Glimpses of Telangana
Images-;1.Bairu Raghuram 2.Kavita Deuskar 3.top-Laxma Goud-below-Nakashi folk painting
Recently formed state Telangana is at-ease after gaining its independent status culturally, socially and politically. Telangana region acquired its separate statehood in February 2014. Story of it’s struggle to become independent state has a long history. Earlier it was struggling to separate itself from Nizam’s monarchy where the Telugu identity was ignored. ‘Andhrodyamam’ began at Hyderabad in 1921, and its members decided to publish books, release newspapers, conduct open public meetings, and propagate the cause of the agitation for Telugu revival. They eventually formed Andhra Maha Sabha and Andhra Mahila Sabha led by women. They were working not alone for Telugu identity of Hyderabad state, also identified economic, social and political situations of the region on peasant problems, forced-labour, feudalism, to fight against the bourgeois community and their atrocities on women along with the agitations against the Nizams’ who were in support of landlords. Andhra Maha Sabha was broken in 1944, moderates joined national congress and who were in demand of justice against the inequality joined communist party. There were apprehensions at that time too and Telangana Telugu’s wanted to keep a different identity away from coastal regions because of their linguistic and cultural diversities with other Telugu speaking region.
Hyderabad was liberated of Nizam’s rule in September, 1948. That was possible because of the police action undertaken to merge this land in ‘United India’ mission on the decision of home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. After the independence when the linguistic division of states were in demand in late 50’s, Telugu speaking land was made to form one state taking parts from Madras presidency and Nizam’s land of Hyderabad state-Telangana region. That pelted another stone on the land of Telangana. Historically merger of Andhra and Telangana was clearly a merger of unequal political entities. In the ‘integration of services’, all the employees of the Hyderabad government were re-employed in the Government of Andhra Pradesh at the lowest levels of seniority, losing income as well as promotion prospects as a result! Because Telangana was ‘B’-category of princely state and coastal Andhra was under British presidency as ‘A’ category region, as classified by British. Infusion of industrial and revenue sources from Telangana, a ready-made capital with the prestige of Hyderabad city and the surplus food of coastal Andhra region, the new state was ready to set the move.
Internal apprehensions of this region as well State reorganizing committee’s were, educationally backward people of Telangana may be swamped and exploited by the more advanced people of coastal areas. Eventually Telangana had been converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra people. Though the linguistic reference of Telugu word refers to Telangana logically, it is always and every time Telangana people were belittled by coastal Andhrites for their pronunciations and dialect. Democracy was not as developed in Telangana as they were under Nzam’s rule. Andhra elites empowered and benefitted living under the British rule of law, developed relatively progressive polity for hundred years. The coastal Andhrites who migrated to Telangana started with land acquisitions, caste politics, film investments, industries, etc. Coastal Andhrites invested to reap roses on this land while making the Telangana to pluck the weeds. Hyderabad has many migrations, Gujarati, Marwadi, Rajasthani, Maharashtra, Muslim cultures. Natives offered homeliness and oneness to them. They have kept no bars of difference mutually except for the coastal Andhrites’ colonial attitude of indifference.
Probably we cannot get away without mentioning the scholarship awareness on democracy and modernity. Telangana sentiment has become a key phrase of scholarly discussions too for the last few decades. Democracy is not about votes and ballot boxes. It is about deliberation, reasoning and acknowledging the other person’s identity, triumph of Humanity.
Arts & references;-Satavahana king Haludu in 60 A.D written ‘Gaathasaptasathi’ a story of 700 poems. One of the poems had Telangana dialect of Telugu, written in Prakrit. Nalgonda district must have been the south entrance gate at Telangana, where Satavahana Roman coins were found, many Buddhist monuments were on this line and travel path including Amaravathi, Nagarjunakonda. Mahakavi Potana of 15th C. wrote Bhagavataham is a pride possession of Telugu literature, was from Telangana. Prataparudra’s court dancer Machaldevi’s house had mural paintings it seems and that was mentioned by Srinadha Kavi in Kreedabhiramam. Pillalamarri temple has mural paintings of Kakatiya period. Kakatiya sculptural tradition is famous for its distinct mirror polish. Deccani painting school of Nizams not only flourished at that time it left a legendry lineage of art.
Earlier Yakshaganam was in a song form, with the patronage and support of Kakatiya kings that was modified to performance format, was performed also in Orugallu fort. Boorugupalli was known for its theatre activities. Telangana was known for its handlooms, copper, leather, silver filigree works, Warangal Carpet industry, Pembarthi brass works, Uppuluru and Gaju Ramaram glass industry. Telangana had natural resources like iron and steel that generated revenues and workmanship and developed weapons industry. Koilakonda was popular for hand- made paper small scale industry and Kollapur for folk arts professionals. Many small kingdoms were patronizing poets and writers and Telangana region had self sustaining social culture.
Telangana region is assertive that it possesses a separate and distinct cultural identity in the present times too. Batukamma festival of Navaratri times worshipped by women is made as a symbolic custom of this region as a populist aesthetic. The new mother goddess is formed ‘Telangana Talli’. ‘Telangana Stupam’ a sculpture of tower made by Aekka Yadagiri Rao and installed in Hyderabad, capital of Andhra Pradesh. This stupam has become a landmark for the beginning of every agitation forum and to celebrate the separate Telangana statehood announcement. Aekka Yadagiri Rao made ‘Telangana Martyrs Memorial Column’ in 1972 and was installed as a public sculpture at Gunpark, near State Assembly in Hyderabad. It is 25 ft. in height, made of coloured and polished granite material. This sculpture has a blossoming lotus bud on its top as the head of the sculpture in white marble. It is for paying homage to those Telangana martyrs of 1969 agitation who rallied their lives for the cause of separate Telangana statehood.
Modern and Contemporary art activities of Hyderabad has to remember artists like Kapu Rajiah who worked on the folk art and culture as a modernist’ stylized idiom. He also trained many young souls in the visual art field. Regional centre established at Hyderabad by Lalit Kala Akademy is first of it’s kind. This was the first regional centre to have print making studio also. In the process of interactive activities of Hyderabad art society and Akademy, art platform of Hyderabad has become stepping stone for many eminent artists of the country today.
On the scholarship of universalism and the local/global divides, Individualism and regionalism are part of universalism. Thinking homeland is part of universalism. Units of ‘local’ make the global and the idea of ‘universal’ is incomplete without the individual and regional thoughts combined. Many artists of Hyderabad have rooted themselves in their soils forming the concepts of contemporary art.
Art of this series artists’ on folios have revisited their lived realities, relived their roots, cultures and natives. Telanagana brings a meditative hint of red soils in between the maize fields, different shades of rocks and plains. These artists’ works are not a song of nostalgia on the tones of lost in memories. It is not for reaching one single destination. It’s like humming a morning ‘raga’ at sun rise. It is about individual’ experiences of rituals, songs, festivals lived around, near to nature, cohabiting human and animal relations. Joy of replaying the childhood play, a lullaby reheard. Their work is lingering taste of their experience. The forms are like a pleasant smile displaying.
Art works displayed on this curated exhibition-a review
When Jagadish Chinthala was incidentally working on children’s theatre, he accidentally realized the subtleties and aesthetic meanings of paper-mache masks and different features of those forms. Masks represent emotion free or emotion filled faces representing the people of every walk of life. That also coincides with the material meanings of the folk art practices on our traditional arts and toys making. His works intimately achieve a pleasant interaction with the viewer. Whether paper collage landscape or door panels, they tap on the layers of memories without leaving any particularity to any place, person or surroundings. There is a discipline in his craftsmanship leading to aesthetic rendezvous and leaves a familiarity for the viewership. Visual language is a universal language, he explains.
Kavita Deuskar’s, subjects are labour class, minorities, Muslim girls’ little pleasures are represented. She is adept at egg tempera work technique. Art flows in her because her father, grand fathers and uncle were known artists of their periods. Labour class people migrate from interior villages and lead gypsy life to earn their bread in the cities like Hyderabad. There is a rustic and raw feeling imbibed along with sensuous rendering of the figures in her compositions. The looks of those figures are dazed rather than lost or innocent, coping to adjust with the location and situational differences at the urban milieu. For the last few decades growing urban constructions increased the influx of labour and imbalance in the social structure of rural and urban populations.
Laxman Aelay is always been engaged with the life around his roots and life of the village he lived back home. His perspectives have photographic angles on the compositions though may not follow the figures on photo realism of drawing perspectives. A moment caught is to unlearn the totality of the narrations. Spaces are meaningfully occupied with motifs for narrative modes. The folk art is given meaningful statements in his work. He fills the background and designs on the costumes and turbans in the composition to deliver a conceptual meaning that art is part of life rather it is kept concepts away in contemporary times. The lines and colors are thirst filled sunny afternoons of dry Telangana landscape. They are not ethnographic human figures away from our social world. They are part of our contemporary world.
Laxma Goud’s composition initiates the viewer to his symbolic meaning representations. Techniques and color composition amalgamate for metaphorical subtleties. The erotic tones in his work are strong and sensuous and have many hues. His teacher at Baroda Fine Art Faculty, K.G.Subramanyam advised him to look for an expression which is not interchangeable. This led his memories of journey to his native village. Subtle, psychological exploration of male female relationships, his drawings on delicate ornaments and crisp pencil lines are made part of the human body and costume. Erotic relish coupled with his work made evocative, dramatic and eclectic cannot be separated as sensitive desires and sensuous bodies.
Raghuram Bairu’s compositions are on the simple lives of rural Telangana people represented through the goat as a symbol of innocence and pale eyes of people and animals. Houses are represented without any decoration. The earth is orange red, baked hard in heated afternoons and the air is dry often in Telangana regions. People represented are of archaic beauty, robust and he derives much strength and clarity from his background of earlier Hyderabad. Erotic elements are suggestive through cocks and animals and they are made part of life in the compositions. Unexplainable quietness is engraved in to the compositions as if that is the silence of poverty prevails at dry lands. Simple figures are innocently interactive with their surroundings, vivid and give a lead to understand their lives.
Vaikuntham Thota was enjoying the folk theater of his childhood and Boorugupalli was known for that activity. Probably he was inspired by the dramatization and that took a turn in his figuration with angular bodies and dolls like appearances. He catches the beauty of the stitched dolls of parrots hung on to the swings of children, melodies of lullaby songs that were sung while cradling the child, sensuous women doing the household activity, aesthetic designs of textiles were made part of his drawing. His work recollects rural life of Telangana like a pleasant song. He applies all primary colors as if they are the descendents of the sensuous nature. He paints elaborately dressed seductive men and women of Telangana.
Nakashi- Folk Arts of Telangana-
Artists who practice this folk art are known as Nakashis, people who make ‘Naksh’. Today Nakashi painters are involved in 2 major styles, Nirmal paintings and Cheriyal paintings each with a purpose of it’s own. These are ancient expressions of Telangana, references found back to Kakatiya dynasty. Ekamranatha in his literary text Pratapacharitam mentioned, 1500 painters families were living in and around Warangal[capital of Kakatiya dynasty] at that point.
Cheriyal paintings are scroll paintings originally were displayed to audience to narrate the genealogies of local gods and goddesses. Scrolls were painted 3 ft width and 30 to 60 ft length also, as per the requirement of the narrators’ stories recitations. Story narrators come to get the scrolls painted by Nakashi painters. The narrators are known as Kakipadagala community. Stories are told and retold Puranas and are community specific. These communities inherit these scrolls generations after one another. Once the scroll and painting is degenerated they perform final rites for these scrolls. Artist, late Sri Kondapalli Seshagiri Rao mentioned interiors of Telangana existing with 150 to 200 years old scrolls.
Presently Nakashi artists have changed the length of the paintings to smaller sizes to suit the market demands as such those traditions of scroll narrations rarely exist anymore. Though the size of the paintings changed the sensitivities did not change. Stories changed to daily lives and surroundings of plants, vegetation and folk animal forms sometimes scenes of folk mythology too. Sensuous rendering intermingle the lively atmosphere. Paintings are made of earth based water colors painted with squirrel hair brushes. Daily lives and households make pleasant surroundings with yellows and reds of energetic colors. Formats are divided in to horizontal panels, narrates the whole story of one village or of one season’s story. Telangana landscape, and the cultural festivals and daily practices of life are well portrayed on the panels.
Before and after the British entry some of the Indian court painters were dislocated and became the folk art practitioners. It is understandable for some of the Cheriyal paintings have the Rajasthani style and Western Indian Jain styles, panel divisions and color patterns mixed in the compositions. That may be because of those wandering artists taking shelter at Deccani courts. Masks are another art of these practitioners made of saw dust, mesmerizes with lively looks. Tamarind seeds paste, boiled starch, white clay, gum, hand woven cloth mat are the materials used in the paintings and masks. These folk artists were living at Vemulawada, Karimnagar, Cheriyal of Warangal and very few of places, but the story narrators-Kakipadigala communities were moving around to many places.