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Traditional Tulu culture is gradually fading away

Raviprasad Kamila

It's attributed to rapid urbanisation in coastal region and rising literacy level among the rural populace



GETTING STALE:A file photo of Nagamandala, a ritual that has now been largely commercialised in Dakshina Kannada.

MANGALORE: It is not easy these days to get an idea of what Tulu culture is all about. Some may have got a glimpse of it during a visit to the ‘Tulu grama' at the recent Vishwa Tulu Sammelan or the heritage village coming up at Pilikula Nisargadhama.

Tulu Nadu, which comprises Dakshina Kannada and Udupi and Kasaragod in Kerala, is now gradually moving away from a paddy and areca-based agrarian economy to a service-based economy. As a result, rituals and other traditional practices associated with agriculture are also changing.

The rapid urbanisation of the region and increase in literacy level among the rural populace seem to have had an impact on traditional Tulu culture, even as a part of that rich culture is fading away and certain practices are undergoing modifications.

Spiritual practices such as Bhootaradhane, Nagaradhane and Siri aradhane; folk dances like Sidda vesha and Aati kalenja; folk literature like ‘pad-danas' (poetic stories); Yakshagana; traditional Tulu practices such as ‘Bisu parba' and ‘Kheddasa' have undergone lot of changes over the years.

A case in point is Siri aradhane, says K. Ashok Alva, Associate Folklorist, Regional Resource Centre for Folk Performing Arts in Udupi. “Some educated persons who have taken religious vows under Siri aradhane now have begun sending their proxies to perform by paying them some money. This trend has set in because some of these educated persons feel embarrassed to perform publicly during the aradhana,” Mr. Alva said.

As agricultural activities, mainly paddy cultivation, are dwindling, folk dances associated with them such as Karangolu kunita, Sonada jogi, Madimmaye madimmal, Maadira and Sonantha jogi have either become extinct or are on the verge of extinction, he said.

Mr. Alva said that ‘Nagamandala' is a ritual associated with a religious vow related to fertility and skin diseases. Now it had become more of an “exhibitory culture” and had been commercialised to such an extent that its hosts spent a minimum of Rs. 25 lakh to Rs. 30 lakh for it. It had gone beyond the reach of the common man, he said.

K. Chinnappa Gowda, a senior professor of Kannada who has done extensive research on Bhootaradhane, said “exhibitory culture” had taken away the aesthetic appeal of these spiritual practices.

Readymade garments and masks were replacing the original costumes and the make-up of artistes who don the role of ‘bhootas'.

Mahalinga, a columnist and playwright, said that folk dances such as ‘Aati kalenja' were earlier performed purely for pleasure. Such dances had now emerged as “performing arts for staging”.

Chandrahasa Rai, Registrar, Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy, said that practices associated with ‘Bisu parba' and ‘Kheddaso' and Deepavali were disappearing as many agriculture families had become nuclear ones.

Mr. Mahalinga said that the people in Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod districts, who once patronised the Tenku Thittu school of Yakshagana, now favoured the Bada Badagu school of Yakshagana of Uttara Kannada.

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