|1951 (age 72–73)
Darshanam Mogilaiah (born in 1951) also known as Kinnera Mogulaiah, is an artist from the Indian state of Telangana and is one among a few surviving performers of a tribal musical instrument known by the name Kinnera. The kinnera is a stringed instrument much like a veena whose origin can be traced back to as early as the 4th century CE. The instrument is indigenous to the nomadic tribes and the Dalit communities in the Deccan Plateau such as the Dakkali, Madiga and the Chenchu. There are kinneras with different numbers of stairs or steps. Mogilaiah's forefathers were pioneers in making and playing kinneras having different numbers of stairs. His father had made a nine-stair kinnera. Mogilaiah was the first person to create a 12-stair kinnera and he is the only artist who makes and plays the 12-step kinnera. In the year 2022, Govt of India honoured him with the Padma Shri award for his contributions as a kinnera musician.
Darshanam Mogilaiah hails from a Madiga (Dalit) family in the Ausalikunta village of Lingal mandal in Nagarkurnool district of Telangana along the stretches of Nallamala Hills. He has had not much formal education and has had no steady job with an assured income. He has seen much hardships and his life had been very difficult eking out a living doing odd jobs like a daily wager in construction sites. He had worked as a laborer for 14 years in Adilabad, Karimnagar and Warangal. He had also worked at a construction site in Mumbai.
In a sense, Mogulaiah reinvented the kinnera. Kinnera is a two-stringed instrument made using indigenous materials like bamboo, dried outer shell of round bottle gourd, honeycomb, bull horn, beads, mirrors and peacock feathers. His ancestors made the kinnera with seven, eight or nine stairs. He was the first to make a kinnera with 12 stairs. His forefathers used women's hair, horse-tail hair and even animal nerves as the strings. He replaced the nerves with metal strings. Mogulaiah learned the art of playing kinnera from his father Yellaiah. He had started traveling with his father from the age of eight. Now, Mogulaiah has been singing folk tales of local heroes for over five decades, heroes who all helped the poor like Pandugolla Sayanna, Endavetla Pakiraiah and Miya Saab, all of whom helped the poor.
Moglaiah's forefathers are believed to have played the kinnera in the court of the Raja of Wanaparthy about 400 years ago. Wanaparthy Samsthanam or Raja of Wanaparthy was a vassal of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It was one of the three important samsthanams, the other two being Gadwal Samsthanam and Jatprole Samsthanam. He has sung a part of the title song of the 2022 Telugu language action drama film, Bheemla Nayak directed by Saagar K Chandra and starring Pawan Kalyan.
Mogulaiah's second son Mahender accompanies his father for the kinnera performances in cultural programs held in different parts of the country. Mahendar is now learning to play kinnera and taking his father's legacy forward.