They appear very colourful wearing bright clothes. The dancing bulls, Gangireddulu, which they take along the streets, are also decorated in vibrant colours. Clothes and beads are used to prepare them for the show.
Behind the gay appearances, the ‘Gangireddulollu', as they are affectionately referred to by all, find themselves leading grey and colourless lives as patronage diminishes with each passing year.
Name: Bogi Yerrakonda; age: 40; address: Gangiredduladibba, Gunadala hillslope; immovable property: a small house; prized possession: a dancing bull. This is the standard curriculum vitae of a dancing bull owner.
Yerrakonda's family from the time of ancestors has been living in Gangiredduladibba for over hundred years. He, like his father, is wedded to the long tradition of rearing and training the dancing bulls. His people settled down at Gangiredduladibba, earlier a ravine, because the animals need water.
At the height of prosperity there were around 500 dancing bulls on Gangiredduladibba. The owners took them up to Rajahmundry in the north and Nellore in the south to give performances during the festival seasons. From this large number they have dwindled to “eight or ten” today.
What Yerrakonda earns during Sankranthi season is by no means enough. He has to share what he gets with three others who help him in performances. A week before Bhogi festival they begin their performances. Depending on the reception they get, they make the bulls dance either in front of a house or at a junction. They are on the move from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., collecting offerings. But what is being offered is on the decline and the offerings are gradually turned into alms.
On festival days – Bhogi, Sankranthi and Kanuma – he ends up reaching home only at 9 p.m., but the womenfolk don't complain because he is upholding a glorious tradition. Yerrakonda stops only for the bull to take rest.
The bull should get its rest even if the master doesn't. Feeding the bull is considered more important then feeding the children.