Girmitiyas hold on to ancient art form
Terekuttu (South Indian dance) was brought to Fiji by the
Girmitiyas who came from Madras now known as Chennai in India
under the indenture system during colonial rule.
The Terekuttu is a unique form of dancing in
which the performers dressed in costumes of gods and goddesses –
act out specific scenes from the Hindu holy books of Ramayana
and the Bhagwat Gita.
The performers have to be nimble on their feet
and create different movements, which in Tamil is known as the
The Terekuttu is very entertaining to watch
and can keep crowds mesmerised throughout the night.
In Fiji the dance is done by various groups
(consisting mostly of South Indians) based in various parts of
the country that perform upon invitation.
The Terekuttu is performed in temples and
auspicious Occasions such as weddings.
While there are a number of good Terekuttu
groups in the Northern Division, the western side of the country
is renown for having some of the best.
Every Terekuttu group has a master (Guru) who
has an extensive knowledge of the Tamil language. He is the one
who writes the drama.
He teaches the performers their roles and
determines which types of costumes they wear and what dialogue
they should use.
The master is looked up to and is largely
respected by the group.
The Terekuttu is a religious activity and is
treated in such regard. It demands unrelenting commitment from
the performers are required to eat only vegetarian meals for
four days before the dance.
All Terekuttu groups have comics (Baffuan) who
entertain the crowd with jokes and hilarious actions – usually
at the expense of other performers.
Dance plays an important role in cultures
around the world.
Dancing, rhythmic body movements performed by
the dancer, is an art form serving as a form of communication
and expression. People of different cultures dance differently
and for various purposes.
Dancing reflects and outlines the culture of
the people. It is in dancing that people recognise and
understand this phenomenon.