The ‘Aati’ season which falls in the months of July-August brings a festive delight to the Tulunadu region.

‘Aati’ is the heavy rain month in the Tulu calendar. The calendar, one of the oldest Traditional Indian solar calendars, is generally used in the northern regions of Kasaragod district in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada, in Udupi districts in Karnataka.

Although the rain brings nature to life, the month is also marked by natural calamities in the form of floods and landslides. Heavy rains also destroy crops and agriculture comes to a halt. Floods also cause disease and pests. Therefore, people veneration the spirit of nature embodied by “Aati Kalenja”, which is believed to descend to Parashurama Kshetra in the season.

By Vishwanatha Badikana – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44769374

The local community of Nalike performs a ritual folk dance. Dressed in an ecological costume made of leaves and flowers, a majestic headgear called “Mudi” made from stems of Ixora coccinea (Kepula in Kannada), the Kalenja puts on a spectacular spectacle.

With brightly painted hands, legs and face, a skirt made of tender coconut leaves intertwined with sprigs of banana sheath, and an umbrella of dry palm leaves, the Kalenja visits the homes of people who feel blessed to have the opportunity to receive the spirit of nature at their doorstep.

Kalenja dances to the rhythm of the “tembere” and carries ritual water – a mixture of turmeric, charcoal and tamarind, to ward off evil spirits and misfortune. As a traditional healer, he also sometimes dispenses herbal remedies to overcome disease. The accompanying drummer sings “Aateek Baththe Aati Kalenja”, a song that tells the story of the spirit.

The performance begins on the poove – the eve of the full moon and continues until the end of the month.

Growing urbanization has to put pressure on folk art which, until recently, was only transmitted orally from one generation to the next. With the disappearance of rice fields in the countryside, dancing is also threatened, mainly limited to areas relatively spared from urbanization.


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