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!
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