Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Girl on a horse

Contrary to what most people think, it was not PSY who invented the 'horse dance'. Very long before Gangnam Style became a global craze, many cultures around the world had been using some representation of horses as part of their folk or cultural representation. Or were they? 

In Tamil Nadu, the "Poikkal Kuthirai" (False-legged Horse) dance supposedly finds mention in Silappadhikaram, a work from the 6th (or is it 2nd?) century CE. There is another school of thought which believes it was brought to Thanjavur by the Marathas. And then there is Dr. Murugesan, Professor Emeritus of the Folklore Department of the Tamil University, Thanjavur, who claims that the Poikkal Kuthirai was created by Ramakrishna Naidu, a carpenter of Thiruvaiyaru and that when he performed on his false-legged horse, it was to the accompaniment of the kondalam instrument, performed by Marathi musicians.

Whatever its origins may be, the poikkal kuthirai is indeed a tough act to deliver. The performer is on some form of stilts, even if it is not very high. The body of the horse is constructed around the midriff and even though it is made from lightweight materials - straw, papier máchê, cloth - it still needs to be carried around and manoeuvred during the performance. These girls are coming off after nearly an hour's dancing during the Republic Day parade - they are just waiting to get off the saddle! 

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