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Exploring the Rich Tapestry of Solo Items in Kuchipudi Natyam

The term "composition" in the realm of Indian classical dance encompasses the amalgamation of dance and music. In the vibrant spectrum of Indian classical dance, Kuchipudi Natyam, one of the eight main classical dance forms, intricately weaves dance narratives with richly lyrical, grammatical, and melodious musical compositions.

Historical Roots:

The roots of Kuchipudi Natyam find resonance in the trinity of Telugu literature—Nannayya, Tikkanna, and Yerrapragada, authors of the seminal work 'Andhra Mahabharatham.' References to Natyam in Telugu literature of various authors underscore how the dance form thrived in the rich cultural tapestry of Telugu-speaking regions. Initially, Kuchipudi Natyam adhered closely to the guidance of Natya Sastra, evolving as a tradition of performing dance dramas.

Evolution of Repertoire:

Traditionally, Bhagavathulus from Kuchipudi village traveled and performed the art form in the form of Kalapas and Yakshaganas. To adapt to changing expectations and contribute to societal well-being, thematic presentations or Kelikas were added to the Kuchipudi repertoire. Subsequently, to attain parity with other Indian classical dance forms and secure the status of an Indian classical dance, new presentational formats such as solo presentations and dance dramas, known as Nritya Natikas, were incorporated into Kuchipudi's repertoire.

Invocatory Dance Items:

The commencement of any Indian classical dance performance typically involves an invocatory dance number. Over time, several musical forms like Mallaris, Kauthuvams, and Keerthanams have substituted traditional invocatory pieces. Dr. Vempati introduced compositions like 'BrahmanjaliTandavanrutyasrashtaku,' presenting a novel invocation that sets the tempo for the entire performance.


A dance number intertwining Jathis and Swaras, Jathiswaram serves as a foundational piece for students to grasp rhythmic and musical intricacies. Vedantam Lakshminarayana Sastry garu imparted various Jatikattus as part of the training curriculum, allowing students to master rhythmic patterns and explore them in their choreographies.


This composition, blending Jathi, Swaras, and Sahithyams, helps students comprehend rhythm, music, and expression (Bhava) in dance. Dr. Vempati choreographed a Swarajati in the Ragam 'Vasanta,' aiding students in handling music and rhythm while dancing to songs.


These musical numbers, often praising specific deities, serve as initial teaching items with simple Bhava and Abhinaya. Dasavathara Sabdham, Krishna Sabdham, and Ramayana Sabdham are exemplary pieces in this category.

Pravesha Dharuvu:

Inspired by the Pancha Dhruva Ganams in Natyasastra, these pieces introduce significant characters in Kuchipudi dramas, demanding skillful Abhinaya from dancers.


Excerpts from 'Sri Krishna Leela Tarangini' by saint Narayana Teertha, Tarangams glorify the deeds of Sri Krishna. They uniquely incorporate dancing on the rims of a brass plate, demonstrating dance's Nritta, Nritya, and Natya aspects.


Padams, cherished musical compositions, primarily revolve around the expression of 'Sringara Rasa' or the sentiment of love. Typically, these compositions contain profound Sahithyams, offering dancers a canvas to depict nuanced emotions. Originating from poets like Kshetrayya, these pieces, predominantly in Telugu, intricately weave tales of love, often sung in the 'Chauka kala' or slower tempo. Their slow pace enables dancers to profoundly explore Bhava or emotional expression in dance.


Similar to Padams, Javalis also belong to the Sringara rasa genre. These compositions, however, differ in their tempo, presenting a more upbeat and lively rhythm compared to Padams. Javalis, predominantly centered on love, are characterized by faster-paced music. While they explore the sentiment of love, the abhinaya or expression in Javalis is not as deep as in Padams, focusing more on entertainment and liveliness.


Ashtapadhis trace their origin to the poetic genius of Saint Jayadeva, renowned for crafting devotional songs praising the love between Radha and Krishna. These compositions, set to varied Ragas and Talas, delve into the myriad emotions experienced by Radha and Krishna in their divine love saga. Ashtapadhis are performed in various choreographic styles, each resonating with the unique grammar of the song and the emotions it encapsulates.


Keerthanams, a staple in classical music and dance, are musical compositions known for their diverse complexities. Authored by revered composers like Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, and Annamacharya, Keerthanams range from simple to intricate and mature renditions. In Kuchipudi, these compositions find their way into performances, enriching the dancer's repertoire. Each Keerthanam presents a distinct musical structure, demanding skillful interpretation and expression by the dancer.


Thillanas, serving as the crescendo of a Kuchipudi performance, embody a fusion of melody and rhythmic patterns. These fast-paced musical pieces, set to Ragas like Hindolam, Dhanasree, Hamsanandi, and Kunthalavarali, invigorate the finale of the performance. Thillanas showcase the dancer's proficiency in intricate footwork and rhythmic movements, culminating the presentation with a vibrant and captivating culmination.

In essence, Kuchipudi Natyam, through its diverse solo items and carefully crafted musical compositions, stands as a testament to the artistry, depth, and evolution of Indian classical dance, perpetuating its legacy as a cherished cultural treasure.


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