmony.

The end of the Perumal empire marks a turning point in the history of Kerala. From that period onwards, the people began to draw apart and those on this side of the Ghats began to build up their own customs and ways of life developing their own distinct culture in the long run.

The next landmark was the Aryan invasion. The warp of the Dravidian social structure gradually began to mingle with the weft of the Aryan cultural pattern. The Aryan immigrants, known locally as Namboodiri Brahmins, might have come in successive waves. Against the backdrop of Aryan invasion, the Parasurama legend about Kerala's origin, becomes meaningful.