Folk dances, as native art forms have existed since time unknown to man. Come witness one of the most ancient art forms native to Pollachi and its surrounding villages – kummipaatu – a dance form that came to be known so because of the Tamil word kommai, meaning to dance along with the clapping of the hands.
While there are various forms, the one practiced in Vettaikaranpudur is known as Valliamman kummi.
Amidst the steep decline for popularity of this art form, one man and his efforts to sustain kummipaatu, echo through the streets of Vettaikaranpudur. Having trained under legendary dancers since he was 18, the now 60-something-old Balasubramaniam, trains nearly 50 performers of all ages – men, teenagers and children.
The men are dressed rather simply, in a white veshti and clean shirt, with bells around their feet.
23 acts so rich in history, culture, verses, music, rhythm and meaning have been instrumental in giving Pollachi an identity. Today, it is increasingly becoming a hotspot for travellers who come seeking a cultural immersion – establishing the fact that art doesn’t need a village to survive, but villages are in need of art to thrive.
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Fiercely loyal to their traditions and firmly united against letting the scruples of modern mind-set invade what they believe to be the essence of their culture, is what makes this tribe of Thevar Aatam performers special. With truly exceptional talent requirring for this particular dance form, it is restricted to a handful of male members in a village. Every boy child from the tender age of three upwards to a wizened elder, participate in the rhythmic steps to the unmistakable sound of a special musical instrument popularly known as urumi.
The dancers assemble on an open ground set against a backdrop that would be a dream come true for any performer! The rugged mountains loom large, quietly stating their magnificence in shades of slate, ochre and olive thereby offering a breath-taking contrast to the red earth and the lush canopy of evergreens, highlighting the natural beauty of Pollachi and its surroundings.
Not only does it add a great deal to the viewing pleasure of the onlooker but the natural elements seem most fitting a stage for a show that is believed to be equally ancient.
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