Bhama-kalapam from Bhama, abbreviation of Satyabhama, also known as Bhagavatam i.e. 'Worship'. Parijatam after the crucial celestial tree in the text was devised to facilitate portrayal of astavidha nayikas i.e. the classical models of heroines in eight true emotions in terms of specified rasas and bhavas according to Indian aesthetics. It brings out the protagonist's psychological and thematic complexity, despite its apparently simple and single characterization. This is certainly a late form, it evolved as a specialization, of presenting Satyabhama, confiding to her maid about her sorrow. Satyabhama was one of Krishna's wives. Thus it cannot predate the advent of Vaishnavism in Andhra, that too the cult of Krishna bhakti. Tradition says that the founder of Kuchipudi, Siddhendra Yogi in sixteenth century, composed the play Parijatapaharanam i.e. 'Stealing the parijata Tree', set to the best music and dance of those times.
The theme is Krishna caught between his wives, Rukmini and Satyabhama, over gifting away the most precious flower from heaven. He gives it to Rukmini, resulting in trouble and drama involving the jealous Satyabhama. The latter's persona in this episode grew so popular with audiences that the sub-genre Bhama-kalapam came into existence, to portray her exclusively. Over a period of time Kuchipudi etched her character into one of the finest dramatic models, employing many psychological and aesthetic elements of the classical eight heroines. Thus she metamorphoses into swadhinapatika i.e. 'one with an independent husband', kalaharantarita i.e. 'one who quarrels and repents', virahotkanthita i.e. 'one languishing in separation, vipralabdha i.e. 'one suspicious of her own messenger', khandita i.e. 'aggressive one, and so on.
In earlier Yakshagana forms Krishna used to make an appearance, but not at all, in Kalapam. The outstanding feature of Bhama-kalapam is that men perfected the art of female impersonation by religiously enacting Satyabhama. Kuchipudi artistes became inseparable from her character; the Brahman village by that name stipulated that each family must contribute at least one son to play Satyabhama. The Kuchipudi tradition thus produced great female impersonators. Some names can be mentioned as Chinta Venkataramayya, Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastri, Chinta Krishnamurthy, and the legendary Vedantam Satyam. Kuchipudi men developed a practice of daring spectators to test their talent by tossing their long plait called jada over a small screen. If anybody won the challenge by improving on the same role, the jada would be submitted to be cut off. Dancers in Temples of East Godavari district brought in another dimension by introducing women. Some etched into the form a super-speciality called Nava-Janardanam i.e. 'Nine Janardanas', Janardana being Krishna through which nine variations of Satyabhama were performed on nine consecutive nights as a temple ritual. Pendyela Satyabhama of Pithapuram and Manikyam of Mandapeta were outstanding exponents. The former's family members and disciple, Nataraj Ramakrishna, continued the tradition as gurus.
The 'Eastern Kalapam' or Turpu Bhagavatam of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, and Srikakulam district is more music than dance-oriented, probably retaining the original elements of early Yakshaganam. This Bhama-kalapam features female impersonation too, but by non-Brahmans. The ancient musical style of Dhruvaganarn remains intact, patronized by local zamindars and temple authorities. The performers are independently trained and have nothing to do with Kuchipudi. The most prominent in the recent past were Bonthalapati Jagannatham and Gudavalli Sankaraiah. Apart from Siddhendra's text, other readings exist authored by various people, famous by their surnames. Such as Vankayalapati, Chintalapati, Kasimkota, Mangu, Dasu, Narasingapalli, Nagarikanti, Nellimara, etc. From the linguistic viewpoint, none seems to be of very old origin, including that ascribed to Siddhendra. The real age of Golla-kalapam is much more confusing, because some pandits claim it is the oldest. According to them, Bhama-kalapam revolves around erotic love i.e. sringara and Golla-kalapam around devotion or bhakti. But if we carefully study the latter, it sounds more socio-political.
In Golla-kalapam, a milkmaid of the Golla i.e. gowala or Yadava caste becomes the heroine. Gowala is generally associated with Krishna legends. The play does not deal with Krishna at all. Neither does the milkmaid fit in any frame of classical nayikas, although she is the main and only female character. The only male is a Brahman. They typify their castes and related sociology. She turns out to be a hardcore activist of an obscure Yogic cult, apparently Advaitic i.e. non-dualistic, but not that of Adi Sankara, because her mission is to demolish Brahmanism and its related Vedic rituals. An Advaitic in terms oisunyavada i.e. nihilistic philosophy, she defeats the Brahman despite his desperate attempts to save his beliefs. The strength of the play lies in its extraordinary wit and sarcasm while challenging false Brahmanic superiority. At every step the milkmaid proves that her knowledge in Vedic ritual is much higher and intellectually sharper than that of an average Brahman. The tone of Golla-kalapam certainly relates to many religious reform movements of Saivism and Yogic cults into Andhra in various phases of history. Brahmanic literary and performing traditional developed the archetype of a rustic illiterate woman to counter Brahmanism and Ved This commoner suddenly turned intellect than life in dramatic representation.
The original author, Tarikonda Venkama a Yogini, probably lived 300-400 years ago in Chittoor district. This used to have a population who may have been the first. Later, the text was given to touring Kuchipudi Bhagavatars, not adherent to a religious ideology. Their liberalism could endorse by their own mythical founder Siddr his successor, Narayana Tirtha.
Now only some female perform kalapam, whose own tradition goes back a few years under the patronage of zamindars who were never keen on Yogic philosophy. But it enjoyed a dig at the Brahman caste. Later it's reduced to ritualistic shows on the occasion nights of newly-weds belonging to well to do in the Godavari districts. This extraordinary transformation had a re portion of the text called Pindotpati.
Golla-kalapam demands the knowledge of Sanskrit, because the text accommodates a Sanskrit slokas and complicated Telugu with metres apart from the regular daruvu or type of Yakshaganam. The form requires dancer each poem or song twice, once in its original then repeated in prose translation for understanding. Golla-kalapam is superior in some aspects. Such as the perfect discipline, utmost precision, responsibility, etc. Of generation, Annabattula Buli Venkata Ratna Marempalli sisters namely Vaidehi and Induvadana proved to be experts. Later exponents include Maddula Lakshmi Narayana and Annabattula Mangatayaru as well.
(Last Updated on : 09-09-2014)
|More Articles in Classical Indian Dance Drama (23)|