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Andhra Pradesh is associated with the divine dance form, as it were, Kuchipudi. Kuchipudi, the indigenous style of dance of Andhra Pradesh took its birth and effloresced in the village of the same name, originally called Kuchelapuri or Kuchelapuram, a  hamlet in Krishna district. Kuchipudi has always been an inherent and inseparable part of the Andhra tradition. The genesis of Kuchipudi art as of most Indian  classical dances is associated with religions. It is famous for its grace, elegance and charm. It was Abdul Tana Shah, the grand nephew of Sultan Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. Kuchipudi is a perfect balance between three aspects- Nritta , Nritya and Natya.

According to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed only by men and they all belonged to the Brahmain community.These Brahmain families were known popularly as Bhagavathalu of Kuchipudi. A very charming form of abhinaya is the satvikabhinaya which includes three steps. It begins with facial expressions and eye movements, followed by hand gestures and eventually movements of the entire body. The most popular Kuchipudi dance is the pot dance in which a dancer keeps a pot filled with water on her head and feet kept on a brass plate. Kuchipudi plays are enacted in the open air and on improvised stages. Kuchipudi, the dainty dance form of Andhra Pradesh is profoundly aesthetic and the experience of watching it live is most exhilarating and cannot be expressed in words!!.


Indian classical music is categorized under two genres. They are Hindustani and Carnatic . Broadly Hindustani developed in the northern regions of the country, while Carnatic music is indigenous to the south of India.

Carnatic music is considered one of the oldest systems of music in the world. It is imbued with emotion and gives scope for the spirit of improvisation However it also contains a scientific approach. This is mainly due to the contributions of inspired artists as Purandara Dasa , who is known as the Father of Carnatic Music, and other scholars who codified the system of music and gave it a clear format as a medium of teaching, performing, prayer and therapy.

The basis of Carnatic music is the system of ragas , which are melodic scales and talas or rhythmic cycles. There are seven rhythmic cycles and 72 fundamental ragas. All other ragas are considered to have stemmed from these. An elaborate scheme exists for identifying these scales, and they are known as the 72 Melakarta Ragas .

Carnatic music abounds in structured compositions in the different ragas. These are songs composed by great artists and handed down through generations to disciples. While the improvised elaboration of a raga varies from musician to musician, the structured portion is set. These compositions are extremely popular, with a strong accent on rhythm and lively melodic patterns. The three saint composers of the nineteenth century, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, have composed thousands of songs that remain favourites among musicians and audiences.

An important element of Carnatic music is its devotional content. The lyrics of the traditional compositions, whether mythological or social in nature, are set entirely against a devotional or philosophical background



Dances & Music in Tamil Nadu

Folk Dance

Tamilnadu had developed and fine-tuned the art of entertainment. The three modes of entertainment are classified as Iyal or Literature , Isai or Music and Nadagam or Dance/Drama have had their roots in the rural folk theatre like Therukoothu . Many forms of group and individual dances with classical forms have been adapted for popularity and sheer entertainment value. A majority of these dances still thrive in Tamil Nadu today.The most celebrated form of village folk dance is Karagattam.

K aragattam K aragam is a folk dance with musical accompaniment. Balancing a water pot on the head the dancer performs. Traditionally, the villagers in praise of the rain goddess Mari Amman and river goddess, Gangai Amman, performed this dance with water pots balanced on their heads. In Sangam literature, this dance is mentioned as Kudakoothu. This dance has two parts, the Aatta Karagam and the Shakti Karagam . More often it is danced with decorated pots on the head and is known as Aatta Karagam and this symbolises joy and merriment. Aatta Karagam is performed only in temples, while the Shakti Karagam is mainly entertainment. Karagattam is one of the more popular rural dances today. Earlier it was performed only with accompaniment of the Naiyandi Melam but now it includes songs also.

The Karagam was once performed for mulaipari ceremony. The dancer carried a pot of sprouted grains on his/her head and danced, balancing it through intricate steps and body/arm movements. Today, the pots have transformed from mud pots to bronzeware and even stainless steel pots. The pots are placed one on top on the other, ranging in size to resemble a narrow triangle and they are decorated with flowers, and topped by a paper parrot. The parrot rotates as the dancer moves and swerves. This dance is very popular all over State, though it is said tohave begun in Thanjavur. Most Karagam artistes hail from Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Thirunelveli, Pattukottai and Salem. An individual or two persons can perform this dance. Both male and female performers participate and acrobatics similar to that of a circus are included. They range from dancing on a rolling block of wood, to going up and down a ladder, and the more intricate and absorbing feats like threading a needle while bending backwards with the pots still resting on the head and many others.

Kummi is one of the most important and ancient forms of village dances of Tamilnadu. It originated when there were no musical instruments, with the participants clapping their hands to keep time. This is performed by women; many varieties of Kummi, such as, Poonthatti Kummi, Deepa Kummi, Kulavai Kummi, Kadir Kummi, Mulaipari Kummi etc are known. The women stand in a circle and dance clapping their hands rhythamically tolifting songs. This dance is usually performed during temple festivals, Pongal, the harvest festival, family functions like the one to celebrate the coming of age (onset of puberty) of the girl-child etc. The first line of the song is sung by the leading lady, which the others repeat.

Mayil Attam  This is done by girls dressed as peacocks, resplendent with peacock feathers and a glittering head-dress complete with a beak. This beak can be opened and closed with the help of a thread tied to it, and manipulated from within dress.

Other similar dances are, Kaalai Attam (dressed as a bull), Karadi Attam (dressed as a bear) and Aali Aattam (dressed as a demon) which are performed in the villages during village get-togethers. Vedala Aattam is performed wearing a mask depicting demons.

Kolaattam is an ancient village art. This is mentioned in Kanchipuram as 'Cheivaikiyar Kolattam', which proves its antiquity. This is performed by women only, with two sticks held in each hand, beaten to make a rhythmic noise. Pinnal Kolaattam is danced with ropes which the women hold in their hands, the other of which are tied to a tall pole. With planned steps, the women skip over each other, which forms intricate lace-like patterns in the ropes. As coloured ropes are used, this lace looks extremely attractive. Again, they unravel this lace reversing the dance steps. This is performed for ten days, starting with the Amavasi or Newmoon night after Deepavali.

Oyil Kummi This is an ancient folk dance form popular in Trichi, Salem, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore and Periyar Districts. No other musical instruments are used in this dance except the ankle-bells. This dance is performed by men only, during temple festivals. Stories and episodes centering around Murugan and Valli are depicted in the songs. As one of the rare folk art forms of ancient Tamil nadu, this is being practised now by the Telugu speaking people of the northern districts.

Kavadi Aattam  The ancient Tamils when they went on pilgrimage, carried the offerings to the gods tied on the either end of the long stick, which was balanced on the shoulders. In order to lessen the boredom of the long travel they used to sing and dance about the gods. Kavadi Aattam has its origin in this practice. Special songs were created to be sung while carrying the Kavadi Sindhu. This dance is performed only by men. It is done by balancing a pole with pots fixed on either end, filled with milk or cocunut water.

The poles are made from Purasai or Teak wood. On top, bamboo strips are bent like a half-moon, covered with saffron cloth and further decorated on the sides with peacock feathers. This is mainly a religious dance, performed in worship of Lord Murugan, the second son of Siva. The dance is accompanied by Pambai and Naiyandi Melam.

Poikkal Kudirai Aattam This is the Dummy Horse Dance where the dancer bears dummi figure of a horse's body on his/her hips. This is made of light-weighted materials and the cloth at the sides swings to and fro covering the legs of the dancer. The dancer dons wooden legs which sound like the hooves of the horse. The dancer brandishes either a sword or a whip. This folk dance needs much training and skill. This dance is accompanied by Naiyandi melam or Band music. This is connected to the worship of Ayyanar, prevails manily around Thanjavur.

KaiSilambu Attam This dance is performed in temples during Amman festivals or Navaratri festival. The dancers wear ankle-bells and hold anklets or silambu in their hands, which make noise when shaken. They perform various stepping styles jumps. The dance is in praise of all female deities, the most preferred being the powerful angry goddess - Kali or Durga. 

Silambattam Kol silambam or fighting with a long stick and even with swords is a martial art from the days of Tamil Kings. Fights were characterised by moves of self defence, practise of skillful methods of approaching the opponent, overpowering and subduing him, and finally teaching him a lesson, all to put an end to violence. A violent fighting art has metamorphosed into a non-violent form of folk dance, adding stepping styles following the measure of time. It also teaches the performer the methods of the self defence in modern day world.

Chakkai Attam Teak woodenpieces size of 7 X 3/4 inch are held between the fingers which make the noise. Eight to ten dancers stand in a circle or parallel lines. The accompanying songs are generally about gods and goddesses.

Kazhai Kothu Kazhai Kothu is a performance of gymnastic specialised by Aryans. This is very similar to modern day circus. They travel in a group from place to place, entertaining the local people and thus earning a living. 

Thappaattam Thappu is the name of a rhythamic beat instrument and Thappattam is practiced among the suppressed classes of the people of the Tamil Nadu. The subtle form of dance accompanied by captivating music, is an ancient rural folk art which is even now popular in urban slum areas in villages. 

Bommalattam or Puppet Show Puppet shows are held in every village during festivals and fairs. Many different kinds of puppets are used for this show - cloth, wood, leather, etc. They are manipulated through strings or wires. The persons stand behind a screen and the puppets are held in front. The stories enacted in the puppet shows are from puranas, epics and folklore. These shows are very entertaining and hold both adults and childrens entralled for many hours. 

Bagavatha Nadanam This dance is performed inside a temple, around a lamp. The purpose is to worship Lord Krishna, and celebrate his frolics with the gopikas. This is performed during Ramanavami and Gokulashtami.

Theru Koothu Normally conducted during village festivals, during the months of Panguni and Aadi. This is performed where three or four streets meet; in open air, the place being lit by gas lights. A wooden bench is set up to seat the singers and the musical troupe. Here, make-up and costumes are considered of prime importance. Only men take part; the female roles also played by them. The performance consists of stoy-telling, dialogue-rendering, songs and dance, all performed by the artistes. Thus the ariste should have a very good performing ability, being an all-rounder. The stories are taken from Puranas, epics such as Ramayana and Mahabharata, and also local folklore. The play starts in the late evening and gets over only during the small hours of the nights. The performance is so captivating that the audience are spell-bound unaware of the longs hours. Theru Koothu is more popular in the northern districts of Tamilnadu. The Koothu can be categorised as Nattu Koothu, including Vali Koothu, Kuravai Koothu etc. Samaya Koothu dealing with religious topics, Pei Koothu including Thunangai Koothu and Porkala Koothu dealing with martial events.

Devaraattam Devarattam is a pure folk dance still preserved by the descendents of Veerapandiya Kattabomman dynasty at Kodangipatti of Madurai District. It was actually performed once a year near the temple and that too restricted to that community alone. Folklore research scholars have found that Devarattam is a combination of ancient 'muntherkuruvai' and 'pintherkuruvai' of the ancient Tamil Kings. It was performed in front of and at the chariot on the victorious return of the King and his army from battle field. Sometimes even the king and his marshalls would dance on the chariot deck. The soldiers and female dancers would form in lines and dance behind the chariot.

Today, this dance does not have any songs but only danced to the beat of Urumi Melam, Thappu Melam and sometimes, a long flute. The dancers hold a kerchief in each hand and swing them as they dance. The person leading the dance wears false beard and a mask decorated with shells to look like teeth. He dances the first step, which others follow.

Oyilattam Oyil means beauty. This dance is hence the dance of beauty. Traditionally, it is danced only by men. Ten years ago women also began to participate. This dance is prevalent in the south districts and Kongu Nadu in particular. First a few people will stand in a row and start dancing with rhythmic steps with musical accompaniment. Intricate steps are used in martial arts, such as Silambattam. Then gradually the row will become longer as the new comers and guests all join and dance along as they like. The dancers wear ankle-bells. Normally, the dance is performed with the accomplishment of musical instruments and songs. It is performed near the temples or public places in the morning and evening hours, at times even till midnight. Styles of Oyilattam differ from place to place. 

Snake Dance Yet another typical speciality of the southern region is the snake-dance which arises from the popularity of the snake as a protective divinity, safeguarding the health and happiness of the rural folk.

Usually danced by young girls dressed in a tight-fighting costume designed like the snake-skin. The dancer simulates the movements of the snake, writhing and creeping, at times making quick biting movements with head and hands. The raised hands held together look like the hood of a snake.

Urummi Attam The whirring sound of 'urumi' providing the melody and the beat of the Thappu providing the rhythm, accompany the dance sequence in this kind of temple art form. This is performed especially in Amman temples during the month of Adi. Nowadays, this art form is found only in selected villages in a few districts.

Ottan Koothu Ottas, a small group of tribals, perform this form of ritual dance on festive occassions to depict episodes from epics and other ancient stories. The women folk also participate in the dance.

Kamandi or Kaman Pandigai This is celebrated to commemorate the puranic event when Manmada the God of Love was burnt to ashes by Siva in anger. The villagers separate themselves into two parties as Erintha katchi and Eriyatha katchi and a heated debate ensues. Kaman and Rathi, his consort, are main characters.

Puli Attam is performed by young men with painted bodies in colours yellow and black, complete with fangs, head gear with ears, paws with claws and long tail, simulating the prancing, ouncing tiger in every ferocious move. Wildly beating drums add frenzy to the performance.

Sometimes, a goat is tied and brought along with the dancers, who pretend to pounce on it and kill it. This dance is regularly performed during temple festivals, drawing large crowds.

Kali Attam  means joy or fun and games. This is also known as Koladi, Kolkali, Kambadi Kali and Kolaattam. Sticks one foot length are held in each hand and beaten to make a sharp, rasping sound as the dance proceeds with unique steps, twisting and turning. It is danced by both men and women, during festivals, auspicious days and weddings. The special qualities fo the dance are quickness, alertness, while being careful no to hurt the other dancers by the swinging 'kol'. Earlier, the 'kols' were brightly painted and decorated with brass rings, bells etc. The dancers used to wear ankle-bells. However, no special dress or make up was used for this dance.

Sevai Attam This form of art is devoted to 'Thirumal' (Maha Vishnu) and is performed by village folk belonging especially to Nataka community. In this dance the performers forming a group, with one of them acting the buffoon, dance to the music of percussion instrument like 'urumi'. The classical songs and the measured steps with graceful movements are the special features of Sevai Attam. In Sangam works this had been known as 'Pinther Kuruvai'. In those days this was performed at the rear of a chariot procession either of a king or a deity.

Villu Pattu The main singer here is accompanied by a chorus, musical instruments and a main instrument, the Villu or Bow, fixed with bells. The villu is struck rhythmically when the bells jingle in tune. The main singer relates a tale, interspersed with lively songs.

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Bharatanatyam was a dance technique evolved in the South of India in Tamil Nadu and practised in the Shiva temples. It is a highly specialised science with uses a traditional background and rigid codes and conventions. Bharatanatyam skillfully embodies the three primary aspects of dance. They are bhava or mood, raga or music and melody and tala or timing. The technique of Bharatanatyam consists of the hand, foot, face and body movements, which are performed to the accompaniment of 64 principles of coordination. 
F or many centuries only certain families in the district of Thanjavur performed Bharatanatyam. The inheritors of the craft were known as Nattuvans . The chief exponents of this dance were the devadasis or temple dancers . They would perform the dance daily at the time of worship or on festive occasions. It came to be patronized by the rajahs and princes. In course of time the devadasis began to dance in the courts and palaces and the sanctity of the dance was lost. 
B haratanatyam stands in the forefront of all the classical dance art forms that are now prevalent in India. Owing to its religious origins and its highly developed technique, it is the form of dance most akin to the code compiled by the sage Bharata Muni in his famous Natya Shastra . The modern form of Bharatanatyam presentation is the arrangements of four Nattuvans of Pandanallur who were brothers. They were Ponniah, Chinniah, Vadivelu and Sivanandam, who lived in the eighteenth century. The Vidwan, Meenaskshi Sundaram Pillai of Pandanallur, the greatest teacher of Bharatanatyam is a direct descendant of these brothers.

It was Rukmini Devi Arundale, the celebrated dancer and scholar who took this dance form out of the temple and gave it new respectability. She started the dance school Kalakshetra in Adyar. The school was later shifted to Thiruvanmiyur, from where it now functions. Here the old, gurukulam system in education is still followed and many classes are conducted in sylvan surroundings.

In the Nataraja temple or the temple of dancing Shiva at Chidambaram, the 108 poses of the classical form of Bharatanatyam are sculpted on the pillars around the shrines and on the gateways.



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