Puja Kunita (pUjA kuNita) (ಪೂಜಾಕುಣಿತ) is a form of religious folk dance practiced widely in the districts of Mandya, Bangalore,(Rural) Ramanagara, Kolara, Tumkur and Mysore. This ritual dance is associated invariably with the worship of ‘shakti’ the mother Goddess. pUje’ is the name given to a contraption made of bamboo poles and its peelings. This is about five feet in length and four feet in width. A mask representing the particular village deity is set in the middle of this structure called ‘taLi’. ‘MAramma’, ‘chowdamma’, muthyAlamma’ and ‘Gowda Chandramma’ are a few of them. Coloured sarees offered to the Goddess are used to decorate and cover the structure and they provide a colourful tapestry on either side of the mask. Seven or nine ‘kaLasha’s (A sanctified vessel) are fixed on the upper part of the ‘taLi’ in a series. They are made of either silver or brass. An aura made of brass goes round the face of the mask. The ornaments presented by the devotees adorn the face of the mask. An urn made of bronze or brass is tied tightly to the ‘taLi’. This urn nestles tightly on the head of the pUja dancer. The mask of the Goddess varies from village to village depending on the ‘grama dEvate’ of that particular place.
‘PUjA kuNita’ is performed not only on annual occasions such as village fairs, but also to fulfill owes taken by the devotees. The priest appointed to perform the worship and the dancers are different. The performance is given in an open field or in front of the village temple. The performers are dressed in a simple attire consisting of white shirt, white dhoti and head gear. They dance to the tunes of instruments such as nagAri, DOlu, ‘hare’, ‘tuDAm’ and tamaTe. Usually the movements are very rhythmic and they sway gently with their burden. But sometimes the movements are quite acrobatic. They assume different positions in lightning speed with utmost facility. The movements are technically described as ‘mUrhejje’, ‘nAlkhejje’ etc. Some times the dancers walk carefully on a row of inverted pots taking care to see that not one of them is broken, all the time carrying the ‘pUje’ on their heads. Occasionally they walk on a rope. Once in a while they hold two young boys in their arm pits and perform the dance. Another interesting feature of this dance is that it is almost totally devoid of any oral component. Stories or songs do not form an integral part of this ritual. It is exclusively visual. However, the “visual mode of communication is so strong that the spectators are quick to grasp the meaning and the degree of intense devotion communicated by the dancers.”
‘Onake Pooje’ is another variant where the dance is performed carrying a huge wooden pestle on the head. All in all, this entire dance is a nice combination of religious fervour and community entertainment.
Further Readings and Links:
1. www.samashti.com/vesha.htm (Photograph)
2. www.webindia123.com/karnataka/ART/dances.htm (Photograph)
3. www.locateindia.com/karnataka/arts-culture.html (Photograph)