Kuchipudi

Amongst all the classical dance forms, Kuchipudi is considered closest to the Sanskrit theatrical tradition followed in Bharata's Natyasastra. I am reminded of a popular story that my aunt (a danc-
er herself) told me a few years ago abo-
ut the evolution of Kuchipudi.

In the 13th century there was a young man named Siddhappa whose marriage was arranged to a beautiful girl. Unfort-
unately, while crossing the river to atte-
nd his wedding his boat capsized and he was on the verge of being drowned.

He pleaded with God to save him and promised to dedicate his life to the serv-
ice of God. Miraculously he was saved, and on that day, he was "re-born" as Siddhendra Yogi. He wrote a drama in praise of Krishna and gathered dancers to perform the same. These dancers were all male as he felt the inclusion of females might lead to the decadence of the art.

This style which had its origins in the Bhagavata Mela Natakam or dance drama trad-
ition has come to be known as the Kuchipudi dance style today. The dance style gets its name from the village called Kuchipudi, where this dance drama tradition was nurt-
ured in all its sanctity for many decades.

How this dance drama tradition came to be nurtured in the Kuchipudi village is a sto-
ry of the religious tolerance that existed in India even in the 13th century. It so happe-
ned that a group of dancers performed in the court of a nawab in Andhra Pradesh. Their rendition of the dance drama was so impressive that he gifted the village of Kuchipudi to the artists with the promise that they would continue the tradition of performing.

From that day onwards all the male scions of the Kuchipudi village have pursued this art. Different themes taken from Indian mythology form the content of these dance dramas. There are several interesting incidents in the history of Kuchipudi. Once a group of Kuchipudi artistes depicted the atrocities inflicted by a cruel ruler in the nei-
ghbouring king's court. So effective was their rendition that the king put an immediate end to the tyrannical ruler.

The training for the Kuchipudi artiste begins at a young age with parallel training in music, Sanskrit, ancient scriptures and mythology. After rigorous training for seven years, the artiste is given an oppurtunity to perform in small roles in major dance dra-
mas. Thereafter depending on his prowess, he will progress to senior roles. The fema-
le roles in the dance drama were also performed by males. Vacchika abhinaya i.e. enactment through dialogue and singing is an integral part of the drama.

This dance-drama tradition was so beautiful that close to the turn of this century it developed into a solo dance style and was perfomed by female artistes.


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Kuchipudi


Mudra ||  4000 years old! ||  Dance of Shiva ||  Bharatanatyam ||  Kathak ||  Kuchipudi ||  Kathakali || 
Mohini Attam ||  Odissi ||  Manipuri ||  Bibliography ||