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For the village in Andhra Pradesh, India, see Kuchipudi, Krishna district.
Kuchipudi dancer in "Tribhanga" bangima (posture)
Kuchipudi dancer in "Lathangi" bangima (posture)
A Kuchipudi dancer performing at IIM Bangalore
A Kuchipudi dancer performing at Shantala Arts Festival, Bangalore

Kuchipudi /kiˈpdi/ is an Indian classical dance originating in Andhra Pradesh, India, but popular all over South India. According to legend, an orphan named Siddhendra Yogi[1] founded the Kuchipudi dance-drama tradition.[2]

The performance usually begins with stage rites. Then, each of the characters comes on the stage and introduces themselves with a dharavu (a small composition of both song and dance.) The dharavu introduces the identity of the character and set the mood. The drama then begins. The dance is accompanied by song, typically Carnatic music. The singer is accompanied by mridangam, violin, flute and the tambura. Ornaments worn by the artists are generally made of a lightweight wood called Boorugu. It originated in the seventh century.


Bharata Muni who wrote the Natya Shastra had explained various aspects of this dance form. Later sometime in the 13th century, the impetus to kuchipudi was given by Siddhendra Yogi. Well-versed in the Natyashasra, he composed a dance-drama Parijatapaharana.[3]

Kuchipudi dancers are quicksilver and scintillating, rounded and fleet-footed, they perform with grace and fluid movements. Performed to classical Carnatic music, it shares many common elements with Bharata Natyam. In its solo exposition Kuchipudi numbers include 'jatiswaram' and 'tillana' whereas in nrityam it has several lyrical compositions reflecting the desire of a devotee to merge with God. In an era of the degeneration of dance due to exploitation of female dancers, an ascetic, Beyond the stylistic differences of Kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam steps,[clarification needed] there are certain types of dances that are unique to Kuchipudi: Specifically there is the Tarangam which is unique in that the dancer holds a plate with two diyas (small oil-burning candles) in her hands while balancing a "kindi" (small vessel) containing water.

The dance styles in the state are based on the standard treatises, Abhinaya Darpana and Bharatarnava of Nandikeshwara, which is sub-divided into Nattuva Mala and Natya Mala. Nattuva Mala is of two types — the Puja dance performed on the Balipitha in the temple and the Kalika dance performed in a Kalyana Mandapam. Natya Mala is of three kinds — ritual dance for gods, Kalika dance for intellectuals and Bhagavatam for common place. The Natya Mala is a dance-drama performed by a troupe, consisting only of men, who play feminine roles.

Movements and music[edit]

The songs in Kuchipudi are mimed with alluring expressions, swift looks and fleeting emotions evoking the rasa. In Tarangam at times she places a pot full of water on her head and dances on the brass plate. The song accompanying this number is from the well known Krishna Leela Tarangini, a text which recounts the life and events of Lord Krishna.

In expressional numbers a dancer sometimes chooses to enact the role of Satyabhama, the proud and self-assured queen of Lord Krishna, from the dance-drama Bhama Kalapam. She goes through various stages of love. When in separation from Lord Krishna, she recalls the happy days of union and pines for him. At last they are reunited when she sends him a letter.

One more number from the Kuchipudi repertoire that deserves mention is Krishna Shabdam, in which a milkmaid invites Krishna for a rendezvous in myriads of ways giving full scope for the dancer to display the charms of a woman.

Kuchipudi is as ancient as Natya astra (1st century BC) in which mention is made of a dance drama form besides solo. An invocatory verse also indicates that four forms of dance were prevalent then, of which 'Dakshintya' or South Indian form is apparently the earliest version of Kuchipudi. There is also historical evidence that the art flourished during the reign of the Satavahanas (2nd century BC). Over the centuries as the performances were dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, the form came to be known as Bhagavata Mela Natakam. It was during Siddhendra Yogi's time (14th–15th century) that it came to be known as Kuchipudi, named after the village established by Siddhendra Yogi where his follower, the Brahmin performers settled down.

Two parallel schools of dance have existed since time immemorial, viz. Nattuva Mela and Natya Mela. The former evolved into Bharat Natyam and the latter into Kuchipudi. There is difference in the presentation itself. The main difference lies in the abhinaya. The graceful, lasya oriented Kuchipudi gives importance to Vakyartha abhinaya go together. Bharatanatyam on the other hand is Mudra oriented and gives importance to Padartha abhinaya, each word interpreted through mudras. Certain movements are characteristic to Kuchipudi. Vachika abhinaya (use of words/dialogues) is also a special feature of the Kuchipudi style.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Banham, Sunil Kothari, Avinash Pasricha (2001). Kuchipudi. New Delhi, India: Shakti Malik, Abhinav Publications. 
  2. ^ Banham, edited by James R. Brandon ; advisory editor, Martin (1993). The Cambridge guide to Asian theatre (Pbk. ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 96. ISBN 9780521588225. 
  3. ^ Banham, Sunil Kothari, Avinash Pasricha (2001). Kuchipudi. New Delhi, India: Shakti Malik, Abhinav Publications. 

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