Natya Sastra. Nattuva Mela has developed into Bharata Natyam and Natya Mela into the Kuchipudi dance.

There is no clear or conclusive evidence to show that women in the pre-Siddhendra years were forbidden to perform the Kuchipudi dance. Siddhendra Yogi blended the two forms into a harmonious whole, of which the most vivid example is Bhamakalapam. The dance steps were changed from the simple folks steps into the classical once, based on the Abhinayadarpanam and were embellished with subtle rhythmic nuances. Suggestive restraints and delicacy of expression were brought into the acting. The often crude and naive emotions of folk form were dispensed with Classical Ragas were introduced in place of the simple folk music. The language also acquired classical polish and dignity and was addressed to the elite.

The incomparable language of Bhama’s letter is proof of Siddhendra Yogi’s command over his mother tongue-Telugu in all its succulence and sensuousness evoking as it dose the very acme of the Vipralamba Srinagara. No wonder that Kuchipudi endeared itself to the elite as well as to the masses.

To return to history, after Siddhendra Yogi had established Kuchipudi in the home town, the art spread far and wide wherever Telugu was spoken. Apart from portraying the lives, loves and heroic exploits of the gods and goddesses, the dancer actors also occasionally introduced a political or social slant into their dramas with a view to achieving a fair deal for the down trodden. During the 16th century, the Vijayanagara emperors were great patrons of this art form. After the downfall of the Vijayanagara Empire, some of the Kuchipudi artistes migrated to the royal court of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and received the patronage of Achyutappa Nayaka.

He donated them the village, Achyutapuram; now know as Melattur, where even today these artiste families live staging their own Bhagavatamelas on the occasion of Narasimha Jayanti.

Those Kuchipudi artistes who clung to their ancestral land eked out a meagre living from their land. Fortune smiled at them then the last of the Golconda Nawabs, Abdul Hasan Tanisha, who was a connoisseur of the arts and letters, saw them perform while passing through the village. As rewards for their superb performance, he presented to them this village. It was equally partitioned between the nine traditional families and their descendants have been living in this village since that time enjoying the fruits of the land and devoting themselves to the worship of the Lord through song and dance.

Unfortunately in the last thirty odd years the revival of Kuchipudi has raised a lot of dust. Controversies have been raging over its classical character. In the ’50s, Sangeet Natak Academy recognised only four styles of classical dance: Bharata Natyam, Kathakali, Kathak and Manipuri, because the renaissance of these styles, which are of comparatively recent origin, particularly the last mentioned three, was brought about by eminent and enlightened pioneers such as Rukmini Devi, Leila Sokhey, Uday Shankar and Rabindranath Tagore. Kuchipudi remained confined to the narrow limits of an obscure village with little exposure to the cognoscenti in metropolitan cities where reputations are made and unmade. Hyderabad is no doubt an important cultural center today. But in those days Kuchipudi art could not flourish in the Andhra areas because a lack of patronage and propagation. People migrated to other cities seeking employment and advancement. Those who remained behind were mostly agriculturists with no conception of their rich cultural heritage. The fact that the Kuchipudi Dance has been performed only by men has also not helped its cause since it dose not hold much appeal for the general public which is attracted only by young, good-looking, bejeweled and gorgeously costumed danseuses. Andhra Pradesh as a separate State came into being only after Independence. Till then it was a part of Tamil Nadu and none was conscious of the fact that it had its own identity and its own cultural ethos. Even from the point of view of literary merit, the Telugu language received only belated recognition. The dance form also therefore remained in the background till recent times, unknown to the rest of India.

Once, in a book entitled Indian Dance published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, an inappropriate photograph was included under the heading of Kuchipudi. At that time none-neither professional dancers nor arts scholars, not even the government – took any step to correct the error. For a long time Kuchipudi was not considered a classical dance form. Some scholars even went to the extent of dismissing it as mere ‘street dance’ mistaking its classification under Veedhi Natakam.

Also some misguided dancers have convinced the public that drawing the picture of Ganesa or other deities with a chalk held by the toes is part of Kuchipudi repertoire. This is not only damaging to the spirit of the dance form but also irreverent in the extreme. It is well-known injunctions in the Hindu religion not to let any

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