Sunday, December 4, 2022
Andhra Pradesh



Kolatam is a play with sticks. This is known as Hallisaka and Dandarasaka in Sanskrit. In olden days females used to play Kolatam in temple halls as a devotional offering. Now the Kolatam played by males is a folk art form.

A troupe consists of twenty to forty members or the least eight members. There are even numbers of players and a leader in every troupe. The troupe  leader is called Pennuddi or Kolanna Pantulu or Garuva. He controls and leads the troupe. A pair of two players is called Uddi in which one is called Rama and the other is Lakshmana. All the players form a big circle in the beginning and change into two circles one in another. The leader along with the Mridangam, flute, harmonium and cymbal players, stand  in the middle of the inner circle. Each player holds two sticks one in each hand  with coloured strings or bells tied to their ends. As soon as the leader signals, pairs in the circle starts moving with a prayer to Lord Ganesha. The leader then cries out the rhythm Etlugada and begins a song. The songs are in different rhymes and beats. They may be prayers, duets, descriptions  or narratives delineating Bhakti, Sringara, Karuna and Virarasa. The variety in steps is called Kopulu. There are 50 kinds of kopulu as maximum and minimum number ranges from six to twelve. When the troupe leader sings the first line of the song the players sing the second line and strike the sticks moving or jumping forward and backward in the circles. The leader whistles and changes the speed to a high crescendo. This is called 'Usi'. The players accordingly move with fast steps maintaining the speed for some time  and stop with Muktayimpu. The troupe leader then takes up another kopu and the kolatam continues with different style.

There is a special type of Kolatam called 'Jada Kolatam'or veni Kolatam'. This is more popular in Karnataka. The troupe consisting of 12 to 18 players  holding coloured strings or ropes  tied above to a pole or branch of a tree form into a circle. The circle's movements inside and outside are so well timed and executed that the ropes hanging from the top become plaited to form a Jada or veni. when the troupe dances anticlockwise  the ropes are unwound again, colourful ribbons on platforms during ceremonial occasions.