Somana Kunitha - A Folk Dance Celebrating Spirits and Village Deity

Every time we drive past DakshinaChitra on ECR, Chennai, we used to think, one day we should go there. Over a long weekend, finally we made it and the experience was very rewarding. 

Nowadays, DakshinaChitra is also becoming a prime location for wedding photo shoots! However, this is a heritage museum. Those who wish to get a glimpse on art and architecture of southern states of India, DakshinaChitra, is a must go destination. Trust me you won't be disappointed. Check their events calendar when you plan for a visit. Usually over the weekends and public holidays they have live performances. 

The museum is housed in 10 acres on ECR, facing the Bay of Bengal. We knew there was going to be a performance at 4 pm on that day. We were quite early, so we were exploring traditional houses of Kerala, which was near the performance ground. By 3.45 pm, we were exhausted and wanted to get a drink, so we were heading out of the ground and...suddenly we heard vibrant music from behind. We turned around to look. 

We were mesmerized by the huge colorful masks that were fast approaching towards the ground. That's it! We forgot about heat, thirst and just rushed back and found a perfect spot to watch the performance. At that time we didn't know about the name of that folk art. 

The musicians filed towards the stage area. The artists who carried the mask on their head slipped it on their faces with deft moves. The one who looked like the leader was carrying a whip, he came center stage and announced that they were going to perform Somana Kunitha, a folk dance native of Tumkur, Karnataka. 

As the lead was narrating in Kannada, I had to do the guess work and all i could get was that the performance had something to do with Godess Chamundesweri. Let me share the visual treat:

After the performance, we approached the group and thanked them for the wonderful performance and had a chat with the lead. We learned that the dance was to celebrate victory of good spirit over the bad one. Soma means mask and Kunitha is dance. The red mask represented good and the yellow the bad. The lead was actually the priest who invokes Godess Chamundesweri to support the good spirit! Had a chance for these close ups too. 

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Wish DakshinaChitra can arrange for translators for all the performances, so that non-native speakers of that particular folk art too can get a better understanding!


Thinking Out of the Box!

Most of us have out of the world ideas, right? Some of us dare to speak up, while others don’t! Crazy ideas and quirky habits go hand in hand. See a connection? No?

Well, clouds have been influencing me big time. They are dynamic, they keep moving and changing shapes. Instead of looking at clouds as meteorological phenomena, I look at them for inspiration and believe that they are constantly trying to communicate with us! I have been watching these majestic beings since childhood. 

When I was growing up, I tried to talk with “real life friends” about my passion or rather attachment towards clouds! All I received was weird looks. Already, I was labeled as a naughty tomboy character. In fact I was also called as ’Vaishnavan’…on top of all these, I was not keen in getting labeled as cranky! So, I stopped sharing about my secret friends. Instead, I started to take pictures and write about them.

Not just writing skills, my secret friends were constantly shaping my thought process and guide me in all walks of life! For example, often I’ve heard people saying ‘Every cloud has a silver lining!’ to console the depressed. But, it was difficult for me to comprehend the connection between dire situation and clouds with silver lining, until I saw them with my own eyes.

Once I was hurrying up for meeting with a difficult client. The skies looked dark and ominous. I already was apprehensive and thought that this impending thunderstorm would worsen and the traffic would play on my nerves. When I was about to get inside my car, I saw a dark heavy cloud traveling towards the way I was about to drive. I was sure that it is going to pour down massively. But, I think my floating friends decided to show me a magic and keep me level-headed. Suddenly the dark beauty it stopped moving, in the stillness I saw a fine white line along the edges. Subtly, the line widened to a silver border and in minutes the dark cloud was completely engulfed in the white light. Gone was the darkness! Amazing isn’t it?! You don’t have to be depressed about adverse situations, things will change!

Bunch of clouds gliding towards each other remind me of friends rushing to greet.  Colorful clouds, especially during dawn and dusk say that nature is the greatest painter!
See, with a crazy habit of watching the skies I am gifted with secret friends, with whom I communicate in my own terms. They keep coming to me at right times and add color to my life! 

I flow along with the clouds and see how they shape up. Best ideas, solutions come to me while I watch them. Whenever I’m at crossroads, I look up to my secret friends, clouds. They are there, as always!
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