Kuchipudi Nruthya Tapasvi from India
|Genre||Indian classical dance|
|Origin||Andhra Pradesh, India|
Kuchipudi (//) is an Indian classical dance originating in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, India, but popular all over South India. According to legend, Tirtha Narayanayati, a sanyasin of Advaitic persuasion and his disciple, an orphan named Siddhendra Yogi founded the Kuchipudi dance-drama tradition. It was popularized by Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and many other dancers.
The performance usually begins with stage rites. Then, each of the characters comes on the stage and introduces themselves with a dharavu (a brief composition of both song and dance). The dharavu introduces the identity of the character and sets the mood. The drama then begins. The dance is accompanied by song, typically Carnatic music. The singer is accompanied by mridangam, veena, flute and the tambura.
Kuchipudi, like other classical dance forms in India, traces its origin to the Natya Shastra, a foundational treatise on the performing arts written between 200 BCE and 200 CE. It started developing into its own distinct style during bhakti movement that started in Tamil Nadu and spread toward the north and east between the seventh and tenth centuries A.D. The bhakti movement encouraged followers to attain spiritual union with God not through sacrifices, rituals, pilgrimages, or prayers, but through the “force of pure love and fervent yearning for God.” In South India, the movement gave rise to traveling devotee-artists, called bhagavatars in Tamil Nadu and bhagavatulus in Andhra, who used music, dance, and drama to teach people philosophic truths and bring them closer to the divine. In Andhra, the bhagavatulus gave rise to the precursors to Kuchipudi. In Tamil Nadu, the bhagavatars likewise gave rise to a counterpart to Kuchipudi, Bhagavata Mela Nataka.
During the Bhakti movement between the seventh to tenth century A.D, Kuchipudi was developed by unifying two formal dance-drama streams. The Stree Smapradaayam, solo-pieces performed by women of courtesan and artisan class with themes based on Ashta Nayika, Shringara Rasa, Padams and Javali. The other, Purusha Sampradaayam performed by men, which flourished as drama tradition with religious themes from the Puranas. The Sree Sampradaayam in particular, were referred to by various terms but they were popularly known as Kalavantulu - a term which derives from Kalavati meaning a woman who excels in the arts.
The Purusha Sampradaayam performed by men, emphasized on drama tradition with religious themes from the Bhagavata Purana came to dominate during this period. Tirtha Narayanayati, a Telugu sanyasin of Advaitic persuasion and his disciple, an orphan named Sidhyendra Yogi is the founder of Kuchipudi. Tirtha Narayanayati authored Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini and introduced sequences of rhythmic dance syllables at the end of the cantos, he wrote this work as a libretto for a dance-drama. Yati lived for a while in the Tanjore district and presented the dance-drama in the Tanjore temple. His disciple, Sidhyendra Yogi, followed up with another play, the Parijatapaharana, or The Stealing of the Parijata Flower, more commonly known as the Bhama Kalapam. (There are three versions of the story. In the first, Lord Krishna appears before Sidhyendra and promises moksha if he told this love epic. In another, Sidhyendra promises Krishna to dedicate his life to bhakti if his life was saved during a dangerous river-crossing. In the third, Sidhyendra was simply inspired by his devotion and love for God to compose the work. The Parijatapaharana tells the story of how Rukmini asked Krishna to get her the Parijata tree from the garden of the god Indra and Satyabhama's jealousy as a result.
When Sidhyendra Yogi finished the play, he had trouble finding suitable performers. So he went to Kuchelapuram, the village of his wife’s family and present-day Kuchipudi, where he enlisted a group of young brahmin boys to put on the play. It is believed that, at Sidhyendra’s request, the villagers agreed to perform the play once a year and to ensure their sons and grandsons did so as well. The neighboring villages are said to have taken up the tradition as well, though only in Kuchipudi is the dance-drama still practiced.
Kuchipudi enjoyed support from rulers. In 1678, the Nawab of Golkonda, Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, having been pleased by a Kuchipudi performance, granted the dancers lands around the Kuchipudi village, with the stipulation that they continue the dance-drama.
In the following three centuries, more works have been added to the repertoire of the tradition. The most popular dance-drama is Bhama Kalapam of Sidhyendra Yogi. Narayana Teertha composed the Krishna Lila Tarangini, a story of Krishna’s life beginning from his birth to his marriage to Rukmini. Ramiah Sastri, inspired by the Bhama Kalapam, wrote the Golla Kalapam, which portrays the theme of an ethical satirical conversation between a Gopi and a Brahmin. The dance songs of Thyagaraja were also added to the repertoire.
The art form has continued to evolve after its inception. Hari Madhavayya introduced elements from Bahagavata Mela Nataka into Kuchipudi. In the early twentieth century, Chinta Venkataramayya united several families of artists to create the Venkatarama Natya Mandali, a dance company that toured extensively with a large repertoire. Under the influence of Dharwad and Parsi drama companies, Kuchipudi companies used more colloquial language and added advanced stage design, lighting, and costuming.
The art was waning in the sex period under competition from film, but enjoyed a resurgence after independence. Banda Kanakalingeswara Rao, Vissa Appa Rao, and Tandava Krishna promoted awareness and pride in the tradition among the Andhra people by writing articles in newspapers and journals and organizing performances. Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastri, with his son Jagannath Sarma, introduced solo performances and female dancers (until now all dancers were men, even for female roles.) The historic All India Dance Seminar, organized by the national arts organization Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1958, thrust Kuchipudi to the national stage.
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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. 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 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
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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 BCE) 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 BCE). 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: 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. 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.
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