I love watching the Badaga dance in Coimabatore. Two years back when Amma last was here, and again during Amma’s 53rd birthday celebrations in Amritapuri, they also enchanted the crowd – inspiring westerners, students, and Ashramites to join in . The same happened again this year. Young and old, men and women. Their rhythmic movements, graceful flowing hands and bodies, the beating of drums and call and response voices calls to the dancer inside us. It’s so primal, so natural, and so beautiful.
One wonders how long these people have been dancing like this – how far back in time? How wonderful that India has been able to preserve these timeless traditions.
For a while, I was content just taking photos, or watching from the sidelines – focusing on their movements. But I found my inner self wanting to join in. I stood there – conflicted – trying to overcome my inhibitions – people would look at me – a westerner in white awkwardly throwing his body around. But then some westerners did join in, the Badaga happy to show them the movements even as they were ‘throwing a wrench’ into the coordinated movements of those already dancing.
Still, I stood by the sidelines. Then, at the end of the first night, as Darshan ended, and the Badaga still playing, Amma Herself stood up to leave the stage – and made a full circle – turning round with the beat, no inhibition, no concerns. Just dancing…..
The next day, I knew the Badaga would be there again. Would I join in?
Around 2am, they were singing and dancing again. Again, I stood by the sidelines, thinking about how Amma was so natural, innocent when She danced. I recalled how Amma says it’s just not enough to stand at the shore of the ocean and just get your feet wet. You have to dive in. I recalled how I overcame my fears when I used to go firewalking (walking on hot coals) – I would stand there trying to convince myself that it would be fine. It just takes a leap of faith…
In a moment of surrender, I joined the line. I found myself behind a Badaga man who was more than happy to call out the movements and changes as we made our way around the circle. I loved it. At times, it was awkward, but once I got the jist of it, it seemed so natural, so beautiful. When we were in synch -hands, legs, arms, – it was so nice – like a huge drum circle when they reach that magical moment when all the drummers are connected and the music just flows. So did our bodies-around and around, faster and faster.
I can’t wait till the next time..
Sri Pati, USA Coimbatore, 23 January 2007
[ to read more titbits about Badagas, click here or here]