Spirit of tiger: Differently-abled persons to don huli vesha for a cause

The troupe is being trained from 4 pm to 6 pm every day at Nittur
Physically challenged persons train for ‘tiger dance’ in Udupi.
Physically challenged persons train for ‘tiger dance’ in Udupi.

UDUPI: The temple town of Udupi has a long tradition of supporting religious and cultural activities. Be it the rich scholarly art form of Yakshagana or highly exuberant tiger dance (huli vesha), the native folk of Udupi have a lasting bond with these dance forms.

Krishna Janmashtami, celebrated with pomp and gaiety in Udupi, falls on August 19 this year, and the celebrations will get the extra zing with a team of seven differently-abled people performing the ‘tiger dance’. The dancers -- Srinivas Poojary (50), a watchman, Prashanth Achari (35), a tailor, Vijay Kumar (50), Krishna Poojary (45), Ravi Shetty (30) and Jagadish Bhat (37), all self-employed, and Shekar Marakala (45), a farmer -- are undergoing a 15-day training under Ananda Sherigar Nittur.

Sherigar has customised training for these differently abled and enthusiastic dancers, without compromising on the spirit and roar of the traditional art. The initiation was some months ago, when Jagadish Bhat expressed his desire to paint himself as the tiger and perform the dance along with other physically challenged enthusiasts. He approached Dr Sonia, president of the Peace Foundation -- an NGO in Manipal, and she motivated Bhat and others to go for it.

Bhat, who is also the secretary at the Foundation, told The New Sunday Express that when people with 60 to 75 per cent disability find it difficult even to walk, learning to dance is a lot more complicated. The members of the troupe, however, accepted the challenge and learnt to give their best during training. The troupe is being trained from 4 pm to 6 pm every day at Nittur and they will continue the session till the previous day of the festival.

Bhat, who has 75 per cent disability, said that when Dr Sonia appreciated their enthusiasm of these seven people, they felt they had taken the right decision. He said that in the past too, the team has performed the tiger dance during Krishna Janmashtami in Udupi, but this time, they are contributing the entire proceeds to the needy people, like poor patients, among others.

“We may collect about Rs 1 lakh or more from devotees, and the amount will be handed over to the needy people,’’ he said. Dr Sonia said she has a special place in her heart for physically challenged persons.

‘‘I feel privileged to help them. Even a small push would bring a lot of changes in their lives and that gives me happiness,’’ she said. Many physically challenged persons have a lot of talents. “This endeavour to support physically challenged persons perform the tiger dance is a continuation of our commitment to encourage and motivate them,” she said.

As tiger dance is the cultural pride of this region, the seven enthusiasts want to create their own niche. In fact, the team led by Jagadish Bhat had performed the dance in tiger costumes and enthralled devotees during Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebrations in Udupi. But this year, they want to contribute the full amount to poor patients undergoing treatment at various hospitals. The beneficiaries will soon be identified, said Bhat, who was rushing for a training session.

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