Kanaka Raju says that he is happy about the recognition.

Kanaka Raju wearing the head gear
news Interview Saturday, February 20, 2021 - 16:27

It has been almost a month since Kanaka Raju was honoured with the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in the field of arts, for his contribution to preserve the tradition of Gusadi, an Adivasi dance form. Raju, however, is yet to make sense of this award. A reluctant Raju, who has earned the moniker of Gusadi Raju says, “Everyone is happy about it, so even I am happy. I am yet to make sense of it.”

Speaking to TNM about how he is being treated post his felicitation, he says, “There’s a change now but only the coming days will tell what is in store.” Kanaka Raju, who is 80 years old, is from the Gond tribe. A native of Marlawai village in Jainoor mandal, Asifabad district, Raju has been teaching the Gusadi dance to men from his community for the past 40 years. He is the sole recipient of Padma Shri from Telangana in 2021.

The Gusadi dance is performed during the Dandari festival which is celebrated for 20 days (10 days before and 10 days after Deepavali). Artistes wear a headgear known as “Mal Jali” in Gondi language, that is designed with over 10,000 peacock feathers. They also decorate themselves with horns of rams and deer, and cover their bodies with ash, and wear beads on their arms while draping animal skin around them while Gusadi is performed.

“We consider Gusadi, a very holy ritual. We worship the Gusadi dancers. For these 20 days, they will not bathe or wash their face. This we consider as a holy act,” says Kanaka Venkat, a teacher and acquaintance of Raju.

Raju is also known as ‘master’ for teaching hundreds of students to perform Gusadi. “In just a month I teach them to perform. I can tell if someone has the ability to perform within 15 days,” he says.

Before being felicitated with the Padma Shri, Raju earned recognition in the district when he took a dance troupe twice to Delhi to perform before former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former President APJ Abdul Kalam in 2014. “It was a memorable experience. I took along some 35 performers. I selected them after giving lessons for a month,” he recalls.

Sharing a funny anecdote before receiving the award he says, “Some officials had come to my home asking me to give my details. I asked them ‘Did something [wrong] happen?’ I was fretting. They tried telling me that it was for some award purpose and I did not understand.” Laughing about it, he says, “Only after getting the award I knew what that was about.” 

Raju says that he is happy to teach several of his students the dance and keep the tradition alive.

Post the honour, the octogenarian is being treated as a star and is invited for all the inauguration ceremonies in the region.  

 

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