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
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
Crossword in The Hindu about BADAGA
In ‘The Hindu’ newspaper of June 17,2008,<strong> crossword No.9252 carries the following clue for a six letter word for 5 Across:….. ” SHEEP’s CRY CAPTURES GADABOUT, A TRIBAL (6)”….. Yes. your guess is correct. Sheep’s cry is ‘BA’….. [Of course, as usual the answer to the crossword 9252 was given the next day June 18, 2008 in crossword no.9253]. Info Courtesy – my wife who is more fond of crosswords and sudoku than me – sob sob !!
Enna Alli Mutta Beda…
A couple of days back I received the following email from David McCreedy :
I’m looking for translations for four sentences in Badaga to add to my web site:
Currently the site lists over 500 languages in their own writing systems, everything from Afrikaans to Zulu, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to Braille.
I realize this request is rather odd… Please let me give you some background: My best friend from college has, since graduation, traveled extensively for her employer. So much in fact that she JOKES she only needs to know four phrases in the local language to get by:
1) Where is my room?
2) Where is the beach?
3) Where is the bar?
4) Don’t touch me there!
I am hoping that you can provide me with translations preferably using the native/normal writing system for the language as well as the Latin alphabet.
I will appreciate any effort you can make. Thank you,
And here is my reply :Your email to me. Quite interesting. Here are the Badaga – equivalents –1) Where is my room? – Enna Roomu ellie? என்ன ரூமு எல்லி ?
2) Where is the beach? – Beechu ellie hadadhey? பீச்சு எல்லி ஹடதெ?
3) Where is the bar? – Baaru ellie hadadhey? பாரு எல்லி ஹடதெ?
4) Don’t touch me there! – Enna allie mutta beda! என்ன அல்லி முட்ட பேட!
You can ‘see’ the Four Essential Travel Phrases at http://www.travelphrases.info/languages/badaga.htm
This must be the first book(let) published in 1925 about a very pressing and serious problem that split the Badagas vertically
[English translation interposed]
Microsoft on Badaga Language
Limerick on Badaga
I came across this interesting article while searching about Badaga music that goes with the unique dance form,
[H]ethai amma in Kovai [by Sakshi]
Seventy kilometers north of Coimbatore, in the Nilgiris hill town of Ooty, resides a community of people known as the Badaga. The Badaga trace their ancestry back to Ethai Amman, a pious woman from Mysore who fled the city when a Muslim king wanted her as his prize. Theirs is a somewhat cloistered community, stretching across some 500 villages in the Nilgiri Hills, which make the border of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Badaga have their own customs, codes, traditions and language. Dharma, faith, compassion and service—these are the hallmarks of the Badaga. They will proudly tell you that one will not find a single beggar among their “brothers and sisters” and rarely are any of their children born handicapped. (They attribute both of these to their culture, which nurtures service-mindedness.)……
…..A central element of Badaga culture is music and dance. When inspired, the Badaga will spontaneously begin improvising melodies and lyrics. “It is our way of expressing our fondness for someone,” explains Smt. Sivagami, [a Badaga teacher].
Their often-ecstatic music comes in the form of call-and-response, and some say the Badaga even have a form of telepathy, which enables them to improvise cohesively. The words and melodies are ever new, but the dance steps remain the same, regardless of the occasion. The Badaga sing and dance at weddings, births, funerals and nearly all other occasions……..
The music was an onslaught of drums and cymbals. It was an earthy, powerful and glorious ruckus to which the Badaga’s synchronized slow-motion dance served as a stirring and poignant counterpoint……
[from the book FOLK-LORE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT]
by James George Frazer – 1918
The Badagas, a tribe of the Neilgherry Hills in Southern India, believe in a deity named Gangamma, “who is supposed to be present at every stream, and especially so at the Koonde and Pykare rivers, into which it was formerly the practice for every owner of cattle, which had to cross them at their height, to throw a quarter of a rupee, because their cattle used frequently to be carried away by the current and destroyed. It is enumerated amongst the great sins of every deceased Badaga, at his funeral, that he had crossed a stream without paying due adoration to Gangamma.
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