Folk Theatre


Veedhi Natakam

Veedhi Natakam is the most popular folk theatre form of Andhra Pradesh. It is called 'Bayalata' in the Rayalseema area and called Veedhi Bhagavatham throughout Andhra.

These were presented during the festivals of and in praise of 'Bhagavan' and the people who presented them were called the and performances during local festivals as 'Bhagavathams'. Originally the text (Bhagavatham) decided the name of the performance. Certain castes specialized in such performances. Dasari Bhagavatham and Yanadi Bhagavatham Melattur Bhagavatham, Toorpu Bhagavtham (presented in the eastern part of Andhra) etc are some of the different styles.

Veedhi Natakam Veedhi in Telugu means street; an open place. So Veedhi Natakam is any dramatic performance presented in a street. When the temple forms moved out into the open places as they had to cater to larger number of devotees, especially on festival occasions. They were being performed on raised platforms facing the temples and facing the Lord's image (the Ustava Vigraha). Since the plays on Bhagavan were performed in an open place they were called Veedhi Natakam, and since they were performed by Bhagathas, who were devotees of Bhagwan, they were also called Veedhi Bhagavathams.

Styles In the long history of Telugu theatrical tradition, three different presentational forms are called by the same name 'Veedhi Natakam'. Firstly we have 'Veedhi', one of the ten types of drama (Dasa rupaka) its theme is romance; and it is a narrative- descriptive medium through which a single man narrates his experiences to another character. Similarly the modern street play which is propagandist in its intent and often politico-satirical in its tone is in many ways different from the traditional Veedhi Natakam, except in its indication of the place of performance, the Veedhi (street).

Veedhi Natakam had its origin in the late 16th century and early 17th century, when the Bhakti cult especially the Krishna Cult was in ascendance in Andhra. It improved upon the earlier performing forms- the Yakshaganam and the Kalapam. Though Yakshaganam was originally a single performer's musical rendering of a story, later it introduced more number of characters.

But all through its four centuries of active existence, Yakshaganam was more narrative-descriptive than dramatic. When the same medium had to go into open out of the precincts of temples, it became more virile and theatrical and the form was called 'Veedhi Natakam'. That is to say that when Yakshaganam came into the open and when open air performances demanded a better theatre quality the Veedhi Natakams had their beginnings.


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