ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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​​​​​​​Culture, Spirituality, and Catharsis in Balagam

Venu Yeldandi’s film Balagam explores death, ritual, and community support in Telangana’s marginalised Sabbanda community.

Telangana is home to diverse cultural practices adapted from Sufi, Persian, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions during different times in history. One such ritualistic tradition—pittamuttudu—is the central theme of the Telugu film Balagam (2023), directed by Venu Yeldandi. Though the practice of offering food to crows is common in many parts of India, here is a community that construes its significance on a greater level. In the film, when the crow mysteriously denies the food offered by Komaraiah’s eldest son Ailaiah, it is believed by the community that Komaraiah’s soul is left unsatisfied due to unfulfilled wishes. So much so that the community leaders decide to socially boycott Ailaiah’s family. The crow’s mysterious denial of food offered to it achieves tragic effect in the film. Balagam portrays the cultural norms that follow the death of a person in the Sabbanda communities. The film derives its images from the culture of meat-eating and liquor offered not only at community gatherings but also to the souls that have left the human world.

In Sabbanda culture, the final ritual of the last rites is not the immersion of the funeral ashes in the river as the Brahmins do. It ends with the ritual of offering food to a crow. This represents the philosophy of satisfying the soul of the dead person by satisfying the appetite of birds and animals. Moreover, this philosophy implies that humans do not hold any special status over animals and birds.

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Updated On : 8th Aug, 2023
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