Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh: Taking the Mahabharata to the unlettered

Artistes enacting ‘Duryodhana Vadha’, a folk play based on the Mahabharata, during the ongoing Brahmotsavams at the Draupadi Dharmaraja temple in Srikalahasti of Tirupati district.

Artistes enacting ‘Duryodhana Vadha’, a folk play based on the Mahabharata, during the ongoing Brahmotsavams at the Draupadi Dharmaraja temple in Srikalahasti of Tirupati district.

A small temple in Srikalahasti is steadily gaining popularity as a ‘devotee-friendly’ shrine for its simplified narration of folk tales from the Mahabharata in the form of street plays.

The Draupadi Sametha Dharmaraja temple, part of a group of such shrines found in the countryside across southern Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, sees a large rush of devotees especially during the annual Brahmotsavams that began on July 1 amid much fanfare. The crowds are expected to rise towards the end of the 13-day festival. Though ancient, the temple was acquired and made part of the Srikalahastheeswara Devasthanam in 1961.

The temple has idols of Dharmaraja, Draupadi, Bhimasena, Hidimbasura, Arjuna, Subhadra, Nakula, Anjana, Sahadeva and Nalini, besides the wedding idols (Kalyana Murthy) of Arjuna.

As the rituals are woven around Mahabharata, the festival is believed to be a channel to reinforce the ‘connect’ with the devotees.

“For 11 days, interesting episodes from the epic are read out in the form of discourses and street plays enacted around major episodes like ‘Arjuna Thapassu’, ‘Draupadi Vastrapaharanam’, ‘Bandikoodu Bheemudu’, ‘Duryodhana Vadha’, ‘Draupadi Arjuna Kalyanam’, etc.,” says M. Deenadayal, an academic consultant in History at Sri Venkateswara University, whose research article on this temple was published in the 40 th session of the Andhra Pradesh History Congress held in Srikakulam in 2016.

Though the festival is conducted in strict accordance with Hindu scriptures by hoisting the temple flag and taking out processions, one can witness a ‘liberal’ narration tailored to suit rural and uneducated audiences here, as folklore forms the basis for this temple.

“Festivals like these have kept the masses engrossed and helped them stay connected to their religion,” observes Srikalahasti MLA B. Madhusudhan Reddy, who formally launched the festival with the initiatory ritual.

The festival culminates with ‘Draupadi Agnigunda Pravesam’, where devotees walk on a bed of burning coals as a form of fulfillment of a vow. Inspired by the Srikalahasti temple, similar shrines in Puttur, Papanaidupeta, Karvetinagaram and many across Tirupati and Chittoor districts have started observing the festivities in a grand manner.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 12:15:08 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/taking-the-mahabharata-to-the-unlettered/article65595760.ece