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Home Features

Features

The Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, of Ammapally, located near Shamshabad Village, built by Venghi Kings, was conferred the INTACH Heritage Award in the year 2010. Though the State Endowments Department is doing its best to ensure that prayers and rituals are carried out regularly at the Temple, more needs to be done to protect this ancient temple.

Not many would be familiar with the 800-year-old Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, of Ammapally, located near Shamshabad Village, nearly 40 kilometers from the city. Our historical scriptures state that many centuries ago Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lord Krishna have lived in this part of the country and there are many tales surrounding it too.

The Temple priest Satyanarayana Murthy has been in the service of the Lord for the last 23 years. “Since the day, I began serving the Lord, he has taken care of all my needs,” says the priest. He along with another priest Anveesh Sharma, who too has been here since the last eight years, serves the Lord here. He says that Lord Ram during his 14-year-exile had stayed in this area and the idols here came up after that. “Look closely at the idols, all the idols has been carved from one single stone. Lord Ram has a Kodandam (bow) in his right hand. This kind of Ram is not visible in all the temples. In all, there may be only five temples like this,” says Murthy.

Giving a detailed description of the deities in the sanctum sanctorum, the priest says that Sri Sita Devi, Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana are unique. “Each of the idols and its Makara Thoranam are beautifully carved from single black rock, the idols are not separate as in the case of other temples. One visits the Lord Rama temple here and he has the darshan of the Dashavataras (10 incarnations) too. The Dashavataras are beautifully sculpted on top of Sri Rama’s idol, in a semi-circle, which is four feet tall and that of Sri Sita Devi and Sri Lakshmana, a little less,” he says.

In the main sanctum sanctorum, you will not see Sri Anjaneya Swamy’s idol at the feet of Sri Rama as seen in many temples and pictures in circulation. This temple is also known as Kodandaramaswamy temple. “That is the specialty of this temple,” says the priest. “Sri Anjaneya Swamy’s idol is at the Dhwaja Sthambam facing Lord Sri Rama. When devotees come and pray here, Lord Sri Rama instructs Sri Anjaneya Swamy to accomplish their wishes. And for this reason, he is always waiting outside the sanctum sanctorum to take instructions from Lord Sri Rama and rush to the help of his devotees,” says Murthy.

Inside the sanctum sanctorum, no coconuts are broken, the devotee himself has to break it outside and then puja is performed by the priests. While doing the aarti, the priest assures that the devotees don’t block Lord Rama’s contact (way) to Sri Anjaneya, so that the Lord can instruct Hanuman accordingly.

There are two Sri Anjaneya idols, one orange-coloured Hanuman and other in black stone. One Hanuman is placed at the foot step of Dhwaja Sthambam and the other Hanuman is placed backside of Dhwaja Sthambam facing the temple tower as if welcoming the devotees.

Earlier, temples were located far off from human habitation, so that people would dedicate a day to prayers. Come important festivals and many throng well-known temples like the Srisailam Temple dedicated to Lord Malikarjunaswamy another name for Lord Shiva for the grand Mahashivratri festival. The Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, as the name suggests dedicated to Lord Ram, Sri Rama Navami is celebrated in a grand manner here. Every month, on Punaravsu nakshatram (as per the Hindu almanac), kalyanam is celebrated with traditional fervour. This month it falls on March 8.

The temple priest shares that Sri Rama Navami is a five-day festival here. “It is a time of annual Brahmotsavams and kalyanam here. Kalyanam is performed on the fourth day, which falls on Sri Rama Navamai day,” he says. The temple is decorated on that day and the whole place comes alive with many devotees thronging the place to receive the blessings of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. Some say that like mother talking in favour of the child to the father, the same way Goddess Sita too tells Lord Ram about the difficulties of their devotees, hence the name Sita Ramchandraswami, the goddess name coming first to the Lord. Remember Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna or Lakshmi-Narasimhaswamy.

Murthy says that when he joined the temple, way back in 1995, there was hardly anyone coming to pay obeisance here. “Today, on any given day, there are nearly 200 visitors, including the locals, coming to pray here,” he says. The senior priest adds that not only Sri Rama Navami, but all festivals are celebrated here with traditional fervor and gaiety. “Even Vijaya Dashmi is celebrated on a grand scale,” he says.  The priest informs that a majority of the pilgrims who visit the temple return for the thanksgiving to the Lord for his kindness and fulfilling of their wishes. “These days many people are coming forward to celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary here. Some couples come here to marry again in true South Indian style,” he says.  Not to forget that the temple has nadaswaram and dhol players in attendance. Many of them have been in the service of the Lord for nearly 10 years. The musicians have had their training at Srikalahasti, while the priests have trained in Telangana only.

The priest adds that for the fulfillment of vows, devotees tie some offerings in a small bundle to a tree in the courtyard after offering prayers. “The bundles are opened only after the fulfillment of one’s wish,” he says. There were many bundles of various shapes and sizes and bangles tied to the tree in the courtyard.

Giving us a little peak into the history of the temple, Murthy says that Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam was built sometime in the 11th century by the local rulers called Venghi Rajulu. He shares that the ancient temple dating back to 11th century caught the attention of the public after shooting of Mahesh Babu and Sonali Bendre Telugu movie Murari.

In 2010, Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam received the XV INTACH Heritage Award from the Governor Sri E S L Narsimhan on World Heritage Day. Today the temple is managed by the State Endowments Department, who has ensured that prayers and other rituals are carried out as per the Hindu traditions.

More recently, the Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, Ammapalli, was in the news as Gudi Sambralu (Temple Festivities) was held here. It was organised under the banner of Parampara Foundation, which has deep concerns for heritage and culture.”Parampara is working towards reviving art forms in temples to connect with our rich cultural heritage,” say Dr. Srinagi B Rao and Shashi Reddy. They recently organised a two-day dance festival. On the first day it was Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant and second day it was Ratikant Mahapatra and Kiranmayee.

A visit to Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam will bring peace and contentment to all. This ancient temple is a treat for students of history. It is Sangam of all architectures. There is Rajasthani, Mughal and South Indian. It is firmly believed that only after the construction of this temple the Golconda Fort and Charminar have come up. The first thing one did after alighting form the car at the temple was visit the step well, which was very fascinating and breathtaking.  Today there is a stage in the centre where people can sit on the steps and appreciate the fine arts. The ancient architecture here speaks volumes. On all three different sides there are different kinds of architecture. Surrounded by coconut trees, this step well is of Rajasthan style popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Just facing the temple, there is a two-storey building that would have been a resting place for devotees after of before the darshan. Closely examine the Gopuram, it is a seven storey one. The top level of the Gopuram, built in solid stone, reflects the South Indian style. On this layer, the idols and statues in the stone are intricately detailed. The lower floors of the temple gopuram need urgent repairs and the pigeons are also spoiling it. On the front side of the gopuram, one can see Sri Seshashayee Vishnu. What is prominent that strikes you when you look at the temple is its Rajasthani style arches that are generally found in Havelis and palaces of the desert state.

An observation of the Gopuram reveals that the masonry work of the arches may have been added much later, may be during the construction of the step well in the temple compound.

The temple priest says that apart from Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, in the vicinity there are Sri Mahalingeswara Swamy and Sri Anjaneya Swamy temples along with lawns spread over 9.5 acres land. People are visiting these temples too, especially on Mondays to Sri Mahalingeswara Swamy. It must be noted that there are no electricity lighting inside the sancta sanctorum and one has to see the lord with the traditional lights and the lord mesmerizes everyone with his beauty. Also in the complex was ‘Koti Rama Sthamb’, where people who had written Sri Rama Naamam had been placed.

Students from nearby areas were making use of the open space and greenery to play. Though the Endowments Department is doing its best to protect this ancient heritage structure, private enterprises must come forward to protect these monuments for future generations. To reach the Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, take the PV Narasimha Rao Expressway and reach Shamshabad Bus Station which is on the right hand side. Take a right turn along the bus station and travel straight along Rallaguda Road, till one reaches the ‘Kamaan of the Temple’ (Temple entrance arch) to the left. Pass through the arch to reach the temple precincts.

 

Padma Shri Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna’s painstaking work on Perini is bearing fruit, with the Telangana Government instituting a four-year diploma course in Perini in the Music and Dance Schools in the State. Apart from this, the high-energy level dance is being exhibited at major State functions and schools in a bid to popularise Perini.

Preserving culture to pass it on to generations has been the practice for centuries. Some cultures have survived orally by passing it on in the family or through the study of written texts. The Telangana Government is doing its best by preserving the dance art form Perini that flourished during the rule of Kakatiyas. In the 1970s, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna recreated Perini after a careful study of Nandhikeshava’s Bharatanavam and Jayapa Senani’s Nritta Ratnavali. Thanks to Padma Shri Nataraja Ramakrishna’s hard work of restructuring this dance form, a four-year diploma course in Perini has been launched in the six Music and Dance Schools in Hyderabad, Warangal, Nizamabad and Manthani. As Nataraja Ramakrishna conceived it as a bare-bodied male dance, the syllabus has to be duly incorporated to suit the women learners. The Telugu University will conduct the exams and also look into the syllabus. Currently, Perini is taught as a lesson in Telugu subject in Class IV, as Social subject in Class VIII and in Hindi subject in Class X.

On the second Telangana Formation Day, 250 students, male and female, performed Perini thanks to the efforts of Department of Culture Director Mamidi Harikrishna. As part of the International Kite Festival held in Hyderabad under the able guidance of Guru Kalakrishna, his troupe performed the dance Perini at People’s Plaza, while D Prakash and Raj Kumar along with their team performed at Agha Khan Academy, Ravirala (V). In 2015, the Telangana government honoured Kalakrishna and in 2016, Prakash Dumpeti for their outstanding contribution in the field of dance.

Kalakrishna, renowned Kuchipudi and Andhra Natyam exponent, popular for his portrayal of Satyabhama and disciple of Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna, Kalakrishna learnt the nuances of Andhra Natyam and Perini from his Guruji only. Enlightening on the dance form Perini, Kalakrishna says that it has its own recognition and reputation among several dance forms of the country.

“This dance form has a performing method which consists of Gargharamu, Vishamamu, Bhavanashrayamu, Kaivaramu, and Geetamu – all performed in a collective and synchronised process either solo or by a team,” he says. Kalakrishna says that the published texts state that Perini dance is to be performed only by male artistes, and there are evidences which inform that there were female performers as well.

He says that Guru Ramakrishna visualised it as a male dance. “Nandhikeshava’s Bharatanavam also consists of a graphical explanation about the Perini dance form. The characteristic features of Perini, costumes, music instruments, behavioural regulation on the stage for performers and the Panchangas,” says Kalakrishna.

Delving into the history, Kalakrishna says that Jayapa named the five constituting elements of Perini as –Nritya, Vikata, Kaivara, Garghara and Geeta. He left out Vishama and Bhavashraya from the purview of these Panchangas. He adds that while researching, Nataraja Ramakrishna garu observed that during the time of Srikrishnadevarayalu of Vijayanagara and Nayak kings of Tanjavore, Perini dance was initially practiced and performed by male artists, and gradually accommodated female performers as well. Writing in his famous text, ‘History of Dances in South India: Perini Shiv Tandava’, Guruji visualised how the Shaivite tradition based Perini gradually transformed into Vaishnavite tradition based dance.  According to Kalakrishna, Guruji felt that the reasons for this could be plenty.  “It could be neglect by successive rulers, failing to attract the public. Guruji based his research and recreation of Perini work in Kakatiya Empire, their art and literature, their temples as main resources and sources,” he said.

Kalakrishna Garu says that over the years, whoever has been performing Perini have been doing it on recorded music that has been done by Guruji. Apart from appointing teachers to teach students Perini, the Telangana Government should appoint gurus and other accompanying artists so that more research can be conducted in this dance form. “For every guru appointed, there should be one accompanying artist like vocalist, mridangam and so on,” he says. All this is a necessity so that the text can be built for this dance form for future presentations. Exhibitions of this art form among the people will help in popularizing Perini dance.

The Kuchipudi exponent recalls that he played nattuvangam when the Perini team had gone to Africa to perform in 1987. As he was very close to Nataraja Ramakrishna, his guru trained him in Perini. “To give life to Perini, it was included as part of the Andhra Natyam course in 1995,” Kalakrishna says. In 1985, workshops and lecture demonstrations were held to propagate Perini. Kalakrishna says that Nataraja Ramakrishna curated a 45-minute long performance primarily focusing on Garghara. “The performance received applause from everyone and he continued training dancers in the country as well as abroad for four decades,” Kalakrishna says.

Prakash D, who has learnt Perini from Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna and Kalakrishna, says that Perini flourished greatly during the reign of Emperors Ganapati Deva, Rudrama Devi and Prataparudra of Kakatiya Dynasty from the 10th to 13th Century A.D. “In those days, this dance was performed to inspire and invigorate Prerana warriors,” says Prakash. Perini Prakash as he is popularly known, sharing an interesting aspect states that music is the backbone of this art form. “The use of conch, drums, bells and rhythmic syllables change the atmosphere, enabling dancers to reach high energy levels,” he says. Prakash says that Perini Lasyam was an ancient temple dance tradition performed in aramas, temples and courts of kings by women. “This Lasya tradition existed since the 2nd century A.D. Perini Lasyam has exquisite foot work, captivating expressions, splendid and graceful body movement. This dance had its Golden Era during the period of Chalukyas and Kakatiyas,” says Prakash.

The dancer says that after formation of Telangana State, Perini has been regaining its lost glory. Kalakrishna says Gargharamu is an important constitutive element of Perini. “The movement generated in gajjelu (bells) through moving the feet, shoulders, and the chest is the basis for today’s classical as well as traditional and folk dance,” he says. Kalakrishna garu says that Garghara is either along with the tala or without it, the movement of foot work in a systematic process generating anklets sounds systematically.

On the other hand, Raj Kumar says Perini was performed to invoke Lord Shiva, and was called Prerana or Perini Tandavam. “This dance belongs to the majestic Tandavam Style, which has a very quick tempo and speed depicting ‘Veera’ and ‘Raudra’ rasa of king of dance Nataraja. Raj Kumar says that the State government response to Perini dance is good as they want to protect the culture and pass it on to the children.

Raj Kumar, who has been conducting camps for school students, says that Perini is a high energy dance. “The children in schools are very keen to learn this art form,” he says. Student of Kalakrishna and Prakash, Kumar says that more girls are keen to learn Perini than boys.

In 2006, at Kaktiya Utsav, Perini workshop was held, where many dancers – male and female, came to learn dance. “Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna by painstaking studying the sculptures in the Ramappa Temple and other texts has recreated the Perini Art form and it is our duty to protect it and not let it fall into neglect again,” Raj Kumar says.

The Perini dancer believes that during the Kakatiya rule, women performed in the garba gudi of temples from morning till night – the lasyam style. “The men performed the Tandavam style and somewhere after sometime it may have stopped,” he opines.

Raj Kumar, a Perini dancer is confident that he can survive on the art form. “I can teach, and perform this attractive dance,” he says. Raj Kumar has the credit of performing 101 days of Perini in the State. In a book published by the State Akademi, Natraja Ramakrishna revealed that Jayapa mentioned Prerana dance, virile in nature and performed before Lord Shiva invoking the God, the ashta dikpalas, etc. He mentions that while undergoing study in Sri Kalahasti, Ramakrishna came across some jatis. The Prerana jatis were also published in Bharatarnava. In his research, Ramakrishna states that he studied the Agama texts, especially detailing the traditions of dance therein and restructured the dance form Perini.

His disciples say that the invocative dance is awe inspiring and spectacular. “Guruji took pains to choreograph an all-night Perini performance at Ramappa Temple, where many of the dance forms mentioned by Jayapa must have been performed.” The AP Sangeet Natak Academy set up a training camp, on January 1, 1973, which ran for four months. At the camp, along with female performers, Shaivite tradition based centric Perini was taught to male performers. Another camp was organized in the second half of 1973, which lasted for six months and culminated in presenting Perini at the Republic Day in 1974. Many Perini dancers believe that Perini is the dance of the warriors. They say that the dance derives its name from Prerana, which means inspiration.

“The warriors performed this dance before the idol of Lord Nataraja, as a mode of worship, before leaving for the battlefield to invoke Lord Shiva to attain high frenzy needed for the war. The dance begins with Gargara and concludes with a Shiva Panchamukha Shabda Nartanam in praise of Lord Shiva,” they say. Many in the audience get goose bumps by watching the high frenzy dance.

The Perini dancers with ash smeared on their body dance to the beat of the drums, vigorously and in frenzy. This goes on, till the Perini dancers feel the power of Lord Shiva in them and derive inspiration. Perini dance is said to be both spiritual and artistic.

A person is known by the company he keeps and the same way, a city is known by its residents. Apart from the teeming professionals – Doctors, Engineers, Chartered Accountants, Company Secretaries, Bankers, and many others who keep the city moving with their work there are many other unknown workers who also lend a helping hand in building and maintaining the city.

The city of Hyderabad never sleeps. The residents keep it running with their work and business. If we can sit for a few minutes, close our eyes and concentrate, events of the day move in front of our eyes like a film.

Even before the rise of the sun, one can see the city limping to life. There is the chatter of people surrounding the milk crates that function temporarily in the colony every day in the morning for a couple of hours.

A little distance away, one can find the roadside newspaper hawker selling the day’s newspaper hot from the press. Some of them have the luxury of getting their milk and paper delivered at home. Milk vans of various brands can be seen buzzing past in the colonies.

Another activity that begins early morning is cleaning of the roads as early as 4 AM. As it is difficult to arrive for work at that time, some workers can be seen sleeping near public places of their work space. No matter with what diligence, the workforce does their work for Swachh Bharat, unless the residents are conscious nothing much can be achieved. There are people who to save a couple of rupees throw their garbage on the road or close to transformer blocks.

With the first light come the daily suppliers – the fruit wallahs and vegetable wallahs. Some of them are very finicky and want to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. For them these small carts are an attraction. The lady of the house knows at what time she can expect her able assistant.

Some of the fruit and vegetable carts can be seen parked outside parks where many of them turn up for an early morning game of tennis or badminton with folks, jog or a walk. Some of them do stretching while others sit on the benches and enjoy the first rays of the sun and soak in the beauty of the greenery and the chirping of the birds. The morning joggers can be seen at KBR Park, Indira Park and colony parks. Those exiting the park can be seen hovering near the pushcarts to purchase the day’s fresh fruits and vegetables.

Buses of educational institutions start plying as early as 6.30 AM to ferry the children to schools and colleges, primarily engineering colleges as many of them are on the outskirts of the city or a little further down like Chilkur. Lucky are those who study in the neighbourhood schools and colleges as they save time and energy and can concentrate on other extra-curricular activities. The chatter of school children with their friends or fellow mates is pleasing to the ears. Some parents too exchange notes of what is happening in their ward’s class with other parents.

In the City of Pearls, everyone has made a place for himself. The Aam Adami is eking out a living. If ever you get to stop at a traffic signal, apart from the beggars, who seek alms, there are small time traders, who sell every ware from balloons, Santa caps, and small toys to car accessories. Some of these attract the young child like a plastic kungfu panda, Bheem’s gada, or a little dog shaking her head.

Passing through the Old City or Secunderabad, one can see a line of clothes stores hanging their dresses on the roads to attract the customers. Bargaining too happens, till the customer is fully satisfied in purchasing them. Food attracts the young and old alike. If it is the onset of summer, cut raw mangoes with spice is lapped up, the same holds true for Guavas too. Find a Chaat Bandi, and a crowd would be surrounding it, slurping paani puri, aaloo chaat, raagda patti or anything tangy and spicy. Students running for early morning competitive classes hang around the Idli and Dosa bandis to have a nutritious filling as these start from 7 AM.

Even those returning home from night shifts stop at midnight bandis to savour hot, hot biryanis. Some of them flock to carts that have made a name for themselves like Ram ki Bandi to savour hot, hot Dosas to celebrate special days.

Walk up to Charminar and a whole new life greets you. There are rows and rows of shops selling bangles, items that are closer to women like mehendi, kajal and clothes. Women from rich to poor can be seen making some quick purchases and bargains. Turnaround and you can find myriad colours of bangles on the carts. They are not glass or laq but metal bangles and fancy earrings and young girls and women are crowding around the pushcart and turning things upside down before they get what they want.

A true Hyderabadi loves his paan, and on any occasion paan plays an important part. In some marriages, paan dan is given as gift too. Buying paan at Charminar works out to be cheaper than anywhere in the city. The paanwalla here does brisk business. Though the business starts in the Charminar only after 11 AM, prayer time is strictly followed here. Those shopping here can hear the prayers from the mosque. The scene where all pray together is a treat for the eyes. Some of them coming out of the mosque can be seen sharing their earnings with the have nots.

Shoppers can be seen taking a break by having a cuppa of Irani chai with some Osmania biscuits or small samosas. Business can be discussed over a cuppa of chai at the Irani restaurants. The city runs with its people, who undertake a lot of activities. There are labourers huddled in one corner waiting for work or the others who can be seen working at construction sites or at the Metro works helping in building a new Hyderabad. Workers here are working 24x7 in shifts to take the city into the 21st century.

Come marriage season, the folks visit the nearest temples with nadaswaram to seek the blessings of the Lord or Goddess. At a street corner, you can find the bandwallahs practicing to play at the wedding in the evening.

The city temperatures are not so high, thanks to the horticulture staff. The citizens can breathe some fresh and clean air. With the change of seasons, the horticulture staff too rotates the flowering plants. The bright yellows, whites and reds surrounded with greenery are a visual feast to the eyes.

The government is doing its best to give wholesome meal to those who can’t afford it or don’t have time to cook. The Rs. 5 meal has caught on with the public. Long queues can be seen for these meals at the counter near the Nampally Station or Clock Tower, Begumpet. It is a boon for the daily labourers as it is difficult to get anything as less as Rs 5.

The city has acquired two new landmarks recently. One the tallest flag, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao hoisted on the State’s second formation day in 2015. The flag stands tall at 88 metres on the banks of Hussain Sagar Lake in Sanjeevaiah Park. The gigantic flag measures 108 by 72 feet. It is two feet short of being the tallest flag. The flag weighs over 65 kilos and it was unfurled with the help of motorised mechanism. According to the CM, the flag will instill nationalism among the citizens and will be symbol of pride. On any given day, one can see citizens freezing pictures here.

Another landmark is the ‘Love Hyderabad’ sculpture at Tank Bund, which was inaugurated by IT minister KT Rama Rao in November. Speaking during the inauguration, KTR said that the sculpture will be an added attraction to the City and the Tourists, whoever visits the Tank Bund will take a selfie at this spot and it will be a great landmark at the Tank Bund in the coming days. Morning or evening, the roads of the city are bursting with traffic.

There are people on the two-wheelers and four-wheelers trying to break rules or overtaking from the left to reach their destination on time. It is mostly a bumper to bumper ride. It is essential to keep cool while driving through the busy traffic. Every citizen must follow the traffic signals for their own and co-passengers safety.

Queues can be witnessed at petrol bunks at peak times and there are times when people have lost their cool. Apart from the public transport buses and MMTS, many people depend on the shared autos to reach their destination. In Rs. 10 – Rs. 15, one can travel long distances.

Come what may, just like the cycle wheel that goes round and round, Life goes on and on and the city of Nizams and Nawabs lives on in it is people.

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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Children’s Day, which falls on November 14, is celebrated across the state in all schools. Our country has been bestowed with many talented youngsters, be it in the field of technology, music, dance, painting, or sports. Today’s generation wants to excel in all fields. Nurture children with love and see them grow into young individuals.

Look around and you will find chubby cheeked, dimpled young boys and girls, who will bowl you out with their innocence. Sometimes, you see bawling babies refusing to go to school and little older ones enjoying the cycle rides down the lane or in the apartment block. All will agree that children are the future of our country and need to be nurtured with love and care.

Our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was very keen that all children must be given equal opportunities and must be cared to become good citizens. His birthday which falls on November 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day. However, the World over November 20 is observed as Children’s Day. There are many enthusiastic young boys and girls and even sometimes adults who fancy wearing a Nehru jacket with a rose on this day.

In our country, our founders of the Constitution have guaranteed Right to Education to all children till the age of 14 years. Of late, the Union governments are doing a lot to promote Girl Education and giving incentives to girls to motivate them to come to schools. There are many NGOs working to free children  working as child labourers and putting them back on Education track.

Among today’s Children there will be many, who will become doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, teachers, dancers, musicians, artists, sportsmen and keep the Indian flag flying high. In schools, on Children’s Day, there are cultural programmes and sports events for the children.

Asawari Mahesh Bhagwat, Class VIII student of Vidyaranya High School, began learning dance at the age of five years. It was her mother who was keen that her daughter must learn an art form. “I followed my sister Maitreyi’s footsteps, who is also learning dance under Guru Yashoda Thakore,” says Asawari.  As a child, Asawari’s first show was a school event, dancing to Ganesha bhajan. “I have not participated in any dance competitions but have been a part of dance programmes, the recent one being at Sri Ramalayam Temple at Jubilee Hills on the occasion of Dasara festivities,” says the 12-year-old dancer. With a smile on her lips, she shares that it was fun playing the Lanka king Ravan.

Apart from idolizing her guru, Asawari has seen dancers like Geeta Ganesan, Sindhuja, Sampreeti, Hari sir, Archana and others in the Natyasamgraha team performing.

Going to a dance class is a part of everyday life for the young enthusiast. “We have dance class from 5-7 PM with breaks and when there is a programme coming up, it lasts till 8 PM,” she says. On managing studies with dance, she says that she finishes off her homework before going to dance class. “I make little adjustments if my exams are coming up, but I love dance,” says Asawari.

On whether she wants to pursue dance as a career, the Vidyaranya School girl says that she is keen to continue dance, apart from pursuing regular studies.

Sirichandana  Bolla, Class VII student of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, has been learning dance since the last three years. “It was my mother Sada Lakshmi who wanted that I should learn dance,” says 12-year-old Sirichandana.  The young Kuchipudi dancer also has been learning Carnatic music from Ravi sir. “My music class is at the dance class only. Even my brother, who is in Class III is pursuing music,” she says.

The youngster says that she enjoys dancing as it helps her to be fit and graceful too. Sirichandana shares that she has taken part in 10 programmes and the recent one being in September in Tirupati. She admits that she has not taken part in any competitions and she daily practices dance.

“I go to class daily and practice dance,” Sirichandana says. The Chinmaya student agrees that dance is her passion and she dreams of becoming a doctor.

Dancer of Kuchipudi and Vilasini Natyam styles, Dr. Yashoda Thakore, runs the Rinda Saranya Kuchipudi Dance Academy at Begumpet. Yashoda advices her students to first watch, absorb and remember what they learnt at the school. “I tell them not to practice at home. As they come to class daily, I ask the students to savour the experience and be aware of the steps, keep remembering details,” she says.

According to the Vilasini Natyam expert, the children must follow the instructions, of turning the feet, raising elbows to excel in dance in the future. “In the beginning, they should be able to visualise and grasp things. Till they get adjusted legs will be painful, this lasts almost a year,” she says. “For being successful in the career, there should be complete commitment, good communication skills, and genuinely believe in what they are saying – not talk anything wrong about the dance,” Yashoda says.

The Kuchipudi guru says that as a teacher she doesn’t put a student on stage very early, even though some of them are keen. “Sometimes early and frequent exposure does more harm than good. The dance may lack Abhinaya- the feelings. I feel the newness must not be lost. Sometimes over exposure can be harmful,” she says. Yashoda is happy that there are opportunities galore these days and they must be picked judiciously. “On some occasions, it has been seen that unless there is a programme, students don’t practice. There must be a good mix of dance and practice,” she says.

To pursue the career in the long run, Yashoda advices students to do homework on theory and dance and learn the language for perfect expression.

Hindustani vocalist, playback singer and founder of Rageshree Foundation and Academy Harini Rao agrees that lot of young people are taking to classical music. “Some children as young as six have such inquisitive minds and that is very inspiring for me as a teacher. I have about 25 students and more than half of them are in the age group of 5 to 17. A lot of credit goes to parents who introduce classical music to their toddlers. That ensures a certain liking and ‘taste’ for them very early, to grasp the nuances of classical music,” Harini says.

The vocalist states that there’s nothing as a time limit to perform on stage. “There has to be enough training and learning that must be put into it. I for one have been learning as a toddler and was seriously training only for the last 12 years. I completed Sangeet Visharad in 2008 and began performing four years back and started teaching only two years back. Still, I feel I have a long way to go on the performance circuit. So it is important that a good amount of sadhana and riyaaz is put in before one thinks of going onstage,” she says.

Harini says that parents of her students understand what it takes to go to the level of performance. “But, it is important to ‘feel’ the stage as a learner after all classical music is a performing art! So I have regular concerts that involve my students in all aspects of stage - including organizing, preparation and performance,” the singer says.

Recalling an anecdote as a child, Harini says that when she was five-years-old and had just about started learning music, she had gone out to attend a concert with some aunts. “One of them asked me teasingly if I’d sing onstage too. Apparently I said, sure! Arrange accompanying artists for me and I’ll give a kutchery too,” Harini shares with a smile. The artist says that there’s no such thing as a right age to learn music. “Whenever you think of learning, find yourself a guru and just start! And once you do, give yourself the time to get involved. Classical arts are slowly cooked into your soul and give you lifelong bliss. It’s more than what I can express in words. So don’t be in a hurry, enjoy the journey,” she says.

Skills for being successful, without batting an eyelid, Harini says “Talent of course, commitment, perseverance and most importantly, love. Love for the art, love for yourself and the stage. It’s a very spiritual experience as well, so it is important to be in love with the art and the belief that it’ll fetch you what you’re seeking.”

The young talented performer says: “Apart from the obvious relaxation and entertainment it provides, practicing music from a young age has proved to aid in cognitive and analytical skills in children.”  She confesses that she has personally benefitted from having Hindustani music in her life since childhood. “This also opened avenues for me to appreciate language, literature and art deeper,” Harini adds.

Harini’s student Varun recently won special recognition at the annual Pt. Jasraj-Rotary Club of Hyderabad Scholarships for Music and Fine arts and had the opportunity to sing before Pandit ji himself. In fact for a young entrant to sing before a stalwart is a big thing. “Varun was calm and graceful and sang beautifully,” she says.

On any given day, Varun will bowl his audience with ‘Narayana rama ramana’ - a very popular natyageet. He regularly sings with the Hindustani vocalist every time she is performing. The young lad loves Raag Yaman, Bheempalasi and Bhajans.  Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s bhajan’s are his favourites. ‘Pandari Nivasa Sakhya Panduranga’ an all-time favourite.

Slowly and steadily another child artist eight-year-old Koosu aka Avish Juluri is following the footsteps of his mother Sravanthi Juluri. Avish has grown up in the world of colours, brushes and canvasses. “I made my first official canvas painting at the age of three,” he says and adds that his mom has been an inspiration.

The Class IV student of Hillside School has got all his replies on the art world by closely observing his mom. “I am passionate about environment and growing issues of violence,” says Avish. He wishes for the world to be a safe and a pleasant place for children and mankind.

Avish’s longing for a greener environment full of wild flowers and butterflies are visible in his works. Avish is at ease while handling canvases of various sizes and knows exactly what he wants to portray. “Occasionally, I break away from the use of brushes and painting knifes, and use many household items to create form and texture-it could be anything from sponges, forks and so on,” says Avish with a twinkle in his eye.

The cherubic child had his first solo exhibition two years ago in a city gallery, where he exhibited over 70 paintings. Avish has not looked back since then.

Deepa Kiran, Founder, Story Arts India, is a storyteller, educationist, writer and voice-over artist. “This beautiful journey formally started in 2000, with telling stories to students of English in government schools,” she says. Deepa says that eight years down the line, with a handful of children in the local neighborhood in a lovely little place called Deolali, in Maharshtra, she held the first storytelling camp.

“We hoped at least 15 children would turn up, but we had to refuse registrations after we crossed 25 on Day one itself,” she says.

Explaining about the camp, Deepa says that 3 to 15-year-olds came together for three hours every day, for three weeks. “We all got infected with the love of stories, music, dance, craft and laughter. We even performed for the parents on the final day. This small attempt was a big hit. We then came to tell stories to children in Hyderabad. Soon we grew to telling stories to children across the twin Telugu speaking states, and later across the country,” Deepa says.

The story teller says that they tell stories from two-year-olds to a 102-year-olds. “We tell stories to housewives to businessmen, teachers and principals, and corporate executives and management heads, artists and academicians, and more,” she says.

Deepa believes that storytelling needs to be woven with music, and dance, drawings and drama. “We tell stories with constant interaction and active participation from the audience,” she says.

Started in 2010, Hyderabad Children’s Theatre Festival, the brainchild of Vaishali Bisht, co-founded by Priyankaa Vir and Deepthi Pendurty, aims at bringing to the city of Pearls, internationally acclaimed troupes that specialize in theatre for children and young adults with world class production values that have been applauded by critics and audiences alike. Every year, it has been three-days of children’s theatre in the city in the month of November.

“This year the festival is slated for December,” says Deepthi. School children await for these plays as many artistes descend on the city and entertain the little ones. Apart from Vaishali Bisht, Samahaara also runs theatre workshops for children. Some are held throught out the year, while there are special classes in Summer.

The city has seen many talented children. Anant Pingle is a master in tabla and Suhit Rakshit plays the sitar beautifully. Both the artists have been bestowed with the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) scholarships. Hyderabad-based Nischal Narayanam, at 19 years became the youngest to qualify the CA final exam in 2015. On the occasion of Children’s Day, let us salute Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu, who battled it out day and night as kids to achieve perfection in their respective sports and win Olympic medals for the country.

Blessed Kid

Hyderabad based two-year-old Rimshas will stump you with her General Knowledge and on any given day can match many school-going kids with ease. She perfectly knows all capitals and Human Biology. This kid has perfected her GK in two months and learns about 20 words daily.  Recently before the media, this wonder kid reeled off capitals of India, Pakistan, Nepal, United Kingdom among many others. The little angel has also knowledge of the solar system, the speed at which the earth rotates and even the type of oxide present in the eye. Daughter of a teacher, Rimshas will start going to school from next year.

 

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Pingali Venkayya, the designer of the Indian national flag, was born in Bhatlapenumarru, near Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh (India)

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