Chaudike Mela (cauDike mELa) (ಚೌಡಿಕೆ ಮೇಳ)
is an ensemble of music, dance and folk narratives. The performing artists
come under the spectrum of professional religious singers as all of them owe
their loyalty to Yellamma, the Goddess at Savadatti in
Chaudike (cauTagi, cavDaki) is a stringed instrument. The spinal cord or the intestinal guts of an old sheep are used in place of a metallic string. A barrel shaped wooden implement is held to one end of a wooden pole about four feet long. The lower end of this barrel is covered by duck skin or the skin of a young goat. A depression is made in this skin by pulling the spinal cord (string) through its centre by pasting a coin with a whole at the centre to the skin. The free end of the cord is now connected to the top of the pole. A movable screw at the top helps in making the cord taut. Music is produced by vibrating the string with the help of a small stick. The musical performance is held in tune with this chaudike.
Legend connects this instrument to the sage Jamadagni, king Kartaveerya and Parashurama. Various parts of the instrument are associated with various parts of Kartaveerya’s body. Another legend avers that the instrument was created by Parashurama himself with the head of bETAsura killed by him. There are two varieties of Chaudike called ‘shruthi chaudike’ and ‘baarki chaudike’. (baarike chaudiki) The latter is the main instrument even though it is the smaller of the two. The performance begins with a worship of Yellamma and chaudike. Ganesha, Sarasvathi and Shiva also are invoked. It takes place on an elevated platform about 18 inches above the ground level. It is suitably decorated with green leaves. The artists wear a yellow shirt, a yellow dhothi and a turban which is either yellow or white. A black coat completes the costume. They wear anklets and Yellamma’s tALi. (MangaLasUtra) also.
Usually the ensemble consists of three artists. They play on ‘barki cahudike’, ‘shruthi chaudike’ and ‘chit tALa’ respectively. Some times an instrument called ‘tuntuNi’ is played. The main singer narrates the story as a combination of prose and songs. Others provide vocal and instrumental assistance. The narration is interspersed with dances.
The story of Yellamma is the main choice of the narrators. sarjappanaayakana laavaNi, banje honnamma, baLLAri tatva and vishvabrahma are other alternatives. Women are prohibited from using these instruments. However they are involved in the ensemble as dancers. They carry a metallic pot on their head (Yellammana koDa) and dance to the tunes of the song and the instruments. Their sense of balance is awesome because the vessel does not fall down even when they perform highly acrobatic and intricate movements. It requires a lot of talent and practice. Gradually Chaudike Mela is acquiring a non-religious tinge also.
1. Smithsonian Global Sound (Search in this website for ‘Chaudike Padagalu’ for a recital of some Chaudike songs)