Kuchipudi: Dance drama tradition of Andhra

Avijit Das at the Battery Dance Festival
Avijit Das at the Battery Dance Festival

Kuchipudi, the classical dance style of Andhra Pradesh, is accepted as a solo dance but evolved from the dance-drama tradition of Bhagaveta Mela Natakam. Stories from Hindu mythology, particularly Vaishnava Sampradaya (cult of Lord Vishnu), are interpreted through the medium of stylized and rhythmic movements, typical hasta mudras (hand gestures) and expressional dancing. Kuchipudi lays equal emphasis to elegance and vibrant movements and is performed by both men and women.

Evolution and history

Vyjayanthi Kashi (seated) with daughter Prateeksha Kashi
Vyjayanthi Kashi (seated) with daughter Prateeksha Kashi

The word Kuchipudi comes from the village Kuchelapuram in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. The Sanskrit word Kusilava-puram refers to the village of actors, travelling bards or dancers. The authoritative text of dance and dramaturgy, written by Bharata Muni, known as Natya Sastra with 6,000 verses in 36 chapters, studied version, evolved during 500 BCE to 500 CE, that mentions the graceful movements known as Kaishiki Vritti. Pre-2nd century text calls one raga (musical melody) as Andhri (Andhra), related to Gandhari Arsabhi. The 1st milllenium Sanskrit text by Bruna Nettle credits its origin to 3rd century.

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Guru Vijay Shanker
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Guru Vijay Shanker

Guru Vijay Shanker is a professional Kuchipudi-Kathakali exponent, actor, choreographer and arts critic for more than four decades.