When we talk of dance as an art form, we naturally tend to include the other two creative forms of art, viz., Music and Literature. We do not make a distinction between them because presumptively the art of dance has an inseparable connection to the other two. In spite of the fact that dance, music and literature are three major art forms, the combination of these three along can produce the emotional involvement of the connoisseur. There are various dance forms in India today called differently indifferent parts of our country and they depend solely on the principles prescribed by the work of Bharata.

“Natya Sastra” of the second century B.C. But the music adopted in these dance forms is not divided into as many forms and has not undergone many changes. Indian music has developed mainly into two branches – Hindustani and Carnatic. These two systems also have common fundamental principles but their application differs in each system. The 13th Century Sarangdeva’s “Sangita Ratnakaram” is considered as the basis for the two forms of Indian Music, though Bharta’s”Natyta Sastra” deals with Music exclusively in a chapter.

The Musical system, which follows the principles of Sarangadeva but has undergone changes due to the influences of Muhammadan invasions, has finally evolved into what we may today call the Hindustani Music. On the other hand, the system that followed the methods of Somanatha Pandita, Govinda Dikshita, Ramaamatya and Venkatamakhi music. These two are the only classical forms practiced throughout India. The Hindustani system is practiced in North India and Carnatic in South India. It may be noted that the regions, which are linguistically Dravidian in origin, practice the Carnatic system and those with Aryan background follow Hindustani. This linguistic orientation is a matter of musicologists to ponder over. It cannot be brushed aside as a mere coincidence. As we may note that the Maharashtrian region, though geographically belonging to the south practices predominantly the Hindustani system. This may be because the Marathi language is of Aryan origin.

The southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala have adopted Carnatic Music. The various compositions in this system are used by the artist’s public performances like Kutcheris, Harikatha, Dance, Hajan and Religious discourses. Other performances of folk nature like “Yakshagana” of Karnataka “Therukatha” of Tamilnadu, “Veedhibhagavatham” and “Tholu Bommalaata” of Andhra Pradesh also carry the flavour of Carnatic music and also have the distinction as originators of some Ragaas of Classical music.

Before we deal with the main topic namely, the music in Kuchipudi dance style, it is necessary that we try to know the basic musical compositions of Carnatic music. It is also necessary that we realise that Kuchipudi dance, like any other dance form or system, has made use of theses compositions according to its dance requirements in tune with the Carnatic Musical System. Hence there is no separate music system peculiar to Kuchipudi or any other dances form for that matter.

The most popular compositions include Jayadeva’s Ashtapadis. Apart from these the hymns in praise of the Lord that are know for their rhythmic beauty. ‘Ashtakas’ for instance and the verses set to ‘Pancha Chamaram’, ‘Utsaham’ and ‘ Mattakokilam’ are also rendered conforming to the rules of Raga and Tala. The most revered late SriBanupalli Mallayya Sastri was a master of the art. Many of these earlier compositions are not recorded in notations. Generally, the trend was only to prescribe specifically a Raga and Tala to be adopted for a give composition. More often than not, such prescription is followed in violation. There are a lot of other musical compositions available in local languages.

Carnatic music has developed along two ‘ one with composition that are sung in praise of the Lord- the ‘Sankirtanas’ and the other with romanticism as the mainstay and put to good use in dance: in the form of ‘Sringara Padams’. Sri Chaturlaksham Krishnamacharyulu was the pioneer of Sankirtanas among the composers who recieve the appreciation of ‘Sriman Tallapaka Annamacharya who is popular for both Sankirtanas and Sringara padams.

and Tala to be adopted for a give composition. More often than not, such prescription is followed in violation. There are a lot of other musical compositions available in local languages.

Carnatic music has developed along two ‘ one with composition that are sung in praise of the Lord- the ‘Sankirtanas’ and the other with romanticism as the mainstay and put to good use in dance: in the form of ‘Sringara Padams’. Sri Chaturlaksham Krishnamacharyulu was the pioneer of Sankirtanas among the composers who recieve the appreciation of ‘Sriman Tallapaka Annamacharya who is popular for both Sankirtanas and Sringara padams.

‘Prabandham’ and ‘Padma’ were created. This continued for the next three generations of the Nayakas. Govinda samayya and Kuvana ‘Prahlada Natakam’ a Yakshagana creation of Melatttur Venkatarama Sastri is very popular. The Tarangam compositions of Sri Narayanatirtha are the treasure house of the elements of Bhakti, Gnana and Vairagya. The Kuchipudi dance style has successfully adopted his Tarangams like -“Neelamegha Sareera” and “Bala Gopala”. The Yakshagana form had reached its glory only during the Nayak period especially during the 17th century which continued up to the 19th century. Sri Krishna-Leela tarangini, a Sanksrit work by Sri Naraanatirtha is a Yakshagana. The early practice of Yakshagana during the 12th Century was only in the form of music and not dance.

Paarijaatapaharanam” a Yakshagana in Telegu by Sri Narayanatirtha is not available in its full form. Sri Sidhendrayogi ans Sri Narayanatirtha are said to have a relationship between them as that of a student and a teacher. But there is a difference of opinion about the existence of two different people with two different names, considering the works supposedly written by these two personalities. This is due to the similarities in the lives led by them- both are said to be Sanyasis, both authored Parijathapaarayanam in Telugu. Which is said to be in Yakshagana form. The Kuchipudi Dance style gives equal importance to both “Bhamakalapam” and “Tarangam’. These are but some similarities that created doubts in the minds of the Kuchipudi dance lovers.

“Kowtwam”, “Sabdam” and “Prabandam” are items meant for sole performances. The Kuchipudi dancers gave performances of these two solo items in the early days before they switched over to Siddhendrayogis Bhamakalapam. But this change over the dance form achieved the popularity of the public in general. Hitherto this art form was limited to performance in Temples and the Courts of rulers. “Bhamakalapam” was followed by the other dance dramas like “Gollakalapam”, ‘Ramanatakam’, “Ushaparinayam”, “Sasirekhaparinayam” etc.

Kasinathayya, Naranakavi, Venkataram Sastri and others who originally belonged to Kuchipudi are later go settled at Melattur. Their works include sabdams, which are in the nature of both divine praise and also praise of a ruler.

The Kuchipudi dancers over a period turned their attention to the more popular Yakshagana and the ancient Prabandham and Kowtwam slipped out of their repertoire. Thus they had move away from the tradition of “Bhagavatamela”. This is because Yakshagana supports ‘Lokadharmi’ more than the ‘Natyadharmi’

The ancient items Prabandham and Kowtwam are more related to classical Ragam and Talam. Bhamakalapam received popular appreciation. The songs in the Yakshagana are called “Daruvulu”. The song each character sings to introduce him or herself is called “Pravesiki Daruvu”. The various Daruvus are descriptive of the nature of the character or the situation in a drama. They include “Akshepaki Daruvu”, “Nasikhramiki Daruvu” etc. Bhamakalapam as said earlier is very popular among the general public and some Daruvus like “Bhamane Satya Bhamane”, “Sakunala Manchivayene”, “Madana”, “Yendubothivi”, “Raajeevaakshudu Raajagopaludu” and ‘Siggaayenamma” are not only recognized by many in Andhra but a lot of them can sing as well. ‘Vedale Baanuni Varasuta” in Usha Parinayam,

“Kanaka kasipudanu Dhanuedrudanu” in Prahalada, “Gollabhama vatchenu” in Gollakalapam are other Daruvus which received popular appreciated. The format of Daruvu is different from the compositions of classical music and the musical aspect of the Daruvus inclines more towards the dance element of expression rather than strict classicism, which is why its sounds differently even though the Daruvus are set tot classical Ragas and Talas. Some of the Ragas adopted for Daruvu singing include “Nata”, “Saveri”, “Kamboji’, ‘Mukhar”, “Athana”, ‘Khamas”, “Puri Kalyani” etc. However, kuchipudi can do well by paying more attention to its musical aspect.

The traditionalists of Kuchipudi feel proud of their continuing Gurushishya Parampara as its hallmark in practising the Daruvu based dance system. Its disadvantages are evident in some instances. In the absence of a proper Swara Laya background and Systematic initiation into the field of classical music, the Daruvus do not very often conform to the established classical Raga norms. As such though the Daruvu is the same the rendering varies due to lack of Raga unanimity. In this regard, it may be pointed that the classical music sympathetically accepts any systematic rendering, as it will conform to some raga lakshana or the other.

But the difficult in the case of Kuchipudi music one may have to face is the inability to identify the Raga of the Daruvus sung by the Kuchipudi exponents with the known Raga classifications. It should be realised that its a matter of concern for everybody involved in the development of Kuchipudi form of art. It is not still too late to correct this discrepancy. Our efforts should be directed towards the unanimity of Raga adopted for each Daruvu and strict adherence to it by all practitioners. It is said a beginning was already made sometime ago in this direction. All India Radio is supposed to have some Daruvus recorded under the guidance of late Sri Chinta Krishnamurti, which were later sung by the renowned Sri Venkateswarulu and Smt. Srirangam Gopalaratnam.

The original old dance dramas of Kuchipudi should be reoriented towards the proper raga conformity and should be represented tot he acclaim and delightful experience of the connoisseurs of this art. It is necessary, on the other hand to understand the changes that took over the South Indian Natya and Sankirtana music during the same period. It can be noted that the music adopted for dance purposes at that time gave more importance to solo performance and depiction of Lasya by the dancer. The Trinity of the classical Carnatic must play and important role in the development of South Indian Music. Sri Tyagarjaswamy, Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Syamasastri among themselves reigned over the kingdom of South Indian Classical music. The present day classical musician does not any more include a “Varnam”, ‘Geetham”, and ‘Swarajathi” in his or her reportoire. These are confined to the practice sessions. One may rarely hear a padam or a javali in the public performance. Today performances are dominated by the compositions of the Trinity or those of their followers.

The South Indian dance music had under gone some changes in the later days. The Devadasi dance confined to the temples was not more than a ritual. The court dancers were meant only to please the ruler, who danced items like ‘Salaam Sabdam’. There was dearth in compositions exclusively for dance with qualitatively higher musical oreder. The task of filling this gap fell on four brothers popularly known as Tanjore Quartet – Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Vadivelu and Sivanandam. Sri Ponnayya was a great Bharata Natyam exponent and an accomplished classical musican as well. He was a disciple of Sri Muthuswami – Dikshitar of the Trinity. Sri Ponnayya and his brothers are said to be the founding fathers of a dance system popularly known today as Bharata Natyam. The romantic items depicting the Nayika – Nayaka Bhava in accordance with Alankara Sastra in the form of “Pada Varnam” were perfected by them. Bharata Natyam has an exclusive claim over “Alarippu”, “Jatiswaram”, “Varnam”, “Tillana” and “Javali Bharata Natyam continues to give equal importance to the ancient compositions and ensure their due place for items like “Kowtwam”, “Sabdam” etc. The success of Bharata Natyam should be attributed to its insistence on highest classical standards both in dance and music.

Both Kuchipudi and Bharata Natyam may be considered as twins as they exhibit certain inescapable similarities. Music adopted for both is only one system. Items like Padam, Javali and Padavarnam adopted by both the systems were authored in the Telugu language. Both exercised equal right over “Kowtwam” and “Sabdam”. This causes a certain confusion to a lay man. But to a connoisseur the distinction is clear in the form of constumes (Aharya), the execution of postures (Mudras) and the items for performance. Each has a distinct style of its own  “Sollu Kattu” (Jatis), Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali have their own style of “Sollu Kattu”. Kuchipudi also practices a distincitive style of “Sollu Kattu”. Consider for instance the following :

Thangudu Thonga Dhikki Thakka
Thinna Jhekudu Jhekudu Kitathaka
Jamithari Kumdhari Kuku
Jaga Kina Kudhi
Tha thai Thattha Hatta Thai Thai
Tham Tham Dharugudu Tham
Tha Tham Kita Kidhari
Kitadhimi Kitadhimi Thaka Dhadhiginata
Kitadhimi Kitadhimi Thaka Dadhiginata
Kitadhimi Kitadhi
Tharikitatham Tarikitatham Tarikita

This kind of Jati is seen in the Tarangam compositions of Sri Narayana Thirtha.

For any dance system the success is when it can meaningfully co-ordinate the principles of both dance and music with a systematic and aesthetic approach, Sucha-a dance system naturally attracts the attention of art lovers.

In this regard I must congratulate Kalaprapurna Vempati Chinna Satyam, Vetaran Kuchipudi Guru, for his relentless efforts in producing his dance dramas striking a balance between the various principles of dance music and literature. His dance ballets themselves will make the subject for a detailed study.

About the Author :

Shri Patraayani Sangeetha Rao was born in a family of musicians – his father, Shri Seetha Rama Sastri and grandfather Shri Venkata Narasimha Sastri were both exponents of classical music and received many felicitations from music lovers.

Shri Sangeetha Rao received many awards and titles, notable among them being “Sangeetha Bhushana” from Bharati Tirtha, Andhra Research University in 1953. He assisted Shri Ghantasala Venkateshwara Rao, the celebrated music composer and playback singer of Telugu cinema, during 1954-74 and toured the United States, Canada and many European countries along with him, giving performances.

His association with Kuchipudi Art Academy began in 1973 as a vocalist. He later became a full fledged vainika and music director of the academy.

He composed music for various solo items and dance ballets, inclding Padmavathi Shrinivasam, Kalyana Rukmini and Haravilasam, which were acclaimed as masterpieces both at home and abroad.

Kuchipudi Sangitha Nruthya Rupakam

(The author hails from a musical family and has distinguished himself in the field of classical music, with several honours like Sangita Bushana, Kalaimamani etc. to his credit. He has been associated with Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam for over two decades and has composed the music for all the ballets produced by the maestro since 1974).

Creative fine art expresses itself through various forms. On such popular expression of Kuchipudi dance form is Yakshagana. In Andhra Pradesh the Yakshagana-s such as Bhama Kalapam, Golla Kalapam, Usha Parinayam, Bhakta Prahladah, Rama Natakama etc, have been stage uninterruptedly for generation together till date. The Yakshagana as poined out is only one of the many forms through which the Kuchipudi dance expresses itself. The different forms and formats of the creative fine arts such as music, dance and literature continue to be popular with their audience for a limited period and slip into oblivion due to the pressures of time, social changes and the changing tastes of the audience. An instance of this is the lack of popular poetic expression in Telugu literature set to the prosodic prescriptions. It is also true of certain forms practiced in the fields of music and dance.

If a particular form of artistic expression continues to win appreciation and command a rightful position for a long period, it is but due to the presence of an inherent nor limited by the tyranny of time. It is a fact that the original Yakshagana form of Kuchipudi dance style is gradually losing its popular appeal, but it is regaining its rightful glory in its modified Kuchipudi dance drama form. By the continuous research, effort and tireless practice of a determined few, the Yakshagana form is modified and evolved into Kuchipudi ballet in its present form and depicted as the cultural representative of the Andhra region.

Fine Arts – A Means of Expression

One form of the performing arts, that dominated the scene for sometime immediately after Yakshagana was theatre. It was taken over subsequently by cinema, which has since become an inseparable part of our social life notwithstanding the present invasion of satellite and cable TV into the drawing room. The fate of the present day theater is such that it owes its very existence to the sustenance provided by the government. The case of the art of dance and dance drama is different in that they hold the connoisseurs. There is no conflict with the supporters of cinema. Dance and dance drama that claim general appreciation today are the confluence of the streams of three art forms, namely music, dance and literature.

Music (Sangitham) is an important part of the Yakshagana and dance drama along with Nrutham and Naatyam. Before attempting to analyse the role of music in the traditional Yakshagana system or the present day Nruthya Natakam (dance drama), it is necessary to have a systematic understanding of the theory of music.


Indian Music has developed on the lines of Marga and Desi forms. The rendering of the Desi style of the Indian music emphasises more on the emotional feelings and comparatively less on the musical prosody. though the Desi conforms to the basic musical tenets, namely Swara and Laya, such conformity is not in strict adherence to the prosodic requirements. When we try to analyse the Desi style of music in the systematic Marga approach it will be found that the Desi is based on simple, often incomplete scale (Raga) system set to simplified beat. The different forms of folk songs- Pallay Padhaalu(rural songs), Aeyela Paatalu(romantic songs), Sthreela Paatalu(Women’s songs), Jola Patalu (lullables), Thathvaalu(Philosophic renderings), Sankeerthana Sangitham (hymns) etc., can be grouped under the Desi category.

Marga: Systematic codification of sound and rhythm and strict adherence to the prosodic Raga (scale) and Taal (Rhythmic formulations) are the characteristics of the Marga style of the Indian music. The scientifice adoption of the simple Desi note and rhythmic patterns has resulted in the codified and more comprehensive Marga style. The Sruthi(pitch) and Sthayi Bhedha(pitch systems) are prepared on the basis of the combination of the basic seven notes – Sapta Swara’s and are categorized as swara Bhedha’s, Swaranathara’s. The mutual harmonic combinations of the notes have been categorised as Vaadhi, Samvaadhi, Anuvaadhi and Vivaadhi notes. Theoretically different raga-s are created on the basis of notational permutations and combinations, taking into account the combination among one note to seven basic notes. The scale sof one note – Archika(belonging to the Rig Veda), two notes- Gathika(Gatha-s were religious non-vedic songs), three notes – Saamika (belonging to Sama veda) four notes – Swaraanathara (=hiatus), five notes – Audava (pentatonic), six notes- Shaadava (hexatonic) and seven notes – Sampoorna(Heptatonic), have been formulated to create the base for the raga system. Thus the 72 Melakarta Raga-s, the basic seven note complete scales (Sampoorna raga-s were created on the basis of the little harmonic variations of the seven notes.

The seven notes, Sa-Shadja, Ri-Rishabha, Ga-Gaandhaara, Ma-Madhyama, Pa-Panchama, Dha-Dhaivatha and Ni-Nishada are placed with little variations at tweleve such notational positions having sixteen names, each note identified by two names. The sum total of five note, six note and seven note combinations will add up to 34, 848 raga-s or scales. We will not come across all these raga-s enumerated with proper nomenclature in any of the standard text books of Indian music. It is therefore possible to create a new combination of notes – Moorchana, that is not in vogue and give a name that is not found in the textbooks and claim a new raga is discovered and even go the extent of claiming a right. It is also possible that with careful perseverance, time and inclination, one would come across the same combination in the texts to disprove the claim of discovery. If one successful in creating a new combination of notes that is not in vogue and is able to successfully adopt such a scale of a musical rendering, his efforts will withstand the test of time and he deserves all appreciation.

The Marga style of Indian music has developed the concept of rhythm or beat on the lines of more complex timing and meter divisions. Thus this style enable Swara (notes) and Laya (beat) to assert their individuality without the necessity to rely on the support of the language.

The Indian system of raga formulation is unique in that the Desi and Marga forms of music is distinctly separated by the importance attached to the raga system or lack of it. Any form of music that does not conform to the nuances of raga prescriptions is not recognized as a classical form. For the accomplished classical music practitioners, the depth of their involvement in the raga enables them to not only to enjoy the ecstasy of the musical rendering by also provides unique visual experience. For them raga-s are the personification of God. To quote Saint Thyagaraja:”Raaga sudha rasa paanamu chesi ranjillave manasa….”

He believed that Naada sudha rasamey Rama Chandra Parabrahmam. According to him the nectar of Naada provided by Raga was divinity itself.

A raaga is created within the parameters of Graha, Nyaasa, Amsa notes, Its individuality is also decided on the basis of the grace provided to it within the limits of Pancha Dasa Gamaka i.e., fifteen types of Gamagaka;s. The fulsome practice of the raga-s in their completeness has resulted in the clear division of Indian music into the more classical form that is marga and desi.

Gradually the influence of raga found its way into all forms in the world of Indian mysic. The method of story telling through music in the form of DEsi is known as Burra Katha and that whic followed Marga is known as Hari Katha.

Sankeerthana Sangitham as mentioned earlier switched over to Marga Padhathi from Desi. Desi, the mode of various forms of folk music gives more improtance to the beat than raga. In Marga mode, more complex beat to rhythm is adopted. As a reslu the audience gets to appreciate an elaborate raga presentation. Generally the Desi mode is adopted to depict factual life and experience through music, where as emotion is the mainstay of the classical Marga style. But when factual experiences are rendered musically adoption the raga method, the effect is a unique emotional experience.

The historical background of some of the ragas that are in vogue today may be analysed. Some raga-s like Vasantha and Hindola found their place in the earliest circa 12th century musical text, Sangita Ratnakara. Over a period of time the seem to have undergone various changes. The two main schools of Indian music Hindustani and Carnatic have raga-s of similar nomenclature but with dissimilar charactersitics despite the fact that both schools rely heavily on the Sangita Ratnakara. The raga-s is Carnatic style underwent various changes during the preiod between Raga Vibhodam of Somanatha Panditha, Swaramela Kalanidhi of Raamaathya, Sangitha Sudhanidhi of Govinda Dheekshitulu and Chathurdhandi Prakashika of Venkatamakhi.

All these works define and deal extensively with the various characteristics of raga-s. Two sets of names are provided to the 72 basic scales – Melakartha’s. Some Desi raga-s, which were incomplete were given classical finish and later became very popular. In the time raga rendering achieved the perfection that was lacking in the initial stages. For instance, Sangitah Kalanidhi Ramaraja Booshana in his work Vasu Charitra mentions that by adding Pa and Ri to Hindola (Raga) scale it converts into Vasantha. The Practitoners of the modern day calssical Carnatic style find it improper, as the characteristics of these two raga-s are different. However the notes, Ga, Ma, Dha, Ni of Hindola Morrchana when blended with Ri and Pa with give rise to Basant, a popular raga of the Hindustani style, which could have been in vogue during the period of Ramaraja Bhooshana.

Till recently various raga-s in the Carnatic style itself, like Lalitha, Vasantha Hindola, Suddha Saveri were rendered differently by different performers. The variations were also due to the differences in the grace applied to the raga-s by the performers according to their school of thought. We can discern the difference as we hear gramophone records of the early 20th century renderings of some of the popular ragas of this day.

The perfection in raag-s was achieved over a period of time as the various works of Thyagaraja in as many scales became popular, and the later day parishioners adopted the raga characteristics are applied by him. The differing variations of raga characteristics were unified and the various raga-s created with distinct and perfect characteristics.

The rag-s are also classified on the basis of Rasa – the moods and emotions they are supposed to represent such emotions include love, varlour, worship etc., Generally it is believed that Mukhara scale is used to depict soorows, Naadhanamakriya for compassion and Saveri for valour. Even with great difficulty on would not come across works that are set to the ragas that are really representative of such emotions. The classical compositions either present Bhakti or Sringara rasa.

Thus the characteristics of any given raga is determined by various factors including the emotion in prescribed to represent. But the Taal – beat, does not seem to have any role to play in the classification of the ragas. Though the raga-s are prescribed to represent various rasa-s, the real effective, presentaion of the Nava Rasa-s the nine emotions, through music is a subjective art.

The time during the day or night when a particular raga is to be rendered is also prescribed by the texts. In Carnatic style such prescription as to when a given raga should be rendered is not strictly followed as most of the raga-s are allowed to be rendered at any time of the day Except for Bhoopala, which  symbolizes the mood of day break and sunrise, time is not strictly adhered to for other ragas. The case of Hindustani is different in this respect, as it gives importance to the rendering of raga-s according to the time of the day.

Dance as a means of expression: (The support of music)

The Desi-Marga classification of most of the fine arts is found in the case of the art of Dance as well. It is practiced in the form of Loka Dharmi and Natya Dharmi. The classical dance form gets its support from the classical art of music. Though Kuchipudi dance form originally belonged to the Desi-Loka Dharmi style, it gradually evolved into a classical dance form. The Bhama Kalapam a most popular item in the Kuchipudi repertoire, has come to stay as successful classical representation with due support from classical music.

It is seen that Kuchipudi Yakshagan’s have adopted the ragas and taal-s of classical music. The oldest of these is Bhama Kalapam. Goll Kalapam, Usha Parinayam, Prahlada, Rama Naakama, Dhadhinamma Katha etc., were added to the repertoire subsequently. The use of classical raga-s in these items is limited to a few such scales as Anandabhairavi, Kambhoji, Bhairavi, Sriragam, Saveri, Pantuvarali etc., In all the number of scales used is not more than ten to fifteen. Mohana, which was earlier known as Reygupthi (Reyvagupthi) in Kuchipudi parlance, was also one of the largely used scales for the Kuchipudi Dharuvu-s. However it may be pointed out that the Reyvagupthi is Mohana in classial carnatic style are two-seperate raga-s with distinct features. The prescription of raga-s according to the strictly followed. The same raga is used in different emotional situations.

The Dharuvu-s of Bhama Kalapam is very effective musical compositions. The musica composition of Kuchipudi dance strike a beautifule balance between the libretto and the music set to it. However Vilamba(slow) the pace or temp(laya) of the Dharauvu may be, the words of the libretto are distinctly heard. But the pefection in terms of adherence to raga characterisitics while rendering this dharuvu-s by the Kuchipudi perfomers was woefully lacking. There can be two reasons for this. One-lack of clear understanding of these precise characteristics. Two the possibility of these raga-s being in the form originally rendered before they evolved into their present form. A similar situation was face by the Kathakali dance style as well; they have termed such musical variation under the name Sopana Sangitham. Bharata Natyam does not seem to have come across such a predicament.

The second possibility referred above is clearly discermibile in some Kuchipdi dharuvu-s. in most instances it is a case of the former, that is lack of application of the mind. Take for instance the Madhana dharuvu in Bhama Kalapam set majestically in Anandhabhairavi, which gradually slips, partly into Stanza ‘Indhrilona naa naadhudayday…’ is rendered. This kind of inintentions faux pas cannot be explained away as ragamalika. The abov edharuvu employs Sa, Ni, Dha, Ni, and Sa in Anandabharavi, a practice peculiar to the old school. Similarly there are many such raga-s with different notational connotations in the old school of practice, which are abandoned today. Mukhari is an instance of this.

The Contemporaneous Melattur presentations of dance drams of Natya Mela form followed a different technique as the literary par to the dance drama – libretto, is adopted to the musical raga prescriptions, thereby literature giving precedence to music, as it took a secondary position. This technique of slow pace or tempo vives rise to daruvus of musical significance leaving less scope of dramatic Nrutha- Abhinaya. It however suited the Natya Mela of Mlattur. The Kuchipudi dharuvus as mentioned earlier struck a balance between their Libertto and Music.

Kuchipudi in its resurrected form (Entertainment of the elite in the modern era)

The advent of theatre resulted in the downfall of Kuchipudi Yakshagana. The place of theater we taken over by cinema after it reigned the stage between the later part of the 19th century early 20th century. There was a period of lull in between as the influence of the theater started waning, when the Kuchipudi Ykahsagana resurrected with a renewed force and rejuvenated in a new outfit to the dual accompaniment of mellifluous music and scholastic literary compositions, thanks to the tireless perseverance of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, the stalwart in the cause of propagation of the Kuchipudi art. His works of dance drama project the characteristics of the Western Opera and Ballet. He has spruced up the original Yakshagana. He has relied heavily on Natya Dharmi than on Loka Dharmi and has avoided such rustic indulgences as dialogues, especially double entendre and meaningless, inconsequential characters such as Vidhushaka-s.

The literary equivalents of Kandhaardha and Parnchachaamara meters were given up in Vempati’s production. He has a penchant for classical rendition, which is dutifully adopted in the music and the libertto of his dance dramas. The raga-s and tala-s of both the schools of Indian music, Carnatic and Hindustani have been used t highlight the mood of the scene or the situation in the story line. Even the use of the Desi style of music is welcome if the situation warrants it. Whether Carnatic, Hindustani or folk, they all project the Indian cultural ethos.

In the reincarnated form the dance dram is divided into various scenes to facilitate the narration of the story. The music in dance dramas goes in the tine with the literary composition and together they maintain the moods and the emotions of the story line. Generally in a musica performance the music dominates, giving importance to the raga rendition leaving practically no scope for literary or emotional interpretation.

In a dance drama the story and its interpretation should hold sway. The dance, music and literature are judiciously blended in such a way as to achieve this. They are only a means to interpret the main story lien. There is no place for domineering by one department over the other at the cost of the story. Sri Chinna Satyam has successful accomplished this task. To understand this achievement better let us consider the important factors in the various dance drams produced by the Kuchipudi Art Academy, Madras.

This was the first of the dance dramas produced by Sri Vempati Chinna Satyam and staged hundred of times. The story line is very thin, the libretto and music in this are the collective efforts of many. Some dharuvu-s of Bhama Kalapam – Lekha the traditiona Neela Mega Shareera, are used without changes. The introductory Sandhi Vachanam is replaced by a scene where Narada presents the Parijaatha flower to Sathyabhama. Her sulks, Sri Krishna promise, the consort’s altercation, Narada’s word of advice follow and the dance drama finally ends on the note of Sathyabhama’s repentance. Natya plays a dominant role throughout. The use of traditional Dharuvu-s, the wordy-duel verses and songs of later addition are all set to imposing music. It has retained the original Yakshagana flavour.

The play ambulates majestically on the support rendered in equal proportions by the music, dance and literature. The overall impression on would have is that the original audio presentation is given a visual treatment. The number of scenes is less. The Aarabhi, Devagandhari, Poorikalyani, Kambhoji, Surati, Seindhavi scales are used effectively. The entrance of Mohini towards the end of the play give limited scope for dance. The “Idhigo Viswmohiru” dharuvu and the song “Raare Dhivijulaara” in Seindhavi scale are impressive.

The music plays a dominant role. The impressive presentation by the Apsara-s in the court of Devendra both in terms of dance and music this one of the best classical Kuchipudi items.

The music and literary portions of this dance drama present the true picture of Kalidasa’s inner feelings. The Janjhooti, Naadhanamakriya, Hindolas scales are effectively used to highlight the expected rasa-s, moods. There is not much scope for dance. With the Ghandharva form of marriage between Shakuntala and Dhushyantha the play comes to a end. Many emotional sentimental events and the major story line in the original work are left out. The connoisseurs fondly await a more comprehensive and complete presentation of Shakunathama from the academy.

The production of this ballet was a turning point in the history of the academy. It is a perfect blend of dance, music and literature, with all the salient features of the respective fields extensively and effectively put to use. The story allows ample scope for high drama as it depicts the life of Lord Venkateswara. As far as music is concerned all the popular features of Carnatic style like Kriti, Padam, Javali and even Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi are adopted as the situation warranted. Many raga-s that are not in vogue are employed. Music and libretto go hand in hand. The dance and the music in this ballet commanded popular appreciation, resulting in a number of performances.

Chandalika is acclaimed to be one of the popular productions of the Academy. The characters are representative of the author’s feelings and thus too fictitious to be real. The music therefore is set to suit the mood of the author rather than the character and is essentially light, with flashes of classical shades. The music enlivens the rasa on hand with equally impressive lyrics.

The story and the situtations permitted the use of such raga-s as Anandabhairavi, Devagandhari, Gambheera Naata and Ahiri to highlight the essential emotional element of the history. The Composition “Thuluva manassaye thandri” set to Devagandhari in this ballet takes care of not only the essential features of the raga but goes deep into the heart of the connoisseur. Another compostion “Koluvaithiva Rangasayee” is so popular on account of the musica rendition and scholastic, thematics presentation that it is also presented as a solo item highlighting the Kuchipudi idiom.

The scenes and the situations in this presentation warrant the use of the Hindustani scales such as Madhuvanthi, Pahadi, Desh, Sohini, Jaya Jayavanthi, Bheemplaas et al. It is but natural to adopt the Carnatic scales of the matter-of-fact nature to create a scene of conversation, preaching or wordy – duel and to choose the Hindustani scales of face to project the emotional, sentimental mood of the scene. Incidentally, even such Carnatic scales such as Kedaram, Yadukula Kambhoji, Varali etc are used to serve the purpose of highlighting the emotional element. In short, Kalyana Rukmini is a beautiful ballet.

This ballet is full of melodrama. The dance and music are set to the novel and experimental parameters. The viewer is bound in a divine, emotional feeling as the literatuer, music and dance combine to bring about a rare experience in the Siva Tandava scene. the use of Bilaskhaani Todi to bring out the feelings of separation in Lord Siva after the flames consume Sati, His consort is apt as no other scale in any other style would have given the desired result. Similarly the Desi nature of the raga-s for the marriage preparations and punnagavali raga wle parvati is made-up as a bride, reinforce the mood of the scene and invoke a feeling of rare experience in the viewers.

The scoper for experiment is successfully tested in this ballet as the compostion “Aamani vachchi vaali” set in a literary meter known as Khanda Gathi, in ragamalika is presented in misra jaathi Jhampa Taal using an unsual pace (tempo) of Madhayama kaala. The general practice is to use this taal in dhruta Kaala. In effeect the literay metre of Khanda Gathi is converted into musical meter of Chaturasra Gati to make it amenable to the expression of Natya.

The medium of dance drama is effectively used to portray the story of Ramayan through this abllet. The story line alternates between Sita and Sri Rama till Lord Sri Rama snaps the devine bow of Lord Siva. The earlier parts deal with the birth of Sri Rama in Hari Katha style, the incident that stimulates poetic expression of Ramayana, the initiation of the princes to archery. Extraordinary care is taken to compose the music for “Maanishaadha” the first sloka fo Ramayan. The seindhavi scale for the lullaby is an experiment. The rare classical raga-s Suddha Bangala, Pandi etc are revisited and used with refreshing novelty. The overall presentation of the dance dram is in conformity with the poetic expression.

The above review of the dance dramas produced by Kuchipudi Art Academy, Madras is nothing but the first impressions carried by the viewers. A more comprehensive analysis of these dance dramas as well as the works of other Kuchipudi performers is necessary to understand the evolution of the rustic Yakshagana into a refined, sophisticated Sangith Nruthya Rupakam of Kuchipudi. After the performances the connoisseurs come and express their happiness and congratulate the artistes and some further make their suggestions and volunteer advice. Some of them think that the art has a duty to serve a social purpose. This medium must take upon itself to project contemporary problems. They opine the biography of Jesus Christ or Mahatma Gandhi will make a good subject to present trough this medium.

Most of these suggestions are good, ideological and revolutionary. However it is necessary to remember the limitations of the classical arts. They do not reflect contemporary life. Classical music and dance forms belong to the ancient life styles and behavior with poetic expression. If an attempt is made to fix the present day situations in that mould it would look ridiculous and out of place. this is not to underestimate the greatness of the classical fine arts. The Paadda Bhedha-s, Hasta Bheda-s predetermined connotations and purposes, which are referred to under the common name and expression ‘tradition’. How far it is deal to convert the traditional art form to suti the present life situations is a difficult question to answer.

When the scholars of Telugu Literature were faced with such ticklish issue they did not hesitate to deviate from the path of tradition and create an innovative prosdic path in the form of Maathraa Chandhas to fulfill their social responsibilities. The poet is allowed the freedom of choosing the medium to convey his feelings. If we try to fix the great popet Mahakavi Sri Sri’s poem ‘Polaala nanni halaala dhuni ilaa thalam lo heyman pandaga” into the mould of prosodic prescription, for instance Champakamala meter and present it like “Polamulananni imposaga haalika moppaga jesi dharithilo” can it be said the purpose is served? Similary the attempts at translating the great verses of Geethanjali and Omar hayyam into Telug verses had not met with much success. The same is true of music. The Classical Kalyani scale that is suitable to render “Kamalaambaam Bhajarey”, traditional krithi, may not serve the purpose in that form to render a romantic song. However the fine arts have a tendency to follow partly the path of tradition and partly the path of prescriptions of the texts. The music and dance may generally was such prescriptions of the texts, which have universal application and match the moods of all times and places and come up with presentation. For instance, the same Kalyani moorchana is made suitable to render the lyrics, “Thotalo naa raju” through the lips of a historical character or a modern song like ‘paluka radhatay chiluka’. But for traditionalist, to term the scale of “Paluka radhatay chiluka” or any such novel presentation as Kalyani may look ridiculous. For him the mere notations – moorchana alone will not constitute the Kalyani raga. It should also be accomplained by the Graha Nyaasa Amsa notations as also the grace – Gmaka, unique to that scale to make the raga complete.

It is enough if we remember that a creative presentation is possible without a nomenclature attached to it. Dance and music have universal appreciation. The connoisseur is after the rasa and the medium and to a limited extent, the subject. The Mudra-s hand gestures, of classical dance have specific meaning and purpose, which are suitable for a mythological subject. They may not have any significance in the day-to-day existence. Apart from conveying a specific meaning, the mudras are presented with grace and a sense of aesthetics, to make it different fro the hand gestures of the hearing impaired.

The solitary rasa that is of paramount interest in a dance recital these days is Shringara – the love of the hero and the heroine. The position of the dance dramas is different in that they have a duty to run the whole gamut of emotions – the nava rasa-s, depending on the story presented. The traditionalists of dance, taking into account their experience, should take necessary steps to make the medium responsive to the changing times. This is an essential sign of evolution true of all forms of fine arts. The sentiments and human emotions are the same whether it is a mythological or a modern character. The mode of expressing them may be different. The subject of Satyabhama’s sulks or her love affair is undoubtedly appealing and enjoyed almost every time it is presented. But to note that no attempt is made to project similar feelings of the modern day hero and heroine makes a sad reading. However it may be emphasised that what is needed is a revolution in form and content and not in content alone.

The popular medium of dance, as it was already mentioned is a combination of other two popular fine arts, namely music and literature. The traditionalists of dance with the necessary application of mind will be able to come up with an exquisite, perfectly delectable, ideal form of dance with a scope of modern day applications. The response of the dance directors, some of them with traditional background, in the field of cinema, where they are expected to apply the medium of dance to modern day situations, the joy and happiness of the hero and heroine, is more like an organised drill class or military parade especially in the usage of hundreds of group dancers.,

Whatever attempts are made by them to modernise the dance form is tune with changing time and moods of the modern man, are within the sphere of cinema having limited appeal, may be called as mass appeal. The cinematic modernisation of traditional form of dance has into appeal to the elite. It is therefore incumbent on the traditionalists to shoulder the responsibility to create a new modern dance form with all necessary characteristics of the traditional form and yet to take care of the emotionally dispositions of modern day characters.
(This article was first published in the book “Kuchipudi Mahotsave ’96)


(The author is a poet, musician and playwright based in Vijayawada, A.P. ‘Rajani’ the pseudonym he adopted for the All India Radio, becomes a by word among Telugu listeners for his wonderful lyrics, musicals and Yakshagana. He has set many of his own compositions and that of others to music; which are very popular. He is the recipient of the Central Sahitya Akademi Award in 1961.

The coveted nippam Hosso Kyorai award from Japan besides other honours. He is a prolific writer with several publications in Telugu and English in his credit.)

The following Prakrit verse from Gaatha Saptasathi depicts a pleasant encounter of the Gopis with Lord Krishna, after completing the performance of “Rasa” dance:

(Prakrit) “Nachchana Salaahana nihem paasa parisanthia niunna govii Sarisa goviyaanam chumbaii Kavola padhimaagayam Kanham” (Sanskrit) “Narante Slaaghana Nibhena Paarsva Parisamsthitha nipuna gopee Sadrisa gopikaanaam chumbati kapola pratimagatam Krishnam”

(English translation)
“The gopis had just ended their (rasa) dance. Te gopi, who just stood aside watching their dance, went foward and kissed the cheeks of the dancer in appreciation. The glistering cheeks of the gopis reflected Lord Krishnas figure and all the kisses of the senior gopi reached the Lord Krishna reflection.

The Prakrit verse, quoted from the Gaatha Saptasthi is indicative of the existence of the performing ar form, as a music-dance drama, entitled Rasakam. This dealt with the theme of Rasa dance as one of the 18 or 20 Uparupakas, defined by the post-Bharata musicologists like Kohala, which ere earlier written in Desabhashas or Prakritas of the period like Dakshinatya, Magadhi and Apabhramsa.


There is no second opinion among scholars about Nandikeswara being the same as ‘Tandu’ a close disciple of Siva. His ‘Nritta Vidya’ the art of the pure dance or rhythmic movements of feet and all other limbs of the body, blending the Tandava and lasya techniques, was imparted (by Tandu and Nandi) to Bharata and his disciples.

Sambrai Bhilla, perhaps the earliest tribal chief of patriarch, who was raised to the status of God as on of the Trimurtis, and high respected by other Devas and Rishis, was the innovator of this pure dance or nrita. This was performed to the accompaniment of lyrics with no words or language but composed merely of Patakshara (called Solkattu or Kongulu in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu). Tarikita, taamtehi, tadhimi, retaka, ghanu ghanu, ghantu, ghantu are some examples of Patakshara, with which the divine sage Narada is said to have composed a ccollection of lyrics under the title Desigansamudram (mentioned by Sarangadeva in his Sangita Ratnakara).


Brihaddesi, Matanga’s endeavours for integration, besides those of Kohala, a very close associate of Bharata muni, Yashitka, Kasyapa, Sandilya and Durga Sakthi etc., resulted in giving a social uplift to many Desi ragas, Prabandhas(Kandhakhava Biruda, Kaivada, Ela, Rahadi, Padadhi, etc)and Rupakas (Srigaditam, Parijatakam, Rasakam, Haillisakam, Kolhatakam, Perani, Prenkahanam etc), entitling them to equal respect along with Marga forms of art.

Matanga was the earliest of Lakshanakarta who defined Marga and Desi types of music.