Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Magic Ritual of Ancient Kongu

The Magic Ritual of Ancient Kongu

The ancient cave painting at Kumittipathy
Art is as old as human history and it has coexisted with the lives of people being an outlet for the release of their pains and pleasures. A lullaby to put a baby to sleep, a song while planting seedlings on a paddy field  and an ‘Oppari’ ( A wail in the form of song) on the death of a person – all are examples to prove that human life cannot exist without art.

While tracing the pre-historic period of Kongunadu, it has been proved how various genres of art like singing, dancing and painting were a great solace to the people. Since art is also an element being inseparable from human labour, the aborigines of ancient Kongunadu performed certain magic rituals, which included singing, dancing and painting to signify their hopes in search of food. As hunting was their prime source of food, they staged the ritual in the form of a group dance, in course of which, a mock killing of a man was performed. The man, who symbolized a wild animal and his mock killing by the dancers, signified their hope of a successful hunt shortly inside the forest. The aborigines of Kongunadu used to perform this ritual before they headed for hunting.

The aborigines, who were called Vettuvars, had hunting as their prime occupation before the advent of agriculture in the Kongu region.

The centuries-old cave paintings discovered at various places like Anamalai, Marayur, Marudhamalai, Vettaikaranmalai, Vellarukampalayam, Kumittipathy and Palamalai depict the hunting rituals of Kongunadu. The paintings reveal human images dancing with their weapons like javelins and bows and arrows surrounding a wild animal.

Expressing his views on the objects of such cave paintings, well-known historian                     D. D. Kosambi says that these art works are not just something to delight the viewers but they are reflections of the magic rituals performed by the aborigines centuries ago.

Unlike the superstitions of today like the performance of ‘weddings’ to donkeys or frogs in order to seek rain in the drought-hit areas, the magic rituals of ancient Kongunadu were meaningful with their symbols and they artistically revealed the human mind.

Compiled by: B. Meenakshi Sundaram

Sources:  Kongunadu – Volume I, V. Manickam,
 Thenkongunadu – Durai Angusamy.  

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