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Udupi Culture

Udupi; the heavenly abode of Lord Krishna has attained international repute on the cultural frontage for its commendable endeavor in successfully preserving and upholding its exclusive ethnic traditions of Yakshagana, Bhuta Kola, Nagaradhane, Aati Kalenja and Karangolu.
Yakshagana: Yakshagana, which literally means ‘the song of the Yaksha’ is an extraordinary theater form wherein the collage of music, dance, dialogue, costume, make-up and stage techniques collectively presents a unique performance. Believed to have emerged during the Bhakti Movement and developed from the pre-classical music and theatre prevailing in that era, the Yakshagana resembles the western Opera to a great extent. The music played during the Yakshagana performances which features melodious symphonies known as ‘Mattu’ and ‘Yakshagana Tala’ is mainly based on various ragas of the Carnatic Music. The Yakshagana Performances normally narrate the stories from various Indian Epics and religious scriptures such as the Puranas. The actors of Yakshagana are divided into two groups ‘himmela’ and ‘mummela’ wherein the himmelas provide background music while the mummelas deliver dialogues and perform dances. The actors wear bright costumes and the performances go on for the whole night.
Bhuta Kola: Bhuta Kola, particularly prevalent amongst the Tulu community of Udupi is a traditional ritual wherein the spirits are worshipped and solicited for their assistance in fertility and prosperity. The term ‘Bhuta’ means the supernatural beings while ‘Kola’ means worship. The Bhuta Kola appeases the apparitions and seeks their blessings.
Nagaradhane: ‘Nagaradhane’ meaning the worship of the Nagas (cobras and snakes) is believed to have perpetuated by the Bunts of Tulu Nadu who claim to be the descendants of the Nagavansha. Snakes are enshrined in ‘Nagabana’ shrines and worshipped as an emblem of fertility. The Nagaradhane comprises of two distinctive rituals namely ‘Nagamandala’ and ‘Aashleshabali’. In Nagamandala an elaborate serpent design is drawn on the sacred floor with five natural colors which depicts the sublime unison of male and female snakes. The ritual is performed by two priests, one of them known as ‘Patri’ enacts the role of a male snake whereas the other known as ‘Nagakannika’ sings and dances around the Nagamandala design. Aashleshabali ritual resembles the traditional Hindu posthumous rites.
Aati Kalenja: Aati Kalenja essentially practiced in certain parts of Tulu Nadu is a traditional dance form that is basically performed during the rainy season; particularly in July and August. A person from the ‘Nalike’ community dresses up in the form of a spirit (bhuta) who is known as the ‘Kalenja’. The Kalenja accompanied by a drummer goes around the village and dances in front of households. They are remunerated with rice, coconuts and other rewards as the villagers believe that honoring the Kalenja will protect the village from all the evil spirits.
Karangolu: Karangolu is also a traditional dance form that is performed by the members of the ‘Harijan’ community at the time of the second harvest in the months of February or March. This harvest dance prays for the prosperity of the region and the well being & merriment of the people. On the full moon day, the Karangolu performers paint themselves in white color and adorn themselves with anklets, beads, areca flowers and leaves. They hold a stick in their hand and go from house to house dancing to the tunes of a drum. It is believed that honoring the Karangolu performers with alms grants you good fortune in harvest.
Udupi Festivals
Various religious festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Paryaya, Ratha Saptami, Hanuman Jayanti, Madhava Navami, Sri Krishna Janmashtami, Navaratri, Madhava Jayanti, Vijaya Dashami, Diwali, Geeta Jayanti, Rathothsavam, Bhajana Saptaha, etc are celebrated at Udupi with incomparable pomp and passion every year.
The biennial ‘Paryaya Festival’ performed at the Udupi Krishna Temple once in every two years on 18th January is one of the most important religious rituals when the Puja rights and administration of the Krishna Temple are handed over from the Swamiji of one Matha to the Swamiji of other Matha. Shri Madhavacharya had established eight Krishna Mathas in total. And each Swamiji gets the chance to perform the Puja of the Udupi Krishna turn by turn. The latest Paryaya Festival was celebrated on 18th January 2012 when the Puja authorities were handed over to Vishvavallabhatirtha Swamiji of the Sodhe Vadiraja Matha from the Lakshmivaratirtha Swamiji of the Shiroor Matha.
Krishna Janmashtami is yet another important festival of Udupi when groups of men dress themselves up in the tiger costume and go from house to house and shop to shop collecting donations. The Udupi Krishna Temple is splendidly decorated at the time of Krishna Janmashtami and Lord Krishna is offered different ‘sevas’ and ‘prasadas’ throughout the day.