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Maargamkali is an ancient art form performed by the Syrian Christians of Kerala. It is most popular among the Knanaya sect of Christians. The term Maargam is representative of the Christian Community. This word which has the meaning ‘enquiry’, ‘path’ or ‘religion’ is popular in Buddhism. The famous statement in the Bible which says “I am the path, Truth and Life. Nobody can reach the Father without me; makes clear, the essence of the word Maargam. The theme of the Maargamkali songs is the journey of Maar Thoma all over India.
Syrian Music and Maargamkali Songs
The Christians of Kerala, especially the Knanaya Christians, maintain their Syrian Jew Tradition in Church rituals and social observances. Their music and dance have in them strong syrian link which is easily perceived. Songs are sung in three ways:
(1) They are sung in a lengthy manner.
(2) They are sung in a shortened manner, and
(3) They are sung by lengthening and shortening the songs. The singers are not trained musicians who are proficient in the scientific way of rendering songs. The song style practiced by emulating the priests is sung and propagated by the masters of this folk art.
Dress and Costume
Maargamkali was performed only by men. The attire of the dancers is simple. They wear Gold bordered dhoties and have turbans with gold border. A red coloured cloth serves as waist band. No ornaments are worn by these men. Since this art form is now performed by young girls, they have started wearing jewels. The coin necklace is worn around the neck. The large traditional christian earrings known as Mekkamothiram are worn in both the ears. Big broad bangles, and large anklets adorn the hands and the legs. The palms of these women dancers are reddened by applying Henna.
Maargamkali focuses on supple and graceful body movements. Twelve players begin the dance by standing in front of a lighted lamp. These twelve are supposed to be the apostles of Jesus Christ. The lamp symbolizes Christ and Divine Radiance. In Maargamkali also, the players pay obeisance to the Guru, bow to the lamp and start dancing. The players stand around the lamp, at a distance of about three feet away from it. Their feet are positioned in V shape and hands are joined together in a prayerful gesture. Their eyes are intently focused on the lamp
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