Their ancestors enthralled the famed kings and subjects of Vijayanagar Empire
“It is said that ‘history repeats itself’, and we are doing what our ancestors had done during the reign of the legendary king Krishnadevaraya.” These were the words from M. Sekhar Babu, a folk artiste, who is engaged by the district administration to spread the message of voting rights, as part of the SVEEP campaign (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation).
But all is not well for the artistes who have been entertaining the people since centuries. Giving performances has been their only source of income and they feel that the demand is dwindling with every passing year.
“We were once in heavy demand, as we were called to perform at marriages and birthday functions. But now we are confined mostly to the rural areas only. But the State government departments – be it the election commission or APSACS or NACO -- still hire us and that is our staple diet,” said Mr. Sekhar.
Sekhar Babu who heads a three-member team along with his son M. Prasanth Kumar is one among the four teams engaged by the administration to tour the district and spread the message through street plays, Burrakatha and Yakshagana.
According to Sekhar Babu, they are the descendants of the folk artistes who once enthralled the famed kings and subjects of Vijayanagar Empire in the 16th century.Settled in Gudivada
“About 1,000 families moved out after the empire fell to the Deccan Sultanates in the 17 century. We first moved to the Telangana region and then about 100 years ago about 40 families moved to Eluru in West Godavari. And now about 10 families have settled down in and around Gudivada in Krishna district,” he said.
Though time has flown by, these families, who have been safe guarding the art of mesmerising the crowd with their witty plays and songs, have not changed much.