Informant Info

Nationality: Indian

Age: 53

Occupation: Computer Programmer

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date of Performance/Collection: 2023

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Tamil

Relationship: Mother

Referred as AS.  AS was born in India and moved to the United States when she was 24. 


Kaavadi Aatam is a traditional dance-drama performed in Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, particularly during religious festivals. The performance is typically associated with Hindu temple festivals and involves a procession of people carrying a large, decorative structure called a kaavadi.  The kaavadi is usually made of bamboo and is decorated with brightly colored cloth, flowers, and other decorations. Participants in the performance carry the kaavadi on their shoulders and dance to the beat of drums and other musical instruments.


While she was in India and during her visits to India to visit family, she saw the  Kaavadi dance performed by various community members. While telling me about the dance, she would occasionally perform small parts of it.

The performance is seen as a way to pay the gods homage and seek their blessings. The dancers and participants in the performance are typically devotees who have pledged to carry the kaavadi as an act of devotion and to fulfill a vow or promise.


The interpretation of Kaavadi Aatam is rooted in its religious and cultural context.  In addition to its religious significance, Kaavadi Aatam is also seen as a cultural expression. The performance is a way for people to express their creativity, energy, and devotion through dance, music, and the elaborate decoration of the kaavadi.

One of the main significances of Kaavadi Aatam is the offering of penance by the devotees. It is believed that by carrying the kavadi, a physical burden, the devotees are offering their penance and devotion to Lord Murugan.  The dance is also a form of self-mortification and a way of seeking purification and atonement for one’s sins.  Another significance of Kaavadi Aatam is seeking blessings and fulfilling vows. Devotees carry the kavadi as a symbol of their devotion and commitment to Lord Murugan, and they believe that by doing so, they will receive his blessings and protection. The dance is also a way of fulfilling vows or promises made to the deity, such as granting a wish or seeking a cure for an illness.  Kaavadi Aatam is also seen as promoting communal devotion and spirit.  The dance is performed in groups, allowing devotees to come together, bond, and strengthen their relationships.