It was nothing but the love and devotion for ‘Ooralikoothu,’ a traditional dance form of Oorali tribes in the state, which brought 85-year-old Poomali aka Devaki from Idukki district to the KIRTADS campus here.
Though Devaki aasathi, the eldest among the Oorali tribes in Idukki district, struggles to walk even with her walking stick, the rhythm of Kinneeram, Mathalakatta and Jalara (traditional musical instruments) is enough to make her exuberant.
Recollecting the basic steps of ‘Ooralikoothu,’ she imparts her knowledge to the members of her tribes at KIRTADS to keep the art form alive.
Along with Devaki aasathi, as many as 22 members, including 13 women from the Pattaya Kudi Oorali tribal colony at Vannapuram panchayat in Idukki district are attending the 10- day residential camp being organised by the Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development Studies of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (KIRTADS) Adi Kala Kendram as part of their attempt to save ‘Ooralikoothu’ from extinction. “The Oorali residential camp is the third camp being organised by KIRTADS Adi Kalakendram. We had organised Harischandra Koothu of Irula tribe in Attappadi and Koraga dance of Koraga tribes in Kasargod earlier,” says KIRTADS director S Bindu. “Though all the eldest members in the tribal community are experts in ‘Ooralikoothu,’ none of them follows uniformity in performance. Hence we planned the camp to strengthen the art form without making any compromises on its traditional form,” she says.
According to the members of the community, they used to perform Ooralikoothu during events such as weddings, death, birth, festivals like Onam, Vishu and harvest. “We used to do the koothu just to keep all the members in our tribal community awake during festival seasons. Our dancing commences in the evening and continues till the next morning,” they say.
‘Ooralikoothu’ has a close association with cultivation and earlier the tribes were known as nomadic farmers. According to Devaki aasathi, ‘Ooralikoothu’ had played a major role to keep uniformity among the members. Lack of forests for cultivation turned the nomadic farmers into MNREGA workers and labourers and gradually the present generation lost touch with the koothu. “Since each tribal group follows different steps for similar songs, here we do not simply give a free hand to them while practising. To improve the quality of their performance we interact with them and bring uniformity in the steps and rhythm,” says folklore expert Satheesh. He further says, “I am trying to turn the artistes into skilled performers of ‘Ooralikoothu.”
On the 10th day of the residential camp, KIRTADS plans a public performance of the tribes, in the city.