India is literally a miraculous juxtaposition of several festivals which are being followed religiously from times immemorial. One such indigenous celebration is the Bani Festival that takes place every year during Dussehra celebrations in Devaragattu Temple in Kurnool, Karnataka. It commemorates the killing of demon by Lord Shiva’s reincarnation in the form of Mala-Malleshwara. It is a pulsing and living path towards artistic enlightenment along with its exotic rituals which are definitely spine-chilling. What most people know is the lathi-hitting ceremony which takes place till the dawn, but perhaps the most ethereal side of cultural representation in Bani Festival has not been discovered yet.
To start with, several collaboration of artistic performances take place during the festival, combining the various permutations and capabilities of the artists. Alarmel Valli, the famous Bharatnatyam curator has often celebrated this festival with great pomp and show. One of the famous performances include ‘See the Music, Hear the Dance,’ by Bombay’s Jayashri Ramnath which inclues javalis and padams. Aditi Mangaldas have their own style of Kathak representation with their performance ‘Seeking the Beloved.’ Even Mukhtama’s music are celebrated by famous artists like Subhashini Parthasarathy and Nirmala Sunderrajan.
Bani Festival also brings out the beauty of the culturally rich and centuries old traditions in Karnataka. For example, Thanjavur Muktha and T. Brinda have been the first vocalists Veena Dhanammal bani style of singing. Veena Dhanammal was Mukta’s grandmother and through the Bani Festival, the duo also pay tribute to her and her teachings in a very spiritual and heart-touching manner.
Famous singers like Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, Pattabhiramayya and others add the magical fervor in the music. The aesthetics of the vocalists are very soothing, few of them transforming with the moods and tunes, bringing our different ethereal emotions and feelings. Few verses also deal with revealing the various shades of the Bhakti movement and they capture the emotions of a mother and a devotee. It is a very self-healing endeavor, especially to attach so many meanings to the artistic performances. Aditi Mangaldas create an esoteric experience by bringing out the beauty of the constant search in everyone’s life for their beloved, an endeavor that is carried on by the mind, soul and body in a breathtakingly magnificent manner. The deep corners and recesses of the heart are portrayed by the dynamic performance, which brings out the best of historic poets like Kabir, Amir Khusrau and Meera.
The performers at Bani Festival believe that along with dance, it is also music that plays a pivotal role in creating a quintessential performance. The stillness, movements as well as silence when there’s nothing happening, is also a form of spiritual connection. Thus, the entire Bani Festival which brings out the message of victory of good over evil has various cultural connotations, that are celebrated every year by the artists, dancers, singers and composers, eventually creating a miraculous journey that cannot be defined through the fragile words. Thus, to get in touch with the rich traditions of Karnataka, this festival should not be given a miss!
By- Shubhda Chaudhary