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The charm of Gaarudi Gombe

Pooja Mahesh Jan 29 2018, 23:16 IST
Gaarudi Gombe performers in a procession.

Gaarudi Gombe performers in a procession.

Gaarudi Gombe (which translates to magical dolls) is an intriguing folk dance prevalent in many parts of Karnataka. The origin of the Gaarudi Gombe lies in the epic Mahabharata. When Krishna's wife Satyabhama was angry with him, he is said to have pacified her by wearing a giant doll suit. Gaarudi Gombes are usually seen during temple festivals and processions. The dance usually depicts various characters from Indian folk stories and classics. This dance is usually performed as a way to ward off evil spirits while keeping the tone of the tale fun. While it is known as Gaarudi Gombe in some places of the State, it is called as Tattiraaya in some other areas.

So, what are these giant doll suits made? The doll is entirely made of bamboo sticks. Using appropriate sketches and colours, the face of the doll is created by applying a layer of papier-mâché on top of the bamboo frame created for it. Making the face can take up to a week. The doll's costume makes use of bright colours and is at times made similar to the costumes that Yakshagana dancers wear.

The dolls are around 12 feet in height and can weigh nearly 40 kg. As the bottom is left open, a person can fit himself into the frame from the underneath and perform the dance. He carries this huge structure on his shoulder. Provisions are made for the performer to see outside. As the dolls weigh a lot, most of the performers are usually men. The dancers also take turns carrying the dolls as the performance can go on for almost eight hours.

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