Burrakatha is the most popular form of narrative entertainment in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In this theatrical form, a storyteller accompanied by his partner gives recitals for two or three days. He sings, dances and recites a story, before the people of a village under the patronage of a senior person of the village.
Origin of Burra Katha
Burra Katha was developed in Guntur district around 1942 with the aim of propagating political ideas among illiterate masses in villages. This art of story-telling began in the form of songs of tribal people.
Etymology of Burra Katha
"Burra" is referred to Tambura, a musical string instrument with a hollow shell worn across the right shoulder of the performer. "Katha" means story.
Alternative Names of Burra Katha
Burra Katha refers to the art throughout Andhra Pradesh, and there are local names in each region. The name are:
• Coastal region: Tambura or Jangam or Tandana Katha
• Rayalaseema: Tambura or Tandana Katha or Suddulu Katha
• Telangana: Tambura or Sarada Katha
History of Burra Katha
Burra Katha started as devotional songs of nomadic people and became a popular art form. It is a 20th-century name for the theatre show known as ‘Jangam Katha’. The jangams were wandering minstrels who worshiped Lord Shiva. Two performers participated in these plays: the storyteller and his wife. With societal and cultural changes, the modern form has three performers of any gender.
Modern Form of Burra Katha
A Burra Katha group consists of three artistes, one being at the center and the other two act as assistants under him known as ‘Vantalu’. The main storyteller (Kathakudu) narrates the story. He plays Tambura and dances to music. He also wears a metal ring called ‘Andelu’ on his right thumb, holds another ring in his other hand and adds more music by colliding them frequently. The co-performers play ‘Gummeta’, earthen drums with two heads. All three or only the Kathakudu wear anklets which add even more music when they dance.
There are drummers, who stand on either side of him. The right side performer acts as a joker and cracks satires and jokes. The left side performer acts as someone who knows worldly ways and talks about politics and social issues. The main performer and co-performers constantly address each other.
Costumes of Burra Katha Dancers
The center artist is usually dressed with a long ‘Angaraksha’, a beautiful turban with a crest feather, a tight pyjama or dhoti, a colourful waistband and jingling bells on his knees. He holds a Tambura or sitar, Andelu and a kerchief and sings the ballad while playing the instruments. The assistants, similarly dressed, play the instruments like ‘Barralu’ or ‘Budigalu’.