Kuchipudi – Indian Classical Dance

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India is a land of different types of dances and classical dance is one among them which became a pride to our nation. Of all the eleven classical forms, Kuchipudi is the one famous for dance-drama performance, with its roots in the old-age Hindu Sanskrit text of performing arts called Natya Shastra. It is originated from a village called ‘Kudipudi’ of Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India. Traditionally, it connects with temples, spiritual beliefs and travelling bards.

This dance form took place in the 10th-century copper inscriptions and in 15th-century texts like ‘Machupalli Kaifať. This is also considered as the Sanyassin of Advaita Vedanta group and in the 17th century, Tirtha Narayana Yati and his disciple Siddhendra Yogi started, methodized and arranged the present day version of the dance form. Generally, Kuchipudi collection is aligned on Lord Krishna and the tradition of Vaishnavism such as invocation, dharavu, nritta and nritya respectively.

Generally, Kuchipudi starts with an invocation and then each costumed actor is introduced. After the introduction, their roles are specified and then perform a short dance called Dharavu. After that, the performance proceeds with a pure dance called Nritta which is further followed by the expressive part of the performance called nritya in which the rhythmic hand gestures help to showcase the story. The performance is further accompanied by Vocal and instrumental Carnatic music in the Telugu language and those typical musical instruments included are Mridangam, Cymbals, Veena, Flute and the Tambura. Kuchipudi is performed worldwide and has gained popularity within India.

The full version of the text first completed during 200 BCE and 200 CE but some calculations show that it varies between 500 BCE and 500CE. The Natya Shastra text consists of about 6000 verses phrased into 36 chapters. The text indicates Natalia Lidova and various Indian Classical dances such as theory of Tandava dance of Shiva, the theory of rasa, bhava, expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps and standing postures. These as Bhagavata Mela Nataka. According to Saskia Kersenboom, both Kuchipudi and Bhagavata Mela are associated with the classical Hindu dance tradition of Yakshagana in Karnataka. All three have Carnatic music in common but have differences in costumes, structure, interpretation and creative innovations. There were many assumptions for its emergence and are discussed below:

  • According to Manohar Varadpande, Kuchipudi came into existence in the late 13th century, when Kalingas were the supporters of performance arts based on the 12th-century Sanskrit scholar Jayadeva, especially the Gita Govinda. Varadpande also encouraged many poets and dance-drama artists to adopt Radha Krishna themes into the classical Kuchipudi and in general called as Vaishnava Bhagavatulus.
  • Tirtha Narayanayati was a 17th-century Telugu sanyasin of Advaita Vedanta group and his disciple, a Telugu Brahmin orphan named Sidhyendra Yogi played a prominent role in the modern version of Kuchipudi. Some of the works of Tirtha Narayanayati are Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini, sequences of rhythmic dance syllables at the end of the cantos, the libretto for a dance-drama. As Narayanayati lived in the Tanjore district for a while, he presented the dance-drama in the Tanjore temple.
  • Sidhyendra Yogi, the disciple of Narayanayati presented a play called Parijatapaharana, commonly known as the Bhama Kalapam. After finishing the play, he couldn’t find suitable performers. So he went to his wife’s village called Kuchelapuram and recently known as Kuchipudi, where he found a group of young Brahmin boys to perform the play. According to the tradition, Sidhyendra requested the villagers to perform the play once a year and this came to be known as Kuchipudi.

Traditionally the male artists wear dhoti and angivastra and women’s performing wear saree with fan stitched pleats in front so that their perfect foot steps are seen clearly and beautiful. The female artists wear jewelry like in bharatnatyam but they tie their hair breads somewhat different then Bharatnatyam. They use light make up and while performing their face expression and dance performance attracts viewers towards classical dance. Mallika sarabhai , Yamini Krishnamurty are famous kuchipudi and bharatnatyam dancers. Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Dr. Uma Rao, Kamla Readdy, Nilimma Devi are some of the famous dancers who took this dance in foreign countries.

To see our traditional dance loved in foreign countries is a moment to be proud and to do so we should inspire our youngsters towards classical moves. Take a visit to cultural dance programs, make our child to join classical dance or music.


Image source: https://www.tfa.org


Trupti Bhatt

Extremely enthusiastic about writing, reading, movies and food; though not necessarily in that order! A Feminist by choice and finds comfort in giving 'gyaan' from time to time. Would love constructive feedback on my writing as I am always looking for ways to improve!

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