Veeragase (vIragAse) (ವೀರಗಾಸೆ) is most likely an evolved form of ‘Veerabhadra Kunita’. The latter has only one artist performing the dance where as the former involves more than one person. However the thematic associations and the emotional ambiance resemble one another to a great extent. The word ‘Veeragase’ is literally the name the garment worn by a soldier when he is at war. This ritualistic art is performed exclusively by people belonging to Veerashaiva community. Even there certain families have hereditary obligations to perform this art.

            Usually veeragase is performed by eight or more artists. It has to be an even number. The colours of their dhoti and shirt are subject to regional variations. It could be saffron coloured, white, and red or even parrot green. (Only the shirt)  The head gears are usually red. They wear red coloured waist bands and wrist bands also. They wear a metallic chestband with the relief of Veerbhadra etched on it. Anklets, nAgAbharaNa, rudrAkshi, a symbolic replica of Dakshsbrahma’s head tied to the waist etc constitute parts of an elaborate make up. They hold a wooden sword in the right hand and a Kerchief in the left. Their movements are invariably militant and awe inspiring.

            Veeragase is performed on occasions that are of importance to the community as also familial celebrations.  The artists are taken in a procession to the temple from their homestead. The assigned pairs of dancers perform the dance-steps and  They are provided some background support by instrumentalists on ‘karaDe’, ‘samALa’, ‘tALa’, ‘mukhavINe’ and ‘shruti box’. The dancers, players on the instruments and the person who narrates the story (oDAbu, KaDga) take turns in the performance. Gradually these narrations have included the exploits of the saints of the twelfth century in addition to the story of Veerabhadra. 

            ‘Puravantike’ or the performances given by the ‘puravanta’ is yet another extension of ‘Veerabhadra Kunita’ and ‘Veeragase. There are certain families in North Karnataka with the surname ‘puravanta’. Some scholars have opined that ‘puravantike’ demonstrates the influence of the ‘Tantric cults’ on Veerashaivism. They perform their art on the occasion of ‘gugguLa’. ‘GugguLa’ is the practice of taking burning cinders, kept in newly made pot broken ritualistically, to the temple. This act is performed by the bridegrooms. “Puravantike’ artists give their performance during this procession. This consists of narratives, music and dance. These artists pierce various parts of their body with sharp instruments. This practice is called ‘gugguLa ebbisuvudu’ or ‘shastra hAkisuvudu’ in Kannada. They are designated by different names depending on the part of the body that is being pierced.  ‘KanTa shastra’, ‘nABi shastra’ and ‘jihvAshastra’ are some varieties of this activity. Occasionally two artists bind themselves to another by piercing their tongues with a single instrument.

            All in all ‘Veerabhadra KuNita’, ‘vIragAse’ and ‘puravantike’ provide a panoramic view of some exclusive quasi religious practices.


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