Mysore: With the younger generation shying away from ethnic art and culture along with a sharp decline in the number of folk artistes in recent times, a family of illiterates in Chamarajanagar village has turned tutors, by training children to be Neelagars.
Neelagars are folk singers who dwell on mythological themes that are popular in these parts.
Chamrajanagar district is home to many mythological characters like Siddappaji, Rachappaji, Malle Mahadeshwara, Manteswamy, Mudugathore Malappa, Biligirirangaswamy and others.
A family of illiterates in Chamarajanagar village has turned tutors, by training children to be Neelagars.
Neelagars sing stories that educate people on their lofty ideals, humanity and equality, that are popular even after centuries in these parts.
People and devotees revere Rachappaji and Siddappaji, disciples and successors of Manteswami, as masters who spread the bhakti cult.
Like Harikatha, the Neelagars sing for days during ceremonies, auspicious occasions and fairs.
It is also a tradition and practice of the devotees of Siddappaji and Rachappaji to sing songs dedicated to Lord Mahadeshwara in order to raise alms on Mondays and Fridays for their livelihood.
Doddagavi Basappa of Doddamole village, from a poor background, worked with his parents as an agricultural labourer.
He was impressed with the performance of Neelagars and their discourses on mythological characters, and joined Krishnappa in Yalandur as a boy, to learn the art.
Basappa and his brother-in-law P Siddashetty and brother C Banagara Shetty learnt to play instruments and sing songs on Mahadeshwara and other deities during ceremonies.
As they gained proficiency and people started inviting them for functions across Mysore, Mandya and Chamrajnagar districts, they formed a troupe of their own.
Their performances are also appreciated at the Janapada Jathre in Bangalore, Hampi Utsav, Janapada Loka near Ramanagara, Shivarathri at MM Hills and Kannada Sahitya Parishat.
They even had a function in Mumbai.
Basappa (51) has now turned tutor as he has trained more than 20 children who are budding Neelagars, to see that they continue the legacy of this art form.
He along with his family members were approached by the Kannada and Culture Department asking them to perform at a function in the United States.
Delighted by the invitation, Basappa who still seeks alms on Mondays and Fridays in Doddamole and neighbouring villages, has decided to train more than 100 children in two years in Chamrajnagar and Yalandur taluk.
He said that the children will be encouraged to give performances locally during vacations and holidays.
"I have decided not to train school dropouts as I want them to continues their studies," he added