Kuchipudi is one amongst the eight classical dance forms in India, originated in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. The fundamental conventions of this dance form draw its references from the Natya Shastra – the Sanskrit Hindu text on performing arts, compiled by the great sage Bharata, around 500 BCE to 500 CE.

Emerging out of the amalgamation of dance and drama themes, Kuchipudi showcases several variations. Following are a few of them:

Bhama Kalapam: The origin of this dance form unveils an interesting story. It is believed that a young Vaishnava sage Sidhendhra Yogi, once had a dream of Lord Krishna who asked him to compose a dance drama based on the mythological story of the Lord bringing the mystical flower of Parijata for his beautiful but proud queen Satyabhama. This inspired Yogi to create Bhamaakalapam, a quintessential production of dance-drama which is till date considered the pièce de résistance in Kuchipudi repertoire. Its performance began to gain such prominence that, it became a sacred ritual that every Brahmin priest of the village of ‘Kuchela Puram’ that later came to be known as Kuchipudi, had to perform it as a homage to Lord Krishna.

Jatiswaram: The term is coined from the two terms Jatis meaning rhythmic syllables and Swarams, meaning delicate nuances. Considered a wholesome dance orientation, Jatiswaram is purely presented on the themes of musical notes induced by the rhythmic syllables, sans singing or recitation of any poetry. The performer displays the swarams (delicate nuances) and jathis (rhythmic syllables), which are pronouncedly beautiful in the Kuchipudi technique.

Sabdam:  Modern times have witnessed an evolved avatar of the dance form which mostly has solo recitals. Earlier the solo dancing was only a part of the bigger choreography, where it was presented only at appropriate sequences to interpose the presentation and augment the overall appeal. By the middle of 20th century, Kuchipudi entirely materialized as a separate classical solo dance technique. Today it exhibits two separate forms- the traditional musical dance-drama and the solo dance. Sabdam is a solo version of this which was performed both in the praise of the celestial bodies, the demigods or to even praise a mortal king.

Tarangam: Kuchipudi dancers demonstrates their sheer adroitness of foot-work and their bodily control & poise, with techniques like dancing on the rim of a brass plate while carrying a pot full of water on the head. One such recital is Tarangam inspired by the Krishna-Leela Tarangini of Teertha Narayana Yogi. Bharat Ratna Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan had to say about the Tarangam: “There is a philosophical significance to the water-pot and plate. It is an analogy for life itself. Like the dancer who concentrates on the water-pot while dancing to the music, accompanied by melodic instruments and rhythmic patterns, the Brave One contemplates the divine feet of God, although saddled with worldly worries”.

The protégé of Sidhendra Yogi went on to create more versatile dance dramas, those which are still enacted today.  Lakshmi Nararayn Shastry, who introduced exclusive solo dancing in Kuchipudi, also introduced female dancers to this dance form which was formerly a male dominated performing art. The presence of female performers is more prominent in the contemporary times. Another significant transformation in this art form is the dilution of the drama component, limiting only to the dance form.

Dibyoshnata Talukdar