A NUMBER OF FORMS OF ENTERTAINMENT, mainly religious in nature are known to the people. The religious-minded Hindu particularly if he has taken to saguna devotion (idol-worship) attaches great religious merit to japa, repeating silently the name of the Lord, and attending different kinds of religious expositions known as purana, pravacana, katha or kirtana, and bhajan delivered by professionals in a technique of their own. Purana is a reading usually from the Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana and the Mahabharata in Sanskrit and expounding it in the regional language. This is done generally by puraniks, professional readers and reciters of sacred books. Pravacanas are learned and religious discourses delivered by sastris, and Kirtans are musical discourses in which God and religion are described and expounded in poetry and prose. In caturmas only men and women of advanced age attend the reading of the puranas; kirtans have a wider audience. Formerly kirtana was a necessary item in the festival of any village deity; casual kirtans were performed by kirtankars who happened to pass by the village. Both the professions are now in a decadent stage. A tendency is seen now-a-days to use the kirtana institution as a vehicle for spreading more of cultural and social ideas than purely religious ones. Among the forms of religious communion, bhajana seems to be very popular at present. Bhajana is the chanting of religious songs in chorus. Almost every village in Konkan has a bhajana group, which consists of a leader-singer (buva), a mrdangi (drum-player), a harmonium-player and several talakaris (cymbal players). The buva who is equipped with vina (lute) and cipali (castanets) gives out the song, the mrdangi and the harmonium players provide rhythm and time and the talakaris pick up the refrain and vociferate it in chorus, clicking their tals in unison. Some of the bhajana groups, apart from their periodical sessions, join temple processions. Sometimes what is known as saptaha is organised, when groups of devotees sing the divine name continuously for seven days, taking turns.
In Konkan the recreational fare known as gondhal is not as frequent as on the Ghats.
A type of rural entertainment perhaps peculiar to this district is the kala or jatra performances, a form of Dashavataras—the folk-ballet
of Konkan. They are usually staged on festive and jatra days, the season starting from Tripuri Paurnima, the full-moon day of Kartik. and continuing till the advent of rainy season. On Malvan side the members of dahikala or jatra parties locally known as Dashantris generally belong to the Devali caste. They associate into a dramatic club and give performances on invitation at fixed places on fixed days. On Sangameshwar side such actors are known as khele. The performance starts at about 10 p.m. and it is conventional that it must terminate at day-break with the breaking of handi — a pot full of curds, milk, etc.
The stage is an improvised one —a simple mandav (booth) about 12' X 16 and 10' high enclosed on three sides by jhamps (plaited cocoanut-leaves) often serves the purpose, A bench or two at the
back accommodates the mrdang and harmonium players, and when required serves the purpose of ' throne', ' bed-stead', etc. A curtain is often held by two persons and is removed as the actors enter. The sutradhar who conducts the play takes his stand at one corner of the stage leaving the major portion of the stage at the disposal of the actors.
The programme begins with the invocation of Ganapati, the vighnaharta (remover of obstacles) and Saraswati, the goddess of learning. In this conventional first entry Ganapati is accompanied by Rddhi-Siddhis, his two consorts, who help him manage his big trunk and the two extra hands. He dances for a while in a zigzag way with shuffling steps, is offered worship and in return gives his blessings and retires. Then enters Saraswati with the peacock as her carrier. She gives a ' peacock dance' and retires. And now follows the demon Sankasura grotesquely dressed in a black cone-shaped mask, his eyebrows, nose and lips painted white. He is supposed to be a Brahman by caste, and while enacting a Brahmanic religious routine creates much fun by his mimicries and mockeries. Then enters god Krsna with whom Sankasura enters into a wordy tussle about ' caste hierarchy' which develops into a fight. Sankasura meets his ' death' at the hands of Krsna. The curtain is held and Sankasura disappears; Krsna gives a dance and retires.
Now starts the main item of the show, the enacting of a folk-opera. The theme is a puranic subject such as Usha-swapna, Draupadi-Vastraharana, Kicakavadha, Kaurav-Pandav Yuddha, etc. There is neither a script nor much of a 'plot'. Everyone is acquainted with the ' story' and the plot unfolds through extempore ' dialogues' and ' speeches", the individual actor using his freedom with skill and resourcefulness. What cannot be enacted is described in versified narrations by the sutradhara. The play has to last till daybreak and the time gaps are bridged over by interludes of songs and fights. The fights have to be danced over the stage and when there is a' kill' the curtain is held for the ' dead' to walk away from the stage. During the play one of the Rddhi-Siddhis moves in the audience with the devaci-trali or
arati, Individuals put their contribution in the dish and bow. The play concludes with the ceremony of 'breaking the handi at the hands of the village ' honourables' (ganvkaris).
[The section is mainly based on Folk-dance of Maharashtra by Dr. A. f. Agarkar (1950).]
Various types of dancing activities generally of the nature of folk- dances are current among the people the occasion for them usually being the various religious festivals occuring mainly in the months of Sravana, Bhadrapad and Phalgun. The festivals of Gokulastami and Dahikala celebrated on the dark eight of Sravana and on the day following are occasions for the display of goph and tipri, and kala and Govinda dances. Sravana also gives an occasion for Mangaldgaur dances which are danced exclusively by females the most popular and prominent among them being the phugadi. On the bright fourth of
Bhadrapad and after, come the Ganesh and Gauri festivals. In towns public Ganapati festival may be celebrated by
mela (troupe of boys, girls or of both) performances and demonstrations of physical feats, singing and amateur artistic individual dancing. But the Gauri festival which is enthusiastically observed by the agricultural classes is spent in singing, dancing and merry-making. Dancers pay house to house visits, as there must be a dance performance known as Gauri-Ganapatica naca before the goddess in each house. Women have their own dances and songs but they do not dance while men are dancing. Holi or Simga festival coming in the month of Phalguna is the occasion for the popular display of Sankasur and Radha dances in the south and Nakta and Katkhel dances in the north of Ratnagiri.
Tipri and Goph.
The Tipri and Goph, an indigenous folk-dance which is a variety of stick-dancing widely known all over India, is displayed by specially trained troupes of boys generally on the occasion of Gokulastami day. The tipri is a stick of resonant wood 14 to 16 inches in length and about an inch in diameter at the broad end; goph consists of long strips of cloth 4 to 5 yards in length of different colours, generally red and white, attached to a pole or a suspended disc. Each dancer has a pair of tipris one in each hand, and one strip from the goph, in addition, in the left one when they perform the goph dance. The tabla, a pair of cymbals and a harmonium whenever available are usual accompaniments. The performers sometimes have cals (chains of jingles) tied to their ankles. Excepting the addition of goph, there is no material difference in the movements and formation of the two dances, but the inclusion of goph does add to the spectacular effect of the dance. There are generally four, six or eight pairs participating in the dance.
The dancers stand in circle in pairs, the two in the pair facing each other. They begin by hitting the sticks slowly and rhythmically, gradually increasing their speed of movements until the dance ends in a crescendo of percussive clicks of wood. The sound of the beating tipris supplants the rhythm of the tabla, cymbals harmonium and jingles. The tipris may be hit in four basic ways. The dancer may hit his own stick, hit his partner's stick, allow his own stick to be hit, or skip a beat by suspending hitting the sticks. These few simple procedures when combined with dance movements, bends and twists, turns and geometrical hitting patterns among the group provide a charming variety of sound and movement patterns. If the tipri is combined with the goph the dance consists of plaiting the goph ribbons into a braid and then unwinding it with a reverse pattern of steps. Nowadays this dance has been introduced in primary and secondary schools as a part of physical education for boys and girls.
The dance coming on the day next to Gokulastami is known as kala or dahikala or dahihandi when in imitation of the early life spent by Lord Krsna in the cowherd settlement at Gokul a handi
containing curds milk etc. is ceremonially broken. The dancers or the so-called cowherd comrades of Srikrsna dressed in a mere loin-cloth and wielding clubs or lathis in their hands start in procession to visit different localities to break the handis that they may come across. They fall in a line more or less straight and are linked in a chain either by clasping palms or hooking arms with their neighbours. A khalu band [Consisting at least of three musicians to play on the sanai, the dhol and the timki.] provides the music. They dance the distance keeping the right foot forward and stepping with the same foot, while the left foot is dragged to make up the necessary space. The leader, and at times a few others occasionally whirl in the air the wooden clubs in their hands, singing out a marching song with the refrain' 'Govinda, ala re ala.' On arriving underneath a hanging handi, [An earthen pot hung in a temple or a prominent place at a respectable height generally beyond the reach of a man standing on the shoulder of another. It is decorated with a garland, and its usual contents are curds, milk, buttermilk, poha, turmeric, cocoanut, plantains and some coins.] the dancers form into a pyramidical formation of two or three tiers, a smart lad climbes the top tier grabs the handi, and breaks it. While the handi is being broken the whole formation is and has to be steady, but as soon as it is over, all climb down without order and the formation collapses. The participants place their arms on the shoulders of neighbours and slide and stamp their feet on the ground. Everyone tries to get under the water or buttermilk that is being poured over them and cries aloud 'Govinda, Govinda' making all types of frenzied and irregular movements in display of the kala or Govinda dance.
Among Brahmans and other advanced classes, women after their marriage have to worship for the period of five years on each Tuesday of Sravana the goddess Parvati commonly known as Manglagaur. The puja ceremony and the feast is over by noon and by evening after light refreshments the real entertainment programme starts. It consists of a variety of folk-dances and lasts even till day-break, if the participants are enthusiastic. The whole show is purely a concern of females, and phugadis and other folk-dances displayed at the time can be called dances of the females.
There are a number of dances performed on this occasion, the most popular and prominent being the phugadi. It is played generally by two but the number may even be up to eight if there is enough room. The dance movements of the pair are simple: The girls stand facing each other, keep their feet together with a distance of two or three inches between the toes, cross arms keeping them straight with a clasp of each other's palms, balance the body backward, and each time stepping the right foot a few inches to the right and sliding the left along with it start an anti-clockwise movement. As the footwork quickens, the movement gathers in tempo till the dancers get swung in a whirl. This goes on till one or both feel exhausted. There are many varieties of phugadi In dand-phugadi, instead of clasping palms
they catch hold of the arms. In another, one stands while the other squats. In a variety known as jate, one is standing while the other keeps only the left or right toes on the ground, the other foot being placed on the opposite thigh. In bas-phugadi which is danced singly the dancer squats on toes and moves her legs forward alternately. With only one hand joined in a clasp the variety is known as ekhataci phugadi.
Group phugadis are danced by girls forming a ring either by crossing arms and catching palms of the neighbour on either side or by putting their arms on the shoulders of their neighbours. They move in a circle by taking short sideward steps generally in an anticlockwise direction. Group phugadi in a way though spectacular is cumbrous and lacks the vigour marked in a partnered phugadi.
Besides phugadis a variety of allied dance forms are displayed at a Manglagaur, e.g. naca-go-ghuma, a group dance danced by a girl known as ghuma [A girl who feigns unwillingness to join the dance.] standing with a sup (winnowing fan) in the centre of a circle formed by other girls. The ghuma, as she puts forth her complaints to the company alternately raises and lowers the sup before her face and also alternately raises her feet slightly changing direction each time; girls standing around her catch hold of the palms of their neighbours and move round taking short sideward steps keeping to the time of the song. Kombda is a sort of memetic dance, performed individually or in a group. The dancers place one knee over the other and keeping the palms interlocked on the upper knee go on jumping imitating the movements of a kombda (cock). Other dances performed at the time of Mangldgaur celebration are pinga, zimma, salunki salunki or pagadaphu, kis-bai-kis, kathot-kana and many others.
The dance performed in honour of Gauri and Ganapati during
the Ganesa festival is known as Gauri-Ganapatica naca and is enthusiastically participated in by the Kunbi agriculturists of Ratnagiri district. Mrdang and a pair of tals or of cymbals are the only instruments used and the dancers tie chain of jingles at their ankles.
The usual formation is a circular one. The mrdang-player as
well as the cymbal-player generally squat on the ground in the
centre and the dancers (six or more) in their starting position standi
one behind the other to maintain the circular form intact. At the
time of Gauri immersion they go dancing along the road in a line,
arm in arm, mrdang and cymbal-players leading.
At the start the dancers stand facing the centre with the left foot forward and the right foot to the rear, the distance between the feet being hardly a foot. Turning slightly to the right, they take a step forward in an anti-clockwise direction with the right foot, the left one following. In this movement they move along the circumference, each following the one in front rather closely
The movement of the right hand is prominent, which is swung forward nearly to the level of one's shoulder while the left one is for the most time idle. After a line of a song is sung by the leader and repeated in chorus by the group, they take a left-about turn, then a right-about turn with hands swung overhead in accordance with the direction of the turn. The other dominating movement, which even a casual observer does not miss is the sliding of a foot, usually the right one, forward and backward, while the dancers are in a squatting position. The tempo of the movements at the start keeping time with the song is rather slow. The first line of the song is slowly sung by the leader twice and then repeated in chorus with the same tempo. This done twice the speed of the steps as well as the song is doubled, the song this time being sung and repeated in the same manner as before. Then the dancers retrace two steps back facing the same direction and, taking a step forward, resume the slow tempo,
In Simga days at many a place in south of the district are found Radha troupes giving display of a musical dance at every house, and collecting posta. These troupes comprise the central figure of the Radha, a dancer boy dressed in an upper class woman's attire, and the leader singer who generally uses tals. The Radha has cals tied at her ankle. Persons to play on dholki, daph, tuntune and at times vina, and the Sankasura are the other accompanists. In some places, Sankasura dances with Radha, while in some places the leader of the group comes forward and dances with Radha when occasion arsies. In the starting movements the Radha starts shuffling her feet forward, the jingling sounds of the cals perfectly harmonizing with other accompaniments. As she advances bit by bit, the right hand is fully stretched forward and left one is bent at the elbow, the palms describing gracefully circuits to resemble the movements of a creeper caused by a gentle breeze. After a few inches of space have thus been covered, the dancer rotates round herself from the right to the left, and with a light graceful jump brings this initial movement to a close. The dancer and the leader-singer then sing a line which is repeated in chorus by the group. There is no foot-work while the two sing, but when the line is repeated in chorus, the dancer tries to convey the contents by movements and expressions.
The katkhel (kathi — a stick; khel — dance) dance is a stick dance popularly played during Holi festival by Kunbis of north Ratnagiri. The traditional dress of the performers consists of Maratha type turban secured over the head with a red-bordered dhoti tied crosswise its loose ends fluttering over the back; a shirt with long sleeves covers the trunk, and across the chest a dhoti with red border is crossed and knotted at the back; a sadi of red or blue border is wrapped by the dancer over his dhoti or pyjama with a number of folds round the waist so that the thighs are entirely covered with the border of the sadi. They fasten chains of jingles at their ankles. In their hands they hold a pair of tipris and a bunch of white fibres,
which sway with the movements of the tipris and add to the grace of the dance. A mrdang and a pair of cymbals are the only instruments used.
The formation, as a rule, is circular, members standing in pairs and facing each other. Only in davan and bhilkavada they move generally, in an anti-clockwise direction, keeping time with a pair of tipris held in the hands. Some of the movements, though more vigorous and quick, resemble those of the tipri dance. The beginning is always in a slow tempo and it has to be so, since they are moving back to back. When a line is being repeated, the speed increases and to facilitate free movement they take a zigzag course. They once strike the tipris against each other and then strike them with those of the advancing member. At times they squat and turn about keeping time with their strikes to the beat of the drum. In davan they move in a figure eight; in bhilkavada they pass under one another, the arms being chained.
Some dances are danced more out of religious ecstasy and fervour
than to give expression to an aesthetic feeling. The dindi dance which devotees or bhajanis of the Varkari cult engage in while going to a temple of Vithoba or taking part in a religious procession belongs to this kind. The participants generally fall in two rows facing one another, the mrdang player and the vina player who lead the dance being in between the rows. They click in rhythmic beat the tals held in their hands as they chant in chorus the names of Jnyanoba. and Tukaram or pick up the refrain of the bhajana given out by the leader-singer. And as they click and sing they dance in steady measured steps, all the while advancing towards the destination.
Another dance of the ecstatic kind is the Mahalaxmi dance better known as ghdgar phunkne and is performed only at the time of
Mahalaksmi worship. [On the eighth of the bright half of Asvina, during the first five years of her wedding, the young wife, as may be the family custom has to worship the goddess Mahalaksmi.] During night as a part of the worship ritual each girl (worshipper) holds a ghdgar (a round water-pot narrow at the neck), in her hands, makes a rhythmic musical sound by blowing across the mouth of the ghagar and starts dancing before goddess. During the dance one of the girls starts blowing and dancing with greater animation than the rest, and presently swings her hands and is seized with the power of the goddess. Others stop dancing and the 'possessed' dancer is plied with questions about the 'unknown' by her friends which the goddess in her is believed to answer.