Tag Archives: Andhra

Talent: మానస మనస కవితలు

The following Post consists of Poems spotlighting the Cultural Talent of @nasa_manasa.


Along with appreciating the past, it is important to encourage the future. New talent is should be given patronage and their skills shown to the community-at-large. Sometimes it is the refined and scholarly verses of a Vanichandra gaaru, and sometimes it is a fresh voice from a budding poetess.

Today we feature the latter courtesy a young lady named Manasa. Here are her poems in Telugu (with English translation provided by us). Please leave your comments below and encourage this young voice so she may continue to hone her skills in Telugu verse. In the manner of Hala Satavahana’s Gatha Saptasati, she has composed the padhyas below.

మానస మనస కవితలు

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ఆమాత్రం చెప్పుకోవద్దు పూలు బాగా కడతాను అని జానెడు జడకోసం గుప్పెడు కడుతుంటే గంపెడు బంతి పూలు పంపారు తోరణాలు అల్లమని

At least I had to admire the floral garland I tie for my hair, for as I was doing so, someone asked me to make a marigold maala for the gate.

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“తెలిసేట్టు చెప్పేది సిద్దాంతం తెలియకపొతేనే వేదాంతం.. తెలిసి తెలియక పోతే రాద్ధాంతం..”

Tell as though you know, and it’s science. Tell as if you don’t know, and it’s philosophy. Tell between knowing and not knowing and it’s debate.” Traditional Saametha

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మనం అన్ని చెబుతాము , కానీ మనకు అన్ని చెయ్యడం కష్టం కదా….!ఈ జనాలు అర్థం చేసుకోరు…! కొతలంటారూ..!

We say we’ll do everything, but following through on everything is hard. People won’t understand and they say you’re just bluffing.

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ప్రపంచం మొత్తం నువ్వు మాత్రమే లేవు, కాని నీలాంటి వాడు ఇంకొకడు వుండడు

In the entire world you’re not the only person, but your type of man is not found anywhere else.

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“ని నవ్వు పూలవనం తేనెల్లో తియ్యదనం ని నవ్వు బంగారం మెరిసేటి సింధూరం నను తాకి వెళ్తూంటె మరచాను ఈ లోకం అ నవ్వే సాగింది గోదారి లా కావేరిలా”

“Your laugh is a garden of flowers, it’s the sweetness in honey; your laugh is golden, and your shining vermillion when it touches me, makes me forget the world. Your laugh is like like the flow of the Godavari and Kaveri. ” — mitrudu Rajesh rachana 🙂

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ఇ మంచు కురిసే వేళ లో, చెలిగాడి గుప్పిట్లో నేను, వెచ్చదనం కోసం నెనెక్కడకు వెళతా

In these snowy times, she is in her lover’s hand. Where else will she go for warmth…

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ఏల ఇతగాడికి ఇంత తొందర… ఈ కన్నె పిల్ల మనసు ను, ఈ సంకోచాన్ని అర్థం చెసుకునేదెన్నడు…

Why is he so hasty? When will he understand my sentiment, and understand why this girl who has come-of-age, reciprocates yet hesitates.

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విరిసిన పువ్వు ఎన్నటికి వాడిపోకూదగని అనుకుంటా కాని నలిగితే నెనేమి చెయ్యగలను అందుకే నలిగినపువ్వు వాడలెక దాని వంక చూడటమే మానెసా
కాని దాని పరిమళం ఎక్కడకేళ్లినా నన్ను వదలటంలేదు

We hope the blossoming flower never wilts, but if it wilts what can I do? That is why the wilted flower, which is no longer useful, I no longer even glance at from the corner of my eye.

And yet, the fragrance of this blossom still surrounds me…

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ఈ ప్రేమ పెళ్లి విఫలం అయ్యిన ప్రతీ సారి ఒంటరిగా ఇంకొన్నాళ్లు బతుకూ అని అవకాశం ఇచ్చి నట్టు ఉంటుంది

Even if this marriage of love fails, every time I’m alone, I wonder at how it still gives me the opportunity for life.

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నేను వెధవని అనుకున్నప్పుడు ఈ ప్రపంచాన్ని చాలా తిట్టుకున్నా, నేను ఒక మనిషిని అనుకున్నాప్పుడు ఈ ప్రపంచం లొ ప్రతిదీ అధ్భుతంగా ఉంది, మీరు కూడా

When I think of all the crude wretches in the world, I curse them terribly. When I think of how I’m a person, I think that everything in this world has a wondrous quality to it, even you…

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ముందు క్షణం లో ఎమి అయ్యిందో తెలియాక నన్ను  నేను వెతుకుతున్న ఆ నింగిలో చూస్తే రంగులు కురుస్తున్నాయి

I don’t know what happened in the previous instance, I searched for myself. When I look at the sky, the colours shower themselves.

నేలపై ఉన్నవన్ని నేను గుర్తించని ఆనందంతొ నాట్యం చేస్తున్నాయి

What all there is on this Earth, they dance with happiness.

ఎవరు నన్ను గుర్తించలేదు అన్న భాద

I suffer in the pain of not being recognised by others

నేను ఈ ప్రకృతి లో కలిసి పోయాను అంటూ ఒ సముచిత స్థానం ఇచ్చింది

I have been immersed in this world. Nature has given me a place among its creations

అలా  నేను పయనం మొదలు పెట్టా వారి ఆనందం వినొదిస్థూ

Like so, I began above, and I enjoy their happiness for their own sake.

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Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Crafts: Kondapalli Toys

Continuing our Series on Arts & Crafts  is the native ancient style of wooden toys known to all Telugus. Appreciated by Andhraite and non-Andhraite , young and old alike is that iconic handicraft we all grew up with: Kondapalli Bommalu.

History

Kondapalli an important town near Vijayawada, in Krishna District. Meaning ‘village of hills’, it is also a village of toys. 16 kilometres from Bezawada, it is celebrated in story and song for its famous fort, immortalised during the reign of the Reddi Rajulu.

Around 500 years old, if not older, this art is credited to and preserved by a community known as nakarshalu (though by some they also called ‘Arya Kshatriyalu’).

There is reference to this group in the “Brahmanda Purana”. This community claims its origin to Muktharishi, who was endowed with skills in arts and crafts by Lord Shiva. These chitrakaras claim that it was their ancestors who sculpted the numerous sculptures like the garuda, nandi, simha and the vahanas in the many temples in Andhra Pradesh.[2]

 It is claimed that this art was brought by migrants from Rajasthan, though these claims still need to be verified by history. One account lends credence to the theory.

 In the 16th century, Anavema Reddy invited around 10-12 families, all wooden handicrafts specialists from Rajasthan, to his court, says Nageshwar Rao, 37, a toy-maker. “All these families from the Nakarshalu community migrated to Kondapalli.” The Reddy kings, impressed by their skill, patronised the artisans and asked them to stay there forever. [7]

Characteristics

Made primarily from a soft wood known as Tella Poniki, which is found in large numbers around Kondapalli itself, these toys have not only become characteristic of Andhra, but have a number of standout characteristics.

Distinct from their Telugu cousins, Etikoppaka Toys, these Kondapalli carvings carry with them a special significance during Sankranthi and Dasara.  They are displayed in bommalakolavu or kollu. Both vahanas and veritable vigrahas of pauranic figures are depicted and showcased during these festivals. They are used to enshrine and enact the various stories contained in our epics.

Prices of these toys range from Rs. 15 to Rs. 800 and the Corporation is offering 10 per cent discount on the purchase during the expo. [5]

At the high end, many toys even reach 5,000 rupees. Themes from Dasavatara and Hitopadesa are common. Nevertheless, the ambari elephant and the kuchipudi dancers remain the most iconic favourites. And the appeal is universal. These craftsmen have a unique place in the hearts and minds of Telugus, young and old alike.

Equipped with ‘bavudari’, ‘palapa chekka’ and ‘aakurai’, generations of these toymakers have managed to bring a smile on the faces of little kids across the world with their pieces of art. [3]

Process

Unlike most modern toys, Kondapalli bommalu use almost all natural ingredients in the process. Tools come in various shapes and sizes and are developed by the craftsmen.

The wood is treated to a slow heating process to dry its moisture content. The limbs of the toys are carved separately and later joined to the body. The essential carving tools are axe, chisel, hammer and drill. [5]

Glue consisting of tamarind paste, lapum, and sawdust is used to assemble them.

This tamarind paste is called makh. Batana (cooked tamarind seed paste) is then rubbed on it along with resin from the tumma tree.Gold and silver foil used to be added for ornamentation. Although water colours, vegetable dyes, and oil paints are now used, traditional rangulu relied on stones, herbs, various gums and other bases. Even the paint brush comes from goat hairs, demonstrating the stress on organic materials.

Ladies are also an integral part of the process, much of the artistry of these dolls being attributed to their skill with a brush. Finished products are often given a coating of enamel paint to enhance their sheen.

Future

Kondapalli Bomma retains an international reputation and is frequently purchased by tourists during their travels in our region. It received a Government sanctioned Geographical Indication in 2007-2008, thereby crediting this handicraft to Andhra. Despite this accreditation, the future of this iconic tradition remains in question.

Over the centuries, the skill moved beyond the Nakarshalu community, and it is no longer a caste-specific occupation. Members of various communities and castes, including Padmashali, Kamsali, Vishwabrahmin, now work in the Kondapalli toy industry. Records of the Mutually Aided Cooperative Society (MACS), established in 2002 by the artisans, show that in February 2017, of the 229 toy-makers in the village, 107 are men and 122 women. Of these, 53 are Dalits, 128 are from Other Backward Classes, 26 are Muslim, and 22 are from other, landed castes.”  [7]

As with many traditional Arts and Crafts of United Andhra, Kondapalli Toys are also on the brink. The community that preserves this ancient art is finding itself in difficult financial straits. 50 families live in Bommala Colony in Kondapalli, fulfilling large orders on the infrequent occasions they materialise. Dependent upon Lepakshi outlets and various art exhibitions, they require reliable and equitable distribution channels to maintain their livelihood and craft.

At the annual Lepakshi Expo, the turnover is around 3 Lakh rupees. While there are cooperatives supported by Lanco group and various efforts ( such as this and this and this and this) to market these products, society-at-large must come together to help these traditional workers compete with the global market of competitors with products sourced from China and elsewhere.

Though there have been some redesign drives to both update the toys and their relevance to the contemporary market, much more work needs to be done in this regard.

The nouveau riche of Andhra again have an opportunity to step and support these workers and protect our common heritage.

In the olden days, Kondapalli artists received patronage from the local rulers. But today these artisans are neglected due to the advent of mechanised toys. Many artisans have given up their profession and are seeking other lucrative jobs. Though the government is trying to rehabilitate this art form, it is up to us to encourage it. It is our duty to do so. [2]

Click here to Buy Kondapalli Toys Today!!!


References:

  1. Gajrani, S. History, Religion, and Culture of India. Vol 2.Delhi: Isha Books. 2004
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20160127053030/http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/yw/2003/06/21/stories/2003062100470300.htm
  3. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Toying-with-heritage-No-heir-to-Kondapallis-amazing-art/articleshow/47336094.cms
  4. http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/News/ 283_1_REGISTRATION_DETAILS_OF_GI_TILL_DATE_March_2012_Till_Date.pdf
  5. https://web.archive.org/web/20140626104254/http://www.hindu.com/2011/01/12/stories/2011011261670200.htm
  6. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/379894/tales-kondapalli-toys-narrate.html
  7. https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/no-longer-a-toy-story/
  8. http://www.lepakshihandicrafts.gov.in/blog/kondapalli-toys.html
  9. http://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/know-all-about-the-kondapalli-toys/article7611347.ece

Peddamudiam — Pride of Andhra Pradesh

The following Post was composed by Spandana. You can follow her on Twitter.


Photo: Spandana

Peddamudiam, a village if properly projected would have been a heritage village of our state, if properly maintained would have been bliss for researchers and heritage enthusiasts, if properly maintained would have been a great tourist spot that speaks to many interesting aspects of our glorious past. All these are possible only “IF” our government tends to show a little interest in our past.

Though I am against any kind of comparison with other countries…here I am left with no choice other than comparing. India is 11 times bigger than Italy, and if we check the monuments in both countries, the Indian monuments list is way bigger than Italy; but Italy being such a small country has the highest number of monuments listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is only because they respect their past in such a way. Forget about other countries, if we compare with our neighboring states, our state has huge lagging. The way Karnataka and Tamil Nadu maintain their monuments is remarkable. That is the reason both the states have recorded their entry into the UNESCO Heritage list. It’s not like Andhras don’t have monuments, it’s because we hardly make time to promote them and maintain them.

Coming to the present topic, Peddamudiam is 19 kms from Jammalamadugu, Kadapa district. This beautiful small village, originally known as Mudivemu, has numerous monuments with its unique style of architecture. It is really hard to find from Jammalamadugu that there is a beautiful village around, as no information board is installed. Most of the monuments in this village are ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) recognized monuments, waiting to come out of their neglect. Any heritage lover, any spiritual seeker can’t accept the present vulnerable situation of this age old wonder.

List of Monuments in Peddamudiam

  • Ugra Narasimaha Temple – The most neglected temple, but has beautiful architecture believed to be built by Cholas, later developed by Vijayanagara Emperors. Always deserted, but a pandit from neighboring village comes in the morning for performing basic Pooja for Lord.

  • Mukundeswara Temple Complex – There are 5 temples in this temple complex, 2 Shiva Temples, 1 Narasimha Shrine, 1 Karthikeya Shrine and 1 Shrine for NagaGrahas. This temple complex is the oldest temple complex in the village, Compared to Ugra Narasimha Shrine…these temples are in better condition. Though there is no Information board about the era or dynasty in which they were built, we can easily infer they are very early type of construction and very unique style of Architecture. After multiple trails of finding the basic information about these sites, the conclusion I came to was this:  they existed from Satavahana Era and later flourished in Pallavas and Cholas time.

  • Kodanda Rama Shrine and Old Village Site – Though these shrine looks like Vijayanagara Style, can’t say for sure, as the temple was closed(when we visited), and there is an ancient village site as well, but couldn’t get much information about that(only if ASI takes some strain)…it is just a barren land with fencing. There are big bastions (buruju) in the village—villagers said it is 300 years old.

PS – I personally want to apologize if anyone was hurt by my words .These words are not meant to hurt people, but are meant to showcase the emotions of a person who can’t see our heritage,our past,our identity dying like this.


Spandana also runs the GloriousIndianPast and NeglectedMonuments Blogs.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Andhra: The Baahubali State

As if Mahakal himself had decided to suddenly anoint Andhra cinema with national (and international renown) back-to-back, we follow up our article on Phalke Award winner K.Viswanath garu with an article on the topic of the hour: Baahubali 2.

At first glance, some may groan saying “yet another Baahubali 2 review”. But this is no review.

Many may balk at this title for many reasons. They may say that Baahubali originally refers to Gomatesvara in Karnataka. Be that as it may, for the foreseeable future the name will mean the Baahubali of Amarendra and Mahendra, not of Rishabhadeva.

Others may say that Baahubali belongs to all Telugus. True, but by that token it also now belongs to all Indians. Further, the word Andhra doesn’t just refer to new Andhra Pradesh state, but also old Andhra desa, and by association, the old undivided State of Andhra Pradesh. Therefore, Telanganites need not fear. Unless you consider urdu your state language and mother tongue, and shamefully idolise turk aristocracy (like this jester) rather than native Telugus , the Andhra-Telugu-Telugu States association will remain.

Finally, many of you may ask why this title at all. After all, a dime a dozen Baahubali 2 reviews have already been written (some ripping off in part or whole our Baahubali 1 review from 2015 ). In addition, why should discussion revert to that of only Andhra and Telugus at the very moment all of India (and a good chunk of the World given box office collections) is agog in Baahubali-mania? But it is in fact this precise reason that we must talk about this now.  Long time readers would recall our article about how to Rebrand Andhra. This is the ideal point in time to rebrand our state in earnest.

From lead actors, to producers, to composers, to the man of the hour (the director himself), this was an Andhra movie. Yes, it featured talent from South India (as well as honorary South Indian, and real life Sindhi Tamannah Bhatia), yes the cinematographer Senthil did a splendid job. But this was an Andhra project from its very conception by K.V.Vijayendra Prasad (father of director S.S. Rajamouli). The composer Keeravani is also a Telugu, and even Ramya Krishna married to a Telugu. That is why it’s important to acknowledge BB2 as an Andhra production as well as a presentation of Indic culture.

This is India’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Image result for crouching tiger hidden dragon

True, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was more poetry than popcorn. Yes, it managed to preserve an art house mystique that from the tone and mood, the saga of Sivagami clearly was not interested in. Sure, Baahubali is more Lord of the Rings than Hero. But as usual, our nitpickers and pedantic pseudo-pundits miss the point. Baahubali is the vehicle for Indian Culture that Crouching Tiger was for Chinese culture.

Like many of you, I too had many Punjabi friends growing up (and still have many), and respect their culture and admire them for their ability to keep the Punjabi brand trendy and accessible. And yet, despite the declaration of the Punjabification of India, the South has risen again. Rather than Punjabi-led (and Pak-jabi purchased) Bollywood, it is Andhra’s Tollywood that has produced a Pan-India movie with global appeal. Those of you old enough to remember Chinese hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from 17 years ago, would remember how after a long lull since the days of Bruce Lee, the Culture of China became trendy again in the West and the rest. It was the first true introduction of mass China cinema to the American masses (By the Chinese, for the World). Baahubali 2 also managed to achieve this balance of high culture for the masses. True, CTHD was more restrained in both special effects and acting while Baahubali was more in the mould of that typical Telugu taste for the scientifically impossible.

But then again, what better represents the Indian character than that? Why did this film strike a chord even with countries featuring our mortal enemies? It’s because rather than looking down upon the masses and their taste for the physics defying, it takes them in like Amarendra took in his subjects and brings them along for his ride and reign.

Why are Telugu films so logic-defying in their heroes’ action (and Chiranjeevi’s films so age-defying in their ammudu-kummudu romances)? It’s because the average Telugu not only imagines his way to victory but emotes his way through life. Of course the coconut trees could double for catapults and trebuchets, the fan emotionally connects with the hero so much, his hero must have done that!

Satyajit Ray gave an introduction  for Indian Cinema to perfumed audiences, but Baahubali is the Brand that represents Indian culture (and Andhra’s in particular) on a grand cinematic scale. For those seeking to characterise Indian culture like this or like that, all one need do is show one clip of Devasena or Sivagami to understand how real Indian culture treats women—like Divine Shaktis. Indeed, it has a lesson on how to behave for not only Modern Girls, but also Modern Boys. It also has a lesson for future filmmakers & lyricists on writing real Romance with better Romantic dialogues than the current college cliche crop.

Ang Lee’s epic, and Ang Lee himself, have gone on to achieve a place in Global Cinema that Rajamouli’s epic, and Rajamouli himself, will soon come within grasp of. Whether it and he achieve it is contingent upon whether they not only stay true to telling our stories, but also stay true to themselves.

Nitpickers again will assert that Baahubali won’t sweep into the Oscar’s like CTHD or even get the same US Collections, but it need not. The simple fact that it placed 1st on Thursday night at the US Box office and finished a close 3rd for the weekend (and ahead of a Tom Hanks movie), only goes to show how much of a splash it made without the US mass advertising that Crouching Tiger had. Moreover, it also sheds spotlight on the irony of Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone trading in her star status for a bit part in the Fast and the Furious Franchise while fellow Kannadiga Anushka Shetty played the lead actress in an Indian movie that also finished in the US Box Office top 3. Self-respect should be non-negotiable. If you have to pick Anushka, better Shetty than Sharma.

Is Baahubali “a mania”?—perhaps. But those whining about it are obviously manic (depressives) and certainly certifiable. So rather than carp and cavil about them, brush the dirt off your shoulder and enjoy the songs instead.

Mahishmati Odyssey from Madhya Pradesh to Andhra

Why was this story about Mahishmati Samrajyam (in modern Madhya Pradesh) and Kunthala rajya (in Karnataka), a Telugu story at all? Well, one need only start with the Palnati Veera Charitra. That epic by Kavi Sarvabhauma Srinatha has not for nothing, been dubbed the Andhra Kurukshetra. The Kalachuris were an intrinsic part of this epic, and through them, the Mahishmati/Haihaya connection to Andhra even more obvious. And for the self-proclaimed history savants, there was even a Bijjala deva ruler among the Kalyani Kalachuris, and Kalachuri Gangeyadeva was one of the commanders in the expeditions of Indic kings against the Ghaznavids.  In any event, Mahishmati through the PVC has a natural place in the Andhra psyche for our own reason.

Should a remake of this movie be done? Can any actor ever feel the shoes of Naata-Nayaka NTR? Maybe, maybe not. But ultimately, the answer will hinge on aesthetics.

Aesthetics

For the paint-by-numbers pedants, criticism always devolves to a mere formula. They remind me of this scene from Dead Poets Society, writing textbooks which graphically analyse the effect of poetry.

Similarly, they ignore the obvious fact that aesthetics is not simply mere rasa. The full translation of aesthetics is rasalankara. That is, the beautiful presentation of sentiment. Baahubali succeeded at veera rasa  for the very reason Manam succeeded at vatsalya: They both had resonance. Contrary to purists asserting aesthetics is mere rasa—to simply reduce this vast concept of aesthetics to only sentiment does injustice to both Bharata muni (author of the original 8 rasas) as well as Anandavardhana and his Dhvanyaloka: Dhvani is resonance, and is considered by many to be the most important consideration for excellent literature, and by extension, excellent cinema. Rasa is generated not only by bhavas and vibhavas, but is made effective by dhvani. If something has resonance, it captures our attention and even imagination.

Like the lifeless beauty of the princess of Pataliputra, paint-by-numbers pedants are flawed in their conception of life and literature. It does not matter if on-paper rasa is easily identifiable, or even if the ancillary bhavas create the necessary rasa, the key question is whether they resonate with artist and audience alike. That is the true test of the power of Art. Why can the same person enjoy both Citizen Kane and Rocky IV? Why is it that individuals can be fans of both Toshiro Mifune and Brahmanandam? It is because these all resonate, albeit in different ways.

As for the question of Saastriya (the true definition of classicism): the issue is not whether the director of Baahubali is steeped in Dhvanyaloka or Kavya-mimamsa or Natya Sastra. The issue is the letter of the law versus the spirit of the culture. Much like the same band of murkhapanditas who believe “beef in vedas” based on questionable interpretation of sastra, paint-by-numbers pedantic pundits can’t move an inch or write a letter without the letter of law guiding them. That is the importance of studying not only the letter of the law but the spirit behind it, whether in Natya or in Dharma.

Perhaps rather than paint-by-numbers, connect-the-dots would be more their speed.

Further, merely repeating the same old themes and stories is not a true sign of creativity. What sets Rajamouli (and Vijayendra Prasad) apart, is that they took inspiration from our Itihaasa-Purana and created something new. Some of the self-same nitpicking critics have attempted to fault the Koduri clan for historical ambiguity. Others have have made comparisons to Maya Bazaar calling them both mythology. But Baahubali’s genre is historical fantasy. In contrast, Maya Bazaar is a putative presentation of Purana.

Purana after all is Divine in conception. And the Vedas themselves, as we know, are apaurusheya. This is the danger of having nastika charvakas, cacophonous casteists, and avowed atheists anoint themselves as acharyas—they refuse to acknowledge that the authors of these divine texts and canons are in fact merely recipients. Mahadev is the author, we are just his keyboards. Srisaila Sri Rajamouli on the other hand, is divinely inspired, and authored these films in honour of Mahadev.

The effects of the two films (Maya Bazaar and Baahubali) may be similar (connected with elite and mass audiences alike, created interest in our epic heritage and ancient history), but their immediate purposes are different. Further attempts to undercut Rajamouli through forced comparisons with K.Viswanath are also maladroit malevolence by malevolents. K.Viswanath gaaru was bringing high culture in the form of art cinema to the masses. There is an element of realism in his films. In contrast, Rajamouli is elevating mass cinema to the heights of high culture. Unless you honestly believe that Baahubali was flying a swan ship in the air, it’s quite clear many pedantic poseurs fail in basic analogies.

It is inapposite to seek out such juxtapositions. Baahubali is not Saahityam, as it is clearly Chalanachitram. But if it has to fit into a literary genre, it is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Kavya. It is in fact Katha—specifically Nidarsana Katha. Like the Panchatantra it gives stories for the edification and entertainment of viewers. Was there actually a blue jackal? Did the kingdom of crows fight a war with the kingdom of owls? Did four murkhapanditas manage to return a lion to life? The point of nidarsana katha is not whether it stretches credulity (even within certain super-natural assumptions), rather, it is about educating and elevating audiences about topics relevant to life, especially life lived wisely.

Baahubali provided us with examples (the core purpose of nidarsana katha) from which to examine our own lives (Dharma vs Bandhutva, Love vs Duty, Duty vs Law) and gave us figures, most of whom were flawed, but all of whom aspired to some archetype and ended up exemplifying it.  Baahubali is neither Itihaasa-Purana nor Mahakavya nor even Kaavya for that matter—how could it be? But inapposite and inapropos comparisons are appropriate for those who live secret lives of the inappropriate.

What Andhra (and India) now needs are Brand Ambassadors who have actually proven through action  how to revive and reimagine the Samskruthi of Andhra & Bharatavarsha.

Andhra Brand  Ambassadors

Rajamouli, Prabhas, and Rana will be Brand Ambassadors for Andhra for the foreseeable future. Indeed, any neta worth his salt will absolutely deploy these great talents. Rana for his Pan-India glamour, Prabhas for his compelling screen presence and everyman likeability, and Rajamouli for his consistently proven ability to conceive grand visions and implement them on record-breaking scale. Unlike a certain phony “Hollywood-returned” actress who pretends she can’t speak Telugu, all three Tollywood talents are proud speakers of their mother tongue. Indeed, one of the reasons why this film succeeded so well is because it didn’t just feature models who were dubbed (to Tamannah’s credit she was one of the first North actresses to learn Telugu, and neighbouring state Anushka is a natural). As we discussed in the aesthetics section, this is the precise point in time when non-Telugus are taking interest in our maathru bhasha, so Telugus must properly present it. This leads to the next point:

We Are All Andhra Brand Ambassadors Now

Yes, that’s right. Time to spit out that half-chewed pesarattu, wipe your mouth, tuck in your shirt, stand up straight, and start behaving like you represent a language group with a proud cultural and imperial history. Upgrade your tastes, improve your etiquette and manners, and be excellent cultural guides to our Indian brothers and sisters now taking an interest in the Telugu states and their official language.

We have come a long way from the triumphal declarations of “the Punjabification of India”, and “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”. Andhra’s hour is here, and it’s time we got our act together for the big show. Our Tamilian brothers, God bless ‘em, have long managed to convince every Bharatiya north of the Vindhya that only Tamizh was spoken “in Dravidian states”.  Despite the boorish CNN18 anchor’s attempt to claim Baahubali for the Land of Temples & Bharatanatyam, this is an Andhra production and must be asserted as such. But at the same time, trading insults with them and others, or mocking others making a genuine attempt to learn and respect, is not the way to represent your Telugu Thalli. So here are a few pointers on how to ditch your gabbar singh handbook on etiquette and embrace your inner Amarendra (or Devasena).

1.Be gracious, but keep your self-respect. When people take an interest in showing respect to your culture & language, show good upbringing by being respectful. No, you don’t need to fall all over yourself to return praise in unseemly hyperbole. Just return the compliment proportionately and ask them if they need any help learning the language or have questions about the culture.

2.Learn about your Culture! If you were ever wondering why we invested so much time in a site on Andhra culture, now you know why it’s useful, at least  in one scenario. Do you want to be embarrassed at your own ignorance of heritage when your friends from the North finally stop asking what the difference is between Telugu and Tamil? Take the time to read not only our blog posts but our pages,  on Culture and Science and other Topics. Learn now so you don’t look foolish later.

3.Stop being caste crabs. It’s fine to take a small measure of pride in one’s heritage, family, and jati, but come on guys, it’s starting to get ridiculous. I won’t even dignify that Telugu Whatsapp forward that was doing the rounds on twitter trying to bring down Baahubali—but give me a break. Know when to put aside your competition and to show some class by letting someone else enjoy the spotlight in representing our state. There is plenty of blame to go around on the casteism front (UC, OBC, BC, SC, and Hi-C). Show some class, and represent your state with some respectability.

Don’t complain—up your game and treat it as a challenge to show your talent, rather than bring out the worst of your boorishness. Know when to slide out of your caste identity and slide into your Andhra identity, or more importantly the even greater Indian identity, rather than waking up and going to bed with the name of your caste on your lips. Look at it as a high standard to live up to, rather than a mythos that you must prevent reality from popping.

4.Clean up your act! Yes, everyone wants to have fun, and we all need to let loose some times. Sure, you have “worked hard to get job in phoreign”, but the time has come for Andhras to start showing they are serious people. You are not a five year old anymore—so stop dressing, looking, and behaving like one. If you can’t think beyond your caste, you can’t bring up your state to greater heights. If Punjabis, and Bengalis, and Gujaratis have all succeeded to varying degrees for as long as they have, it is because they could think of the common interest.

True, there have been double-edged swords to all of these, all of which will be discussed at a later time, but it’s also important to appreciate what others have done well. Punjabis represented themselves very well and in aesthetically pleasing ways for many years. Bengalis single-handedly managed to appropriate the entire state of Odisha and its cultural heritage into their mythos. And Gujaratis garba-raas’d their way into our hearts and into the PM gaadi. Instead of looking like village rustics, all of them made it a point (to varying degrees of success) to establish themselves and their states as an upscale brand. It is time we did the same.

Instead of waxing poetic over the myriad virtues (“let me count the ways”)  of the Andhra mess dining concept, upgrade your thinking and tastes and start understanding the need to establish Andhra as an haute cuisine. If Madhur Jaffrey could find a way to market irredeemably dessicate Gujarati food as ‘haute vegetarian”, surely given our equity, there’s plenty more we can do with ours. Ditch the biryani and haleem , and bring out the best pulaos and kooras our region has to offer. Enough “vahrevah”. Time for the “ati uttam”. To create new classics, take inspiration from the old ones.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of noise on the topic of Baahubali 2, most of which masqueraded as separating the signal from the noise. Perhaps the most signal mediocrity came in the form of this article, which touched on two aspects which had not been explored to date.

Point 1 is the most obvious and laughable. This is the thesis about how Baahubali is detrimental to cinema because it embodies and promotes “feudal” values. Yet the self-same cognitive defective who compiled this pointed to Lord of the Rings (LOTR) as an example of good fantasy cinema. Our vidusaka-samalochaka apparently didn’t have the basic knowledge or logic to realize that LOTR literally had 1 movie in the Series called “Return of the King”. This is what happens with suited simulacra, whether it is from the left or the right—only foreign feudalism is to be feted, not native Kshatriyas who have their people’s interests at heart. Rai Bahadurs and Gunga Dins on the other hand have no problem doing paimenbos to the pardesi. It is why they are forever searching for connections to outside royalty to serve as courtiers to and legitimize it with asinine, vedavirodhaka theories like AIT.

The second point is more relevant to our Telugu states in particular. It underscores the general fear that anti-India types have to Telugu unity, and even the Andhra name. As we have asserted elsewhere, there should be no place for separatist sedition among the scions of the Satavahanas, yet at the same time, why the great fear for a little trans-Telugu states pride? Why has even the Andhra word (which in fact represents all Telugus, not just those from the Coast) been so vilified?

 It is because Andhra has historically been a bulwark of Dharma. From the Satavahanas to the Kakatiyas to the Musunuri Nayaks to the Reddi Rajas to even the Vijayanagara Empire and the Polygars—Andhra’s contribution from all castes to fighting foreign invasion is undeniable. What has made it all the more potent has been the general decentralised Dharma which it has practiced, which empowered not only clergy/royalty/mercantile elite, but even the lower aristocracy (gentry) and masses alike. It is this power of popular religion, which has given everyone, even the masses a stake.

 Art house high culture cinema can be cordoned off and contained—but what happens when mass cinema aspires to high culture?—that is the real danger for desh drohis. It is this paradigm that has made Andhra, Andhra culture, and Andhra cinema most potent. When even non-Telugus (North or South) have looked to united Andhra as a beacon of Indic Civilizational revival, desh drohis are doubling down on their Andhra hate—only this time the truth tumbled out. Telugu unity is the great fear, not only for neo-nizam nitwits, but breaking India brigadiers as well. Left wing movements misguide masses and exploit them while Right wing movements have contempt for them—it is only a truly decentralised Dharma paksha that causes poco-pomo popinjays to soil their pj’s. And that is why the united Andhra culture (across the Telugu states) causes such trepidation. After all you, heard the fear not from here, but out of the mouth of babes:

No movie represented the power of popular, participatory religion (rather than cloistered ritualism) than Baahubali. Only the difference between Andhra and The Chindu’s TN or Bahubali and what passes for “haute culture” in the sepoy brigades is that Bahubali doesn’t reject the priesthood, but only puts it in its proper place. While bollywood berates Brahmins and kollywood militates against them, tollywood has been at harmony with brahmins (with rare exception). Dharma destroys Dronas and Duryodhanas alike. This is the danger of casteism, whether from upper caste or lower caste.

The innocent Brahmin just trying to make his way in the world is caught between this vice of inveterate caste hatred from others or indecent eugenics obsession from within. Baahubali 1 and 2 represent a 3rd way and we see Brahmins neither sidelined nor self-aggrandising —but merely permitted to play their traditional role not only as priests but as keepers of knowledge, advisers of aristocrats, and preservers of truth.

DMK thugs see near constant power politics and neo-Dronas exploit them—it is neither foreign philosophy nor foreign-concocted Aryan Invasion Theory, but Dharma itself which is the true protection for Brahmin and non-Brahmin alike.

Dharmo rakshati rakshitaha.

That all this was conceived, promoted, and produced by a pro-Hindu, but non-brahmin community praising the virtues of another varna known as kshatriya is what made this movie and this Andhra Aikya Alochana so dangerous to the drohis of Bharata Desa. That is the power of popular religion—everyone has an active stake. That is the power of Baahubali, all castes, classes, and communities are brought along for the ride. And that is why united Andhra is the Baahubali state.

Is Baahubali a permanent characterisation? No—think of it as a temporary marketing campaign to improve Andhra’s image. Are we planning on ditching our previously planned marketing plan for AP?—No. Andhra is still the land of Satavahana Emperors, Rani Rudhrama Devi, Musunuri Nayaks, Prolaya Vema ReddiAnnamacharya, Tenali Ramakrishna, Krishna Deva Raya (yes, Kannadigas and Tulus we have a claim), Thyagaraja, Pingali Venkayya, NT Rama Rao and many, many more…

…But Baahubali is the masthead for Andhra for the foreseeable future.

So next time someone asks you which state you’re from, tell them Andhra: The Baahubali State.

Jai Mahishmati!

Jai Amaravati!

 

Personalities: Vasantaraya

lakumadevi1
Source: Vasantarajeeya book, via Spandana

Those of you following us on our All-India site, Indic Civilizational Portal, would have seen our article on Vasant Utsav. Well, it just so happens that Andhra had a king who became so identified with the festival, he took his name after it.

The next installment in our Continuing Series on Andhra Personalities is none other than King Kumaragiri Reddi, better known as:  Vasantaraya.

Background

Kumaragiri Reddi (1386-1403 CE) was the son of Anavota I. He succeeded his uncle Anavema after the latter’s highly successful reign as the greatest king of the dynasty. “The Anaparti grant, his earliest extant record, dated in S.1312/1390 A.D., says that he had, by that year, friendly relations with the kings of the north, east, south and west. ” [1, 122] His reign is generally considered to have run from 1386 to 1403,

The family tree of the Reddi dynasty also plays an important part in the fate of the Kingdom. As previously discussed, there were 3 main families that decided its fate: the descendants of Prolaya Vema Reddi, Maacha I, and Kataya Reddi.  Thus we see that “Kumaaragiri’s succession to the throne was not a smooth and peaceful one and that he had to fight for it.” [1,122]

ReddiRajyamGenealogy

The “rival claimants to the throne might have been his cousins, Vema and Maaca, sons of Peda Komati, and grandsons of Maaca I, brother of Prolaya Vema.”[1,123]

Despite being known more as a man of culture and less as a warrior-general, it is said that…

Kumaaragiri fought successful wars with the kings of the west, north and east, that is, probably with Vijayanagar, Raajakonda and Kalinga respectively. [1, 126]

Either way, the meteoric expansion of the Reddi dynasty that occurred under Kataya Vema’s generalship, also led to its later contraction and final division and downfall. The campaigns of this era, therefore, are better attributed to Kataya than Kumaragiri, and should be described under his account, focusing on Vasantaraya today.

Vasantaraya

A man of pleasure, learning, and celebration, Kumaragiri revived the ancient Vasantha Utsavam (spring festival).

There was a great carnival and the King would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama and Rati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Siva and Sakti, and Sachi and Indra. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like pichkaris in holi). “The sport included sprinkling and scattering of various powders, coloured and un-coloured, perfumed and non-perfumed, and sandal paste. Camphor pieces and powder were showered on the crowds” [1, 358] People mixed freely and the Reddi kings, especially Karpoora-Vasantharaya, gave it royal grandeur.

He generally left administration to his brother-in-law, Kataya Vema Reddi, to pursue artistic and literary interests.

He was a great lover of music and dance and studied all the old works on dance written by Bharataacaaryas and dance-experts and produced a comprehensive work on that art called Vasantaraajeeya after his own name.  [1,145]

The sanskrit treatise on dance was called Vasantarajeeya as he was called Vasantaraya. A man of art and aesthetics was naturally a great lover of loveliness. He was said to have been enamoured by the narthaki Lakumadevi, who was a stunning beauty. The love story between the two is a touching tragedy, as recounted here, but is nevertheless symbolic of the sacrifice and burdens of ruling a kingdom.

Due to varied attacks from the Bahmanis, Recherlas, and Vijayanagara Emperors, Kumaragiri had many threats to face.  Kumaragiri eventually elevated Kataya Vema to generalissimo.

They were simultaneously attacked by the Gajapatis who were defeated outside of Viharanagari or Kridaad. Vijayanagara also attacked and occupied a portion of the south. Kumaragiri also had to face a rebellion by the Kandukuru branch, and prince Komati Reddi, son of Maacha I occupied territories as far as Tenali in Guntur district. [1, 148]

An invasion by the Bahmanis, under Firuz Shah, threatened the Reddi kingdom in 1398 C.E. “Gajaraavu Tippaa Naayaka, a distinguished noble of the kingdom, appears to have defeated the muslims on the plain outside the town of Kambamumetta and driven them back.” [1,147]

A matrimonial alliance was concluded with Vijayanagara, and Kataya Vema was given Harihara Raya’s daughter (Hariharamba) in marriage. This would have ramifications on the Reddi Kingdom in a few years. Kataya Vema would go on to make conquests in the East and expand the dynasty’s direct rule to Rajamahendri.

As mentioned previously, the campaigns to Bengal are better discussed in future articles. Nevertheless, Kumaragiri’s military commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi are said to have taken Vasantaraya’s banner to central and eastern India. Another name that bears mention is Ariyeti Annamantri (from the family of Musunuri fame). He was appointed governor of the fort of Bendapudi.

Kumaragiri’s only son and viceroy at Rajamahendravaram, Anavota II, died prematurely, some time around the year 1395. He therefore appointed his brother-in-law and prime minister Kaataya Vema the Raajamendri Rajya ruler, out of gratitude for recovering southern territories from Vijayanagara. “This step caused considerable discontent in the country and we cannot call Kumaaragiri’s action exactly wise. Kaataya Vema, always had many bitter opponents in the court. Peda Komati Vema and his supporters had always looked askance at his achievements; and their jealousy and resentment at this signal recognition by their king, of this daring rival of theirs must have been impossible to bear.” [1,146]

This led to an internecine dispute within the dynasty, and Pedda Komati Vema took back the throne for the main line of Reddis and drove away Kumaragiri, who took refuge in Kataya Vema’s court at Rajamahendri. This also led to division of the Reddi kingdom, and courts at Rajamahendravaram and Kondaveedu warred with each other. Kumaragiri Vijayam, rather ironically, marks his reign.

Vasantaraya’s rule ended under his viceroy’s protective care. King Kumaragiri passed away in 1402 C.E., with no heirs.

Achievements

HoliHai

While the Reddi Kings traditionally had reputations as warrior-generals and as defenders of Dharma, King Kumaragiri demonstrated the softer power of culture that they also wielded. If Kataya Vema represented the Vaana (bow) of his reign, Kumaragiri represented the Veena (lute).

Perhaps nothing showed this more than the Vasanta Utsava from which Vasantaraya takes his name. Although this title was also attributed to his predecessor, it is Kumaragiri who truly owned it. The enthusiasm with which he celebrated that festival, rightly earned him the title of Vasantaraaya, which was later embellished to Karpoora-Vasantaraaya by the generous quantities of camphor he scattered among people during this festival. [1, 145]

  • Celebrated and Revived the ancient Spring Festival known as Vasant Utsav
  • Well-read Sanskrit scholar and authority on dance and music
  • Composed a respected Sanskrit text on Dance called Vasantarajeeya (now lost).
  • Brought the Reddi Dynasty to new cultural heights, with not only learned Brahmanas but the Aristocracy and the King himself actively leading literary and musical accomplishment
  • Gave patronage to a large circle of cultural exemplars, such as poet Annaya, son of Pinnaya, son of Manuma Durgasuddhi.
  • Presided over the most widespread, successful campaigning of the Reddi Kingdom, with commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi. Under him, Coastal Andhra arms reached as far as Odisha, Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • Led a building programme which beautified Kondaveedu and constructed many structures such as the grha-raja samjhanam, dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.

Legacy

Image result for kumaragiri reddy

Kumaragiri’s rule is recorded in the work Kumaragiri Vijayam. From his brave biruda-rahatta (knights-cavaliers) to his love for Lakumadevi to his Vasantarajeeya to his revival of the Vasant Utsava, Vasantaraya’s reign truly represented the noon-tide of the Reddi Rajyam: Romantic Age of Andhra.

King Kumaragiri was freed from burden of ruling & became a lover of music & arts. He was an artist (kalaavan) in every sense. “Vasantaraaya (another name of Kumaaragiri) constructed many pleasure houses (leelagrhaan) with gold and precious stones, a lofty palatial mansion, termed grharaaja-prasada with pinnacles (prasaadam-unnata-sikha griharaaja-samjnam), pleasure-ponds (kreedaasaraamsi) and pleasure-chariots (keli-radhaan), and sported with his beloved women (priyaabhih).” [1,449]

Despite the cultural accomplishment of Vasantaraya, his reign shows the dangers of a king completely outsourcing administrative responsibility to his Prime Minister and other officials. Kataya Vema was a skilled general and brave warrior, but his own ambition for power led to the break up of the Reddi kingdom. The Antar-yuddham or Civil War in which it was plunged in the later part of King Kumaragiri’s reign demonstrated this danger.

The Reddi kingdom split up in 1402 CE, with Pedda Komati Vema taking the throne of Kondaveedu from Kumaragiri, who fled to Rajamahendri. While Kumaragiri nominally ruled, it was Kataya Vema who was the real power behind the throne. It was thus natural that after Kumaragiri’s passing, that Kataya Vema would formalise his bid for power. Despite his loyalty to Kumaragiri, once the way was clear, he would make his own claim to the throne, and the warring of the Reddi kingdoms made the downfall of both inevitable.

In the succeeding decades, Vijayanagara would swallow up Kondaveedu and the Gangas of Odisha would take over Rajamahendravaram. Kumaragiri may not be directly to blame for this outcome, but his reign shows the danger of a king retiring completely from administration and becoming too dependent on ministers, and especially, prime ministers.

Nevertheless, Kumaragiri will remain Vasantaraya in the hearts of Andhras, not only for reviving this great festival, with which he is identified, but for truly making the Reddi Rajyam the Romantic Age of Andhra.

References:

  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015.
  2. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the earliest times to 1991. Delhi: Sterling. 1994
  3. http://gloriousindianpast.blogspot.com/2016/01/lakuma-devi.html
  4. Prasad, Durga. History of the Andhras. P.G. Publishers. 1988