Karra Saamu or "stick fight" was a
defense mechanism adopted by the men folk in the olden days to protect
themselves and the village folks from thefts. Young people were trained
and this skill was useful to protect their lives and properties. This
performance is very popular in a few villages in
Krishna, East and West Godavari districts.
Previously, the 'Harijans', 'Nayakas' and 'Dommari' community were trained in this skill and employed to protect the zamindars, king's palaces and temples, but gradually this profession lost its significance after the emergence of the military and the police. It is still practiced by few people as a family treasure and practice it for pastime.
Performing With A Stick
The stick is a thin, 9 feet long bamboo piece with half an inch circumference. 'Dappu' (drum), 'Bigli' (whistle) and 'Taasha' are the other instruments sometimes used by performers to produce fierce inspiring noise during the performance. The swaying of the stick produces a swishing noise that adds to the thrill of the onlookers.
The Karra Saamu is a very exciting skill to display and to watch. The artists perform with different tricks with great skill. A performance by two or more persons is interesting to watch. The two fighters make their entry within the arena from opposite corners, by swinging their sticks and moving forward with careful steps to the beats of the musical instruments.
The fight begins when the two opponents meet at the center. Spectators get so tensed at every move of the performer that they feel that one of the fighters is certain to be beaten up. But this does not happen as the skilled performers protect one another by cautiously crossing the sticks. More fighters join the arena and the fight becomes even more intense and engrossing. Sometimes the Karra Saamu experts fight with sticks that have flames burning at one end.
Karra Saamu is a major attraction during village festivals and marriage processions. When the marriage procession or the procession of the temple deity halts at the center of the village crossroads, the Karra Saamu experts come forward to exhibit their skills to the beat of the Dappu (drum) drawing applause from the eager spectators.
The Karra Saamu performance is common in movies with a rural background. It is usually a fight scene where the hero trying to fight the evil forces in the villages with his stick enacts it.