50-year-old Jeetendra Parkar has been selected, for the fifth time, to impersonate the ‘Veerabhadra’ at the ritual to be held at Vithoba temple, Ponda. Jeetendra shares his experience with NT BUZZ of depicting the iconic religious figure, going into a trance and revealing all the preparations he has to undertake for the revered ritual
SACHI NAIK| NT BUZZ
Q. To impersonate the Veerabhadra is a big responsibility. How do you feel being selected to take on such a task?
There is no doubt that it is a huge responsibility. I get a little nervous because everything needs to go according to tradition. When I became the Veerabhadra for the first time, I had to make a lot of adjustments while I danced on the road during the act. Now that I’m used to it, I’m fine and I like doing it.
Q. Can you tell us about the selection of the Veerabhadra?
In our temple, we make chits of all those who are interested, from which a name is then picked. Secondly, if the selected person cannot perform the act, another person is selected to do it. So, this year if for some genuine reason, I cannot perform the act, another person – Govind Mapari – will do it.
Q. What preparations have you undertaken for the ritual of Veerabhadra?
I have to start fasting when Shigmo begins; for seven days before the Veerabhadra ritual, I consume one meal a day. I generally have breakfast but skip dinner and remain a vegetarian through this period. Besides, on the day of the ritual I fast the entire day. Although I can have fruits and drink water, I do not have any heavy meal.
Q. Tell us about the costume and make-up for Veerabhadra.
Veerabhadra wears a thick bright coloured costume and paints his face red. The makeup makes him look furious; this year Pradeep Govekar will do the makeup. A ‘Prabhaval’, made of wooden cane is decorated and tied to the back of the person. The entire costume of Veerabhadra is very heavy making it very exhaustive.
Q. Are there chances of you getting hurt during this act?
Usually, as per the traditions, Veerabhadra holds burning coconut palm leaves and dances according to the rhythm. So, when I move the burning palms to synchronise the dance moves, the burning embers fall around. These have injured me a few times. My shoulder was also burnt once. But now I am used to it and I do not get scared anymore. Till the time my body supports me to perform it, I will continue to be the Veerabhadra!
Q. Do you remember the things you do when you are disguised as Veerabhadra?
I remember a few things. When I start the act, I am aware of everything. Then with the beat of ‘tha thaiya thak da’, I begin to dance and midway, I go into a trance and cannot remember anything. It is not that I become unconscious but I get too exhausted to remember anything. Tactics are used to provoke Veerabhadra and that is how I get angry, and then as soon as I reach the temple, the rituals are over, and I slip into unconsciousness. Then the people take off my costume, and after I gain consciousness, I have a bath and then my meal.