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About Andhra Natyam

 

Andhra Natyam is an ancient traditional dance form which originated as a temple dance and dates back to the Buddhist era. Classical Dances of South India are divided into two main categories:

  1. Natya Melamu - performed by men

  2. Nattuva Melamu - performed solo by women

Bharata Natyam, Mohiniattam, Odissi etc., follow the Nattuva Melamu tradition of dance. Kathakali, Yakshaganamu and the like follow the Natya Melamu tradition. Kuchipudi dance tradition of Andhra Pradesh follows Natya Melamu. Nattuva Melamu style of dance is largely performed by women and is adapted in a classical dance form that is known as Andhra Natyam. Although the name might sound new, but this classical dance tradition is as old as Telugu culture itself.

This 3000 year old Andhra Natyam, performed by women was banned for several years after suffering the consequences of social pressures, customs and financial troubles. Fortunately about 50 years ago, this ancient form of dance had been renamed and re-introduced as Andhra Natyam. One of the original, and the most profound contributors to the development of Andhra Natyam in the state of Andhra Pradesh is Padmasri Acharya Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna. With his relentless efforts, dedication and inspiration, he revived this ancient dance form with the help of Government of Andhra Pradesh.

 

Prior to being named as Andhra Natyam, this dance form was referred as Kaccheri, Kelika Darbaru, Mejuvani etc. Dance and Abhinaya were both used for the sole performances in ancient dances. The reason for calling it as Andhra Natyam is that these dance forms are mainly performed in many Temples, King's Courts as well as in local community gatherings. Fortunately Acharya Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna's efforts along with some renowned former courtesans and temple dancers, this dance form has been revived and reinstituted into the main stream.

 

In Andhra Pradesh, this dance tradition has developed in 3 distinct styles:

Aradhana Nrityam - Temple Dances: The Vedas, Upanishads that evoke the Bhakti Rasa is the prime source for Agama Sastra. Temple construction, Devata Pratishtha, Aradhana, Puja Kramam is classical music and dance. Agama Sastra describes this tradition of devotional dance and music in great detail, including descriptions of the types of musical instruments that are used and how the poetry is to be written for songs. Puja (worship), when demonstrated via dance and music, is known as 'Rangabhogamu'. Although these days temples do not host any dances, the priests still chant "Nrityam Samarpayami" (Offering Dance to the Lord) and "Ganam Samarpayami" (offering Music to the Lord). Without these offerings, any puja would be incomplete. Devanarthaki's (Temple dancers) would dance at various times of the day from Melukolupu (Early morning when the  Lord wakes up) till Pavvalimpu Seva (the time when the Lord retires to bed).

 

Asthana Nrityam - Dances in King's Courts: Raja Narthakis or Asthana Narthakis (Court Dancers) are very well educated in literature, poetry, politics, art including classical music and dance. They have to perform skilled dancing in the King's court amidst the scholars, poets, critics, royal visitors, and other experts in various fields including dance. These Raja Narthakis have to constantly practice and improvise their skills to keep the King and his subjects enthralled with their dance and music. In many historical examples it is noted that the Raja Narthaki is as respected  and honoured as the Maharani (the Queen) herself. After monarchy ended in India there are no court dancers. Present day solo dancers demonstrate their dance skills in auditoroums built for art lovers and appreciative audiences. 

 

Prabandha Nrityam - Dances for the general audiences: In order to ensure that rich and poor can learn and enjoy our ancient mythology, history, culture and traditions, many dances were based on popular mythological tales. Dances that were choreographed for such occasions are known as Prabhandha Nartanamu. Such dances at times also depicted current affairs in the country - political and cultural. Dances performed during important festivals became very popular entertainment along with offering good educational value to the common public.

 

Two such popular dances are 'Bhama Kalapam'  and 'Golla Kalapam'. Bhama Kalapam is a romantic, melodious, visually exquisite Prabandha Rachana. Golla Kalapam is more philosophical. Bhama Kalapam is also known as Nava Janardana Parijatam.

 

Navajanardana Parijatam is a choreographic interpretation to the popular mythological theme related to the divine life of Lord Krishna and his glamorous consort Satyabhama. This dance calls for exuberant performance from the artist synthesizing beauty in the eyes, message in the movements and sweetness in performance elevating the effect of music, song and substance. For more information about Navajanardana Parijatam click here.

 

 

 

 

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