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KUCHIPUDI

Kuchipudi is a village in Andhra Pradesh, located in the Krishna District. The village of Kuchipudi is a place of extreme cultural importance, as Kuchipudi is widely recognized as the birthplace of the Kuchipudi style of dancing. The village has the oldest dance school that teaches the dance art of Kuchipudi to all interested individuals. You can take a walk through the broad history of the dancing arts in the village of Kuchipudi and can even try a step or two in one of its famed dance schools.

Located near the Bay of Bengal and situated in close proximity to the river Krishna, Kuchipudi is a tourist stronghold. The entire region in which Kuchipudi is located is a melting pot of ancient traditions and modern developments.

Other than visiting the various dance schools that serve as standing museums to the performing arts, tourists can also visit nearby places of interest that are present in the region like Undavalli Caves, Kanaka Durga Temple, Rajeev Gandhi Park, Mogalrajapuram Caves and Sri Venugopal Swamy temple.

Tourists can also visit the Hazrat Bal Mosque and the Gandhi Stupa, following which they can take a short trip to the nearby locations of Vijayawada, Machilipatnam and Movva where they can visit other places of interest and historical significance.

Kuchipudi Dance
Kuchipudi the Classical Indian dance is from Kuchipudi village.

The performance usually begins with some stage rites, after which each of the character comes on to the stage and introduces him/herself with a dharavu (a small composition of both song and dance) to introduce the identity, set the mood, of the character in the drama. The drama then begins. The dance is accompanied by song which is typically Carnatic music. The singer is accompanied by mridangam (a classical South Indian percussion instrument), violin, flute and the tambura (a drone instrument with strings which are plucked). Ornaments worn by the artists are generally made of a light weight wood called Boorugu. It originated in the seventh century.

The ancient and classical dance art - Kuchipudi is believed to be born in the village of Kuchipudi and the art has been developed into full form by the great legendary Guru Siddhendra Yogi. Initially, it was a dance-drama shaped and nurtured by the Bhagavatulas and Acharyas (different sects) of the Brahmin community and the art was flourished during 15th century AD. It was also the period during which the Bhakthi movement spread all over the country and this dance-drama became means of its expansion.

Siddhendra Yogi, a fond devotee of Krishna, is believed to be the founder of this Kuchipudi dance-drama tradition. He was a Brahmin orphan boy who was taken care of by a kind neighbouring family and he was married to a girl in that family in his childhood. Later, he was sent to Udipi (presently a city in Karnataka) for his Vedic studies. After completing his studies he returned and resided in the town of Srikakulam and was called as Siddhendra. Later he was insisted by the elders to join his wife who had been waiting for him. So, he started to his wife's home and on the way he had to cross a river which is in full spate. Suddenly, due to a strong wave in the river, the boat in which he was travelling was capsized and it was very difficult for him to swim across the river. Momentarily, he prayed to Lord Krishna to save him and that if he reached the other bank alive, he would dedicate his entire life in the worship of the Lord. As, he was survived and was able to reach the shore safely, he then became Sanyasi and relinquished all worldly attachments and devoted his life in the propagation of Bhakthi. Later, he has migrated to Kuchelapuram (which is now known as Kuchipudi) and composed several dance-dramas on the tales of "Bhagavatam" (a popular Hindu mythology related to Lord Krishna), such as "Parijatapaharana", "Bhama Kalapam", "Amrutha Madhanam" and many more.

He has formed a group with the neighbouring Brahmin boys and taught them the dance-art, developed it and performed it to the public as a tribute to Lord Krishna. He took a word from his students that they would perform it at least once a year and that they would flourish the dance and would make their successors preserve the tradition.

The successors of Brahmin families have been continuing the tradition of Kuchipudi dance till date. In the earlier days, the dance-drama is confined to males only. But, now-a-days women are also widely allowed to learn the dance. Most of the performers are male and even some of them impersonate the characteristics of female characters as the concept demands. Also, a few female performers impersonate the features of male characters and play an exceptional role. These Brahmin artists are known as Bhagavatulus in Andhra Pradesh and Bhagavataras in Tamilnadu. In order to differentiate the dance-dramas with the Bhagavata Mela Natakas (other dramas), the dance-dramas performed by Bhagavatulus are styled as Kuchipudi dance-dramas and were very popular over time.

During 1678 AD, the Nawab (King) of Golconda, Abdul Hasan Tahnishah had a visit to Masulipatanam (which is now known as Machilipatnam) and a Kuchipudi dance performance was arranged for the king. Being delighted and pleased by the performance, the king had presented a piece of land of a staggering 600 acres approximately to the Brahmin families involved in the performance and given them the title of land written on a copperplate. Later some disputes have aroused between the Brahmin families for the land and it was distributed among them. Those families are Vedantam, Hari, Bhagavatulu, Pasumarti, Josyula, Mahankali and some others who have been adopting and preserving the tradition of Kuchipudi dance.