Beating the drums of women empowerment

Beating the drums of women empowerment

September 21, 2023

All-women Chende Mela troupe performs at Mysore Palace temple

By Nandini Srinivasan

Mysore/Mysuru: The Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple within the Mysore Palace premises resonated with the divine, rhythmic beats of the ‘Chende Mela’ on Thursday (Sept. 14) evening. The mesmerising drum beats and enchanting talas transported the numerous devotees into a trance, further intensifying the religious fervour that filled the air.

The ten-day-long Krishna Janmashtami festival, celebrated within the Temple premises, featured the Rathotsava, which depicted various significant events from the life of Lord Krishna, such as the ‘Bakasuravadha’, ‘Poothani Samhara’, ‘Malla Yuddha’ and ‘Rasa Leela’.  

However, the spotlight of Thursday’s celebrations focused on the ‘Malla Yuddha’ event, and the ‘Chende Mela’, by an all-women team, provided the perfect backdrop for this auspicious occasion.

One of the most captivating aspects of this ‘Chende Mela,’ presented by the ‘Meghanade Chande Mela Balaga’, is that the performance earned the admiration from the onlookers.

Traditionally, the Chende or Drums, known as ‘Raudra Vadya,’ have predominantly been played by men. This traditional percussion instrument comes from the Karavali (coastal) region and holds a significant place in folklore, being used in cultural arts like ‘Yakshagana’, ‘Bhootakola’ and ‘Daiva Nartanas’.

While there have been women Chende Mela groups in the coastal region, this is the first of its kind in Mysuru, as confirmed by the group’s trainer, P.V. Adarsh Rao. Adarsh, a seasoned Chende player and professional photographer, has dedicated 14 years to mastering the instrument and has been training young enthusiasts for the past 8 years.

Inspired by the women troupes in coastal regions, 15 women from Mysuru have undergone training under Adarsh and have now reached a level of proficiency that allows them to deliver captivating performances. The group skilfully plays ‘Chendes’, ‘Dollus’, and ‘Talas’. They have been trained to perform the simple ‘thaka thaka’ pattern in 40 different ways, giving them a solid foundation in ‘Talas’.

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“We have had the honour of performing at various Government functions, and it’s a sheer joy to play here at the Palace,” says Srimathi Arunkumar. She adds that the weight of the drums is inconsequential when there’s a genuine passion for learning. Several members of the troupe have also learned ‘Dollu Kunita’ and ‘Veeragase’.

Adarsh and his teammate, Kartik Nayak, offer daily training sessions at the Vysaraja Mutt premises in Krishnamurthypuram. There is no age limit for learning, and those interested in mastering this art can simply walk into the Mutt premises and enrol themselves.

The talented troupe continued to captivate the audience with their rhythmic beats for over 20 minutes, earning thunderous applause and heartfelt appreciation from the devotees.

Members of the troupe: Srimathi Arunkumar, Archana Anil Hande, Vanishri R. Bhat, H.A. Shree Vidya, Roopa Anantha, Lakshmi S. Bhoomika, Vinutha Karthikeyan, Vishruth A. Dhanya, Adarsh Rao, Karthik Nayak.


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