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Folk - Sadhana Surulu of Andhra Pradesh


'Sadhana Surulu' are practitioners of skills be longing to the Weaver's community. These itinerant artists move from village to village performing at Padmasali houses and with their permission at other places also. Only those that belong to Telangana area practise this art. It is possible to misconstrue their art as magic; but they assert that it is by constant practice of vayustambhana' (controlling of air), jalasthambhana (controlling of water), etc., all of them age-old yoga practices in ancient India, that they show their skilful deeds. In order to prove their point they allow the on-lookers to come and test their items at close quarters. In magic, the magicians allow the spectators to sit only in front of them so that the tricks they do are not seen by them. But these artists welcome people to sit on all sides.

Sadhana Surulu perform many astonishing feats to show their skill. They start their performance with stick fight, first with one stick and then with two sticks handled by the same man. Then follows jalasthambhana. In this feat, one of the artists pours water in one hole of his nose and he brings out the water from the other hole. Another interesting skill is to mix water with sand and from the same mixture separate sand and water. Similarly a paper is tied to a thread and it is put to flame. Out of the ash he takes out the thread. The last two mentioned are nearer to magical feats.

But more than these, three feats show how adept they are in their profession. A large stone is kept on the chest of one person and it is cut into pieces with a big hammer without causing any pain to the person. They say that it is possible because the man receiving the blows practised vayusthambhana (controlling of air to get in). Another feat is to place a rural fire stove (kumpati) on the head of one of the artists with a vessel on it. Fire is lit and water is boiled. Similarly one of the spectators ties down an artist with a rope. He is covered with a blanket. He lets himself loose from the knots, however hard they are and however intricate.

The last feat they perform is to prepare a palanquin made of choppa (light, grass-like material)sticks. With four creepers like this tied to a pole, they carry a man placed in it as in a procession. All this is done in broad daylight before the audience. The 'choppa' beads are shown to everyone. They also show the thread into which these beads are inserted. This is also possible because the man sitting inside practises at that moment vayustambhana. He becomes very light so that this thin delicate palanquin can hold him.

The most popular team that performs these feats is the one led by Rajanisri of Chellur, Husnabad taluk of Kareemnagar district.

All through their performance, a comic character stands by the side and ridicules the performers feats saying that it is all magic or 'kanikattu', The leader explains each one of the feats and welcomes the spectators to come and inspect their materials.

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