MADURAI: Dalit folk artistes at Thirupuvanam are cut up that a section of caste Hindus have not allowed them to play instruments at the Thai Poosam festival on Tuesday. The caste Hindus have called artistes from other districts, but local Dalits were not called to perform at their own place.
Karupaiah, a Dalit nadaswaram and thavil player, was shocked to learn about the incident two days ago. “It is disheartening to know that 108 nadaswaram and thavil artistes from several districts are going to perform in the Manimanthira Vinayagar temple, Thirupuvanam as part of the Thai Poosam festival on Tuesday,” he said.
“Manimanthira Vinayagar temple, Thirupuvanam was built after collecting funds from all communities and everyone was allowed to do pujas there. In order to sideline Dalit artistes not only were artists from other districts called but also we were not informed about it,” said Karupaiah who received the Kalaivalarmani award from the district administration last year.
Inheriting the art from ancestors, there were over 70 artists who play the nadaswaram and thavil at weddings. They also played urumi and pambai percussion instruments at funerals. “The villagers are already discriminating against us from playing at weddings because we also play at funerals. Hence we stopped performing in funerals and play only at weddings,” said Bose.
“We too are stakeholders, having donated over `10000 on behalf of the Thirupuvanam Gramiya Melakaragal Sangam for building the temple. But neither were we informed about the festival nor about the invitation to artistes from other districts to perform in our place,” said Bose.
Last month, a Dalit percussionist was not allowed to perform at the Badrakaliamman temple festival a few metres away from the Thirupuvanam bus stand. “The discrimination may not be visible for we are allowed to go inside the temple but we are denied the opportunity to play at our own place,” he added.
When contacted, the temple priest admitted that they had only invited nadaswaram and thavil artistes from outside to play at the festival. Though the priest stated that local Dalit artistes were not invited, he refused to comment on why they were not allowed. The Thirupuvanam Panchayat president Sangai Maran, was not available for comment.