Saturday, 22 April 2017

Sri Ramanuja Vaibhavam Puppet Manipulation Training at JIVA Gurukul

Swami Ramanujacharya spiritual appearance on this earth in the year 1017 A.D., as a lustrous sun to dismiss the darkness and to destroy unauthorized religion and so called religious beliefs. He is none other than the incarnation of Adisesha-Anantha-the serpent bed of the Sriman Narayana-the parthathvam-Paramatha. He is the first revolutionary legend who propagated “All are one and equal before the Lord''.

He accepted and welcomed all irrespective of gender, caste, creed, and race into Sri Vaishnava Siddhantham. He also paved a new way of attaining Moksha through Saranagati-Self surrender to the lotus feet of Sriman Narayana.

Born to pious couple Sri Asuri Kesava Somayaji and Ganthimathi of Sriperunbudur near Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu after a great penance. His maternal uncle Sri Srishaila Purna named him Illayalwar, Lakshmana. As Lakshmana is also inacarnation of Adishesha and served Lord Rama, he intended Ramanuja (Rama’s anuja-menaing younger brother of Rma who is Lakshmana) to serve to Lord and the mankind.

Ramanuja is attributed with many manes like-Wodeyavar, Emperumanar, Illayaliwar, Lakshmanagraja,Bhasyagar and so on. He is widely known as Ramanujacharya.

Well versed in Vedas, Vedanthas, SashtraS, srI Ramanuja grew up to be the pioneer of religion.

His avatar was to spread the message of Lord SRimannaryana, to deliver the tattva behind the living beings caught up in the cycle of repeated births and deaths.

To preach and demonstrate the most subtle and sublime easy way to reach the lotus feet of Sriman Narayana through Sharanagathi.

To propagate Sri Vaishna Sampradayam and Vishitadvaitha Siddantham.

To provide authoritative supreme commentary to the Vedic injunction of Sri Veda Vyasa Maharishi’s Brahma Sutam-Sree Bhashyam.

2017 marks 1000 years, ten centuries of the Spiritual Acharya’s birth. Worldwide all are celebrating Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabdi Utsavam with full lore and festivity.

Sri ramanuja’s philosophy and teachings that has not only survived but are relevant even today. He was the only one who reached out poor, downtrodden, and untouchables. He was instrumental in bringing in social and administrative reforms in the temples and maths across India.

Who is Sri Ramanuja? -- A poet, a philosopher, a Spiritual teacher, social thinker, author or commentator????

He felt compassion for the poor and down trodden, women and worked towards the upliftment of the same. He opened the doors of the temples to all-from Brahmins to Non-Brahmins.

He was accepted, welcomed even by Delhi Sultanate and Mohammedan rulers.

As a kaikaryam-seva to the Vishsita Advaita Acharya, Sphoorthi Theatre is coming out with a combination of Rod and Shadow(leather) puppet show on “Sri Ramanuja Vaibhavam” at Jeeyar Eduactional Trust-JET Ashram of HH Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Chinna Srimannarayana Ramanuja Swamy , Muchintal, Sahmshabad, Hyderabad, Telangana State, India during Sri Ramanuja Sahasrabadi celebration from April 26-May1, 2017.

Towards the same imparting Puppet manipulation training to the Vidhyathris of Jeeyar Integrated Vedic Academy (JIVA Gurukulam) run under the supervision of HH Sri Sri Sri Tridandi Chinna Srimannarayana Ramanuja Swamy.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Significance of Panguni Uttiram for Tamilians

Panguni Uthiram also known as Meena Uttara-phalguni in Sanskrit an auspicious day for Tamilians.

It falls on the day the moon transits Uttara Phalguni nakshatram or star in the twelfth month of the Tamil solar calendar i.e. Panguni (March–April). It is the full moon of the month of Panguni.

This day is very auspicious and sacred for both Saivaites and Vaishnavites of Tamil Nadu.

For Vaishnavites, it marks the day of Andal’s marriage to Rangamanar. It is also the thirunakshtram or birthaday of Sri Ranganayaki Thaayar-Periya Pirrati of SriRangam. On Panguni Uthiram, Narayana marriesSri Ranganayaki Thaayar-Periya Pirrati and give his Kalyana Kola Seva to his Bhakthas.

It is the strong belief that when Pirati Mahalaskhmi (Sri Ranganayaki Thayaar) is along with Perumal (Sri Ranganatha)then all the mistakes or papam done by the jeevatham is excused. As mother always pardons and also gives a chance to overcome mistakes. She also protects her children from harsh punishment which is for sure when Perumal is all alone.

Therefore, Sri Vaishnava philosophy always stress on prostrating Perumal along with Thayaar- Sri Lakshmi Narayana, Sri Ranganayika Sametha Sri Ranganathan Perumal, Sri Lakshmi Narasimhan, Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva Prapaate....Perumal is “Rakshakan-protector’, while Piraati-Thayaar is Sikshakan’.

According to Vamiki’s Ramayana, it is the wedding day of Sri Rama and mother Sita at Janakapuri. From Brahmanda Puranam we learn that on Panguni Uthiram every holy water joins Thumburu teertha one of seven sacred tanks in Tirumala.

For Saivaites this day this full moon signifies the marriage of Mother Parvati as Gowri and Parameswara (Eshwara-Shiva) in Kanchipuram. Sri Muruga perumal-Kumaraswamy and Deivanai also known as Devasena. Devotees flock in hundreds to the Murugan temples on Panguni Uthiram day.

Yet another story from purunas mentions about that on this day Goddess Mahalakshmi incarnated on earth from the ocean of milk (after the ocean was churned by the Gods and the demons) and hence it is celebrated as Mahalakshmi Jayanti.

In “Arula Perumal-Sri Varadaraja Perumal kovil in Kanchipuram, the Panguni Pallava Utsavam is celebrated ofr seven days. During when the sacred text of Hastigiri Mahatmyam, i.e., the sthala Purana of the temple is read before the deity in the 100 pillared mandapam.

An epigraph of 1582 A.D., of Vijayanagara mentione sthe king Sriranga Raya made an endowment of offerings to be made to the Serakulavalli Nachiyar on Panguni Uthiram Sathumurai.

The festival is extraordinarily celebrated at Kapaleeswarar temple. All the 63 Nayanmars during the eighth day of the Panguni festival.

To a common man Panguni Uthiram is the day that teaches to respect a relationship –a strong bondage of husband and wife relationship, family, progeny. In total it is the initiation into Grihastha ashramthat is meant to sanctify growth of progeny and welfare.

This Phalgun Poornima day is also Holi in the Braj region, which includes locations traditionally connected to the Lord Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana, Kumaoni (Uttarakhant). The day that Holika the sister of Hiranyakashibu was destroyed. It is celebrated as Basatotsav (Bengal), Phagwah (Bihar), Doḷajātra (Oriya), Ganga Mela (UP), Dol Purnima (Bengal), Śigmo (Konkani), Rangapanchami (MP), Yaosang (Manipur), Basnata Panchami (AP), Phakuwa (Assam), Shimga (Maharashtra), Manjal Kuli (Kerala), Fagu Poornima (Nepal), Panguni Uthram Vasanthotsavam (TN). The playful throwing of natural coloured powders has a medicinal significance: the colours are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors. A very auspicious day for all Hindus. (Source:Wikipedia).

Monday, 3 April 2017

Chekka Bommalata of Burugupeta Village, Telangana State

It was immense pleasure for Sphoorthi thetare to organize Traditional Wooden String Puppetry-Chekka Bommlata or Koyya Bommlata at Kala Ashram, Adilabad, Telangana State, Bharata Desha.

Great to watch the Octogenarians Mothe Ramaswamy and Mothe Yadagiri of Burugupeta village, Venkapuram Mandal, Bhupalpalli (Prof. Jayashankar) District, Warangal, Telangana State, India at Kala.

Chekka Bommlata or Koyya Bommlata –String Puppetry is pride of Telangana State. At present two Mothe troupes-One from Ammapuram which is quite well known and second is Burugupeta (lesser known) perform it.

I have posted a post earlier on "Declining Traditional Wooden Puppetry of Telangana in 2012 which covers all about Mothe Troupe of Ammapuram.

Both Mothe Ammapuram troupe and Mothe Burugupeta troupes are related to each other and have common ancestors. They belong to Beda Budiga Jangam Community. The uniqueness of this Budiga Jangam community is they are good singing, music rendition and in folk art forms. Buduga Jangam is an artistic community which has more than 24 sub communities along with Bommalalollu, Sarada Kala Rupamvalu, Kakipapala, Ganayeti, Mandhechchu, and so on.

However, Buduga is a percussion instrument associated with the narration of Jangam Kathas or Kathalu. This instrument is also known as Buduga, Budiga, Dikki,and Gummeta in Telugu. This Buduga Jangam community is the traditional narrators of stories from mythology, epics, and heroic tales of the region.

They also performed the obsequies rites to the saivites and in return were paid Beda or byada coin by them. So, they are also known as Beda Jangam or Beda Budiga Jangam. 8 Beda or Byada (this is how they pronounce it) is equal to Re-1/- and 16 Ek Anna equals to 8 Bydalu.

Basically,  Budiga Jangaluvalu are wandering hunters and food gatherer. However, present generation is quite well educated and chosen alternative profession for livelihood. Mothe Shankar who is the grandson of octogenarian Mothe Ramaswamy is a photographer and has his own studio. He is the troupe incharge of Burugupeta Bommalata. Along with him his brothers, cousins and his own son are receiving training from Mothe Yadagiri and Mothe Ramaswamy. They feel the pride of the art form resting with their family which is unique.

It was Prof. Bhkatavasal Reddy and his team from Telugu Folklore Department of  Telugu University, Warangal in 1995 during a baseline survey study on "local folklore artists" discovered Bommalollu of Burugupeta. Burugupeta troupe had stopped performing bommalata for 10-15 years. From them they got to know about another troupe in a  defunct state  residing in Ammapuram.

During the national conference organised in 1995 at the university a platform was arranged for the traditional puppeteers to  perform as a step towards to revival of the art form. 

However, the traditional puppeteers were quite nervous about the performance and made a presentation for 30 minutes. With constant support extended by the Prof. Bhaktavasal Reddy and his team . a small ray of hope started beaming. 

However, Prof. Thirumal Rao along with Sri Vedakumar worked with Ammapuram troupe extensively. Sooner, Ammapuram troupe traveled all around twenty-three districts of former Andhra Pradesh. 

Sooner, Ammapuram bommalattavalu received popularity. They traveled to different states and gave performance. Howveer, the present generation of Ammapuram Bommalollu are not interested in this art form. 

As part of my research study, I contacted Burugupeta troupe and they willing accepted the inivitation to perform at Kala Ashram, Adilabad.

It was during the interaction Shri Ravinder Sharma ji fondly known as Guruji who surprised all with additional information of an old woman with one string puppet and went all around Adilabad. Well, this clue opens door for further investigation about Bommolollu.

On March 27, 2017 Burugupeta Bommallolu perfromed "Lava-Kusha" from Uttara Ramayana. The play lasted for two hours. Usual trend of power cut was blessing in disguise. The performance started when the sunlight was still on. Slow approach of dusk and darkness filled the atmosphere with a captivating village charm. Earthen lamps lit as a true rescuer. We could watch the true traditional puppet play in flickering light of earthen lamp that enthralled us to the village life.

This is the origin of Mothe Bommalollu family

Mothe Bommalollu family tree from Burugupeta

Puppeteers maneuvering puppets 

The Burugupeta troupe of  10 members of four generations holding puppets 

Octogenarian Mothe Yadagiri and Mothe Ramaswamy at the extreme left

Kala Ahsram Shri ravinder Sharma Guruji  honoured the artists  and seen along with them  

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Significance of Navartri Bommai Golu / Bommala Kolu / Gombe Habba

Sri Vedanta Desikar


Traditional Tamilian Wedding

Ratnaharam Nitya Soorigal

Navaratri is a time when many homes in the southern states of India especially in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have feastivity of nine days celebrations with on colours, vratams, music, and food.

A significant part of the Navaratri festival in this region includes the tradition of the Bommai , which is a creation of an assembly of dolls that signify the richness and diversity of life. (Bommai means doll, and Golu means the display or artistic display). 'Golu' in Tamil and 'Kolu' in Telugu. It is believed that this creation is born from the Mother Divine, and Navarati is the time for one to remember, revere and worship the source - the Devi.

Navratri is celebrated four times in a year:

In one year period four Navarathri are observed and devoted for attribution on the lotus feet of Mother Goddess. Of the four the Navarathri that two navarathti , namely one that comes during September-October as per English Almanac and Poratasi month or Kanya month in Tamil and Aswin or Asvija month in Kannada or Telugu during Shukla Paksha of the lunar month after the Mahalaya Paksha or Paksha masa.

It is known is more sacrosanct than the other three, as it is observed in the whole country in varied rituals and rendition. (Paksha Masa is total attribution for the observation of Ancestors). It is believed that remembrance and observation of Ancestors first that pleases God or Goddess.

God/Goddess blesses the family that primarily remembers their ancestors and carries on the culture and tradition. Second blessed Navarathri comes during Shukla Paksha of the lunar month of Chaitra, corresponding to mid-March to mid-April.

The timing of these Navratras relate to the autumn and out break of diseases and ill-ness due to the change in time and seasons change, and have crop harvest. During this period less water is found on the land due to extreme heat generation and humidity.

The tradition of Bommai Golu or Bommala kolu is a creation of the assembly of Goddess Durga containing a multitude of idols of gods, goddesses, men, animals, businessmen, and children.

The tradition of making the Bommai Golu starts with setting up of steps in one of the corners of the house. The number of steps could vary from 3 to 11. Many families place nine steps, each step representing the nine days of Narvatri. The steps are then covered with a decorative cloth, and made ready for the Bommai Golu.

Setting up of the Bommai Golu starts with a kalash (ceremonial jar) with fresh water covered with a coconut and mango leaves. The kalash is placed on the top most step in the center and is considered to represent the Goddess Durga. Idols of Deities are placed to the left and right of the kalash.

Kushmanda means pumpkin. A pumpkin has many seeds and each seed contains the potential for many more pumpkins. This is representative of the creative power and its eternal nature. The whole creation is like a pumpkin. As Kushmanda, the Devi contains the entire creation within her. She is the Devi of supreme power who can give you the highest prana (creative energy).

Golu could also depict ancient stories depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Bhagavatham and puranas.

At some places, clay idols of Goddess Durga are ornamented with different weapons in her eight arms, riding a lion, with demon Maheshasur lying dead at her feet. For eight days these idols are worshipped and then immersed in river or sea-shore on the ninth day with great fanfare.

This period of Navaratri also is believed to be sacred for recitation of sacred scriptures such as Durga Sapsadi from Markanday Puran. Devi Sahasaranam, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Annapurna, Kali, Rajarajeshwari Sahaaranams. This narrates how Goddess Maha Sakthi was blessed and provided with weapons by our Trinity of Gods to annihilate Maheshasura, the demon who had forced Gods to leave heaven and take refuge on earth. Musical recitations (Kirtans) by famous musicians are offered for the benefit of the Goddess and devotees.

The Nine forms in which mother is alankaram or decorated are:

Mother Shailputri or Sati or Bharmi who was the daughter of Himalaya (King of the Mountain), wife of Lord Shiva and mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya;

Brahmachaarini or Indrani:- who gives the message of pure love to the world;

Chandraghanta or Varahi:- who establishes Justice and wears crescent moon on Her head;

Kushmaanda or Narasimhi:- who provides the basic necessities to the world and safe guards it;

Gaja Lakshmi:- who gives the gift of differentiation of right from wrong to the world and ensures power;

Kaatyayini or Koumari:- who persistently battles against the evil and deceitful entities;

Kaalratri or Kali:-who killed Raktabeej ( a demon who produce a demon from every drop of blood that fell from his body. Goddess eventually licked the blood before it could reach the ground and hence conquered him);

Mother Chaamunda, who killed two demons--Chanda and Munda and restored tranquility;

Maha Gouri or Durga:- who also liberate the world of evil forces;

Sidhidaarthi or Sraswati:- who is a treasure house of mystic powers (Yantra Tantra) and Knowledge (Gyaan).

Rajarajeshwari or Kamadenu:- Who ensures vicory of Good over Evil and blesses the humanity with abundance prosperity on the tenth day called Vijay Dashmi or Dussara (dasva rath or tenth day-n-night).

The other version of the legends relates to Ramayana. It was after the fierceful battle with demon Ravana for the night day, Raja Ram killed him on the Tenth day. As Dashmi or Dussara is the day of victory. In some parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and northern India the effigy of Ravana is made and arrows are shot by the people to symbolize the victory and finally the dummy is burnt.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Bazaar Puppet Play

I had done puppet plays in schools, colleges, libraries, community halls, colonies cultural centres and spaces. Doing in the midst of the bazaar or market place was something unique, exciting and challenging too. Maybe I should say, my dream of playing in the market place has come out true.

I always, thought the crossroads junctions and market places are the best places for public awareness programmes.

We got to play not once but thrice in the market places of Jainoor Mandal bazaar-Jainoor, Kerimeri Mandal bazaar-Kerimeri and Indervelli Mandal Bazaar-Indervelli.

A mandal is a administrative division. It is a head town under which number of villages come.

All three market places were quite crowded, as it is the during the market day when all the villagers of the mandal come for purchasing provisions, groceries, clothes, selling vegetables, to buy agriculture related things. It's fun, frolic, colourful to watch Gonds tribal men and women in the market place. It is also place for meeting, getting acquaintances, rejoice and so on.

By the time we started setting up the stage and playing music, good crowd gathered to watch the amusement. As one of our Puppet peeped out, there was loud laugh, scream and many gathered back stage to find out whereabouts of puppets. Though the play was of 12 minutes duration, still we could manage the show for 30 minutes.There were comments of all kinds coming to us. some agreeing to the concept played, some not, some admiring the female puppet and so on.

At Kerimeri Mandal weekly bazaar, we did experience some chaos kind but the officer in charge of ITDA Utnoor, handled it smoothly and elegantly.

At Indervelli mandal bazaar, we performed on a mini truck midst rain.This was enthralling one.

The whole traffic came to an halt creating jam, busses, cars, autos were honking horns, full of commotion, some where taking pictures with mobile handsets, some video shooting it, some danced tothe music along with puppets...

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