Veerashaiva religion founded by the Saint poet Basavanna and his great contemporaries in the twelfth century has developed a number rituals and practices over a period of time. Many of them have risen to the level of folk arts and practiced by large communities all over Karnataka. These rituals are often rooted in mythology and are related to the history of this religion also. Some of them are militant and they reflect the tensions that prevailed among different communities in medieval Karnataka. Veerabhadra kunita also has evolved over a period of time and it has developed regional variants as well. Veerabhadra Kunita, (vIraBadra kuNita) (ವೀರಭದ್ರ ಕುಣಿತ) Veeragase, (vIragAse) (ವೀರಗಾಸೆ) Puravantike (puravantike) (ಪುರವಂತಿಕೆ) and Kasekunita (kAse kuNita) (ಕಾಸೆ ಕುಣಿತ) are the variants that could be studied as parts of a continuum.

All these practices have their origin in the story of Veerabhadra who was created by Shiva in order to kill Dakshabrahma who in turn was responsible for the death of ‘sati’, his daughter and Shiva’s wife. Veerabhadra sets out to destroy the ‘Yajna’ and kill Daksha if he does not repent his behaviour and asks for pardon. This story as well as the valour and rage of Veerabhadra are enacted in a militant manner by artists who are trained in these performances. Actually these artistic skills are handed over from generation to generation. Interestingly, this dance is held in Goa also.

Veerabhadra Kunita is perhaps the earliest form of this religious art. This is known as ‘lingaveera’ or ‘lingabeera kunita’ in South Karnataka. This is performed by a single artist. His costume is awe inspiring, He wears a red shirt, red dhoti, (kacce) a waist band, an icon of Rudra on the chest, jingling anklets, equally tumultuous knee bands, (gaggara) and he wears a ‘Chowri’ (Wig) that tapers down the hind part of his head. He brandishes a jingling sword (tOpada) in his right hand. A knife called ‘muLLAmbu’ adorns his left hand. Even his eye brows are painted red. His fore head is smeared with Vibhuti and Kunkum. He dances in a frenzied manner. The dance is supported by ‘karaDe’ and ‘camALa’ in the back ground. The dance is interrupted by a narration which encompasses the story of Veerabhadra and praising of Shiva. Most of the Vaidic and pots vaidic gods are derided and rediculed and the acts of Veerabhadra are enacted in a militant manner. The narration in rhythmic and rhyming prose is called ‘oDapu hELuvudu’. These narrations are also called ‘khaDga’. Occasionally they perform miraculous acts like holding burning camphor on their palms and tongue. This dance is performed on festive occasions such as Shivaratri, gAuri habba, and yugaadi and also on other occasions when Shiva is worshipped. They are also invited by Veerashaiva families to their residences and the performance are presented.


Further Reading and Links:

1.     veerabhadra kunitha



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