Sunday, 18 September 2011

Rama Bhajanalu

|| Sri  Ramakrishna Sharanam||

Aum Namo Narayanaya

Let me start this blog by wishing all those observing Purutassi and Pitr Paksh a very rewarding and divine experience. I am sure that the tone and bhav has been set to experience the grace and love of the divine during this period.

Sri Sita Ramachandra Lakshmana and Hanumanji

The month started with much impetus at the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple when we hosted the annual Raam Bhajanalu Festival at the temple yesterday. A huge crowd gathered, although it was the final day to indulge in feasting before the month long fast.
As I witnessed the Bhajan, it occurred to me how great the force of God was that it broke down barriers that have been established by man. I speak of the language and cultural partitions that have wedged us. It was inspiring to see how Tamil speaking youngsters sang and performed this Telegu  folk art of Andhra Pradesh with relative ease.
I am not an expert on Andhra culture, and was indeed appreciative of the erudite article researched and presented by Dr Pravine Naidoo (Attorney of the High Court of SA) on the origins of the Raam Bhajanalu. With his kind permission I have reproduced it here for you to enrich your knowledge on the subject.
 Article begins

Raama Bhajanalu is one of the most popular folk arts, and has for centuries been a vehicle of self-expression and fulfills the needs of the spiritual-minded Telugu rural folk of the Andhra Pradesh State in South India.
Raama Bhajana / Chekka Bhajana is a form of dance accompanied by the striking of cymbals as well as striking of wooden pieces of one or half feet long and about 3 inch wide to the ends of which two round brass or iron pieces are fixed. Bells are placed in the center by making holes. They are held against each other in between the palm. The jingling music produced when the palm is opened and closed, along with the song is very pleasing to hear to which the dancers dance. Chirata is a smaller instrument, which is 8 inch to 9 inch long and 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch wide.

They are used especially to sing songs in praise of Lord Rama and the performance is known as Rama Bhajana and the performers ‘Rama Dandu’.  In the 'old' days each village had a trained group (dandu) of Raama Bhajana / Chekka Bhajana dancers, who used to move with two (02) kola lamps/torches and an idol of Lord Rama from one village to the other. Villagers used to learn it during the lean months of summer, when they are relatively free from agriculture work. It is obligatory to the Rama-Dandu of the next village to receive the bhajana troupe and the idol and take it to the next village. Ultimately, after touring several villages on the way, the troupes reach Bhadrachalam on the Rama Navami day and pay their homage to Lord Raama.
There are innumerable troupes all over Andhra Pradesh, which perform the Raama Bhajana / Chekka Bhajana even today. They are however limited to their villages, mostly in North Eastern Coastal Andhra Pradesh (Vishakhapatnam, Vijayanagaram, Srikakulam Districts).

The Raama Bhajana / Chekka Bhajana group consists of about 16 to 20 artists. The artists are dressed in simple, yet, colorful costumes - a dhoti, a waistcloth, a colored kerchief around the neck, a garland, flower bracelets on the hands, ankle bells and a smear of vermilion on the forehead. Each dancer carries his "chekkas" with much adoration.

The performance contains several Telugu songs to varying rhythms called ‘kopus’. There are about 100 Kopus or adugulu in which a particular song is sung. Every song contains several kopus, based on the variations.  In this performance, there is a main singer who initiates each song and sings a line, which is repeated by the others. The commencing steps are known as Adi Adugu (beginning steps). This is compulsory item. The other steps are known as Potu Adugu, Kuppadugu, Kulukula Adugu, Joku Adugu, Nemili Adugu, Gurappu Adugu, Uyyala Adugu.

Most of the Telugu bhajana are dedicated to Lord Raama, Lord Narayana (Maha Vishnu / Venkateshwara), Narasimha Deva Swami & Simhadri Appana Swami.  With its great variety, innate devotion and an element of drama, Raama Bhajana / Chekka Bhajana is the most popular form of narrative art in Andhra Pradesh.
It is a matter of immense pride that the descendants of those Andhra-Telugu forebears in Andhra Pradesh are still propagating, preserving and advancing their rich linguistic, religious and cultural traditions in South Africa to date.

 Article Ends

We understand that we must internalise these practices for our spiritual growth. I recall in one discourse revered Swamiji Vimokshananda spoke of “su” meaning to be in tune. This Bhajan is sincerely appreciated when the singing, dancing, cymbal and drum playing are in sync. If not, it would present as a huge irritation. In the same way we must synchronise our mind, word, thoughts and actions with our spiritual consciousness.
Then we will be well constituted to radiate the divinity that is latent within each of us.

Those whose faculties are not in tune with the divine consciousness can be referred to as 'asuric', a word we all would have come across in many of our puranas.

Let us all resolve during this auspicious period to make constructive changes in to our lives to navigate towards divinity. Take the name of God, apply it to our physical being, mental being and spiritual being and slowly all our asuric qualities will fade away. 

Till next week, may you enjoy a blessed week.
With love and prayers always.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment on this post