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Padma Bhushans Radha and Raja Reddy with over five decades experience have been enthralling the audiences with their performances. Along with them, they are joined with  Raja’s second wife Kaushalya and daughters Yamini and Bhavana, who have all dedicated themselves to Kuchipudi.

Padma Bhushans Radha and Raja Reddy have single-handedly with ultimate devotion and dedication put Kuchipudi on the world map and have become popular as the Dancing Couple. They are joined in their dancing passion by Kaushalya, Yamini and Bhavana and are popularly called The Reddy Family.

Since early childhood Raja Reddy was drawn to dance. In his village, he saw Vijayanthimala’s ‘Nagin’, a record number of 17 times, just for the dance numbers. Guru Raja who hails from a Zamindar’s family is the first in the family to be a dancer. “From an early age, I was interested in Kuchipudi Bhagavatam,” says Guru Raja Reddy.

Recalling his early days, Guru Raja Reddy says that after finishing his Class 10, he shifted to Hyderabad for studies. With passion for dance in his veins, his friend stepped in to help him. He took him to a Kuchipudi guru, who looking at Raja Reddy said that you don’t have the features to become a dancer and you should go back to your village to pursue farming. “You don’t have a slim waist, as in those days men donned the roles of women, and you are dark complexioned too. You can’t be a dancer,” recalled the grand man of Kuchipudi.

Taking no offence to the comment, Guru Raja Reddy along with his friend went to a Music College in Ramkote, Hyderabad, where Kathak was being taught. He began learning Kathak, and his wife Radha, who had joined him in the Pearl City, too took to dance, while observing her husband.  Guruji lost his father while still in school, and his mother just told him to follow what he felt was right. Guruji shares that because for his love for dance, his mother was socially boycotted and she kept it under wraps from her son. “When I came to know about it, I fought it tooth and nail and won the case in court,” says Guru Raja Reddy.

However, luck smiled on Guru Raja Reddy, when Vedantam Prahalad Sharma agreed to teach Kuchipudi provided the couple moved to Eluru. Raja Reddy moved with his wife Radha to Eluru, where Vedantam Prahalad Sharma taught only Tandavam to Raja and Laasya to Radha. The Guru says that his big day came in 1967, when his name was proposed for the single scholarship for Kuchipudi. The couple moved to country’s capital and learnt choreography in the school set up by Maya Rao. “One must learn Choreography, it helps in presenting an item. Choreography is important. Even a simple Nritta item can be presented differently,” he says adding that even his better half Radha learnt choreography.

Throwing more light on his journey, Guru Raja Reddy says that he was grateful to Indrani Rehman, who invited Radha and him to accompany her troupe on their various visits. “For two years, we were part of her group and if we are well-known today, it is thanks to her,” he says.

In the same breath, he thanks Raman, secretary, Tamil Theatre, for giving them the first break. “Dr. Karan Singh was instrumental in helping us get a house in Delhi,” he says. Describing another incident, Guru Raja Reddy says that at one performance on Children’s Day at Teen Murti, Indira Gandhi was astonished to see him bare bodied in early winter and she gave him her shawl and “I treasure it till date”.

Guru Raja Reddy says that Indira Gandhi appreciating their dance form told them not to go back to their State, but stay back in Delhi and popularise the dance by teaching in Delhi. “Kuchipudi is a combination of theatre and dance,” he says, adding that it is their life.

The dancing duo, Raja and Radha Reddy, has given a new dimension to Kuchipudi dance without sacrificing its grammar or hurting its sensibilities. With perfection of technique, and command on the art form, the couple stands tall in their field. A connoisseur of art cannot take his eyes off when the couple light up the stage. The Guru and his wife perfectly portray the manly strength and expressive charm of Shiva-Parvati, Rama-Sita and Krishna-Radha. When the two are on the stage, it looks the sculptures have come to life.

Kaushalya, who learnt dance under Vedantam Rattiah Sarma and Raja-Radha Reddy, has been bestowed with immaculate footwork and sparkling elegance. Kaushalya doesn’t shy away from experimenting. Kaushalya, younger sibling of Radha, is not only Guru Raja’s second wife, but also partner in their professional and personal life. When Radha and Raja Reddy are performing, Kaushalya does the Nattuvangam, and when Kaushalya performs solo, Guru Raja does the Nattuvangam.

Yamini has inherited dance from her parents. She is blessed with chiseled features and has a very enchanting presence with flawless rhythm and expressions. On being the daughter of the legendary couple, Yamini says that she got a readymade platform but with lot of challenges to live up to the standards set by her parents.

Guru Raja shares that he is proud of his daughters, who have dedicated themselves to Kuchipudi. “My elder daughter Yamini got a marriage proposal from abroad, but it was rejected as she said that if she went abroad she would not be able to pursue her passion. Today, she successfully runs the Hyderabad branch of Natya Tarangini, which has 200 students,” he says. The School in Delhi has 300 students learning Kuchipudi.

Bhavana born to Raja and Kaushalya is a dedicated Kuchipudi dancer and vocalist. Guru Raja Reddy says that even his younger daughter Bhavana went to Hollywood and graduated from Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, but returned to India to perform Kuchipudi.

When questioned on whether, he was soft towards his daughters, while teaching them, he said that the two roles never mingled. “When I was teaching them dance, I was a Guru and handled them the same way as the others. Even Radha was strict with them. There was no kind of partiality,” he says.

On promoting Kuchipudi dance, Guru Raja Reddy says: “I am happy that the Andhra Pradesh government has started Kuchipudi as part of curriculum in schools. This will go a long way in inculcating the art form in the youngsters from a tender age.” The Guru stresses that the Next Gen must know about the culture of the country. He feels that the government must work out a mechanism where at least one member of a family is involved in any art form. “In fact, India is known for its art forms and they bring discipline in a person,” he says.

Recalling his memorable moment, Guru Raja Reddy says that following their performance at Hotel Ashoka, the couple were invited to a festival in France, where they presented ‘Dashavataram’ which won them a standing ovation. The dancing duo has toured the length and breadth of the globe and mesmerizing one and all including the Cuban President Fidel Castro. “It was after a trip abroad in Jan 1984, when I noticed six telegrams, three for me and three for Radha, were waiting. They were to inform us that we have been selected for Padma Shri awards individually and together. We were conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2000,” he says.  The couple has been honoured with the Sahitya Kala Parishad Award in 1990 and the prestigious Sangeet Natak Award in 1992.

Raja Reddy says that in the last-minute, they were included to perform at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. “Former President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, who was the chief guest was highly impressed by our presentation and came up and congratulated us,” he says.

Guru Raja Reddy says that to succeed in becoming a good dancer, complete dedication was required.

Bhagawadajjukayam, a Dance Ballet by Padma Bhushan Radha Raja Reddy, Yamini Reddy and students of Natya Tarangini was part of the fifth edition of Hyderabad Arts Festival – Season 5. This was a satirical drama written by Bhodhayana around the advent of Chrisitian era. Vasantsena, a charming courtesan wanders in the garden in her casual routines enjoying the scenic beauty of nature with her sakhis. Yamadhoota, on directions of the God of Death, enters the garden and in the disguise of a snake takes life out of Vasantsena leaving her dead.

Shandilya, a Buddhist monk and an ardent lover of Vasantsena is horrified to see her dead. He is totally lost in grief. His Guru Parivrajaka, a true Buddhist, preaches Aadhyayanam i.e. Buddham Sharanam Gachhami, Sangham Sharanam Gachhami and Dhammam Sharanam Gachhami.

But this is of no avail to Shandilya and in turn Shandilya challenges his Guru Parivrajaka to use his Yogic powers and bring Vasantsena back to life. Parivrajaka, through his art of Parakaya Pravesa drives his own soul from his body into the still body of Vasantsena. As the transformation is completed, Vasantsena comes to life but starts behaving like Parivrajaka. She begins preaching and asks Shandilya to stay away.

On the other side, Yama Dharma Raja, the God of Death finds that Yamadoota by an error had taken out the life of Vasantsena. He orders Yamadoota to restore the life of Vasantsena into its body before it is cremated. Yamadoota on reaching the garden is surprised to find Vasantsena active with life and it took no time for him to realize that Parivrajaka was at play.

Mischievously enough Yamadoota leaves the soul of Vasantasena in the still body of Parivrajaka which is lying around. Oh, now it is Parivrajaka’s turn to behave like Vasantsena. Shandilya is upset with this and tries to figure out what went wrong, He goes from one to the other and sits sadly.

This interchanging of souls with the interpolation of bodies left a note of mockery and fun. The mockery ended with the Yamadoota restoring the souls into the respective original bodies in a melodramatic style.

Prior to the ballet Radha & Raja Reddy presented salutations to Lord Ganesha. Before the programme, Poorvarangam was enacted as it is customary in the Kuchipudi style of presentation. It is preparing the stage before the actual presentation.

 

India has produced great artists like Raja Ravi Varma, Jamini Roy, M F Husain, S H Reza and Tyeb Mehta to name a few, who have dabbled in various mediums of Art. Even in the City of Nawabs, there are stalwarts like Laxma Goud, Laxman Aelay, Surya Prakash and Thota Vaikunta, who have put Telangana art on the world map. Today, as you walk down the Hussain Sagar Road, there are some artists who do live sketches and come vacations, many students also adults take up painting as a hobby. In Art, there are different kinds of mediums - colour pencils, pastels, oils, acrylics, ink and charcoal where brushes, knives or sponges can be used to fill in colours. Added to this there are different styles of art – Madhubani, Kalighat, Kangra, Rajput, Mughal, Samikshavad, Tanjore, Warli, Kerala mural painting among many others.  Whatever is the Art Medium or Style, enjoy filling in the colours on the Canvas magnificently.

The first gift one gets as a child is a box of crayons and Colouring Book or a Magic Painting Book - you just add water and the hidden colours emerge lighting up a child’s face. Or if your handwriting is bad, you are told to do colouring and stick to your line, in short ensuring that you don’t step out from the circle while colouring, which teaches us concentration and patience. I am sure many of us would have undergone this as a child and the same would be happening with this generation of kids too.

A lay man may not know that there are different kinds of mediums and Styles in Art. One of the most popular art mediums used across the world is Oil Paints or Acrylic, Water Colour, Black ink, Pencil, Charcoal, Coffee Essence, Mixed Media, to name a  few. Some of the styles of painting  –  Chinese, Tang Dynasty, Ming Dynasty, Shan shui, Ink and wash painting, Hua Niao, Zhe School, Wu School, Contemporary, Japanese, Yamato-e, Rimpa School, Emakimono, Kano School, Shijo School, Super Flat, Korean, Islamic, Persian miniature, Mughal miniature, Ottoman miniature, in the Indian there are - Oriya School, Bengal School, Kangra, Madhubani, Mysore, Rajput, Mughal, Samikshavad, Tanjore, Warli, Kerala mural painting among many others.

What’s that one name that comes to you, when you think of a contemporary Indian artist - M F Husain, who began his humble journey as a painter, but went on to win international laurels for the country. Among some of the proud Indian names include Raja Ravi Verma, Jamini Roy, Amrita Shergill, Tyeb Mehta to name a few. In apna Hyderabad, the popular names include Thota Vaikuntam, Laxman Aelay, Laxma Goud and Surya Prakash to name a few.

In the world, the names that ring a bell include Michael Angelo and Pablo Picasso. Picasso, a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright, is considered as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. The Spanish artist is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, co-inventor of collage, and wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Picasso’s work is often categorised into periods.

Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, despite making inroads into many disciplines, Michael Angelo took up such a high order of work that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival and fellow artist, Leonardo da Vinci. He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before he turned 30. Angelo was often called Il Divino. Many artists have tried to imitate Michael Angelo’s impassioned and highly personal style.

In lay terms, Painting is applying paint, pigment, colour or other medium to a surface with a brush and other materials like knives, sponges, combs, brushes and others. Painting is a form of expression and it can be done on surfaces like walls, paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer, clay, leaf, copper and concrete. Other materials like sand, clay, paper, plaster, gold leaf, and objects can be used in a painting for visual appeal.

Stepping into the Siri Institute of Painting, located in Himayat Nagar, one was greeted with many students engrossed in art on a busy afternoon. The young children were busy using pencil and pastel colours to enthuse colour into their drawings. Some were on the easel, giving finishing touches to their works, while the others were sketching and drawing. Instructors were there to help them.

Swamy, Director, said that a person can start off in any medium of art. “Each medium has its own advantages and is often suitable to various types of painting. Most artists begin with one medium and after experimenting with others, settle in their choice of medium. Most professionals use the acrylic, oil painting, mixed media – where materials like sand and wood are used in the art work.”

Swamy said that it would be ideal for an artist to begin with the basics of drawing rather than straight away get into painting. “Drawing will create perfection and help in putting it on paper, the visualisation in mind,” he said. Swamy feels that if one sincerely practices with some tips, everyone can draw. “A good grasp of the basic techniques of drawing will help in many mediums as well as pencil, charcoal, pastels or pen and ink,” he said.  The director said that Charcoal medium helps in shading and structuring outlines and this shading will give the painting more depth.

“Working with Pastels can also be fun and different results can be achieved if used with other mediums. On the other hand, one can graduate to Water colours as they dry quickly and can be done on paper and if unhappy trash it and make a fresh one,” he said.

According to the director, painting with Acrylics can be fun but for an artist to get used with this medium takes time. He states that Acrylic paints are water-soluble and they dry quickly. He advises that Acrylics should be used to one’s advantage and it shows up if it is used to create abstract works. One can paint Acrylics on to many surfaces including the canvas or board. “Use of Oil paints can be a little difficult, if the artist is not perfect in using thinners and other paraphernalia,” he said.

Personally, the director, who won a painting competition, at the Republic Day parade in 1988, as a NCC cadet was given a job, in the NCC Directorate, Hyderabad, as clerk, but with passion for painting, he quit that and enrolled at the College of Fine Arts Hyderabad for BFA. “Ages ago when colour photography had not invaded the country in such large numbers, the elite thought it as a privilege to get artists to paint their portraits. Sometimes, it was live painting too,” Swamy said.

The director began his artistic journey with portraits, and started the Siri Institute in the early 1990s. His school is open to children from five years. “Age is sno matter to join. Till date, thousands of students have learnt from here, and many of them have taken it up as a profession,” he shared. His wife Siva Kumari too is an artist and runs a Siri branch at Banjara Hills.

Swamy said that just like the alumni of a university and college, their students too have formed an organisation, Siri Artists’ Welfare Association, which regularly holds exhibitions and takes students to places like Ajanta and Ellora and Warangal for live painting. “Recently, Siri Institute of Paintings & Siri Artists’ Welfare Association held ‘The Mystic Musings in Stone’, an exhibition of murals and paintings of Khajuraho Temple Sculptures at Muse Art Gallery in January – February 2017.

“A group of artists thought it fit to pay a befitting tribute to these sculptors, by replicating, the wonderful sculptures for the view of art lovers, and bring out an exhibition of murals and paintings,” Swamy said.

He clarifies that Tanjore Painting, Fabric Painting, Glass Painting and Etching fall under craft category.  “To complete one Tanjore painting, it takes nearly a month depending on the size and intricacies. It needs lot of patience and many women are interested in this,” he said. Swamy said that even Telangana paintings have their beauty. “They can be distinguished by the vibrant colours and big Bindi and turmeric. In Andhra Pradesh too, the Kalamkari from Srikalahasti has its own distinctive style,” he said.

If you have been to the Hussain Sagar or Indira Park in the evenings, you can catch many artists trying to sketch people live. “If you have practiced your lines well, a sketch will take not more than half an hour,” he said.  The director advises that an artist must practice with concentration and deep involvement to make a success of his career. “Painting is an expression that lets out your emotions. It is one form of meditation. Fine Arts will always be there. Culture is always caught on the canvas for preservation and posterity,” he said.

One Centre in the heart of the city that regularly conducts different kinds of art workshops, Our Sacred Space, ignites the young and old alike. In recent times, they have held workshops on Tanjore Painting, Pencil and Charcoal, Coffee Essence, Kalighat, Madhubani, Pata Chitra, sketching among many others.

Trishna Pattnaik, Mumbai-based artist has conducted a series of workshops at Our Sacred Space. “Charcoal is a wild counterpart: it’s bold, daring and dramatic. It’s much darker than any pencil and has richness, making drawing with charcoal a completely unique experience,” she said. Trishna said that drawing pencils are often considered to be sturdy, reliable and precise. “Every pencil artist has their own way of doing things. The workshop showcased some methods of working with drawing pencils and charcoal,” she said. Using these methods the budding artists could recreate abstract, floral, landscape and even portraits.

The word Kali brings into mind the land of Bengal, where Goddess Kali is worshipped. History states that Kalighat painting or Kalighat Pat originated in the 19th century Bengal, in the vicinity of Kalighat Kali Temple, Kolkata. Many visitors to the area would take back souvenirs after a visit to the Kali temple, and over the years, Kalighat paintings emerged as a distinct style of painting.

“From the depiction of Hindu gods, goddesses, and other mythological characters, the Kalighat paintings developed to reflect a variety of themes,” said the historian. Another style of art is ‘Pata Art’ By Patuas. In mana city, national awardee Ranjit Chitrakar has conducted workshops. History states that Pata is an ancient folk art, so ancient that it has been mentioned in the Puranas and other early literature. “This style of painting is similar to the cave paintings of Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Ajanta.”

Pata, an ancient folk art, is appreciated by art lovers all over the world for its effortless style of drawings, colours, lines and space usage. The world Pata derived from the Sanskrit word Patta means cloth. The painters are called Patuas. Patuas do not just paint, they also sing as they unfurl the painting scroll to show it to the audience. The songs are of wide variety ranging from traditional mythological tales and tribal rituals to stories based on modern Indian history and contemporary issues. Patuas generally use natural colours procured from trees, leaves, flowers and clays.

Trishna Pattnaik, who has conducted Coffee Essence Workshop here, said that it is basically coffee painting. “Fabulous compositions can be made with just coffee and water. The intriguing factor in this art form is how a simple coffee concoction is used to derive different tones, get various patterns in place and finally it sums up into an art work,” she said. With coffee, artists can create anything beginning from abstracts, graphics, and landscapes to even figurines.

The other styles of painting are Madhubani, a tribal art form that is a free hand art with lot of scope for imagination and innovation. Gond Painting, primarily motifs and themes. The country has produced remarkably brilliant artists, and the art dates back to ancient times, which is visible even today in the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora. Indian painters have excelled their proficiency in religious and abstracts.

Some Popular Hyderabadi artists are:

Laxman Aelay: Laxman Aelay’s subject has been the life of people from his village and specific culturally of a village with men, women against the backdrop of their homes. He likes doing indeterminates and is now specialising in Hyperrealism.

Laxma Goud: Laxma Goud is a painter, printmaker and draughtsman. He works in variety of mediums including etching, gouache, pastel, sculpture, and glass painting. He is best known for his early drawings that depict rural environment.

Thota Vaikuntam: Thota Vaikuntam’s paintings capture simple lifestyle of villagers like paddy fields, toddy pots on shoulders of men, household chores, temple rituals etc. The women in his paintings have big bindi. His drawings range from stark charcoal on paper, transparent washes and pencil drawings.

Surya Prakash: Surya Prakash works mainly in oils and acrylic and is inspired by the French Impressionists. His works are in a number of individual and Institutional collections all over the world.

A Distinguishable painting from South

Tanjore Painting originally hails from a place in Tamil Nadu called Thanjavur. The Tanjore painting is distinguished by its famous gold coating. They are categorised by rich, flat and vivid colours, simple iconic composition, glittering gold foils overlaid on delicate but widespread gesso work and inlay of glass beads and pieces or very rarely precious and semi-precious gems.

Principally serving as religious icons, the subjects of most paintings are Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints. Episodes from Hindu Puranas and Sthala-puranas are visualised, sketched or traced and painted with the main figures in the central section of the picture. Tanjore works are executed on canvas pasted on a wooden support and framed. Generally vivid reds, deep greens, chalk white, turquoise blues and lavish use of gold (foil) and inset glass beads are used in these paintings.

I have been learning painting for the last two years. It is my passion to learn art. In these two years, I have learnt all mediums – Charcoal, Pencil, Water Colours, Acrylic and others. Whatever art works I have created I have given it to my teachers and people.

Wanna love nature, look no further, head to the picturesque Ameenpur Lake, to watch the flora and fauna and soak in the beauty of the resident and migratory birds. This Lake, which has been declared a Biodiversity Heritage Site, is all thanks to the efforts of Tejdeep Kaur Menon, IPS, Director General, Telangana Special Protection Force, and her team.

Saving water bodies is the order of the day as day by day water is becoming a scarce commodity and at many places lakes are being encroached upon. Thanks to the untiring efforts of one woman and her staff, the Government of Telangana declared the Ameenpur Lake, Sangareddy District as a ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’ under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 vide G.O.Ms.No.70, dated 15th November, 2016.

“It is the first such water body declared as a Biodiversity Heritage Site in the country and that too in an urban environment,” said Tejdeep Kaur Menon, IPS, Director General, Telangana Special Protection Force (TSPF). The TS Biodiversity Board has constituted the Biodiversity Heritage Site Management Committee making her the Convener of the panel. Sharing the preservation of Ameenpur Lake, Tejdeep Kaur Menon said that the Telangana State Special Protection Force had adopted the Ameenpur Lake system on August 7, 2015, from the Collector, Medak to maintain the eco-system in its neighbourhood.

The Ameenpur Lake consists to an extent of 93.15 acres and five small lakes Kummari Kunta (11.28 acres), Kotha Kunta (7.39 acres), Setty Kunta (17.18 acres), Bandam Kunta (7.38 acres) and Mallanna Kunta (39.18 acres). The gutsy lady and her team have spent nealy two years to redefine the Lake.  “The Telangana State Special Protection Force with about 150 volunteers joined hands with two youth groups, Hyderabad Birding Pals and Phulkari, the ladies wing of the Punjabi Sabha organised a clean-up campaign at Ameenpur Lake, two-years ago,” recalled Tejdeep Kaur.

The Campaign was supported by the GHMC, Collector and District Magistrate, Medak, District Police, Medak and the Gram Panchayat, Ameenpur. The Ameenpur Lake is abutting the SPF Training Academy located in Ameenpur, Medak.

“The TSPF also adopted Ameenpur village under the Grama Jyothi programme so as to oversee the development of the village by taking appropriate measures in the key sectors of environment, health, education, water, sanitation, social security and natural resource management tasks that are defined in the programme and for which it has created a waste disposal system. It has voluntarily taken up clean up campaigns to bring awareness on the need for conservation of the ecological system,” she said.

The TSPF with the help of residents initiated a garbage disposal system in cooperation with the Sangareddy District authorities. “The TSPF employees volunteered and took up more than 100 clean-up drives to bring awareness among the public on the need for conservation of the ecological system,” she said.

The police official further stated that at the same time, the TSSPF had also taken up protection of the lake with its staff stationed at the TSSPF Training Academy patrolling the perimeter of the lake and the lake bed to prevent any blatant violation of conservation measures and other activity that disturbed the birds that flocked to the lake.

Speaking on the importance of the Lake, Tejdeep Kaur said that the Lake was home to many migratory and resident birds. “There is a huge list of Flora and Fauna that is found in and around the lake,” she said. The senior cop said that tremendous Biodiversity was available at Ameenpur Lake with a variety of herbs, shrubs, creepers, medicinal flora, trees, animals, reptiles, birds, insects, microbes etc.

The DGP pointed out that there are around 222 species of birds (migratory and residents), 250 plant species (including rare and medicinal), 9 fish species, 26 aquatic beetles, 41 butterfly species, 33 species of invertebrates, 12 amphibian species, 33 reptiles species, 9 species of wild animals and millet diversity is available in the area.

“The Ameenpur Lake is one of the few water bodies left in the State of Telangana. They are the most sought free haunt of bird watchers as a variety of avian species, with 222 species with both resident and migrant birds.  Most of the nesting sites for the birds and reptiles are found at TS SPF Training Academy,” she said proudly. She stated that apart from the avi-fauna, the lake is surrounded by wonderful rock formations, and also, there are reports of three caves in a granite rock cropping on the shores of the lake.  “Unlike sandstone and limestone caves, these caves do not have any stalagmites and stalactites but are dark and cool even during summer,” Tejdeep Kaur said.

At the beginning of this year, the Telangana State Special Protection Force, in association with the Andhra Bank, Collector, Sangareddy District, Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) and Friends of Flora and Fauna Society (FoFF) organized the Youth for Manohara Ameenpur campaign at Ameenpur village.

“The Youth for Manohara Ameenpur campaign is part of the joint initiative of the Telangana State Special Protection Force, Hyderabad Birding Pals (HBP) and Friends of Flora and Fauna Society (FOFF) in raising the level of consciousness and involving youth, particularly school and college goers, in the efforts to rejuvenate the Ameenpur lake system,” Tejdeep Kaur said. She said that this was done to make them appreciate Nature and by making those living in the neighbourhood of the lake aware of the need to protect it and take up Lake conservation measures.

Tejdeep Kaur said that during the clean-up campaign in June 2015, they observed a drastic reduction in the avi-fauna in the lake and after thorough analysis they felt that it was due to some activities that were threatening the Lake and its biodiversity. “The activities included Fishing and marketing, land encroachment, fencing, construction of buildings and colonies, construction in FLT area including of construction of religious structures, bore-well tapping, driving of water tankers, tractors and other heavy vehicles, trespassing by locals, parking of vehicles, throwing stones at the birds to name a few,” she said.

The senior police official said that immersion of idols during Ganesh Chaturthi, washing of vehicles, letting sewerage from the surrounding colonies into the lakes, littering of plastic, glass, thermacol, aluminum cans, fishing nets and garbage dumping and burning were posing a threat not only to the lakes, but to the entire bio-diversity abutting the lake, which provided a haven to most of the birds and reptiles. Tejdeep said that emergence of factories, housing colonies and other encroachments, including mines, in the lake conservancy zone has posed environmental threats in the area around the lake. “There are several issues like the unauthorized occupation of the lake bed where layouts have sprung up, the flow of domestic wastage and industrial effluents besides the killing of birds as game or for exotic meat of which there is evidence in the lake environs that have to be addressed,” she stated.

After sustained efforts to protect the Lake, Telangana State Pollution Control Board came forward to sample and test waters after it was discovered pollutants from nearby chemical and beverage industries besides sewage from upstream colonies had already percolated into the lake. “While some discharged effluents and residential colonies let out their sewage others were drawing water from the lake illegally for processing and use.  The Pollution Control Board is now working on putting up a sewage treatment plant with funds provided by the industries in the vicinity of the lake,” Tejdeep said. Under the able leadership of Tejdeep Kaur, the TSPF planned and executed a Vanamahotsav – a massive tree planting festival in which with the support of the Sarpanch dug pits and placed 4,000 saplings in the open areas of the lake bed and around the lake.  “We planted bird nesting and feeding trees.

As the lake has served as an irrigation tank in the past, the State Irrigation and Mines Minister T. Harish Rao was invited to flag off the Vanamahotsav,” she said.  The TSPF Chief stated that her Force had consulted and coordinated its effort with several Departments and other entities to protect the lake so that the species that flock to the lake come there in larger numbers. Andhra Bank has conducted health camps in eye and dental, for students of government schools, in Ameenpur mandal and adjacent areas as part of CSR. Apart from this, the TSSPF and Round Table India organised a camp for elders and children of Ameenpur. Painting, essay writing, quiz and singing competitions for school children on Nature related themes as part of the programme.

Tejdeep summed up saying that the Ameenpur example shows that there are several challenges. “The most vital are Commission Sewage Treatment Plants, to make the water drinkable; Create a permanent and lasting waste disposal system; Firm up the Full Tank Level; Create a habitat for the nesting and breeding of the birds; Set up watch towers from where school goers as well as adults can sight the birds; and, Open a Biodiversity Museum,” she explained.

Tejdeep Kaur conferred Earth Hero Award

The Sanctuary Asia declared Tejdeep Kaur Menon, IPS, Director General, TS SPF and the Telangana State Special Protection Force (TSSPF) as ‘Earth Hero’ and presented its coveted The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards - Wind Under The Wings Award, in Mumbai in December 2016. The award is given for distinguished work in spearheading exceptional initiatives to clean, rejuvenate and protect urban water bodies.

Villagers sensitized against idol immersion

During the Ganesh immersion, all efforts are made to sensitise not to immerse in the tank and a small mini tank bund is created for this purpose. “During the Ganesh Chaturthi and Dussera Festival as soon as the idols are immersed they are removed by the volunteers of the Force,” Tejdeep Kaur said.

She said that meetings were held with the villagers and leaders sensitising them to prevent polluting the waters of the lake. “Pamphlets are distributed to all colonies, houses and apartments abutting the lake, and propaganda is carried out with the local police. A 24-hour vigil is kept around the lake and immersion is prevented,” she said. Tejdeep further said that the other activities are prevention of mining and sand quartz in the area involving Director of Mines staff and with local police.

Osmania University is multi-faculty and multi-disciplinary university, offering rich and varied courses in the faculties of Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, Law, Education, Engineering, Technology, Commerce, Management, Informatics, Pharmacy and Oriental Languages benefitting thousands of students. The iconic Varsity kicks off its three-day centenary celebrations on April 26, 2017.

The Osmania University, one of the oldest iconic institutions in the State of Telangana will be holding its three-day centenary celebrations from April 26, for which President of India Pranab Mukherjee is expected to lead the celebrations. The other dignitaries to grace the occasion include E. S. L. Narasimhan, Governor of Telangana state, K. Chandrasekar Rao, State Chief Minister, Kadiyam Srihari, Deputy CM and Higher Education Minister, K. Keshava Rao, MP (Rajya Sabha),  Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for HRD, Prof. Ved Prakash, Chairman, UGC, and K. T. Rama Rao, State Minister for IT & Municipal Administration.

OU Beginnings

The University spread over 1300 acres has been named after its founder, Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, who through a farman (order), established the University on 26th April, 1917.  “It is the seventh oldest in the country and third oldest in South India. Though the need for the University for the Hyderabad State was felt, both by the intelligentsia and people, the initiative came from a civil servant, Sir Akbar Hydari, who was then the Home Secretary to the State Government.

“Sir Hydari, in a memorandum to the Education Minister in early 1917, emphasised the need to establish a University of Hyderabad with ‘Urdu’ as the medium of instruction as it is the language of the widest currency in India, official language of the State, and it is a language which is understood by a vast majority of the population of the State,” recalls Prof. Haripuram Venkateshwerlu, Special Officer, OU Centenary Celebrations. The Special Officer said that Sir Hydari believed that higher education must have its foundations deep in national consciousness.

Prof. Venkateshwerlu said that the University has a vast sprawling campus set in the picturesque and idyllic surroundings with buildings of great architectural elegance and variety to enhance its beauty. “The availability of latest facilities makes it a very modern University. “The Alumni have distinguished themselves in several walks of life and include former Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Ministers, Parliamentarians, Legislators, eminent scholars, educationists, diplomats, administrators, lawyers, doctors, engineers, scientists, writers, sportsmen and men of arts and culture,” he said.

According to the Special Officer the development of the University may be divided into four phases, viz.

First Phase (1917 to 1947): The first phase was characterised by Urdu as the m

edium of instruction in all branches of higher education, including Medicine and Engineering. During this time, efforts were made to establish a number of teaching departments as well as to structure academic program

mes. The Departments of Chemistry, Civil Engineering, English, History, Mathematics, and Physics were started at this time. The first 30 years saw the initiation of several new disciplines, like Sociology (1937-38), Geography (1942), Zoology (1924), Botany (1930), Geology (1936), Education and Law (1923), Engineering (1929), Medicine (1926-27) and Agriculture and Veterinary Science (1948).

UG, PG, Ph.D Prog. Started: This phase also saw the introduction of Under-Graduate Programmes (1925), Post-Graduate Programmes (1925) and Ph.D. Programmes (1938) in several of the faculties. Further, some of the premier institutions that were earlier established in the State (namely, the Nizamiah Observatory, the Nizam College, Medical College, Teachers Training College, and the Law School) were transferred to the University at that time.

As the University was established without much infrastructure, the University Departments and Offices were initially located at different places in the city. It was only in 1934 that the University was shifted to the present campus. The inauguration of the new Campus, along with the inauguration of the Arts College in 1938, is one of the historic events in the annals of the University. Thus, in the first phase, efforts were mainly directed towards developing academic programmes and the necessary infrastructure.

Second Phase (1948 to 1968):  The year 1948 was historic for two reasons. In the first place, the princely State of Hyderabad became a part of new Independent India. Urdu was replaced by English as the medium of instruction. The new Departments created during this phase, included Hindi (1948-49), Political Science (1947-48), Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (1949), Journalism (1954), Chemical Engineering (1951), Public Administration (1956), Library Science (1959), Electronics & Communication Engineering (1959), Statistics (1966), Genetics (1966), and Geophysics (1967).

In order to give an impetus to the learning of foreign languages, the University started Diploma programmes in French and German (1954-55) and Italian (1957-58). As the number of Social Science Departments increased, the Faculty of Social Sciences was carved out from the Faculty of Arts in 1964-65, in order to give them a better identity.

Library Commissioned: The University Main Library, with a floor area of 62,000 sq.ft. was commissioned in 1963. The Law College, Department of Geophysics, the Administrative Building and other buildings to house colleges, hostels and various University Services were constructed manifesting University’s growth. Women’s education also got an impetus when the Women’s College, which was earlier operating from temporary buildings, moved to its present location in 1948. To meet the ever-increasing demands of higher education of the region, the University permitted a number of affiliated colleges to be started under private management.

Third Phase (1969 to 1993):  The period between the Golden Jubilee (1968) and the Platinum Jubilee (1993) can be considered to be the Third Phase. During this phase, the University also witnessed considerable growth in research and development activity. With financial support from National and International agencies several inter-disciplinary Research Centres were established.  The Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies (1970), Institute of Genetics (1978), Research and Training Unit for Navigational Electronics (1982), Centre for Area Studies (1983), Audio-Visual Research Centre (1983) and English Language Teaching Centre (1988) are a few examples. New Departments to be created during the period include the Department of Biochemistry (1972), Microbiology (1974) and Applied Geochemistry (1991). To strengthen its infrastructure, the University established the University Computer Centre (1975).

Distance Education Centre Set-up: In order to make higher education accessible to the deprived and disadvantaged, the Centre for Distance Education was established in 1977.  It now offers Under Graduate and Post-Graduate courses in Arts, Social Sciences, Commerce, Management and Sciences, apart from job-oriented programmes. The Academic Staff College was started in 1987 with the support of the University Grants Commission (UGC), to train and orient college and university teachers both in pedagogy and in areas of specialization.

Keeping in view the imperatives of rural development, particularly human resources development and rural industrialization, the University embarked upon the strategy of decentralization of higher education, by establishing Post-Graduate Centres in the districts.

Fourth Phase (1994 onwards): The University introduced several community-relevant courses as part of its development plan for the year 1996-2001 in areas of Environmental Sciences, Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering, Tourism and Hotel Management, Computer Applications, Rural Engineering and Health Technology, etc.

New P.G Centers were established at Districts of Mahabub Nagar and Nalgonda. Later these were elevated to the status of New Universities along with the P.G Center at Bhiknur, Nizamabad District in the years of 2006- 08.

“Notable persons conferred with Honorary Doctorate was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (1953) the Father of Indian Constitution and Dr. Manmohan Singh (1994) the Father of Economic Reforms and former Prime Minister,” Prof. Venkateshwerlu said.

As part of celebrations there are plans to invite many Nobel Laureates. Kurt Wuthrich, Professor of Chemistry, addressed the students on Feb. 10, 2017 and Kailash Satyarthi is also expected to address. Other events include discussion on perspective for the next 50 years, share success stories of alumni, seminar on Telangana Culture and Literature, Cultural Programmes in coordination with Department of Culture, VCs’ Conference on Role of Higher Education and Mock Parliament, involving students.

“It is proposed to felicitate 100 reputed alumni that include former VCs and reputed personalities,” the Special Officer said. Apart from the three-day celebrations in April, an international conference on ‘Insurance’ has been planned by the Dept. of Commerce from July 29 - 31, 2017,” he said.

“Two exhibitions, firstly a Photo Exhibition will be organised at the venue showcasing the rare photographs of Osmania University and the progression of Osmania University from 1917 to 2017. Secondly, there are also plans to hold Science Exhibition, ” Prof. Venkateshwerlu said.

Other celebrations include, National Sports and Games Meet in Nov. to Dec. this year. On March 11, the varsity organised a centenary run, where many of them took part.

Flagship Programmes: OU’s other flagship programmes in the Centenary year include establishing a Centre for Telangana Studies, which will be headed by a Centenary Chair and will have the mandate to collect and analyse information pertaining to societal issues and their mitigation from all the 31 districts. Also set up Skill Development Centre to address training human resources - faculty of various universities, Government and private colleges and other institutions effectively. This facility would train the trainers from the State who in turn would improve the skills of the students enrolled in their institutions.

“The University proposes to set up Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Studies to provide a platform for conducting research to prepare inventories of biological resources, understand threats to the habitats and the species and propose mitigation actions. This Centre will act as a liaison between the State Forest Department and citizens,” he said.

The Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, of Ammapally, located near Shamshabad Village, built by Venghi Kings, was conferred the INTACH Heritage Award in the year 2010. Though the State Endowments Department is doing its best to ensure that prayers and rituals are carried out regularly at the Temple, more needs to be done to protect this ancient temple.

Not many would be familiar with the 800-year-old Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, of Ammapally, located near Shamshabad Village, nearly 40 kilometers from the city. Our historical scriptures state that many centuries ago Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lord Krishna have lived in this part of the country and there are many tales surrounding it too.

The Temple priest Satyanarayana Murthy has been in the service of the Lord for the last 23 years. “Since the day, I began serving the Lord, he has taken care of all my needs,” says the priest. He along with another priest Anveesh Sharma, who too has been here since the last eight years, serves the Lord here. He says that Lord Ram during his 14-year-exile had stayed in this area and the idols here came up after that. “Look closely at the idols, all the idols has been carved from one single stone. Lord Ram has a Kodandam (bow) in his right hand. This kind of Ram is not visible in all the temples. In all, there may be only five temples like this,” says Murthy.

Giving a detailed description of the deities in the sanctum sanctorum, the priest says that Sri Sita Devi, Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana are unique. “Each of the idols and its Makara Thoranam are beautifully carved from single black rock, the idols are not separate as in the case of other temples. One visits the Lord Rama temple here and he has the darshan of the Dashavataras (10 incarnations) too. The Dashavataras are beautifully sculpted on top of Sri Rama’s idol, in a semi-circle, which is four feet tall and that of Sri Sita Devi and Sri Lakshmana, a little less,” he says.

In the main sanctum sanctorum, you will not see Sri Anjaneya Swamy’s idol at the feet of Sri Rama as seen in many temples and pictures in circulation. This temple is also known as Kodandaramaswamy temple. “That is the specialty of this temple,” says the priest. “Sri Anjaneya Swamy’s idol is at the Dhwaja Sthambam facing Lord Sri Rama. When devotees come and pray here, Lord Sri Rama instructs Sri Anjaneya Swamy to accomplish their wishes. And for this reason, he is always waiting outside the sanctum sanctorum to take instructions from Lord Sri Rama and rush to the help of his devotees,” says Murthy.

Inside the sanctum sanctorum, no coconuts are broken, the devotee himself has to break it outside and then puja is performed by the priests. While doing the aarti, the priest assures that the devotees don’t block Lord Rama’s contact (way) to Sri Anjaneya, so that the Lord can instruct Hanuman accordingly.

There are two Sri Anjaneya idols, one orange-coloured Hanuman and other in black stone. One Hanuman is placed at the foot step of Dhwaja Sthambam and the other Hanuman is placed backside of Dhwaja Sthambam facing the temple tower as if welcoming the devotees.

Earlier, temples were located far off from human habitation, so that people would dedicate a day to prayers. Come important festivals and many throng well-known temples like the Srisailam Temple dedicated to Lord Malikarjunaswamy another name for Lord Shiva for the grand Mahashivratri festival. The Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, as the name suggests dedicated to Lord Ram, Sri Rama Navami is celebrated in a grand manner here. Every month, on Punaravsu nakshatram (as per the Hindu almanac), kalyanam is celebrated with traditional fervour. This month it falls on March 8.

The temple priest shares that Sri Rama Navami is a five-day festival here. “It is a time of annual Brahmotsavams and kalyanam here. Kalyanam is performed on the fourth day, which falls on Sri Rama Navamai day,” he says. The temple is decorated on that day and the whole place comes alive with many devotees thronging the place to receive the blessings of Lord Ram and Goddess Sita. Some say that like mother talking in favour of the child to the father, the same way Goddess Sita too tells Lord Ram about the difficulties of their devotees, hence the name Sita Ramchandraswami, the goddess name coming first to the Lord. Remember Sita-Ram, Radha-Krishna or Lakshmi-Narasimhaswamy.

Murthy says that when he joined the temple, way back in 1995, there was hardly anyone coming to pay obeisance here. “Today, on any given day, there are nearly 200 visitors, including the locals, coming to pray here,” he says. The senior priest adds that not only Sri Rama Navami, but all festivals are celebrated here with traditional fervor and gaiety. “Even Vijaya Dashmi is celebrated on a grand scale,” he says.  The priest informs that a majority of the pilgrims who visit the temple return for the thanksgiving to the Lord for his kindness and fulfilling of their wishes. “These days many people are coming forward to celebrate their Silver Wedding anniversary here. Some couples come here to marry again in true South Indian style,” he says.  Not to forget that the temple has nadaswaram and dhol players in attendance. Many of them have been in the service of the Lord for nearly 10 years. The musicians have had their training at Srikalahasti, while the priests have trained in Telangana only.

The priest adds that for the fulfillment of vows, devotees tie some offerings in a small bundle to a tree in the courtyard after offering prayers. “The bundles are opened only after the fulfillment of one’s wish,” he says. There were many bundles of various shapes and sizes and bangles tied to the tree in the courtyard.

Giving us a little peak into the history of the temple, Murthy says that Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam was built sometime in the 11th century by the local rulers called Venghi Rajulu. He shares that the ancient temple dating back to 11th century caught the attention of the public after shooting of Mahesh Babu and Sonali Bendre Telugu movie Murari.

In 2010, Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam received the XV INTACH Heritage Award from the Governor Sri E S L Narsimhan on World Heritage Day. Today the temple is managed by the State Endowments Department, who has ensured that prayers and other rituals are carried out as per the Hindu traditions.

More recently, the Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, Ammapalli, was in the news as Gudi Sambralu (Temple Festivities) was held here. It was organised under the banner of Parampara Foundation, which has deep concerns for heritage and culture.”Parampara is working towards reviving art forms in temples to connect with our rich cultural heritage,” say Dr. Srinagi B Rao and Shashi Reddy. They recently organised a two-day dance festival. On the first day it was Dr. Ananda Shankar Jayant and second day it was Ratikant Mahapatra and Kiranmayee.

A visit to Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam will bring peace and contentment to all. This ancient temple is a treat for students of history. It is Sangam of all architectures. There is Rajasthani, Mughal and South Indian. It is firmly believed that only after the construction of this temple the Golconda Fort and Charminar have come up. The first thing one did after alighting form the car at the temple was visit the step well, which was very fascinating and breathtaking.  Today there is a stage in the centre where people can sit on the steps and appreciate the fine arts. The ancient architecture here speaks volumes. On all three different sides there are different kinds of architecture. Surrounded by coconut trees, this step well is of Rajasthan style popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Just facing the temple, there is a two-storey building that would have been a resting place for devotees after of before the darshan. Closely examine the Gopuram, it is a seven storey one. The top level of the Gopuram, built in solid stone, reflects the South Indian style. On this layer, the idols and statues in the stone are intricately detailed. The lower floors of the temple gopuram need urgent repairs and the pigeons are also spoiling it. On the front side of the gopuram, one can see Sri Seshashayee Vishnu. What is prominent that strikes you when you look at the temple is its Rajasthani style arches that are generally found in Havelis and palaces of the desert state.

An observation of the Gopuram reveals that the masonry work of the arches may have been added much later, may be during the construction of the step well in the temple compound.

The temple priest says that apart from Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, in the vicinity there are Sri Mahalingeswara Swamy and Sri Anjaneya Swamy temples along with lawns spread over 9.5 acres land. People are visiting these temples too, especially on Mondays to Sri Mahalingeswara Swamy. It must be noted that there are no electricity lighting inside the sancta sanctorum and one has to see the lord with the traditional lights and the lord mesmerizes everyone with his beauty. Also in the complex was ‘Koti Rama Sthamb’, where people who had written Sri Rama Naamam had been placed.

Students from nearby areas were making use of the open space and greenery to play. Though the Endowments Department is doing its best to protect this ancient heritage structure, private enterprises must come forward to protect these monuments for future generations. To reach the Sri Sita Ramachandraswamy Devasthanam, take the PV Narasimha Rao Expressway and reach Shamshabad Bus Station which is on the right hand side. Take a right turn along the bus station and travel straight along Rallaguda Road, till one reaches the ‘Kamaan of the Temple’ (Temple entrance arch) to the left. Pass through the arch to reach the temple precincts.

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Potti Sriramulu fasted for over 50 days, for achieving the State of Andhra (India), and lost his life in the process. His sacrifice became instrumental in the linguistic re-organisation of States

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