Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Veeranatyam- The Dance of the Brave



Dance is the most interesting form of performing arts that has been encouraged since centuries in India. Each state in India has its own rich culture. Andhra Pradesh is a state in the south -eastern coastal region of India and natives of this wonderful state have introduced a wide range of performing arts, including dance, drama and music to the world. Kuchipudi is amongst the best dances in the world that has emerged from Andhra Pradesh. Besides Kuchipudi many interesting folk dances such as Burrakatha, Butta Bommalu, Dappu, Tappeta Gullu, Veeranatyam etc. emerged in this state. Going deeper in the history I found many interesting facts about one such dance from Andhra Pradesh—the Veeranatyam, which I would like to sharing in this blog.

Veeranatyam is one of the oldest forms of folk dance of Andhara Pradesh. The word Veeranatyam is made of two words-- Veera means brave and Natyam means dance. Thus, as the name suggests, Veeranatyam means the dance of the brave. It is also known as Veerangam and Veerabhadra Nrityam. This dance has deep religious significance. It started as a ritual that was performed in Shiva (Shaivite) temples in the honour of Lord Shiva (the Hindu God). It is a popular dance form in the East and West Godavari which includes Kurnool, Warangal, Ananthapur and Kammam districts in Andhra Pradesh.

There is an interesting mythological story behind this dance. Once Lord Shiva’s wife Sati Devi was humiliated at a function, which made Lord Shiva furious. Lord Shiva, who is also known as the God of destruction, picked out a relic out of his ‘Jatajuta’ (hairs) which created Veerabhadra. He is believed to have portrayed out his extreme anger by performing a vigorous dance; which justifies the name Veeranatyam. It was the dance of destruction. The angry Lord Shiva in the ferocity of rage tarnished the ‘Dakshayagna Vatika ’where this function was held.

The followers of Veerabhadra are best known for performing this style of dance, in particular Veeramusti community in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This dance is performed in three stages. At first, the dancers hold the ‘Veerabhadra Pallen’ which is an enormous plate carrying a fired-up camphor. The dancers carry this huge plate from palms to the elbows. The dance goes on vigorously to the tempo of several percussion instruments until the fire extinguished. Part of this ceremony consists of the ‘Khadgalu’ recital where a pujari (priest) brandishes a long sword representing that of Veerabhadra. In the second stage, the dancer holds a long and sanctified pole smeared with Vibhuti’ (scared ash) which represents the deity’s ‘Dhwaja Sthamba’ with bells tied to the top. In the third stage, the dancers dance with spears and tridents pierced in to their tongue, hands and ankles which are known as ‘Narasam’. The dancers are clad in knee -length coloured ‘dhoti’ and waist sashes and their whole body is smeared with ‘Vibhuti’ (sacred ash). Musical and rhythmic instruments such as Dolu, Soolam, Thasha, Thambura and Veernam (war drum) are used during the dance performances. 

In recent times, Veeranatyam is not only performed in several religious processions by the followers of Veerabhadra (also known as Veeramusti community in Andhra Pradesh) but also it has now taken a shape of a performing art of its own.