By Athira G R and Saneesha Rachel Solomon
Mangaluru, Sep 30, 2017: Dasara,one of the most keenly- awaited festival of the costal district. The ten days festival begin with the installation of the nine idols of goddess Durga in the decorated hall of the Sri Gokarnanatheshwara Temple, Kudroli. Thousands of devotees flock to the Temple to seek blessings and participate in the celebrations.The Temple wears a grand bridal look Celebration of this festival are unique and different from other parts of the India.
Tiger dance,famously known as ’Hulivesha’ in Kannada or ’Pilivesha’ in Tulu is a unique form of folk culture especially found in Tulunadu region. Generally young man from troupes of five to ten members or even more,with three to five people painted and costumed to look like tigers, and a band called ’thaas’ or himnaela with two or three drummers. Of all the performing arts of Mangalore Hulivesha is perhaps the most entertaining, these Hulivesha teams that add colour to the Dasara celebrations. Hulivesha teams are present in various part of the Dakshina Kannada district including the neighbouring Udupi.
A lot of preparations and efforts go in before embarking on a Tiger dance or Hulivesha. The Hulivesha artists are being painted by various colours like yellow,black and etc.The painting section is not an easy task because the artists have to stand patiently for hours together.According to one estimate there are over 50 well known Hulivesha troupes who performs this folk dance during the Dasara and Krishna Janmashtami. During this folk dance, the artists perform many heroic acts which depicts the power of the carnivore. Killing sheep was one of the famous act performed in the past. Mangalore City can boast about the several Hulivesha teams,some of them are very popular for their rare feats .Popular tiger dance troupes in Mangalore are led by M R vishwanath, Jayannath Shetty and others.The first one to start the tiger dance ( Hulivesha) troupe headed by Bajilkeri Kamalaksha ,a former cooperator.The troupe name is ’friends circle group’ this troupe started by his father Late B Krishnappa. There is also the team ’Kalicharan’ which stands second to none, being in the field since the past 25 years.The team kalicharan has the honour of being placed in the second position during the Dasara procession of Kudroli Temple.Team Kalicharan is famous for its stunts like breaking coconuts and gymnastic acts. Other popular Troupes in Mangaluru are Barke friends, Balar team, Mani of Market Road.
The main attractions of this folk dance is the traditional dance steps put while performing the art. The knowledge of the tiger dance steps is essential, it is also important to have the ability to do the dance over long period of time, which requires good stamina. The skills that are usually exhibited by the artists of Hulivesha group include fire breathing, handstand, hand walking, gymnastic moves and lifting Akkimudi (rice tied in straw, weighing 42 kg) in teeth and throwing it backwards.
Hulivesha - Bright paints
The Hulivesha painting begins a day before the performance. The painting is kept on the body for a couple of days and repainted as desired until the celebrations are over. The performers paint themselves as tigers.The costumes may vary slightly depending on the place.
Generally Hulivesha artists painted bright colours like yellow, black and other bright colours, also the whole body and face are painted with variety of designed stripes.It’s only men and boys who strips down to get their stripes painted and dance in public . First the body is given a base coat in of white in front and yellow behind . Once it dries, the person is painted as a ’chitte pili’ person is painted as a ch (small tiger) kappu (black) tiger or orange tiger.The performers believe the god fulfil their wishes once they do the Pilivesha either for Janmashtami or Dasara. Unlike the big cats the human tigers observe a strict vegetarian diet while performing.The dancers perform for two days during Janmashtami and for ten days during the Dasara celebrations.
Susham Raj is a 23 year old lone female Tiger dancer from Udupi is one of the most attracting factor of the Dusara 2017 in Mangalore and Udupi. She is young and vibrant Pulivesha artist who enthralls the whole crowd when she performs along with the other male packof pulivesha artists in her father’s troupe named Ashok Raj Kadabettu.Sushma Raj is also a professional belly dancer and an actress by profession.She had participated in few reality shows in Kannada as well.
As Pilivesha is an art form of South India ,do you think people are giving much importance to the art form rather than during the time of festive?
She answered to it stating that people love Pilivesha as their dance form but Pilivesha is given importance only during festival time because it is considered to be Holy form of dance. She also mentioned that her father Ashok Raj who is a famous tiger dancer never failed to take initiative in teaching,influencing and preparing the young future generations for Pilivesha for years.As Pili Nalike in Udupi and Mangalore is the part of every individual’s life and they all know how to dance Pili and no Tulavas can resist the sound of Taase.
Is there any particular mythological history behind the Pilivesha in Dakshina Kannada how is it connected to different states and their culture who follows the same Tiger dance?
She gave a quick glance of the history behind Pilivesha in Dakshina Kannada.Dussera is considered to be the celebration of good over evil. Goddess’s victory over the buffalo demon to help restore Dharma In the world.It is said that Goddess after killing the buffalo demons came in possession on the 10th day of Dussera.The story varies according to the different places all over the India.
What are the new trends in Pilivesha?
She only mentioned about the changes in fancy paints ,shorts and head Gare (pilitha chadi and topi) and yet she specified that it would be better if Pilivesha remained the same old way how the ancestors had started the legacy.
As Pilivesha has been performed by the males,yet you came forward confidently and influenced lot of female majority in the society and what is your take on it?
She was successful in instigating the conservative parents in the society to change their mindset and ideologies about females been restricted to perform tiger dance. Females started performing the tiger dance and it is no more a male oriented art form.She also said that she has influenced many NRIs especially doctors and engineers to visit their native place during the festive time just to perform Pilivesha.
How did her family react to her decision and how did they support her throughout?
As the talent runs in her family and she recalled about her grandfather Suresh who was a lot famous Pillivesha artist in Udupi.She calls her father Ashok Raj as a legend also mentioned that he was the first person to start Mudi Akunu which is considered to be the mandatory act in Pilivesha.
But females costumed like a tiger and dancing in public was considered as a Tabo until her father broke all the odds. And as a result she and her sister Preethi Raj became the first female tiger dancers.
"The culture and tradition resides in the hearts and souls of the people".Susham Raj definetly succeeded in living the life she always dreamt of and she would always lend a helping hand to the society to safe guard the Pilivesha art form with its complete purity and sacred.