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Powada - Marathi Art Form

Powada is a colloquial Marathi art from of Pravada meaning ‘glorified narration’. A singer, who may sometimes also be a composer, sings about the deeds of bravery and courage of kings and their ancestors or other heroes. The singing may arouse listeners to purposeful action. The earliest mention of such a performance is found in Atharva Veda; it is called abhyutkrosha in the court of Indra. It was known as birudgayan in the courts of the princes of the Middle Ages and, since Shivaji’s period (17th century CE), as a Powada in its present form.

In Atharva Veda, the performers were called gandharvas, while in the Middle Ages they were called bhatas. They are now called shaheers, an Arabic/Farsi term. This is not simply singing but vocal dramatization, with some commentary by a supporting artist and sometimes a dialogue between the two. It is sometimes intended to convey messages to the common man. The performance of shaheers in rural areas served the purpose of newspapers in the Middle Ages. As poetry, very of them are of high quality, because most of them were composed to order.

In recent years, some 300 such works have been collected, of which 44 were famous. Adnyanadasa from the period of Shivaji, Saganbhau, Anant Phandi, Gangu Haibati, Honaji, Ram Joshi from the period of Peshwas are some of the shaheers. Caste was no barrier to compose a Powada. Mostly, gifted chiefs of tamasha parties composed Powadas. In the freedom struggle of India, powadas were useful for bringing people together. Even today, powadas are performed on certain occasions of historical importance.