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Durable Link to this BlogSaturday, December 22, 2007

Kreedabhirama -- An Erotic Visual Kavya

In India, "street plays" Veethi Nataka in Sanskrit seem to have been popular in the bygone era. Vinukonda Vallabharaya's Telugu work of the 15th century, Kreedabhirama is such a short street play in a unconventional way, providing numerous glimpses of everyday life in a South Indian town.

It is an unconventional literary piece because of its main theme of pleasure seeking. Kreedhabhirama means "A Pleasing Pastime". The stage is set with two pleasure-loving youth, who enter the main street of Orugallu (present day Varangal), who are in search of a courtesan. Govinda Manchana Sharma is experienced in the ways of the world and winning women over. His friend Tittibha is a novice. One early lovely morning, they set forth on a busy road and Manchana provides a running commentary on everyday scenes on either side of the road. His flowery and picturesque narration throws light on several religio-social practices of that region of Andhra-Karnataka which at that time formed part of Vijayanagara Empire.

Ellamma's devotees sing songs to the accompaniment of Choudike. Gorava dancers follow them. Both these folkarts are common to Kannada & Telugu lands. Manchana then introduces Jakkula Katha artists who are akin to Yakshagana dancers.

They then come to spots where the excited crowds are watching cock and ram fights. Manchana's poetry runs rant, while describing the "heroes" in double intender. His commentary is interspersed with amorous and seductive exchange of words with pretty country lasses in colorful attire.

One woman in the market carries curious balls of herbal paste in an ivory box for sale, announcing "Susarbhet". Curious Tittibha asks what it is. Manchana says it is hair remover. After applying, those parts become as smooth as God Vishnu's, upper part of Kurmavatara, a freshly shaved head of a monk or well rubbed bottom of a copper pot!

Charming rural women of various communities carrying on with their chores are described with their typical dress. Rangoli designs figure. The friends then pass through a tailorís shop where the latter is having gala time feeling arms, back and breasts of women with the excuse of taking measurements!

There is curious reference to a fair of Shrikakuleswara or Teluguraya where people from all castes thronged along with young widows and 'free love' ran riot. Picturehouses depicting scenes from classics and especially pertaining to god of love Manmatha were popular.

It is significant that Manchana shows a place where noblemen had food along with people of all castes, which certainly was an unheard thing in those times. Perhaps ancestors of those villagers showed extraordinary bravery in protecting the place. Good eating-places and items served in them are mentioned.

Pleasure seeking and amorous entertainment, natural traits of humans are dealt with in Kreedabhirama which signifies its unique place in literature of medieval times, because of its ephemeral quality.

See Also:
• Medieval India
• Erotic Arts of India CD-ROM

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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