Bellary: Come Moharram and you see children playing with “tigers” in the northern districts of the state in a ritual that has spelt communal harmony for years. Painting themselves to resemble the big cats, Hindus and Muslims of villages wear tiger masks and hit the streets dancing to the beat of drums before seeking the blessings of elders who give them an ‘inam” (money) in return.
But the “tiger” ritual is slowly fading in many villages today. “A few years ago I painted about 200 persons, both Hindus and Muslims to resemble a tiger, but in the last three or four years I have painted less than 50”, says Mahesh, an artist from Hospet.
Bheemappa, 50, of Nagalapur village in Hospet who has been participating in the Moharram ritual for 20 years, says he is not able to do so anymore as he is getting older and is finding it difficult to dance to the drums for a week.
Honnur Swamy of Agasanuru village in Siruguppa taluk explains that educated youth are now reluctant to continue with the “Huli kunitha” tradition as they feel its beneath their dignity to dance on streets tigers.
But youth from both communities are still enthusiastic about carrying the “panja” over burning coal from one mosque to another in villages or towns late at night in procession.