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Oggu Katha or Oggukatha is a traditional folklore singing praising and narrating the stories of Hindu gods Mallana, Beerappa and Yellamma. It originated among Yadav &[Kuruma Golla community ), who devoted themselves to the singing of ballads in praise of Lord Shiva (also called Mallikarjuna). These tradition-loving and ritual-performing community moves from place to place, narrating the stories of their caste gods. Oggus are the traditional priests of the Yadavas and perform the marriage of Mallanna with Bhramaramba.
Oggu Katha was derived from the instrument, the Oggu, used at the beginning of each story and also at the marriage festival of Mallanna (son of Lord Shiva). The folk name given to Shiva's 'damaruka', it is also known as 'jaggu'. The story narrated with the of Oggu is known as Oggu Katha. Founder of Oggu kathalu was The great Vallam Peda Veeraiah and continued by his son Vishwa Vikyatha Oggu Katha Sarva Bhoumulu Vallam Sathaiah. The stories, scripts, dialogues and lyrics of on Kommaraveeli Mallana, Yellama Devi Katha and all other stories was developed by Vallam Sathaiah.
The popular names in oggu katha artists are Chukka Sattaiah and Midde Ramulu.
The Oggu performers narrate the stories of Mallanna and Beerappa and Shakti ballads, of Yellamma. These ballads are in 'manjari dwipada', containing lyrical prose, recited with great oratorical and rhetorical nuances.
The team consists of four to six members. The main narrator, an assisting narrator, and at least two instrumentalists - one playing on a big drum called 'rana bheri' and the other on brass talas of a big size. Another member plays on a kanjira and the sixth one sings along with the narrator and also plays a napheera, a wind instrument, used at times of martial valor.
The narrator and his chorus i.e. two narrators-help in dramatizing the narration as very often, they transform themselves into two characters. The dramatization of the narrative is what gives the Oggu Katha its predominant place in the ballad tradition of Andhra Pradesh, especially in Telangana, where Oggu Katha prevalent. They singers visit the shrine of Komrelly Mallanna Temple every year.
The chief narrator wears a dhoti tied up to the knees, a colored shirt, a colored head cloth, a colored waistcloth, and ankle bells. The other narrator also will have the same dress. More than the costume, the ornaments they have to wear are traditionally considered more important. The main narrator will have a chain made of seven shells called 'gavvala darshanam'.
There is a legend regarding this chain of shells. It was said that seven brothers of Bhramaramba (Mallanna's consort) fought with him at the time of her wedding. Mallanna defeated them and cursed them to be dogs. When Bhramaramba entreated the Lord to save them from the curse, he graced them by asking them to be Oggus and narrate his stories. The seven shells symbolize the seven brothers and are given a prominent place while narrating the story.
In addition, they will wear five silver rings and five silver chains (jogirly), a wrist band (ponchi), thick silver rings (kadiyam) around the neck, to the right wrist and to the upper arm, a three - layered garland made of pagadam (sapphire) and round silver nooses (tavalam), ande and matte to the fingers of the foot and a garland with Mallana's portrait on it (ambarala golusu). During the course of action, he also wears a stick, which serves also as a sword or the chains of a horse.
Oggus Katha allows tremendous scope for dramatization. In the hands of an able narrator, it becomes a very inspiring one, because of the innumerable improvisations introduced, along with the traditional way of rendering the story.