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Veedhi Natakam – Telugu Traditional Street Drama Of Andhra Pradesh – Telangana

Veedhi Natakam is a Sanskrit term meaning street drama and is widely performed in Telugu in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This traditional folk drama, presented in a simple style during temple festivals, is meant to entertain the masses as well as to inculcate in them moral values along with devotion to God. It is also known as Veedhi Bhagavata, and is closely related to the other folk-dramas of India such as the Tamasha of Gujarat ad Maharashtra, Yakshagana of Karnataka, the Nautanki of Uttar Pradesh and the Jatra of Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Manipur.

Veedhi Natakam depicts stories from ancient Hindu scriptures, especially the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and Puranas, notably Bhagavata Purana. The stories concerning Krishna and his gopis constitute popular themes of Veedhi Natakam.

Veedhi Natakam performances, like other folk dramas, deviate from the original stories of the epics and Puranas and have the added richness of local color. The most well known Veedhi Natakam (s) are Draupadi Vastraharana, Keechaka Vadha and Hidimbasura Vadha.

The performances of this street drama are held in open fields, inside temples, or in village streets all through the night. The plays are usually performed by members of the Dombidasa community, whose men excel in female roles.

Veedhi Natakam received royal patronage from the kings of the Vijayanagar Empire (1336 – 1565 CE). Following the fall of this empire, Veedhi Natakam performers shifted to the kingdoms of Thanjavur and Madurai in the Tamil region in the 17th century CE.

Veedhi Natakam which, at an earlier stage, included action and dialogue became much more of a musical drama under the patronage of the kings of Thanjavur. It also got influenced by Yakshagana. Later some secular and social themes, including romance, satire and contemporary issues, also became a part of Veedhi Natakam. Vidushakas or jesters figure prominently in some Veedhi Natakam to make the episode humorous.