GONDALIGA – GONDALIGARA ATA

 

            Gondaligas (gondaligaru) (ಗೊಂದಲಿಗರು) constitute a nomadic community who are found extensively in Karnataka and Maharashtra and sparingly in Andhrapradesh, Gujarath, Tamilnadu and Madhyapradesh. They adopt themselves to the language where they reside even though their mother tongue is Marathi. ‘Gondala’ is a religious ritual sponsored by families with Goddess Ambabhavani as their family deity. These professionals are in charge of performing the ritual. Gondaligas are also competent to perform a theatrical form called ‘Gondaligara Ata”. (ಗೊಂದಲಿಗರ ಆಟ) This note deals with both the religious and the theatrical performances.

            Gondaligas are divided in to eight sub groups namely gondaliga, buDabuDike, arepancAnga, singa, bhukEru, citravrutti, bhaTa and vAsudEva. All these groups have Ambabhavani of Tulajapur as their clan deity. They worship Renuka of Savadatti also. They trace their lineage to sage Jamadagni. They use the regional language for the ritual as well as their plays.

            Gondala ritual has originated from Karnataka. It is a community bound ritual. It has variant names such as gondaNa, gondli, gaundli, gondale etc. The devotees of Ambabhavani sponsor these rituals on festival days such as navarAtri and deepaavaLi as also on auspicious occasions like a wedding. This ritual was performed from ancient times. It was in vogue even during the regime of Kadmabas, Chalukyas and Yadavas. Ancient Kannada poets such as Pampa, Rudrabhatta, Nagachandra and the Shivasharanas have mentioned ‘Gondaligaru’ in their literary works.

            Gondaligas arrive at the home of the sponsors and guide the proceedings. A ‘kaLAsha’ decorated with flowers, coconut, betel leaves and jewels represent the Goddess Bhavani. A lighted crucible (haNate=nandAdIpa) will be placed in front of the kaLasha.  kaLashapUje is the first part of the ritual. After that the leader among the Gondaligas will start singing. He is decked in a white gown, a string of cowries and his fore head is smeared with a paste of turmeric and other material. (bhanDAra) He is called Parashurama. He narrates the story of Ambabhavani with the help of songs, light dances, acting and prose narrations. The narration is interspersed with amusing anecdotes. Occasionally there will be dialogues among the performers. The performance which begins at night will go on till the dawn. 

            Gondaligas depend on gondala performance during night and begging for alms during the day. In addition to these they are experts in gondaligara ATa. It is essentially a theatrical narration of a story. A raised platform becomes their stage. The main narrator is accompanied by two persons who provide the instrumental back ground by playing on CauDike and sambaLa. The narration uses many stage techniques and the performer is an expert in mono acting. He is capable of singing, dancing and acting.    

            These are meant for entertainment even though moralistic overtones can be discerned. Victory of good over evil, celebration of woman’s chastity, inculcation of human values is some perennial themes

 

            Mudenuru Sanganna the well known scholar has published an anthology of these narrations sung by Gondaligara Devndrappa. This volume is published by the Kannada University, Hampi.

 

Home / Folklore and folk arts