‘Kantara’ matter of pride for us: Karnataka tribal dancers


PTI, Nov 2, 2022, 3:24 PM IST

Raipur: Twelve pairs of feet thumped the wooden platform to the loud rhythmic beats of sheepskin drums and cymbals, creating an environment so electric as to hold the air above the Science College Ground in a spell.

The 12 young men of the Kuruba tribal community from Ranebennur in Karnataka’s Haveri district presented Dollu Kunitha or drum folk dance at the ongoing National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur on Tuesday.

It was a great achievement for the group of energetic men to represent their community at a national level. It was also a matter of pride that the tribal communities of their area recently found international recognition through Rishabh Shetty’s blockbuster Kanada movie, ‘Kantara’.

Set in the fictional village of Dakshina Kannada, ‘Kantara’ follows a Kambala champion, played by Shetty, who comes to loggerheads with an upright forest range officer named Murali, who is played by Kishore.

Kambala is an annual race that is held from November to March in coastal Karnataka, in which a jockey drives a pair of buffaloes, tied to the plough, through parallel muddy tracks.

“We’re very happy that Shetty made this film and now it’s a hit all over the world. It’s a constant part of our lives to have confrontations with authorities, we live with it,” Rajappa, one of the dancers, told PTI.

Rajappa and others in his team come from the Kuruba community, who are traditionally goat and sheep herders and live off the land. The dance, Dollu Kunitha, is performed to pay obeisance to Beeralingeshwara, a form of Shiva.

The film also hit the headlines over the tribal tradition of Bhoota Kola and Shetty’s subsequent statements around it. Bhoota Kola is a ritual performance where local spirits or deities are worshipped. It is believed that the person performing the ritual turns himself in as God at the moment and listens to people’s grievances and provides answers.

The controversy was kicked off by Kannada actor-activist Chetan Kumar, who questioned Shetty’s claim that the Bhoota Kola was part of Hindu culture.

“It’s wrong to say that Bhoota Kola is part of the Hindu religion. Tribals practised the ritual and there is no Brahminism in Bhoota Kola,” Kumar had said, inviting strong protests from Hindu outfits.

Talking about the Bhoota Kola or Bhootaradhana rituals, Rajappa said it was a part of all tribal communities of Karnataka in some form or other.

“Even in our Dollu Kunitha, Beeralingeshwara comes into the body of the drummers. Everyone performing the dance at the time embodies Shiva. We feel proud that a part of our rituals is shown in a film,” he said, crediting the ritual for the film’s success.

“The film received our deity’s blessings because it showed Bhoota Kola. The God is in the film,” Rajappa said with conviction.

He added that the tradition was not limited to tribal communities, but also observed by upper castes, such as that of Shetty.

“He comes from a very high caste (janang). He’s not a tribal. But Bhoota Kola or Daiva is celebrated by everyone. But we’re happy that he showed a part of our tribal lives,” Rajappa said.

The tribal dance festival is showcasing over 1,500 dancers from national as well as international tribal communities from 10 countries. The festival will conclude on November 3.

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