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Dancing to a festive beat

Located on the Gouribidnur-Gudibande Road, a dry and desolate village on a hilly terrain, Vatada Hosahalli is where, once in five years, families belonging to the Kuruba community (Gali and Gosi Kurubas) gather in thousands for the Mahadeshwara Jathra (fest) held at a foothill nearby.

Despite there being obstacles like water scarcity, lack of proper transport and other problems, villagers — who are mostly from the backward taluks of Chikkaballapur and Kolar districts — religiously organise this rural fair with much enthusiasm, thus carrying forward a rich cultural tradition.

“We are small farmers from backward villages and we cannot afford to hold this hill festival every year. But we don’t want to discontinue the tradition started by our ancestors so it is being held only once in five years,” says Yajman Ashwathappa. Uphill, there is a small shrine housing the hill deity Mahadeshwara and about a kilometre from there is the Ashwaththa Katte with rows of Nagakallu, stone idols of the serpent god, lined up under a huge Ashwaththa tree. During the three-day Vatada Hosahalli Jathra, special poojas are offered to the hill shrine and hundreds of women devotees offer Naga-thani and other poojas to the Nagarakallu.

Poojas, mass feeding and other rituals are conducted as part of the festival. But none as enthralling as the folk dance Dollu Kunitha which is a popular event of this fair. The fascinating folk dance is accompanied by the beating of Dollu (drums) and soulful singing. Dollu Kunitha is a temple tradition followed for generations by the Kuruba Gowdas for whom it is an artistic way of worshipping their family deity Beereshwara. In North Karnataka, Dollu vadya (beat) is known to be a customary ritual followed as part of the daily pooja in temples, particularly in temples dedicated to Beereshwara or Beeralingeshwara.

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