Sunday, January 20, 2008

January 20 Kolhapur, martial arts, fine arts

I am feeling better today. I think the medicine is working. That and I have convinced my hosts to serve me black tea with lemon and honey instead of Indian tea with buffalo milk (which is also tasty but not good for pharyngitis).
We were given an open air demonstration of almost an hour of the local Maharati martial arts which are different from anywhere in the world. The Maharati are considered to be warriors. There was quite a crowd that gathered in the street outside of the school to watch. For the demonstration they used weapons exclusively; traditional swords, flexible swords that can bend back to the handle, stout wood poles, long metal poles, and leather shields. One woman who spun two long poles holds the record for spinning them for 15 hours non-stop while one of the men holds the records for cutting 32? lemons in one minute and over 3000 in an hour! I received one half of a lemon on my camera and hand but no damage was done. After coconuts and bananas placed on peoples necks and bellies were cut, the children watching from the crowd would run in and grab them. Watching them was really impressive. I wouldn’t even want to tangle with the 5 year old girl; she could do some serious damage and was very focused and skilled. They also gave a new meaning to kids playing with fire. There was often one woman warding off up to as many as six men at a time and they recreated a historic scene of a woman fighting the British with a child on her back. As they performed they were moving like a dance to the beat of percussion, two drums and cymbals. After each demo was done, they touched the ground briefly with their hand. It was beautiful to watch the spinning of the poles, swords and shields.
We next went to an open air art show. The first thing we noticed was what looked like birds in the trees. Hundreds of them! (sorry I couldn't rotate the picture) Upon a closer look, they turned out to be crow-sized bats! They were huge and noisy and hung mostly in bare trees where they could get the sun. They eat insects, we were told. No one else seemed to notice them so it must be pretty common here. The art show was different from what we think of as a traditional arts show. This one lasted for 3 hours and the artists were each working on one piece of art from start to finish during that time. Each had one piece only, not for sale, and no others. There were less than a dozen artists present and apparently they are some of the top artists. One man was working with powdered colors, several with paints, several sculptors, and one child painter.
After the art show we returned to Elizabeth’s host’s home for lunch and then I came back to my hosts home for a rest.

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