burrakatha

Definition

Theater

  • (Hindi: tambura story) A genre of 20th-century Indiandrama, especially popular in the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, wheremore than 200 troupes exist. It evolved from the art of roving minstrels,or jangams, who sang of the god Shiva and later added secularmaterial. Burrakatha stories were originally improvised butare now written down and learnt. In the 1940s the left-wing IndianPeople's Theatre Association (IPTA) employed Burrakatha forpolitical purposes, and today the genre is used by both the governmentand by opposition parties. Most Burrakatha performers willwork for any political persuasion as a professional duty.

    In the drama, the kathakudu, or lead performer, dancesand plays a tambura stringed instrument while reciting a storyabout a mythological, historical, or socio-political subject. He alsokeeps time with two hollow rings filled with metal balls. He is joinedby two other performers who play dakki earthen drums. The drummeron his right, the rajkiya, makes comments on contemporary politicaland social issues. The one on the left, the hasyam, providescomic relief by telling jokes. The performance continues for up tothree hours; longer works may take place over several evenings.

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