Bharathakoothu VIII: Local history

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Published on: 26 September 2018

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is a Tamil writer, Director of National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, and a Consultant at Sahapedia.

The memories, stories and events of the local history are so woven into the Bharathakoothu performances and rituals that one might tend to think that what is performed is not the Mahabharata, but the history of the region. Chief among the local historical narratives is the story of Pormannan (War Lord) or the Potharaja. Though there are minor variations in the story of Pormannan from that of Potharaja, the stories follow the same sequence of a local king becoming Draupadi's devotee and holding the severed head of the last demon slain by Draupadi. Though the play 'Potharaja's Fight' is performed only infrequently in the Bharathakoothu festivals, its significance is not diminished since the icon of Potharaja has a presence in all the border rituals. Alf Hiltebeitel records that the processional visit to the village borders during Bharathakoothu Draupadi festivals is a reminder of the wars and war preparations the region experienced in the past.