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Dancers performing karakattam

Karakattam (Tamil: கரகாட்டம் "karakam (கரகம் 'water pot') dance"), or Karagam Puja in the Caribbean, is an ancient folk dance of Tamil Nadu performed in praise of the rain goddess Mariamman. The ancient Tamil epic says that this type of dance derived from Bharatham and a mixture of multiple forms of Tamil dance forms like Bharatanatyam postures and mudras. The offering of this dance is to the goddess to bless rain. The dance accompanies songs like folk Carnatic (Amrithavarshini).[1]

The performers balance a pot on their head. Traditionally, this dance is categorized into two types:

Aatta Karakam symbolizes joy and happiness. It is mainly performed as entertainment.

Sakthi Karakam is performed only in temples as a spiritual offering.[2]

Karakkatam invokes rain through a classical Tamil dance. The most common song employs Amrithavarshini Ragam (Ragamalika). Tamils believed that mother nature gives bountiful rain and protects the harvest.

Attire

Karakattam is traditionally performed in a saree. However, attire can vary as the main property is to have a karakam (Pot) on the head of the dancer. Common attire includes sarees or kurtha, colored towels and a pot.

The current karakattam fashion appears to have been corrupted, probably due to lack of support with Bharatanatyam purists dismissing the art as non-traditional and low class, as it has been reduced to more of a night glamour art, with young girls in skimpy clothing preferred as the performers and the audience having drunkards who come only to ogle and tease them. The Madras High Court issued a directive to disallow alcohol consumption when attending karakattam performances and to not do performances which are "obscene and vulgar".[3]

Regional Variations

In Caribbean Shaktism

In Caribbean Shaktism, a tradition found among the Indo-Caribbeans of Tamil origin, Karakattam is known as Karagam Puja or Kalasa Puja. The tradition was brought to the Caribbean and South America via the Girmityas, indentured servants from the Indian Subcontinent.

The Karagam Puja takes place for three continuous days and devotees fast prior to the ceremonies. The festival honours the gods Kanchi Kamakshi and Madurai Meenakshi. The festival also honours the gods Kali/ Mariamma through a puja before the procession, Ganga Amman, and Kaateri Maa through a procession to the river where offerings on a board are thrown into the body of water and then the marlo pujaris enter trance and Sangili Karuppu and Madurai Veeran are honoured through some processions with stunts such as whipping, "taking oath" (which is putting a lit camphor on one's tongue to prove the devotee is truly in the trance and is said to purify the medium before they speak their words), and walking on hot coals before running to a pool made of milk. Other stunts can include piercing of the tongues and cheeks, dancing on sharpened machetes, and on this day, many animal sacrifices are also made.

The lotas are kept in the temple and consecrated accordingly, before being built with a coconut, several layers of neem leaves and oleander flowers. Three participants enter the Sami Aduthal stage and then two of them carry the Karagams (usually these two participants being boys before hitting puberty or women), and the other one receives the god Madurai Veeran and is dressed with a garland of oleander flowers and carries a staff topped with neem leaves.

In popular culture

In 1989, the Tamil movie Karagattakaran featured its lead actors Ramarajan, Kanaka and Kovai Sarala as performers of karakattam. The movie went on to become very popular and an advertisement for the dance form, especially because of the music by Ilaiyaraja and the song, "Maanguyilae Poonguyile" with its karakattam choreography.

Apart from this, the devotional film Padai Veetu Amman released in 2001 had the lead actress Meena briefly performing karakattam dance in a festival song. Also, the 2002 Tamil film Sri Bannari Amman showed the central female devotee as a hereditary karakattam dancer. A song in the film featured karakattam dance.

References

  1. ^ "Tamil Nadu Dances - Karagam, Traditional Dance in Tamil Nadu". Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  2. ^ "Karakattam Tamilnadu". Tamilnadu.com. 10 January 2013.
  3. ^ "Karakattam: A folk art languishing in the web of morality". August 2016.