Reviving a tradition

Water continues to be a precious resource, and rains just as important for our well-being. Marabu Foundation, based in Thillaisthanam, has since 1989 been supporting the dying practice of Javantharai, a 45-day Kolattam festival, once popular in the villages of central and south Tamil Nadu. The fest is for girls, aged between five and 16. A potter makes a little image of a cow and calf and the customary nine grains are made to sprout. It is for this ‘temporary’ deity that girls perform Kolattam as an invocation to the Rain God. Called ‘Dandalasya’ in Sanskrit, Kolattam is popular across India. ‘Dandya Ras,’ is the Gujarati equivalent. The dancers themselves sing the songs, which are mostly on Lord Krishna, and pray for rains and rich harvests in the coming year. The significant verse is – “Swamy, give us rain; let the tanks and ponds overflow; let whatever we sow turn into gold; let us see many husks of grain!”

A few songs have humour in them as well, such as the lines that have Krishna complaining to his mother. Most of the musical pieces are common to all villages, of course, with minor variations, and all have simple tunes. Some were authored in the 19th century by housewives and published, but most of them have been passed on orally from one generation to another.

What used to be a twice-a-day affair during the festival is now restricted to one-time ritual in the evenings. The culmination is on the 45th day when the idol, called the Pasuvan, is taken into the river. The evening is more an enjoyable outing.

The foundation has, in the past several years, made this an inclusive affair, that also teaches the children to concentrate and coordinate better. “The foundation has particularly assisted dyslexic girl children to get an opportunity to mingle with others, and more importantly helped in their own learning”, we are told. In the past few years, enthusiastic boys have also participated, thus evolving a new, male dimension to the dance. Older children perform complex patterns, such as, ‘Pinnal Kolattam.’ Thus it is both a form of recreation and physical exercise for the children of the village, which follows the old tradition of offering special food for all, on the occasion.

One hopes that more villages would revive such simple, sensible practices!

Email for more information on the foundation.


Lily | 22 September 2018, 21:26

Thank God! Somnoee with brains speaks!

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