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April 4, 2009 – Burra Katha by Sai Students

The Burra Katha is a traditional narrative form in Andhra Pradesh, popular in the villages on festivals and other occasions. The troupe consists of one main performer and two co-performers. Burra is referred to ‘Tambura’, a musical instrument with a hallow shell and attached strings. ‘Katha’ means story. The main storyteller (called as Kathakudu) narrates the story. He plays Tambura and dances to music. He also wears a metal ring called as 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 (also called as dakki or budike), earthen drums with two heads. All three or only the kathakadu wears anklets (also called as gejjelu), which add even more music when they dance. The performer on the right side is the hasyaka (means joker) and cracks satires and jokes. The left side performer (called as the rajakiya, means politician) acts as a person who knows worldly ways and talks about politics and social issues. The main performer and co-performers constantly address each other. This art form was instrumental in arousing nationalist feelings during the Indian independence movement and is a very effective communication tool. However, it was a dying art form as patronage was in acute scarcity in this technological era. That was when Swami stepped in and resurrected it!

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The Burra Katha narrative form, resurrected by Swami
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Today, it flourishes in Prasanthi Nilayam with at least annual or bi annual performances in front of an international audience who enjoy it along with Swami. And the day after Rama Navami happened to become another day in which Swami decided to permit the students from the University to stage a Burrakatha programme. It was shortly after 5:00 p.m. as the bhajans began and Swami arrived for darshan. He moved into the interview room and on His way out, went into the Bhajan Hall. The three participants for the Burrakatha were seated and Swami spoke to them, checking their costumes too in the process. He blessed them and moved out on to the stage. Halting the ongoing bhajans, he called the trio to start their performance. The Burrakatha had been entitled, "Yugavatara".

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Swami meets the Burra Katha performers backstage
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The boys in full flow
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As soon as the “Ganesha Vandana” was done, in traditional style, three students came and garlanded the performers. Then, the narrative started with the Lord's promise to incarnate whenever the situation on earth deteriorates. The theme was based on the massive and magnificent service projects that Swami had executed so selflessly and efficiently. So naturally, it derived its inspiration from the three boons of mother Eshwarammma. As the dialogues and songs went on, orchestrated and sequenced beautifully, Swami seemed so moved. Lost in the nostalgia of the memories of Grihamammayi (mother of the body), Swami almost had tears welling in His eyes! Just listening to His glories and stories was an inspiring experience. The hasyaka performed his role beautifully, eliciting peals of laughter from both, the audience and Swami, with his clever and apparently innocent queries about the modern times. The finale was a bhajan that Swami had asked for an encore when it had originally been sung by the students' teacher in his Burrakatha, in front of Swami years ago! Everyone joined in the singing and clapping that the bhajan elicited. The whole performance lasted about 50 minutes and it concluded with thunderous appreciative applause from the audience.

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The traditional garlanding of the performers
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The Lord was most pleased
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Swami called the three students onstage and blessed them with padanamaskar. He also blessed their teacher. Group pictures were taken after which Swami received aarthi.

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The joyful group photo
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- Heart2Heart Team

 


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Vol 7 Issue 05 - MAY 2009
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