Another obscure folk tradition of India found its way to city stage –
Somana Kunita is a ritualistic dance performed by two or three artists with elaborate masks. Only men are permitted to perform this dance. Somana kunita is region specific and is performed in the districts of South Karnataka such as Mandya,Mysore, Hassan, Tumakur and Bangalore. Usually only those belonging to okkaliga, lingAyata, besta and kuruba sects perform these dances. Soma is the name given to the masks worn by the performers. These masks cover only the head of the dancer and the remaining part of the body is covered either with an improvised skirt made from a saree of the deity or tight trousers. The masks are almost four times as large as a human head. They are usually made of a light variety of wood such as Pterocarpus santalinus which is commonly known as Red sanders. One of the Somas is red in colour and is truly awe-inspiring. Another mask is yellow and mild in its expression. This Soma is called Kenchamma or IraNNa. There may be yet another soma in blue called karirAya. Behind these masks is a triangular structure woven with cane and covered with multi coloured sarees, as many as 30. This cane structure is called banka. The artist can see the external world through the holes made in the nostrils of the mask. The performers wear many ornaments such as anklets and chest bands made of silver and brass.
The performers dance in a rhythmic manner to the beats of instruments such as, Are (percussion) dUNu(percussion) mouri(wind) and sadde (wind to keep shruti). Songs about the village deities are sung intermittently. These artists accept invitations to perform at village festivals and annual fairs of the deities where religious fervour pervades and prefer not to perform for entertainment (what is seen here is just a demo and not a performance).
Somana kunita is a ritualistic folk performance that has survived for centuries but didn’t invoke the ‘spirit’ (no pun intended) when gathered the city flavour this morning, confined in an enclosed space. Then again, Tibetan Mandala and Australian Aborigines’ Sand-paintings are demonstrated at museums across the world….guess it’s the only way to ‘educate’ the urbanites !!