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The Make-up! (Part 6 of 11)

The final look!
I like this angle!
With the inaugural rituals done, and the bhandaara ceremony over, everyone including the artists and musicians, break for dinner. Before the next part of the evening kicks off, what remains is the make-up, or rather, creating representations of the Spirits themselves, on the artists. Personally for me, this is one of the bits I look forward to the most. Watching them paint, decorate, place flowers, finally creating a picture-perfect image of themselves, is wonderful. 
(I don't realise it that time, but I subconsciously pick up tips, to re-create the same on a friend's face a month later for a face-painting competition.)

One of the artists recites a folk song in Tulu, referred to as a Pad-dana. These are folk songs which talk about the background of the spirit being invoked, and the practise of Spirit Worship in general. This is now considered a slowly dying art; traditionally the women-folk of the artists would sing these Pad-danas as the artists would get ready, but now it's not a very common sight.
(CLICK HERE to watch a sample from YouTube)
The invoking and the dance of the Spirits will be split into multiple 'rounds', if I may use the term. Initially, the Spirit of the land on which stands our ancestral home, Panjurli, will be invoked, followed by our house spirits, the brother-sister pair, Panjurli and Varthe. So the first artist begins his make-up. One interesting thing is, the representation of different Spirits is quite different. Panjurli is depicted with the face painted yellow. Varthe, a female, has a lighter skin tone. (S)he is supposed to be milder compared to her brother. Other Spirits (not depicted here) have different representations, for example the Spirit Guliga is supposed to be a wild, hungry, ferocious one, and the make-up looks scary, almost grotesque (I'll put up a few pictures in a later post; watching the Guliga Kola is an experience in itself!).

The artist begins his make-up. Pictured here, is his face in sequence. He is from the same village as ours, from the same village school that my Dad and Uncles went to, and knows our family well. He obliges for photographs, everytime I ask him to, at every stage. 
In the earlier times, they themselves would do the colouring. Now there are helpers for the same. He meticulously does up his face. Of the colours used, some are natural. Mixing limestone with turmeric gives a crimson-red colour. Charcoal is also used. Now, the usual synthetic colours are used too.
Along with the colour on the face, equally important are the flowers and the silver head-dresses. The head-dress is carefully placed, tied and secured. It has to stay that way till the ceremony gets over, which by all probabilities, will continue till the morning of the next day. The flowers, kakda and firecracker flower (Abboli/Abbamallige) are tied.
Next, he ties a thick material derived from the areca palm, around his legs for protection and support. He later has to tie a heavy brass anklet (Gaggara) at the ankles. 
He finally dons his clothes. Rest of the flowers are set in place, including some fragrant jasmine that is now beginning to bloom. He is ready. And he agrees for a round of photographs, even agreeing to pose in different angles! All this is possible only now, as he still is himself. Once he is possessed, we can only watch him, dance in a trance.
Similarly, the artists for the next round begin to get ready too. As expected, the artist who'll be possessed by the female Spirit, takes much longer to get ready! :)
Her saree...

With this, the artists are ready. Everything is ready. And the dance begins.

Read also, the earlier posts in this series: 


  1. wonderful... reminded me of the kathakali dancers makeup :-)

    1. Yes, hope to watch it sometime! The green looks fascinating.

  2. Superb story. It is always interesting to know action behind the scene.

    1. So true! The final act is just the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Quite a task and loads of patience...awesome information and pictures :)

    1. Thank you so much Shweta! Watch this space for more :)

  4. Its always exciting to know what's happening behind the scenes. Interesting photo post.
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Rat's​ ​Nibble ​​


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