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Pluralism and Performance : The Many Voices in Ramayana
Supported by Ford Foundation
This is the summary of the question and answer session held by the viewers and the Andhra Puppeteers after the day of their show.
There were ten people in the group that performed. Ramayana text is used because of its “Mahatwa”(greatness). The head of this group is Chidambara Rao. This group claimed that their grandfather belonged to the Krishna Deva Raya Parampara. The text used is Ranganatha Ramayana approximately 400 years old. Ranganatha wrote Sookshma Ramayana in Telugu, based on Valmiki Ramayana. Telugu translation of the original Ramayana was regionally accepted. Performances lasted usually for 21 days. They performed Sundara Kandam which they performed at Aadishakti usually in nine days. Each important section took up previously decided days.
After the rainy season, the Grama Jatra commences. In the beginning the lake is dry and there is no water. But, after the performance, the rains come and the lake is full. Duration of the performance is usually 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. In order to get rain the Ravana Vadham is performed in full. When Ravana is killed a goat is slaughtered and given as Ahuti(offering). The play ends with Sita’s Agnipravesham. The Rama Pattabhishekam(coronation) is not performed. The narrative in this scene is taken from Tulsidas’s Ramayana where Maya Sita is the one whom Ravana abducts and who finally jumps into fire.This was done as village theatre. Twenty years back eight sarees were used for the screen and covering the marked area for the stage. This was known as Veedhi Natakam and was performed as street theatre. It begins with Kishkinda and Sundara Kandams and ends with the killing of Indrajith in the Yuddha Kandam.
The actors used to replicate the puppets and act in the same style. They removed the puppets and the screen and did the acting themselves helping from behind the screen.
They worshipped the arrow of Rama, in front of the Devi (Mother Goddess) only a goat is killed, no one else. Dialogue is like that used in Yakshaganam or Veedhinatakam. This was considered pre-drama theatre.
The puppeteers livelihood does not entirely depend puppet plays. They are involved in farming and other such jobs.
Chidambara Rao and members from his group also gave examples of dancing and singing in the Veethinatakam and the comedy scene with the puppets, the uncle, his wife and his nephew was enacted.
The quality of singing, the ranges to which voices can be raised and the dramatic quality of the voice through monologues were amazing.
19 March 2009
Adishakti Ramayana Festival