In the early 80’s, one Sunday evening, I remember my parents taking me to play on the lawns of Vidhana Soudha. I remember seeing for the first time the illuminated building. It was looking fabulous in yellow. Everytime I would see the building from the bus in the daytime, I would long to see the illumination (Got to know years later that the building was illuminated only on Sundays). And when I rarely got to see the Vidhana Soudha at night, it would be a week day and sadly for me, it would just have white tubelights illuminating the building and I would remember the day I saw the illuminated majestic building.
This weekend, after many years, I had been to Vidhana Soudha with my son, wife and Mother-in-law. The road in front was free from vehicular movement. In fact, the road from UVCE till GPO was blocked. With the entire Ambedkar Veedhi stretch devoted to the audience, relief and happiness was writ large on the face of the stroller. After all it’s not everyday that one gets to loiter around Vidhana Soudha sans the traffic. The crowd started coming in since late afternoon. The event was a rare one, what with over eighty groups from all over Karnataka coming to showcase their talents and entertain the public with the cultural and folk dances and songs of ‘Kannada nadu, kalegala beedu’.
For its part, the majestic Vidhana Soudha (see Pic) which provided the backdrop spoke a language of grandeur. The rich colours and lights of the occasion wove magical patterns on the historic structure, leaving an onlooker in awe. The event, the ‘Janapada Jathre’ (Folk Fair) started off with Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and Home Minister M P Prakash lighting the traditional lamp. The two came to the event riding atop a bullock-cart (see Pic). A group of folk artistes making the entry riding atop bullock carts and showcasing the unity of Karnataka was a scene worth seeing. The Jatre was fast-paced and quite entertaining with events unfolding in quick succession with ‘Charma Vadya’ items hogging away the limelight and receiving accolades. Folk artistes performed major art forms like Pooja Kunita, Geeta Kunita, Charma Vadya – an impressive line up indeed. The next item brought the house down with the hair-raising rendition of ‘Nada Geete’.
The artistes performed to an energetic melody of folk songs, that left audience regaling in fun throughout the three-hours extravaganza. The rhythmic beat of the drums, interspersed with the oral narration of the tales of the gods, in Kannada, transported the audience to a different world, away from the Silicon valley lifestyle. Stalls selling native food (Jolada Rotti, Raagi mudde and so on) and music were an added incentive at this folk-fair. There were the usual Cucumber and Groundnuts sellers sitting near a few lamp-posts. There was the usual crowd in front of the Muskin Jola (Corn) seller. Some wanted it without the chilly paste and some wanted it with just lemon and salt. There were some kids who were literally rolling on the lawns, without anyone to tell them to sit obediently on the chair. Elderly folks were munching groundnuts near the steps leading to the seat of power. A lot of people were taking photographs of their friends and relatives with their Mobiles. One modern looking girl from Rajasthan, asked me if she could take a picture with my son. I passed him to her and she was really happy and cuddled my son before giving him back to me. Meanwhile, there were a few local dancers performing to the tunes of ‘Moodal Kunigal Kere’ and ‘Bhagyada Balegaara’ (see Pic). In the resounding applause from the audience, the performers got the best compliments. There was energy and vibrancy at the Jathre, taking both the entertainer and the entertained on an emotional journey. On the lighter side, it was funny to see the premises of Vidhana Soudha being converted into a cowshed owing to presence of a large number of cattles which were a part of the Jatre.
Pooja kunitha, Pata kunitha, Chittemela, Nandhi Dhwaja, Veera Gaase, Bayalaata, Yakshagaana, Gombe Mela, Arevaadhya, Sobaane Pada, Geegi Pada, Goravayyana Kunitha and other folk arts are really rare to see today in places like Bangalore. We need to thank the folk artistes and the organisers for having brought to the urban dweller the richness of folk art and traditions. Unless these art forms and artistes are encouraged, generations to come may get to read about them only in textbooks or see them in Janapada Loka, founded by HL Nage Gowda.