By P.T. Bopanna
Padma Shri award winner, Rani Machaiah, who is an exponent of the Ummathat folk dance art of Kodagu (Coorg), is Coorg Person of the Year, 2023.
Rani Machaiah Iymudiyanda has been leading her Ummathat troupe since 1984 and has trained thousands of students in the folk dance tradition in Karnataka’s Kodagu district.
The selection was made on the basis of a poll I conducted through my news and tourism portal www.coorgtourisminfo.com.
Born on April 4, 1943, Rani founded ‘Kaveri Kala Vrinda’ in 1986 to promote Kodava folk dances like Ummathat, Bolakat and Kolat. She was presented the Padma Shri award early in 2023 by the President Droupadi Murmu.
Rani is known for teaching and popularising Ummathat, a traditional dance form of Kodagu danced by women dressed in red brocade saris draped in the Kodava style, and wearing traditional Kodava jewellery. They dance gracefully in circles around a lit pedestal lamp to the rhythm of hand-held brass cymbals which they beat as they dance to the accompaniment of folk songs sung by two or more women. The dance is devoted to Goddess Kaveri (the river which takes its birth in Kodagu and is considered as their mother goddess by Kodavas). It is performed mostly during the harvest festival of Puthari.
She also promoted folk dances such as ‘Kolat’ and ‘Bolakat’, which are danced by Kodava men attired in their traditional kupya and chele. They dance in large circles to the beat of songs sung by four men who beat dudis as they sing. Kolat is danced by men holding canes which they strike together as they dance in the village green during Puthari festivities. Bolakat is danced by men in temple courtyards during the Bolak namme (festival of lights).
Rani improvised the art of Ummathat as she found the traditional dance form was too slow.
She has also taken her dance troupe to various cities across India to popularise Ummathat during cultural festivals.
Rani served as president of Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy from 2009 to 2012. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Karnataka Rajyothsava State award.
Her husband, the late Machaiah, was an advocate and they have two children, Satish Machaiah and Saritha Devaiah.