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The Village of Gundabala

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Interview with Uday Bhat
First Online: August 1, 2001
Page Last Updated: November 01, 2016

My visit to the amazing village of Gundabala would not have been possible without the generous hospitality of the Bhat family. Uday Bhat, the younger of the family, patiently and enthusiastically explained the traditions of the temple to me and my wife. Some excerpts from the conversation.
-Vikas Kamat

First Read : Dancing for the Gods -- In the remote village of Gundabala, a classical performance of Yakshagana is played for the appeasement of Lord Hanuman every night for eight months.

Question: If the performance is so popular and it is booked for six years, why not conduct two performances at a time?
  Ha ha. I see that you are westernized; "Increase the supply to meet the demand". The matters of faith require more stringent discipline and devotion. We do have multiple performances  (called Jodi-ata or dual plays) at times, but the temple and the elders have resisted watering down of the devotees' vows. 

Q: Can the devotees perform ?
Yes, but only after taking some training in the classical steps. Some families request small roles in a play to fulfill their vow, but it is becoming rare. So these days devotees are pledging that they will attend all night performance if their favor is received.

Q: Why there are no woman performers?
The performance goes on for the entire night you know. Tradition, co-habitation of the artists, lack of facilities for women like bathroom, all these factors are barriers.

Q: What are permanent vows ?
Permanent vows are annual vows. Some devotees have pledged an annual performance for the rest of their life.

Q: (pointing to an empty field) Do any local people attend the performances?
A: Of course. In the summer the audience is quite large. But due to the length of the performance (all night long), it becomes difficult for women and children to sit through the entire performance.

Q: What attracts the artists to this remote village?
A: Classical conditioning. Many of the famous artists began their careers here and the prestige of performing in Gundabala attracts devoted artists. Many of our current performers have had shows in Europe and in the U.S.A.

Q: You have no road, and no eatery here in Gundabala. But you have satellite TV ?!!
A:  Life has to go on you know. The weather reports are very important to us farmers. The last time, we only had a couple of hours of warning till the river ransacked our property. Over the years many farmers have encroached the Sharavati river, and during the monsoon, the river cannot pass enough water and floods the farms.

Q: I see you have a very nice farm.
Yes. It was built by the sweat and blood of my father. We have an annual crop of about 200,000 coconuts.

See Also:

  • Dance of the Celestials -- Yakshagana is a complete theater which includes song, dance and drama.

  • Path of Devotion -- Explore the Bhakti movement in India including the important proponents. A supplemental photo exhibition shows devout Indians at worship.

  • Appeasing God -- An insider's guide to understanding the elements of devotion and faith in India; includes details of what the devotees do to earn divine favors.

  • My visit to Gundabala by Hiryoung Kim Kamat Coming Soon

  • When Kamat Met India… -- From great historians to boy monks, a great collection of interviews with a cross section of Indian society.


Dancing for Gods at Gundabala
Tradition at Gundabala

Backstage at GundabalaMidnight MakeupInvitation to Lord Ganesh
Midnight Offerings at Gundabala TempleStage Set for a Devotional Performance of YakshaganaMap Showing Gundabala

Kamat's Potpourri Timeless Theater Karavali Gundabala

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