Veeragase gets its name from the Hindu legendary warrior, Veerabhadra. According to a legend, the Hindu God Shiva was married to Dakshayini, whose father Daksha was against this marriage and hence bore enmity with Shiva. When he performed a yagna, he invited all the Gods except Shiva. Much against Shiva’s wishes, Dakshayini went to the yagna uninvited and was insulted by Daksha. Unable to bear the insults, Dakshayini jumped into the sacrificial fire. Hearing this news, Shiva got very angry and started to perform the Tandava dance which created turmoil in the world. When one of the sweat drops from Shiva fell on to the earth, it gave rise to the warrior, Veerabhadra who went to Daksha’s yagna, disrupted it and killed Daksha. When Daksha’s wife pleaded mercy, he regained his life. This story is narrated by the dancers performing Veeragase.
The performers of Veeragase are called Lingadevaru and are devotees of Shiva. The dancers put on a white traditional headgear and a bright red coloured dress. They also adorn themselves with a necklace made of Rudraksha beads, a hip-belt called rudra muke, an ornament resembling a snake and worn around the neck called Nagabharana and anklets. The dancers smear vibhooti on their foreheads, ears and eyebrows. They carry a wooden plaque of Lord Veerabhadra in their left hand and a sword in their right hand.
The dance trope usually consists of two, four or six members. A lead singer in the troupe narrates the story of Daksha yajna as the dance is being performed. A huge decorative pole called Nandikolu which has an orange flag at the top is held by one of the dancers. Traditional percussion instruments called sambal and dimmu lend music to the dance. Cymbals and shehnai and other instruments like karadi and chamala are also used. The dance also involves a ritualistic piercing of a needle across the mouth