Veedhi Natakams were presented during the festive seasons of the state, in praise of "Bhagavan" or God, and the performers who presented them were called the Bhagavathams, as did the performances in themselves. Certain castes specialised in such performances, presenting them in their own specific styles. Dasari Bhagavatham, Yanadi Bhagavatham, Melattur Bhagavatham and Toorpu Bhagavatham (presented in the eastern part of Andhra Pradesh) are some of the different styles of these performances.
Origin and Etymology of Veedhi Natakam
The genesis of Veedhi Natakam is traced back to the late 16th century and early 17th century, when the Bhakti cult, especially the Krishna cult, was in ascendance in Andhra. The term ‘Veedhi’ is a Telugu word meaning street or open place, while ‘Natakam’ refers to a dramatic performance. Thus, Veedhi Natakam is any dramatic performance presented on a street.
Veedhi Natakam improved upon the earlier performing forms Yakshaganam and Kalapam. Though Yakshaganam was originally a single performer's musical rendering of a story, it later introduced more number of characters. When the temple theatre forms moved out into open places in order to cater to a larger number of devotees, especially on festive occasions, they were being showcased on raised platforms facing the temples and the deity's image (the Ustava Vigraha). Since the plays in homage to God were performed in an open place, they were called Veedhi Natakams, and since they were performed by Bhagathas, the devotees of Bhagavan, they were also called Veedhi Bhagavathams.
But all through its four centuries of active existence, the Yakshaganam was more narrative-descriptive than dramatic. When the same medium had to go into the open out of the precincts of temples, it became more virile and theatrical, and the form came to be known as Veedhi Natakam. Suffice to say, when Yakshaganam came out in the open and when open air performances demanded a better theatre quality, the Veedhi Natakams had their beginnings.
Enactment Styles of Veedhi Natakam
In the long history of Telugu theatre, three different presentational forms are referred to as Veedhi Natakam. The Veedhi is one of the ten types of drama (together referred to as Dasarupaka), whose theme is romance; and it is a narrative-descriptive medium through which a single actor 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 being performed in the open street.
The travelling performers of Veedhi Natakam present their art in any open space, such as the square in front of a temple, with the acting arena surrounded by rugs and mats for the spectators. The audience sits separated by gender. Songs are performed to the accompaniment of harmonium and tabla, although film music has today virtually replaced the traditional folk melodies. The present technology has also transformed the traditional manner of dancing as performers today have different tools on the stage. Today, the Veedhi Natakam has found its way in the sophisticated dance theatres, with artists using several electrical instruments like speakers and microphones that help them in their expression in a clearer and more precise manner. With the passage of time, the artists of Veedhi Natakam have accomplished several milestones in the field of dance drama and music.
Folk Theatre In India
Indian Street Theatre
Turpubani Vidhi Natakam, Classical Dance Form of Andhra Pradesh
Folk Dances of Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh Temple Festivals
Kalapam, Indian Art Form