Bhootha dance of Thrissur

Kummatty is a ritual folk form that can be seen only in Thrissur (Kerala) during Onam season. The performance of Kummatty is called Kummattykkali. In this, a group of people disguised as Kiratha (the hill tribes mentioned in Hindu mythology) wearing masks and special costumes go around in procession supported by drum beats creating terrifying scenes. Kummattykkali is held in and around Thrissur during Onam season. The main teams who do Kummatty are Vadakkummuri Kummatty and Thekkummuti Kummatty, both from Kizhakkumpattukara, Thrissur.

Kummatty Performance


The legend about the origin of this art form is narrated in the Kummattypattu, the folk songs connected with Kummatty. As per the songs, the origin of this ritual is dated back to the establishment of Vadakkumnatha temple at Thrissur, an ancient Shiva temple believed to be established by Lord Parasurama.

During the age of the epic story Mahabharatha, Lord Shiva and his wife Devi Parvathy disguised as Kiratha(forest dweller/hill tribe) wanted to test the loyalty of Arjuna before gifting him the divine arrow, Pasupatham. At this time Bhoothaganas, the aides of Lord Shiva who accompanied him in the form of kirathas were dancing and singing with great enthusiasm and making sounds by beating the arrows on their bows. Later, when Lord Parasurama established the Vadakkumnathan temple for lord Shiva he wanted to see the joyful dance of the Bhoothaganas once again. The Bhoothaganas disguised as Kirathas performed the dance. Lord Shiva was pleased and told them to conduct the similar performance during the visit of Mahabali, the Asura king and disciple of Lord Shiva, every year. As Keralites celebrate this visit of Mahabali as Onam, Kummatty is also performed during these days. Kummattykkali enacts the dance performance of Bhoothaganas.

The performance and costumes


Kummatty is a ritualistic folk art form performed by men in a group with face masks and body covered with a thick pack of particular grass called Parppidaka pullu or simply called Kummatty pullu(the grass-oldenlandia priorities).The artists dance and jump in accordance with the folk songs called Kummatty paattu( Kumatty songs), supported by the musical beats of wooden bow and arrow. Most of the songs are humorous and satiric with social issues as the background.
The instrument is called Villu, literally means a bow. The sound is produced by beating a stick (which represents an arrow) on it. As the main musical instrument is Villu, Kummattypaattu is also known as Villupaattu. This musical instrument symbolises bow and arrow that were used by the Bhoothaganas in the story of Kiratha.  The Bow is made out of the wood of Palmyra tree and the string and the beating stick (arrow) are made using bamboo. Characters for Kummatty include Ganapathy, Hanuman, Bhoothas such as Kumbha, Kumbhodara etc. Earlier days, Kummatty used to go to all the homes in the village and bless the families. In return they received bananas, cloths etc from the head of the family.

Only some rough facial makeup was used in the early form of Kummatty. Later, used painted masks in tin sheet and in spathe of the arecanut palm. The dry leaves of plantain tree were used to cover the body. The Kummatty in its present form evolved over 60years back with wooden masks painted in bright colours and grass costumes. These masks provide an ethereal dimension to the performers.

The grass is of 1 ½ ft. height, made into thick mat and then tied on to hands, legs and the body. The specialty of Kummatty grass is that unlike the other leaves, the freshness and the green colour exists for a long time. It is smooth, non-allergic and produces a fragrance. And quiet a wonder that this grass appears during Onam season only and having no other use. The grass that was once available in plenty now has become scarce and much before Onam comes, the teams identify the areas where it is grown. In the mean time, lot of stories and characters were adopted for Kummattykkali like Bali and Sugreeva from the epic story Ramayana and Thalla, granny with smiling face and protruding teeth as a humorous character with more social values.

Gaining Popularity

The Kummatty procession is now more social and colourful and the people of all religions take part in this cultural procession. Scenes from epic stories as floats and lot of other folk arts are introduced every year by both the teams. The secular appeal of Kummattykkaly has made it more popular in recent years.

The two main groups in Thrissur who conduct Kummattykkali during Onam for decades are Vadakkummuri team and Thekkummuri team, both from Kizhakkumpattukara in Thrissur town.
For about 60 years, Vadakkummuri Kummatty is being organised by Vadakkummuri Kummatty Committee, a public organization now headed by Mr.Surendran Ainikunnath as the President. Thekkummuri Kummatty managed traditionally by the family of Karapuram, who doing it for generations.

Karappuram Narayanankutty, the senior most member in the Karappuram family has said that their family still follows the tradition and they perform Kummattykkali singing songs and making musical beats using Bow and Arrow at Vettakkorumakan Temple at Mooss’s home.

About 50 teams now perform Kummatty in and around Thrissur during the one week of Onam celebration, of that some of the oldest teams apart from Thekkummuri and Vadakkummuri teams are from Nallankara, Mukkattukara, Urakam etc.

Some  Kummatty performances this year:  Kummattykkali  dates 2017

Bhootha dance of Thrissur Bhootha dance of Thrissur Reviewed by Welcome Kerala on 00:20:00 Rating: 5

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