Age-old traditions of Sankranti festivities featuring Haridasulu and Gangiredduvallu appear to be fading from the mainstream of society due to changing times, These two communities had been a constant feature of the three-day harvest festival of Bhogi, Sankranti, and Kanuma. But new generations within these communities are reluctant to continue their hierarchical roles.
Haridasulu with Akshayapatra (utensil to collect alms) on the head, a musical instrument “tambura” on the right shoulder, and “chidatalu”(cymbals) in left hand chanting “Rama Keertans” had been a regular feature. They visited every house during the three-day festivals to collect alms. This year, hardly any Haridasulu have been seen wandering the streets, reflecting poor patronage to the ancient tradition.
Another feature is instead of walking the streets singing keertans, some Haridasulu are now seen going around on mopeds fitted with mini recorders playing keertans. The Akshayapatra has moved from the head to the stand of moped. Haridasu D Govardhan said there was a time when they started their wanderings chanting Sankeertans a month before Sankranti. But the new generation is reluctant to follow the traditions. As a result, art is gradually disappearing. Govardhan said the earliest children in their families used to learn Sundarakanda, Bhagavatam, and other religious keertans.
The present generation is not interested in them. He pointed out that the Dasari community and its sub-castes were the traditional Haridasulu. These groups now have a reservation facility. The younger generation prefers education and jobs, particularly in the government sector, than take up the traditional role. Priest of Sri Vaibhava Venkateshwara Swamy Devalayam in murali nagar, Venkateswaralu explained that in the Kingdom of Lord Rama, people had been prosperous. There was none to receive “alms”. So, Rama created Haridasu, who just chanted keertans and received alms.
Venkateswaralu said since the past 15 years, Haridasulu has been gradually disappearing from the scene. Hardly one or two are there in Vizag. Similar is the case of community with Gandireddulu. The community members would adorn their bulls in fineries and bells, visiting every house to collect alms during Sankranti festivities. The bulls would dance on instructions of their masters, a scene enjoyed by kids and elders alike.
S Ramulu, who belongs to the Gandireddula community, lamented that the present generation is “ashamed of collection alms”. Thus only a few old people are continuing the tradition. Ramulu sought the protection of traditions followed by Haridaulu and Gangiredduvallu, as they will let future generations know our ancient traditions and rich cultural heritage.