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Durable Link to this BlogThursday, April 23, 2009

Hagarana - An ancient folkplay of Uttara Kannada

Uttara Kannada or the district of North Kanara of Karnataka State, is homeland of several antiquarian customs and rituals. Many archaic terms exist in the Havyaka Kannada dialect, spoken by local Havyak Brahmins, that were used by poet Pampa in the 10th century CE. Hence there is no surprise that Hagarana, now known as Hagana an ancient form of play is still in vogue in the district, though it has totally disappeared from other parts of Karnataka.

The term Hagarana is dervied from Sanskrit "Prakarana" a longish play or dramatized form of epic. No doubt, there were all-night plays enacted on special occasions of village and car festivals, bringing together several communities. Such Hagaranas used to have several dance sequences, song stories, comic interludes, complimentary or other wise to the main drama. Like all other Indian art forms, this folk play is also religious in nature and represents rituals and beliefs of the community at large.

Haga(ra)na is arranged among natives, like Gamokkals, Halakki farmers, Mukris and Ambigas. The locality they live in, is identified as "Koppa". Fifteen to twenty families live together in such Koppas. Every year roofing is done for their cottages with straw and coconut leaf thatches and that is the occasion to arrange a Hagana. At times these groups go on pilgrimage to Tirupati or Gokarn and on return in fulfillment of the vow, they celebrate the occasion with Hagana.

Invitation is extended to residents of other Koppas as well, and people start arriving by dusk at the fixed place, either the open space of the Koppa or courtyard of the village temple. Margal (dancers on stilts), and masked dancers follow. The place is known as Adukatte (place of play). Usually it is around the Tulasikatte or the platform built for Tulasi plant. Since bhuta worship is common among these communities, bhutas (deities) like jatga or chowdi are worshiped and beating of the gumta drums starts. Gumtas are earthen pots with narrow openings at both ends. These ends are tightly covered with the skin of Uda (Iguana) Which gives resonant sound for singing and dancing, when beaten rhythmically. Gumte pangu are smaller drums carried to the place of Hagana and beaten by turns by the expert villagers.

In earlier times, during the annual Bandi Festival, when deity was carried in procession, masked dancers lead all the way from the place of worship to place of performance; men dressed as women participated. Gumta players accompanied and torches of dried coconut leaves and big oil lamps created a somber and awful atmosphere. At times the priest (patri) entered into trance at the place of worship and oracles and "divine" utterances were common, which the Godfearing villagefolk took seriously.

© K. L. Kamat

Halakki Tribals with Gumate Instruments

Today, The word "Hagarana" in common Kannada and Konkani parlance has come to indicate alarming or uncalled for confusion. But that "hagarana" indicated masked costumed dance performance is clear from references in Old Vaddaradhane (10th CE) and Vachana literature (12thCE). Hagana thesedays is reduced to smaller disconnected performances of amateur artistes who take it up for fulfillment of a vow, of their tribe or community. It is also becoming rarer as the tribes are getting urbanized and giving up their native customs.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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