Kuchipudi [pronounced as ‘koochipoodi] origin of the name
It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, in Andhra Pradesh, India. As a classical form of dance, drama and music, Kuchipudi enjoys a unique place among the Indian classical idioms. Kuchipudi grew largely as a product of the Bhakti movement beginning in the seventh century A.D. It was in the 14th century, however, that the ascetic Siddhendra Yogi appeared on the scene and gave Kuchipudi a new definition and direction.
KUCHIPUDI SPECIAL CHRACTERISTICS
Compared to the other Indian classical dance styles, kuchipudi is closest to Bharthanatyam in terms of technique, but it has its own unique characteristic, both styles feature a half-sitting posture as the basic position and strong rhythmical foot work. But kuchipudi has a certain light- footedness and many graceful hops and leaps that distinguish it from Bhrathanatyam. It is less angular, with ‘rounded’ arm movements and characteristic bobbing,bending and swaying movements which are unique to kuchipudi
Kuchipudi is characterized by fast rhythms and fluid movements, creating a unique blend of control and abandon, strength and delicacy. This is the reason why it is calssicla,creative and communicative with a distinctive feel and flavour. It is imbued with sensuous Satvikaabhinayam and succulent vachikabhinayam. Being a narrative art form teh emphasis is on abhinaya and natya. Due to its affinity with teh yakshagana style, the kuchipudi technique has in it some basic elements of folk art, especially its primeval vigour, its unsophisticated directness and its exquisitely earthly sensuousness all manifesting the impact of folk form with its concomitant high energy levels along with classical touch
Kuchipudi dance dramas represent a happy synthesis of this classical and folk repertoire with less rigid postures, more emotions with free and fluid gestures and movements.
Story of the village
Almost every corner of the Kuchipudi village, reverberates with swaras and the jingle of ankle bells, one discovers.
This village is perhaps the only place in India, which has given its name to a classical dance-form.The history of this village and its inhabitants is interwoven with the evolution of the exquisite dance form of Kuchipudi.
This Andhra Pradesh village was originally known variously as ‘Kuchelapuram,' ‘Kuchelapuri' (one legend holds that Krishna's devotee Kuchela was from this place ), ‘Kuchennapoodi' (after Kuchenna, a famous disciple of Siddhendra Yogi) and ‘Kuchipundi.' It was populated by Bhagavathulu and their families.
The propagation of bhakti through artists called Bhagavathulu, who sang the stories of God (Bhagavatam) and danced too, was common in south India through the centuries. In this region, the dance was known as Kuchipudi Bharatham. The village has produced some of the greatest classical dancers and teachers of the country.
FOR THE LEGIONS OF KUCHIPUDI PRACTITIONERS, THE VILLAGE REMAINS A HALLOWED SPOT many call it as “PILGRIMAGE CENTRE.” many others refer a visit to THIS VILLAGE as TO A “WONDERFUL TEMPLE” AND “CULTURAL TREASURE.”
History of the village
The village of Kuchipudi is six miles away from Srikakulam, the ancient capital of Satavahana Empire and benefited from their patronage towards classical and performance arts. After the fall of Mauryan Empire, the Satavahanas extended their domain in the North West and South, until Andhra embraced a great portion of the Indian Peninsula. Satavahanas ruled from the middle of the 3rd century B.C. to the first quarter of 3rd century A.D.
Geo-political staus of India from 200 BC to 200 AD:satavahanas’ expansions toward North East and North West.
Perhaps is the name Andra from the raga Andri
Natya Shastra refers to Andhra region in connection with a particular style of dance in the context of representation of different modes of Vrittis, especially Kaishika Vritti, delicate and graceful dance movements. A particular raga by the name, Andhri, was a contribution of this region to the music of India. Mention of these specific techniques, various ancient folk dances and Yakshagana tradition of this region played an important origin for evolution of the most comprehensive classical dance form in India. Yakshagana is the musical play sharing the characteristics of opera and ballet combined in one presentation. It originated in Andhra and received patronage in Karnataka and Tamilnadu. More than 800 works were produced by 465 authors. Of which 542 works are available, some in print and others mostly in manuscript.
Natya Shastra is the oldest surviving text on stagecraft in the world and it precedes one of the oldest and greatest epics of history, Valmiki’s “Ramayana”. It is believed to be a creation of Lord Brahma, who issued it to all classes of people to study and practice as the “5th Veda”. Though it was written about 2000-2500 years ago, it is believed that Natya Shastra is based upon much older Natya Sutras widely in practice throughout the country at the time. Unfortunately, there are no surviving copies of the Natya Sutras. Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope and included many practices from various geographical regions and discussed their appropriate placement in the proposed classification. It covers as many and diverse aspects such as, music (raga, tala, sruti, and instrumental knowledge), stage-design (mandapa), dance (rules & classification of dances, acting, expression of bhava, eight kinds of rasas, choreography, and direction), makeup, and virtually every aspect of the stagecraft. Therefore Natya Shastra is studied and researched by scholars in dance as well as musicians because it is the only text that gives such detail about music and instruments of the period.
Founder of Kuchipudi as a systemized and unique style with distinct features
The earliest-known maestro from this village was saint Siddhendra Yogi (who lived some time between 11th and 13th century). Based on Bharata's Natya Shastra, Nandikeshwar's Bharatarnava and Abhinaya Darpanam, Siddhendra systematised and streamlined Kuchipudi.
His sterling contribution was ‘Bhama Kalapam,' a Telugu dance-drama, where the lyrics, tunes and script (trouryartrikam) were by him. To have this enacted, Siddhendra Yogi, also a great choreographer, selected a group of boys from Kuchipudi and trained them. This was a milestone in the history of the dance-form and village.
“Later, Kuchipudi village was granted as a gift to the Bhagavathulu by an impressed Abul Hasan Tanisha of the Golconda Nawab dynasty in the 17th century,”
Sri Siddhendra Yogi
We now come to the his greatest offering:- Bhama Kalapam. Even in the case of Bhama Kalapam’s authorship, the portions written by Sri Siddhendra Yogi have not been clearly identified. Centuries of additions and improvisations have rendered the original text unrecognizable. While all extant versions of Bhama Kalapam acquiesce to his primary authorship, scholars are never sure which are the exact parts which he has written. Infact, the most famous Sathyabhama daruvu itself has changed so much from Sri Siddhendra Yogi’s rendition:
The current version of Bhama Kalapam is attributed to a Mangu Jagannatha Kavi of Aakiveedu in West Godavari district.
Of Siddhendra Yogi’s version, we know for sure that Vighneswara Stuti, Saraswathi Sthavam, Vennela Padam (Bhama’s Pravesa daruvu), the questioning by “mandayaana” about who Bhama is, and then Bhama’s song “Bhaamane Sathyabhaamane” existed.
It is a great loss, that no concrete records of Sri Siddhendra Yogi’s life or activities exists. This, in itself has been the reason for several severe disagreements in the academia on everything from his birth to death to Bhama Kalapam. We hope ardently that present day and future researchers will take up this matter and solve the existing riddles.
Sri Sidhendra Kala Peetham in Kuchipudi village
However for centuries, the dance-form was confined to Brahmin families and males. They were forbidden to teach the art to their daughters. All female roles were performed by men, in a tradition called stree-vesham or bhrukumsa (female impersonation). Groups of men traveled from village to village enacting stories from the Hindu mythology. As in Elizabethan theatre men portrayed the roles of women.
“The dancers were part of itinerant troupes and often performed throughout the night. That is why women were kept out, for practical reasons and not because of male chauvinism,” says stree-vesham icon Vedantam Sathyaranarayana Sarma, a Kuchipudi-resident.
The real fact is no one can clearly put a specific date on how this art has emerged as a field; however there are records that date back to 4000-5000 years from present day. As these traditions emerged and more material documentation methods were developed, additional evidence began to accumulate and helped us understand more about Indian cultural roots and various socio-political circumstances that influenced our culture.
How to understand any dance tradition in India
In order to understand any classical dance tradition, one must study different facts of that art form such as its origin, history, and theoretical background in addition to considering socio-political and cultural contexts including language, music, customs and traditions. Most art forms in India are directly or indirectly dependent on the Hindu mythology, philosophy, sculpture, painting, human psychology and yoga. India, with its vastness and magnitude of her culture, several classical dance forms emerged with common theoretical background. Each of these classical dance forms can be traced to different parts of the country owing to their place of origin.
Kuchipudi in 20 th century
In the 20th century, teacher-performer Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry of this village became another trailblazer like Siddhendra. He broke the convention by taking the dance form to non-Brahmins, women and devadasis. This was taken forward by Bhagavathula Vissaiah. Many established dancers, such as Bharatanatyam legend Mylapore Gowriamma, went to Vissaiah to enhance their knowledge of abhinaya nuances.
Popularization of kuchipudi
Another famous son of this village is the legendary Vempati Chinna Sathyam who relocated to Chennai. With his outstanding creativity and brilliant choreography, he spread the art form across India and abroad. His brother Vempati Pedda Sathyam, Pasumarthi Krishnamurthy and Vedantam Jagannatha Sarma, followed another pioneer, Vedantam Raghavaiah, to Chennai and took this sensuous art to the film industry. They choreographed Kuchipudi-based dance sequences for many Telugu movies. He brought to life and liveliness this dance forms complete poetic expression of life’s variegated moods, and expressed them through systematized manifold rhythmic patterns, melodic gestures and subtle facila expressions, creating a new world of ecstasy and ethereal existence.