Kuchipudi

It is said that Indian Classical Dance has a Divine origin, The Lord Nataraja (King of dance) was the first one to performed his tandava, the cosmic dance (which had very fast, vigorous, sharp and precise movements). Then that dance was picked up and performed by his consort Parvati, who created lasya (soft, delicate and very graceful movements). Nataraja taught the dance to bull Nandi, Nandi taught to others and like that dance was spread.

Sculptural evidence from all parts of India and the surrounding region points to a rich tradition of dance and music that flourished over a thousand years ago. All over ancient India, it would seem, dance and music were seen not merely as ways to celebrate but also as offerings of worship and thanksgiving to the Divine. Those sacral dances were performed by the temple dancers called the Devadasis. The Devadasis were the living wives of gods, every day they made their worship dance for the God of the temple. They were especially esteemed and it is said, that those, who speak with them could be purified.

So like that, Kuchipudi of Andra Pradesh, took its blossom in India. It is taking its name from the village of its origin, Kuchipudi, in Andra Pradesh the Southern state of India, where it was nurtured by great scholars and artists who built up the repertoire and refined the dance technique.

Six miles away from it lays Srikakulam, the ancient capital of the Satavahana empire (2nd century BC). The rules of the Satavahana dynasty were great patrons of art. From the inscriptions found here, on the temples of Andra Vishnu, which was the most sacred shrine of those days, it is evident that no less than 300 devadasis consecrated to the deity, received royal patronage. The sculptures excavated in this area have crystallized into stone the grace of those women whose dance was an act of worship.

Over the course of time, the dance forms practised in the different parts of the country were codified and developed distinct identities according to the geographic, socio-economic, and political conditions of each region.

It is said, that Kuchipudi style was born in II century BC in Andra Pradesh, but the name of this style had appeared rather later in XIV century.

As empires rose and fell in the Andra territory, religions also as well as arts shared their fate.

Around 2nd century AD the Satavahana Empire declined along with the Vedic religion, Buddhism rose to greater importance and held way till it was replaced by Jainism under the Easter Chalukyas. In order to propagate their religion, these Jain rulers exploited all the available dance form patronizing both classical and Margi style of Devadasis- some of whom by then had degenerated into Rajanartakis or court-dancers.

The Chalukyas gave away to the Kakatiyas of Warangal, the followers of the Virsaiva cult, by about the 12th century and later on they were invaded by the Muslim ruler Mohammed bin Tughlack. In course of time Viranarasimha III, ruler of neighboring kindom of Kaliga, annexed the region around Srikakulam and renovated the Andhra Visnu Temple, giving again rise to Vaishnavism. Narayana Tirtha became regent after demise of the Kalinga ruler in 1227 and was propagating the Krushna cult. By the 14th century AD, the worship of Krishna was at its heights and the dancers performed this feeling of total devotion to the Blue God.

Siddhendra Yogi (14th century AD) is said to be the first scholar to give it the current form of dance drama. He began to propagate the Bhama cult, also known as Madhura bhakti. Bhamakalapam is one of his celebrated compositions. He also reserved the art to males by teaching it to young brahmin boys of the village, fearing that devadasis or rajadasis will misinterpreted its high spiritual ethos. They boys who were given a vigorous training in abhinaya, music, dancing , they had to study religious texts and sancrit.Under Sidhendra Yogi`s leadership they traveled village to village performing these dance drama and came to be called Kichilu, an abbreviation of the sanscrit word Kushilava, meaning the cast of dramatic. He took the Brahmin artist to the waste land nearby and made it their own special residential settlement which was gradually transformed into village known as Kuchilapuram or abode of dancers-actors. Which later shorten into Kuchipudi.

Since that the Kuchipudi became known all over India. But only by mid 20th century Vedantam Lakshminarayana Shastri initiated women also into this discipline, bringing out as well the solo form, from Kuchipudi dance tradition. Which now co-exist parallelly and today women playing even men`s roles.

Kuchipudi is accompanied by Carnatic music (South Indian classical style). A typical orchestra for a Kuchipudi recital includes the mridangam, flute,violin and veena. Traditionally dancer used to sing and performed, however with cause of time only lip movement remained, now a vocalist sings the lyrics, and the nattuvanar (conductor) conducts the orchestra and recites the rhythmic patterns.

The technique of Kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body postures, using codified hand gestures along facial expression, occasionally including dialogues spoken by the dancers. Trough which the artist brings to live the essence of the poetry of the song; along with emotions awoken by music and decorative pieces of pure dance, dancer tells us the stories.

One of unique feature of Kuchipudi is the Tarangam, in which the performer dances on the edges of a brass plate, executing complicated rhythmic patterns and adavus with dexterity.

Theory of Kuchipudi is based on treatise “Natya Shasta” belonging to the same time (2nd BC), which imbibes the knowledge of dramaturgy, dance, music, sculpture, literature and architecture. Its author Bharata Muni , is believed, was asked by Lord Brahma , to write the fifth veda, which could carry knowledge to the masses (as other four Vedas were excessable only to Brahmins).