HYDERABAD: Kings, their dancers-cum-concubines, and how the former took good care of the latter continue to fascinate many. Discoveries being made are shedding light on the fancies of the kings of medieval times, and their interests in art forms and literature. One such discovery was made last week by Dr D Satyanarayana, historian and Director of the Nehru Centenary Tribal Museum.
He discovered a Bhogini Mandapa built atop a hillock in Rachakonda by Sarvagnya Singa Bhupala, the king who ruled Recharla Padmanayaka dynasty in Telangana from 1385 to 1399 CE. He has also found a figure of the king engraved on a rock wall inside a cavern behind the mandapa.
In Bhogini Dandakam, poet Bammera Pothana had written how Bhogini, the daughter of a prostitute, had captivated the interest of Singa Bhupala through her beauty and singing and dancing capabilities.
He also wrote about how dance classes and competitions were held at the king’s court, especially at the annual dance programmes on Vasantotsavam, which used to be celebrated in the name of Laxmi Prasanna Gopala. Pothana had written that the king had built the Bhogini Mandapam in honour of one such Bhogini in Rachakonda.
Singa Bhupala had rejected the earlier treatment of Bhoginis as ordinary women and advocated their acceptance as heroines in plays. In support of this, the king had himself composed a Sanskrit play titled Ratnapanchaalika, which was about a Bhogini named Kuvalayaavali who loved and married Lord Krishna. “This Bhogini was treated in a special way as she could sing in many ragas, perform both folk and classical dances, was in her teens and was extremely beautiful,” said Dr Satyanarayana.
Vaanamaamalai Varadacharyulu, who studied Pothana’s and other contemporary works, had composed Bhogini Laasyam, in which he described Singa Bhupala riding a horse like the incarnation of Kalki, which could be seen in the picture engraved on the rock wall, which is still intact.
“Out of love for Singa Bhupala, the Bhogini had herself employed a skilled sculptor to chisel the figure of the king, and she, along with other dancers, used to worship him,” said Dr Satyanarayana. He also added that the widow from where she used to watch the king arrive at the Vasantotsavam was still there.
He also found another mandapa with a similar architecture on top of a boulder, above the Bhogini mandapa. The locals call these mandapas Bogam Dani Mancham, translated as Bhogini’s cot.