Hyderabad: In 1981’s Republic Day celebrations, Kanaka Raju–a Gussadi dancer from the Telangana’s Gond tribal community–performed as a part of the state’s tableau in front of the esteemed guests that included the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, scientist and former President Abdul Kalam.
Now, in the list announced on Republic Day’s eve, Raju is the only person from the state to receive the prestigious Padma Shri award.
63-year-old Kanaka Raju, of Kumarambheem Asifabad district, is more than worthy of this honor, say scholars of tribal culture. The Gussadi dance is performed wearing a Gussadi hair cap made of around 1,500 peacock feathers locally known as Mal Boora, and animal skin around their waists. Apart from sustaining the dying dance form for over forty years, Raju also teaches it to young people for the traditional art form to live on.
Raju, who works as a cook on daily wages at a tribal welfare hostel in Marlavai village, expressed happiness on being conferred with the fourth-highest civilian honour. He thanked the state and the Central governments for recognizing his services in practicing and teaching this traditional dance form.