Roaarrrr…Making of the ‘Pili’ for ‘Mangaluru Dasara’

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Roaarrrr…Making of the ‘Pili’ for ‘Mangaluru Dasara’

Mangaluru: The “Pilis” (Tigers) are on the prowl around the Barke and Car street areas, and they are all gearing up for the big “Mangaluru Dasara” procession as part of Shree Gokarnanatheshwara Navarathri celebrations. The tiger troupe of the famous Barke Friends Club were full of enthusiasm and energy, and were all ready to hit the streets . Growling and prancing to the wild rhythms of percussion, these “tigers” will roam the streets of Mangaluru, and will also be dancing on the tableau during the forthcoming Dasara procession, as thousands of onlookers will cheer on.

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Before Vesha….

The tiger dance is very popular in Mangaluru and in DK. Mangaluru Dasara is going on in full swing, and the festival, like any other festival, is a big draw among children in the Dakshina Kannada district. Tiger Dance in Mangaluru is a unique form of dance that is performed by the people of Kudla during Dussehra (Dasara). Tiger Dance here is one of the most popular dances in South India. Both young and old in Mangaluru are fascinated by the dance form. In fact, both young and old take part in the Tiger Dance.

Tiger Dance is performed on the pious occasions of Dussehra. According to the Hindu mythology, the tiger is the carrier of Goddess Sharada, also known as Goddess Durga. Therefore, the Tiger Dance is performed by the devotees on the occasion of Dussehra. Dussehra is a festival that celebrates the victory of the good over evil. The Tiger Dance celebrates the grandeur of Devi Durga. The devotees show their reverence towards Goddess Sharada through the Tiger Dance. Tiger Dance forms a major part of the festivities of Mangaluru and is among the favorite dance forms of the coastal city.

The rituals of Mahanavami Utsav was held a couple of days ago and the idols of Sharada and Nav Durga were installed on the same day as a part of the festivities. Visitors to this coastal town at this time can experience the famous Tiger Dance and The Bear Dance, which are the main attractions of Mangaluru Dasara. These dance forms are typically performed by young artistes who roam the streets and houses of Mangaluru. The dance is performed to honour Goddess Durga and this dance form attracts thousands of outsiders from around the country every year.

…. After Vesha

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Talking to the “Godfather” of Barke Friends Club, Yajneshwar “Yeddu” Barke, he said, “We are proud to be in our 24th year of tiger dance performances. Our tiger team was started by Polali Kamalaksha in 1992, and we still continue his work after his death. This year we have 55 tigers, of which 40 are adults (tigers) and 15 are children (cubs). Painting cost for each tiger comes around Rs 3500. Our painters are very artistic and do a great job. We have five experienced painters, assisted by 11 helpers. We have great support from our well-wishers, and we continue our tradition in a big bang every year. It gets better and better each year, and next year will be a blast when we celebrate our silver jubilee”.

The pantomime-cum-parade dance will speak of a rich tradition and culture that has its roots in the peaceful cohabitation of many religious communities in the City. But the spectacular demonstration of colour, sound and movements of the “tigers” troupe say little of the painstaking efforts of the performers before they take to the streets. Painting the body is an arduous process that deprives both the painter and the performer of sleep for at least two days. I was there last night (October 10) until the wee hours while the painting of body was going on, and this morning (October 11) when I went there the “tigers” were still standing straight without any sleep (Ssssh..some kid “cubs” were yawning?) The whole body of the performer is shorn of hair as the painting attains perfection only on smooth skin.

The paint that they use is made by grinding colour tempera powders into a fine paste into which fluorescent colours are added. Copal varnish is mixed with the paste and then applied to the body. The paint can be washed off only by first applying kerosene. When asked whether the paint on their body which they have to keep it on for nearly two days will bother them, the “tigers” together said,” Not at all. We are used to it and we love to be in colour?” There was also a performance by the Barke Friends Tigers at the Volleyball Court-near Mangala Stadium from 2 pm- 4 pm, watched by a large gathering.

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Satish, who has been donning the tiger mask for the last 22 years, sees the whole process as tortuous, but rewarding when people cheer and compliment them. The event requires few lakhs for its smooth functioning, depending on the number of performers, but the major expenses are met through donations by art lovers and collections from well-wishers, houses and shops. So if you are looking to get a glimpse of Mangaluru’s famous “Human Tigers” head on to the “Mangaluru Dasara” procession this week.

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