Chindu Bhagavatam breathing its last

Artistes performing Chindu Bhagavatam at an event in Nizamabad.  

Chindu Bhagavatam, an age-old art form, is close to extinction, courtesy digital media taking over the entertainment world. The artistes who have kept the art form alive live a wretched life, as they lack patronage either from people and the government.

With no agriculture land or a permanent source of income, they eke out a living as agricultural labourers or construction workers. Many of them have no roof over their head, and those who have single-bedroom houses that were given to them three decades ago are unhappy as the houses are in a dilapidated state. They are distraught over the ruling party, TRS, not fulfilling its promise made during the Telangana movement to extend them financial assistance as well as promote the art form. It may be recalled here that Chindu artistes actively took part in the separate statehood movement.

The art form dates back to second century BC. Chindu is derived from the artistes’ caste Chindu Madiga, a sub-caste of Madiga among SCs. The Chindu Bhagavatam is also called Chindu Yakshaganam as it is similar to Yakshaganam, a traditional theatre form particular to Karnataka State. It’s popular in north Telangana and in Armur, Bodhan, Nizamabad, Makloor, Balkonda and Morthad areas in the district.

The Chindu artistes lead a nomadic life, hence the low literacy rate among them. They are always on the move staging plays for which they camp in a particular place for about eight months. During rainy season, they work as agricultural labourers. There are different troupes that are into Chindu Bhagavatam and they strictly follow the jurisdictional limits, as they avoid entering the villages earmarked for other troupes. The district has as many as 36 cultural groups.

When they arrive at a village to perform, they first approach the Madiga elders seeking shelter and alms. After obtaining permission from them, they stage plays, only stories from the epics, for the Madiga elders and then present the art form to others in the village.

“We get a nominal amount as remuneration for staging the plays. We make all the paraphernalia, including paper crowns, swords, costumes and background curtains, on our own. So far, no one has come forward to help us, even in a small way. The survival of the art form and as well as the artistes who are dependent on it has become difficult,” says Chindu (Pulinti) Sudarshan, a senior artiste.

There are about 2,000 Chindu artistes, but only 84 get pension of ₹1,500 a month. The eligibility for pension should be made 40 years instead of 60.

Chindula Shyam, a 73-year-old artiste who began his career at the age of five, says Chindu Bhagavatam has lost its sheen as there is no support for the art form from any corner. “After us, the art form will vanish. Late Chindu Yellamma, who donned both male and female roles in plays, brought international recognition to the art. But that’s where it stops. The art form has been neglected for years now,” he says.

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Printable version | Jul 18, 2021 4:13:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/chindu-bhagavatam-breathing-its-last/article22925445.ece

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