Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Kali`s Righteous Dance of Death

Pallivalu Bhadravattakam - Rasana Nair

    Being a second generation expat from Kerala,  born and raised across the sub-continent of India, my brush with the land of my forefathers was limited to visits for family get-togethers like marriages and funerals.. And beyond the over-protective and watchful eyes of my loving uncles\aunts I knew a colorful and vibrant plethora of possibilities existed to which I did not have access then (as I was a child and a “fragile” city dweller) .  Come of age, my curiosity and restlessness to discover my roots was pressing but the rituals of life took priority… till recently, as luck would have it, my father-in-law, while dusting his collection of old records opened the rabbit hole into wonderland for me again....

    This song is sung at the Bagvathy (local representation of Kali \ Durga) temples after the annual summer harvest festival across central and western Kerela, The song sings of the victorious battle of Bagvathy against the demon Darika. The story is also depicted in a dance form called Mudiyettu, a ritual dance drama based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. The Theme depicts the glorious victory and triumph of Bagvathy over the asura (demon) Darika. The characters in this dance are heavily dressed up with gorgeous costumes, intricate and elaborate with the conventional facial painting and head gear (kolam), attired and adorned with the unique weirdness and hideousness the story of the deadly dance comes to life and seems quite surreal !! 

The story goes :  After rigorous meditation to Lord Brahma, Brahma granted immunity from death at the hands of any man to the fiercest Asura (demons) Darika, knowing that he was a asura he gives the boon with a small clause “that he would die only at the hands of a woman”. The demon grew powerful and became a threat for the gods and godly men. After several attempts by the gods to defeat him, Lord Siva evoked Bhadrakali (Bagvathy\Kali\Durga) following the importunes by Sage Narada. All the gods donated their special weapons.

 Darika who was an expert in elusive night time battle, was conned into believing that the darkness engulfing was the nightfall, while actually Bhadrakali had shadowed the sun with her hair, giving the impression that the sun had set, and that smoked out Darika. 'Pallivalu Bhadravattakam' refers to the temple sword and anklet used in the battle as weapons by Bhadrakali! And in a fierce and long drawn battle Good triumphs over Evil as in all mythological stories….