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Home Cover Features Celebrating Life!

Celebrating Life!

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Celebrating Life!

Tapping one’s foot to the beat of the drums or being in tune with artistes on stage is quiet common for a person mesmerised by the art forms, be it rural, folk or classical. The music and dance unite the urban and rural alike. The Telugu States are doing a lot in preserving the culture and showcasing it across the States, Nation and Globe.

Music and dance is a part and parcel of our daily lives and rituals. The tribals and rural folk celebrate agony and ecstasy with the same fervour. The Telugu speaking states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is a home to many Folk, Tribal and Classical art forms.

“The Tribals of Chenchu, Kommakoya, Gussadi, Banjara or Lambada, Nayakpoddu, Madhuri or Komareddy celebrate the birth and the death of their dear ones. There is music and dance in their daily lives,” says Mamidi Harikrishna, Director, Department of Culture, Telangana. Since the emergence of the Telangana State, the government has been doing everything in its power to protect and nurture the art forms. “With urbanisation setting in, many tribals are quitting their age-old traditions and moving to cities in search of livelihood. Sometimes, on the outskirts of the city, where some of them have settled down, one can see them celebrating their lives after a hard day’s work. Today, the government is trying to protect these oral traditional art forms,” says Harikrishna.

The director explains that primarily there are three kinds of art forms. Firstly, the Primitive, which is only beats and rhythm, secondly the Narrative style or oral traditions where there is only one person and he narrates everything like – ‘Arjunudu Vuchinu (Arjun has come) to Yudhum Chesinu (he fought) and thirdly, the refined art forms, which have theme, ambience, overall perspective and performing art.

Celebrating Life!

“Since the formation of Telangana, the government has been showcasing the State’s rich cultural heritage across the State and globe. We have been organising 10-day Janapada Jatara, a cultural parade, on the occasion of World Folk Day, across the State,” he says.

The director shares that they will be organising a 125-day celebrations, which will commence on February 9, 2017 and end on June 2, 2017. “Ten days will be devoted to each art form, inclusive of Folk art form, Tribal art form, Rural art form, Classical art form, Deccani art form, Qawalis and Ghazals, and Surabhi among many others,” says the Director.

Speaking about the Komma Koya art form, a tribal art form, the director says that tribals preserve their art form, which is mainly oral and depicts their life. “They celebrate the 21-day festival of their child and the death of their near and dear ones in the same fashion. The women and men dance together without any inhibitions,” he says.

Nowadays, urbanism is seen creeping into the dressing of the tribals. They too are wearing salwar kameez, saree and pants. In the Komma Koya dance, these tribals also perform a fight with their kommus (horns). They have a beautiful headgear of peacock feathers and dance carrying a four feet long drum.

Harikrishna shares that Madhuri dance has come from Mathura, which is typical to Kathak and those who perform it believe that they are Lord Krishna’s gopikas.

The dominant Tribal groups include Lambada, Koya, Gond, Yerukala, Pradhan, while the primitive Tribal groups include Kolam, Chenchus, Konda Reddi, and Thoti, who have their own dance and music related to their daily activities. In short, there is music and dance in every step they take.

Celebrating Life!

The popular festivals celebrated in the State are Bonalu and Bathukkama in July-August and October respectively depending on the Hindu Almanac. Goddess Mahankali is worshiped during Bonalu. This festival is celebrated by the citizens as a thanksgiving to the Goddess for fulfillment of vows. It is said that special poojas are performed for Yellamma on the first and last day of the festival.

The word Bonam has been coined from the word Bhojanam, which means a meal or a feast and is an offering to Mother Goddess. The women prepare rice cooked with milk, jaggery in a new brass or earthen pot adorned with neem leaves, turmeric and vermilion and lighted lamp on the top of the pot and visit the temple with near and dear ones. The women devotees, along with music, carry the pots on their heads and make offering of Bonam along with turmeric-vermilion, bangles and saree to the Goddess across the temples. The Goddess is also known as Mysamma, Pochamma, Yellamma, Pedamma, Dokkalamma, Ankalamma, Poleramma, Maremma and Nookalamma.

Bathukamma is floral festival celebrated for nine days during Durga Navratri. It starts on the day of Mahalaya Amavasya and the nine-day festivities conclude with Saddula Bathukamma or Pedda Bathukamma festival, culminating with Durgashtami. This festival is followed by a seven-day festival Boddemma marking the end of rainy season, while Bathukamma festival heralds the beginning of winter.

The State government celebrates this festival in a big way. Bathukamma is a beautiful flower stack, arranged with different unique seasonal flowers with medicinal values, in seven concentric layers in the shape of temple gopuram. In short this festival signifies feminine felicitation. The State comes alive with this festival. Women dressed in their finery can be seen dancing and singing at the Hussainsagar in the city. The floral stacks are dotted on the main roads and airports across the metros. On the final day, these flower stacks are floated in river bodies thus marking a beautiful sight.

Oggu Katha is a ballad narrated with the help of an instrument called Oggu resembling Lord Siva’s Damaruka. The performers are called Oggu Gollalu. The artistes play a big drum called Dolu and big size cymbals. Sometimes, they also play wind instrument Napery. The main character with bells tied to the knees, playing the Oggu narrates the ballad. The traditional Oggu Katha mostly is confined to the priest class of Kurumas, but, they also sing other ballads. Recently, Oggu workshop was held at the Lalita Kala Thoranam to protect and propagate the art form.

Celebrating Life!

Many of you, who may have seen Tollywood director Rajamouli’s Baahubali, would have seen the Gussadi dance of tribals belonging to Adilabad district. This dance sequence was shown as part of a cultural event during the installation of a statue of Mahismati king Bhallala Deva. In this art form, the Tribals dance to a systematic rhythm wearing peacock-feather made headgear. The tribals apply sacred ash and adorn vibrant attires. The Gussadi dance is performed during Deepavali and other festivals to thank the Lord.

The Tribals have added opulence to the region with their rich heritage of culture, innocent lifestyle and age-old ethnicity. Some of the tribals are occupied in trade and commerce, while their womenfolk are part of cottage industries like making toys, baskets, mats, beads and cosmetics.

Chindu Bhagavatam, a drama type art that resembles Yakshaganam is widely performed in the State. The art form, which was restricted to a small sub-sect within a community, is performed all over the region. Chindu Yellamma, an icon from Nizamabad, brought limelight to this art form.

The word ‘Chindu’ means ‘jump’ in Telugu. As the presentation is interspersed with leaps and jumps, it gained the name of Chindu Bhagavatam. During the performance, the stories narrated are from ‘Bhagavatam’. Gaddam Sammayya, a practioner of this art form states that Chindu Bhagavatas trace their origin to Jamba Mahamuni. This is the reason why their dramas open with ‘Jamba Puranam’ with the opening line going like ‘Ekkuvani Mari Palukabokumura, Ekkuvevvaru Mari Telisi Palukumura’.

It is believed that contemporary plays are based on the Bhagavata and they have been passed on to generations orally. In this art form, all the members are trained in every department, be it make-up, singing or playing musical instruments like harmonium, cymbals and dholak. Members of this community get trained in the Yakshagana prakriya from childhood.

Chindu Bhagawatham is a lively art with performers in colourful make-up and costumes, who dance to musical patterns, set by cymbals, tabla and harmonium. Mythological themes are usually enacted. On the other hand, Yakshaganam is a folk drama where music, dance, speech and make-up blend harmoniously. Nowadays the Yakshaganam apart from the Puranic lores covers historical, social and political themes too.

The Dappu dancers lead every procession, whether it is Jataras or Weddings displaying the percussion powers. Dappu, a percussion instrument, is made of goat skin and wood. Dapu is a tambourine-like drum and creates a rhythm when played with sticks just to be broken by the sound of ankle bells of the dancers in the group.

Veedhi Natakam as the name suggests means Street Theatre. This art form is played on an elevated platform. Performers have strong vocal and rhythmic skills to enact dramatization. There is a Vidhushaka and Sutradhara to take the play forward. A lover of this art form states that music and dance are ancillary to dialogue and action is restricted to incident depicting. The performers give their introduction on their entry on the stage with dialogue and songs.

Burra Katha that evolved from traditional Tandana Katha is modern day Ballad singing that preaches, entertains and provides diversions to the rural folk. It is said that Vira Vidya Vantulu sing the ballads of Palanadu heroes, Kommulavaru sing the ballads of Katamaraju, Bavanilu sing the ballad cycle of Sakti, Birannalavaru sing the ballads of Mallanna and Biranna, Jakkulavaru, sing the ballads of Goddess Kameswari. Traditional and modern Burra Kathas are different in many ways.

A Burra Katha troupe consists of three artistes, with the main character dressed in a long angarakha, beautiful headgear with crest feather, tight dhoti, colourful waistband and bells on his knees. He holds a tambura, Andelu and hanky and sings and plays the instruments. His assistants play Barralu or Budigalu instruments.

Come Sankranti or any other important festival, one can see Gangireddus on the city streets. The master decorates the Gangireddu (bull), in multi-coloured attire and takes it from house to house playing the nadaswaram to the accompaniment of the dhol. The bull can dance rhythmically, nod in approval, turn the head for disapproval, kneel down and prostrate, and sometimes show its tongue to assert that it can sing.

In Hari Katha, the solo artist sings the praise of the Lord interspersed with witty stories. In olden times it was considered as narration of Yakshaganam. However, the only marked difference was that one was solo, while the other had several characters. The Hari Katha narrator is known as Bhagavatar, who wears dhoti, waist band and garland and sings playing Chiratalu.

Celebrating Life!

Lambadas popularly known as Banjaras can be easily identified with their vibrant mirror embroidered dress complete with ornate jewellery, white bangles and brass anklets. Their dance is associated with their daily tasks like harvesting, planting, sowing, etc., which comes alive as a natural rhythm in the colourful elucidation of joy on many occasions. Banjaras are rich in performance arts, including dance and music also rangoli, textile embroidery, tattooing and painting. The Banjaras celebrate Teej festival during Shravana. During this festival, girls sing and dance around seedling baskets. Banjaras travel from place to place singing songs while playing the sarangi.

Tappeta Gullu, is a devotional dance, invoking rain god with full vigour, rhythm and tempo. This art form is performed during festivals also. In this dance form, artists hand drums around their necks, and create mesmerising beats and breathtaking acrobatics.

Pagati Veshalu, as the name suggests is a role played during day time. This art form is played on consecutive days and the presentations include Ardhanareeswara, Shakti, Betala and other modern characters. This art form forces the audience to think and its highlight is the characterisation. It is stated that Kuchipudi style dancers also perform this.

The Chenchus are an indigenous tribe and traditionally believe in hunting for a living. They have their own language called Chenchu. It is said that some members of the community specialise in collection of forest products for sale to members outside the community. Many Chenchus live in the dense Nallamala forest spread in Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda Districts and also found in few villages of Ranga Reddy District.

Celebrating Life!

The Gonds can be found in Telugu speaking states and Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha. The language that these tribals speak resembles Telugu. The name Gonds comes from Telugu word ‘konda’ which means hills. Gonds are one of the dominant tribals who are based out from Adilabad District.

Many of you, who must have seen the paintings by Gonds, can distinguish it because of their vibrant depictions of local flora, fauna and gods. These tribals decorate the walls of their houses during festivals. Gond paintings depict various celebrations, rituals and man’s relationship with nature. A close examination of their art reveals that they use natural colours like charcoal, coloured soil, plant sap, leaves, and cow dung. An art connoisseur says that this mystical art form is created by putting together dots and lines. It is said that the imaginative use of the line imparts a sense of movement to the still images.

The Gond traditions are kept alive by singing and weaving in facts to be passed to the next generation. They also have their own language called Gondi. If one has read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, there is a mention of this tribe. A Gondi hunter is a victim of King Ankus and a member from their tribe advises the community to settle at some other place.

The other tribals in Telangana State include Koya, Yerukala, Pradhan, Kolam, Konda Reddi and Thoti. The Koyas, who belong to the hilly areas of Khammam and Warangal districts, can nowadays be seen in Adilabad and Karimnagar districts. Yerukala tribe  popularly called the Kuru can be found throughout the State. Women from this community are into fortune telling and begin with the saying Eruka chepputa.

Whatever is the tribal or rural art form, each one has their own distinct laya and taal which helps the folks to celebrate life with great enthusiasm.

 

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