SALEM: At Karuppur bus stop on Tuesday, a group of old women sat in a circle against the background of a large cloth banner of late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s smiling image, clutching each other shoulder-to-shoulder, and sang the ‘Oppari’ from dawn to dusk.
A few kilometres away in Kullagoundenur, a similar group of women performed ‘Kummi’ in front of a huge flex banner of the departed leader. Fading rural traditions like ‘Oppari’ and ‘Kummi’ seemed to have come alive for women to mourn for Amma in many villages in the rural side of Salem District.
In many of these villages, banners and posters of Jayalalithaa were hung in a common area, garlanded and ‘kuthuvillakku’s (auspicious oil lamps) were lit.
‘Oppari’, is a marathon wailing session that rural women perform in groups, when someone dies. Oppari is a repertoire of songs that describe, eulogises the dead, and expresses the deep agony felt by the singer. ‘Kummi’ is group dance-cum-singing session, practised during festivals and during times of mourning.
The exponents (mostly aged women in the village) are said to customise the songs for the individual deceased person. However, as villages are rapidly in transition into the digital era, Oppari and Kummi are turning into rare traditions. There are a few elders left in every village who keep alive these traditions, which is rarely being passed on to the modern generations, said P Palanisamy, former town panchayat of Kadayampatti, where these rare village traditions are struggling to survive.
At Kullgoundenur, people replicated Jayalalithaa’s funeral in their village. “This is the level of devotion we have for our beloved Amma,” said Venugopal, Marudhamalai and Saba of the village. But, please don’t mistake them for hard core AIADMK partymen. “We are ardent admirers of MGR and Jayalalithaa. Most of the people in this village vote for the AIADMK,” they said, adding way back in 1988, they mourned in similar manner when MG Ramachandran died.