Tuesday, 27 March 2018

PALLANKUZHI- An Extinct Traditional Board Game of TamilNadu

Today in the woods of digitalization, children, young and old are found busy on mobiles playing games, reading books, listening to music and learning. People are found less interacting and less physically involved. But years ago people would find ways and create new entertaining games for leisure. One such ancient game is Pallankuzhi also called Mancala. There are lot of online Mancala game apps available on Internet.
Pallankujhi, Pallamkuzhi, Pallangulli, Pallankulli or Alagulimane is a traditional game played in South India particularly in Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka. It is also called Mancala which is said to be originated in Egypt and an European game. Basically Pallankuzhi when distorted into ‘Pal’ which means MANY and ‘kuzhi’ which means PIT or HOLE is translated as many holes. It is a game having a wooden board with many pits and SEEDS. The seeds could be small pebbles, stones, actual tamarind seeds, shells. In some places even actual pits are made in the ground and played by the men. There’s an evidence of such pits in Egyptian pyramids in historical books. Pallankuzhi or Mancala is based on Mathematics and a very good game for children to learn hand and eye coordination along with counting and reasoning. In order to promote this age old game, competitions of Pallankuzhi game involving women are held in Tamilnadu.

The game is played between two players using a wooden board having 14 pits (holes). Each pit contains 6 seeds, in some places it is also played with 5 or 4seeds. The rule is to play in turns; the person with first turn can start by picking all the seeds from any of the holes from his/ her respective side. After picking the 6 seeds from say Pit A4 (see pic above), the player has to drop the seeds one by one in the succeeding pits i.e. pit A5, A6, A7, B7, B6, B5. Remember the game is played counter clockwise.  The same player will continue to play by picking all the seeds from the pit next to the pit into which last seed was dropped i.e B5. So the player A will pick all the seeds from pit B4 and continue to drop in counter clock direction. There are some strategies and important things to remember:

1.       If the last seed falls into a pit with an empty pit succeeding it, then the seeds in the pit beyond the empty pit are captured as bonus by the active player.
2.       If the last seed falls into a pit which is followed by 2 empty pits then the turn is over and the next player starts playing.
3.        If in the process of dropping seeds, the pit count comes to 4 then the respective pit owner captures those 4 seeds as bonus and keeps it aside.

4.       If there are no seeds left in any of the pits to move from either of the sides, then the round is over. The seeds remaining in opponent’s pits are captured by the opponents as bonus.
In the next round the bonus seeds are filled into the pits with 6 seeds each. If any of the pits are not completely filled then that pit is considered useless and it is covered with a leaf or paper and not used in the new round. The extra seeds left are kept individually by the opponents. The game continues with the rules and ends with a winner having maximum number of seeds as bonus.

In the past, the game, which is based on the concept of ‘sowing and harvesting’, was played using tamarind seeds, roadside pebbles or cowry shells. Today, if you order a set online, you might be unwrapping a neatly-packaged cardboard box, complete with a board made of highly-compressed waste wood, carefully-selected pure white pebbles, and an elaborate list of rules.There is elaborate mention about it in A Book of Historic Board Games by Damian Gareth Walker, and a documentation by Irving Finkel.

 Despite a strong mention about communities gathering to play games, and temple floor patterns standing as proof for the same, there is a tendency to ignore games while talking about Indian heritage.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Pulikali- Unique Tiger Parade Carnival of Kerela

India is a country with varied cultures and festivals. All the festivals symbolizes color, vibrancy and faith. Onam is one such important harvest festival which celebrates the beginning of first day of Malayalam calendar (Kollavarsham). Onam is a carnival of folk dances, feasts, games for four to ten days. Pulikali is one of the folk dances performed on the 4th day of ONAM.  Puli Kali which is also known as Kaduvaakali is an Art form of Thrissur district of Kerala, India.
Pulikali -Tiger Play

 The name Puli Kali literally means TIGER PLAY. In Malayalam language (mother tongue of Kerala) ‘Puli’ means Tiger and ‘Kali’ means Play. Onam is celebrated to welcome the spirit of King Mahabali who was a demon(asura) but during his reign it is said that Kerala was a prosperous and happy state. It could be to symbolize the mighty king in the form of mighty animal – Tiger in the PuliKali dance form.
Carnival of tiger play

In this play, the artists enact themselves as tigers and leopards by painting their whole body with red, black and yellow colors and wear tiger masks. This folk art’s main attraction is the fat bellied men dancing on a particular rhythm or tune. Earlier the performers used to paint their faces as tigers using ‘tempera’ powder which took hours to dry and was a daunting and artistic task. Today ready made masks are worn along with a belt made of bells around the waist. But still the artistically tiger face painted on bellies are crowd pullers. It is a great way for artists from nearby places to present and showcase their art through the tiger paintings made on human body.

This dance was originated 200 years ago under the rule of King Ramavarma, when the king wanted to celebrate Onam with a special dance form which represented wild and macho spirit. Later this form of tiger dance was also loved and enacted by the Muslim soldiers of British army posted then in Thrissur to perform and celebrate Muharram festival. It was then called as ‘Pulikkettikali’.  As time passed, the dance form got popular among the youngsters due to its aggression and energetic actions. Based on a common theme of Tiger attacking preys and Hunting scenario, various groups or ‘Sangams’ as they call, come from different villages of Thrissur district on the 4th day of Onam .They all assemble at Naduvilal in the Swaraj round of Thrissur which is the center of the city and offer a coconut to Lord Ganesha of the Vadakkunathan temple. Then they carry out processions on the streets and dance all day on the beats of instruments like ‘ thakil’, ‘udukku’ , ‘ chhenda’ and many more. The energy and enthusiasm is looked for and enjoyed by the crowd and is an attraction for the visitors and travellers too.

 For many it is a nostalgic memory of their childhood and many come back from different parts of the world with their children to show them this unique art – PULI KALI on this special day of Onam. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Janakpur- The Birthplace of Goddess Sita

Janakpur is also known as Janakpurdham  has been mentioned in Ramanayana as birthplace of goddess Sita. Janakpur is situated in Nepal and is just 20 kilometers from the Indian border and can be easily reached by car. It is a beautiful, calm place, located in the foothills of Himalaya. It is forested and marshy terrain at the base of the Himalaya mountain range with few rivers like Dudhmati, Jalad, Rato, Balan and Kamala crossing the area at various places. It is famous for its temples and the numerous ponds of religious importance.
Janakpur Main Temple, Nepal

Janakpuri Main Temple, Nepal   

The city is famous for Ram Janaki Temple which is in the center of the city that draws allusions to the famous Hindu epic Ramayana. Statues of Rama and his half-brothers Lakshman, Bharat and Satrughna stand by Sita. Early evenings are the best times to visit, for then the temple is lit with colorful lights and filled with hundreds of pilgrims expressing devotion for Sita and Rama. The temple is particularly popular with women, who wear their best clothes when visiting the shrine. Adjacent to the Janaki Mandir is the Rama Sita Bibaha Mandir, a building that marks the place where Rama and Sita were married.

Ram & Sita Statues at Janakpuri Temple, Nepal   

September to April is pleasant and several festivals fall during this period. Regular bus / Car services are available from Kathmandu and other Indian cities. Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit Janakpur to pay homage to Sita at the time of Vivah Panchami, the marriage day of Sita and Ram (the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha or waxing phase of moon in November/December) and on Ram Navami.

Janakpuri Temple, Nepal   

Another important religious site nearby is Dhanushadham, its reference again dating back to the Ramayan era. It is believed to be the place where the broken remains of the divine Shiva bow fell after Ram broke it to obtain Sita's hand in marriage.

If you are visiting Bihar than Janakpur should be in your itinerary list.

Tourist Services:
 Luxury hotels to budget accommodation and food facilities are available in Janakpur city. Dharamshalas (accommodation for pilgrims) are also available. Food is delicious with Indian touch. Varieties of sweets and vegetarian specialties are available. Other tourist facilities are also available in Janakpur city

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Murudeshwar: An Unexplored Spiritual ,Energetic and Picturesque beauty

We thought to welcome 2016 in some lesser known, less crowded and not very far from Bangalore place. And while searching on google, I came across a massive statue of lord Shiva. Seeing the statue just charmed my imaginations and the reality was much more fascinating.

Sunset at Murudeshwar

The huge towering statue of Lord Shiva can be seen from a great distance, as soon as one enters the city.  Our driver informed us that it’s the second highest statue of Lord Shiva in the world. The design of the idol is such that the sunlight directly falls on the statue making it to sparkle when the sun rises. It’s a massive photography opportunity to click the epic seaside statue of Lord Shiva looking over the shimmering Arabian Sea and the magnificent Western Ghats.

Arial View of  Temple

Murudeshwar temple from other side

Murdeshwar, is a small enchanting town in BhatkalTaluk of Uttara Kannada district in the state of Karnataka, India. It’s a beautiful place with the small beach town located on the coast of Arabian sea.
Murudeshwar temple, a well-known pilgrimage place, enclosed by Arabian sea on its 3 sides has a commanding presence in this town. A 20 storied monumental tower, known as Gopuram, is built in front of the temple. The temple authorities have installed a lift inside the tower which gives a breath taking aerial view of the Shiva statue to the tourists.
Back side view of the temple

The entire temple and temple complex, including the 237.5-feet-tall Raja Gopura, is one among the tallest and was constructed to its present form by businessman and philanthropist Mr.R. N. Shetty.The temple is entirely modernized with exception of the sanctum sanctorum which is still dark and retains its composure. The main deity is Sri MridesaLinga, also called Murudeswara. The linga is believed to be a piece of the original AtmaLinga and is about two feet below ground level. The devotees performing special sevas like Abhisheka, Rudrabhisheka, Rathotsava etc. can view the deity by standing before the threshold of the sanctum and the Lingam is illuminated by oil lamps held close by the priests.

Temple complex
A striking stretch of green lawns, this area along around the 15m tall statue of Shiva houses various flowering plants, stone sculptures as well as small ponds inhabited by ducks. The artificial waterfall rushing down over the boulders is a marvellous view.

Apart from the temple, there are other attractions  as well in the city which include exciting seaside activities like swimming, snorkeling and boat rides, as the sea is calm, unruffled and beautiful .
The temple and fort are also the most visited spots, captivating one with their rustic charm and beauty. The Murudeshwar beach, however has become a little overcrowded and unclean and could be avoided.One can find enough souvenirs such as beads, beaded jewellery, handmade home decor, bags to fill shopping bag.
Whether you are religious or not,Murudeshwar deserves one trip in your lifetime.

Where to stay:
The accommodation available in Murudshwar is also limited. We stayed at RNS Regency and it is a decent hotel with a marvellous view.
The best time to visit this area would be between the months of October and March.

How to Reach:
By Road: Murudeshwar Temple is connected by KSRTC and private transport from Mangalore (165km) and Bangalore (455km). Most buses plying between Mangalore and Mumbai stop at Murudeshwar
By Train: Murudeshwara lies on the Konkan Railway route. There are multiple trains from Mangalore or Mumbai and the station to stop at is Murudeshwar railway station
By Air: Mangalore is the nearest Airport and is around 165 kms from Murudeshwar Temple


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Vilasini Natyam: Salvaging a Fading Dance Form

I guess very few people would have heard the name of this dance form Vilasini Natyam. First time,  I heard about this dance form in India International Centre in Delhi. They have organised a three days Vilasini festival. I attended the festival on Vilasini Natyan by maestro Swapnasundari where she has given a mind blowing performance.  With curiosity, I started searching the roots of this unknown dance form.

A Dance form of Vilasini Natyam
 Vilasini natyam (which means “hereditary dance tradition”) is the name given to the sensual dance-form of the bhogam-sannis, women consecrated by the temple deity in Andhra Pradesh. Called “devadasis” in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, these women passed on their training exclusively to their daughters. Unfortunately this tradition came to an abrupt end when when the devadasi practice was abolished in 1988 by the national government. Social pressures also threatened vilasini natyam. “The dancers took an oath never to perform again. Nor would they teach the dance to their daughters.
Vilasini Natyam is a tradition followed by Kalavantalus. In its glorious period, the Kings used to invite Kalvantalus to perform when there were guests at the court. This was to impress the guests with the art form. Vilasini Natyam is a demanding art form. The dancers of Vilasini Natyam have to sing on stage while performing, regardless of whether they have a good voice or not.

Swapnaundari- Prominent Dancer of Vilasini Natyam

One of the prominent dancer of Vilasini Natyam  Swapna-sundari Rao-Prakash has written a well-researched book “Vilasini Natyam Bharatam of Telugu Temple and Court Dancers”  on this dance form. According to book, vilasini natyam as an ancient tradition that existed only in the temples, before moving into the royal courts. It gives an account of its origin, rise, decline and renaissance into the form Vilasini Natyam.
Though Vilasini Natyam movements appear quintessentially feminine, its hundred-odd Adavus (dance-units) include the Tandava (vigorous) and Lasya (soft) aspects. Vilasini Natyam's complex Abhinaya is widely admired. Its extensive repertoire comprises Temple dances, Court dances and Dance operas of the hereditary female singer-dancers of Telugu origin.
Our Country is so rich in culture and tradition and if we can do little bit of effort from our side, we can easily save these vanishing traditions.

Source:Wikipedia,Hindu, Times of India
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