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Telugu Culture

The cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh is rich with classical and folk arts ranging from the ballad singing 'Burrakatha' to the refined classical form of 'Kuchipudi' dance. As the home of abundant folk tradition, Andhra Pradesh has more than sixty classical and folk dance forms. A few of the popular performing arts are:


1. Kuchipudi Dance

Kuchipudi, one of the famous classical dances in India takes its name from a village, Kuchelapuram, 60km away from Vijayawada. This dance drama enactment throbs with Telugu lyrics and Sanskrit verses. It is distinguished from other dance forms by narrative interruptions that makes it very popular and expressive. This art form emphasizes on animation. Apart from that it is akin to 'Bharathanatyam'. The present style of Kuchipudi and its developemet are accredited to 'Siddhendra Yogi' and 'Tirtha Narayana'.


2. Andhra Natyam

The traditional dance form of 'Andhra Natyam' originated as a temple dance that dates back to as early as 2000 years. The dance form was categorized as 'Agma Nartana' performed in the temples, 'Carnatakam' performed in the royal courts, and 'Darbari Attam' performed in the courtyards of temples for the common man. Andhra Natyam is similar in style to Bharatanatyam and is based on Nandikesa's 'Abhinaya Darpana' and Bharata's 'Natya Shastra'. This was the female tradition (Lasya) of dance that was characterized by a rich display of foot work and superior 'abhinaya'. Unlike the original version, the present Andhra Natyam is performed with stylish costumes, makeup, ornaments and orchestra.


3. Perini Thandavam

'Perini Thandavam' is a vigorous male dance form flourished during the Kakatiyas of Warangal. The warriors enacted the dance in front of the idol of 'Lord Siva' before they left for the battlefield. The dance is done to the resounding beats of drums. The dancers invoke and invite Siva offering their bodies to him to dance through. Perini almost disappeared after the decline of Kakatiya dynasty. Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna revived the dance form to the present day status.


4. Tappetta Gullu

It is a folk dance in narrative form that combines devotion with entertainment. 'Tappatta Gallu' is confined to Visakapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. The dance involves 15 - 30 dancers dressed in colorful attire with a small drum locally called 'tappetta gundu'. With rhythmic beat of the drum, the performers sing and dance to enchant the villagers. This dance form has become a popular ballad being performed at important cultural festivals in Andhra Pradesh.


5. Burra Katha

'Burra Katha' is the most popular narrative folk form in Andhra Pradesh. The name Burra Katha came from the percussion instrument used in the narrative. This folk form has perfected by fusing the dramatic and narrative elements with music and humor. The performing team consists of three narrators in colorful dress. The main narrator co-ordinates with narration, description, explanation etc. while the assistants provide rhythm with a small drum and chorus.


6. Dappu Dance

Used to publicize information and royal orders in the olden days, the present 'dappu' dancer still plays an important role during village festivals and village Panchayat. Using 'dappu', a percussion instrument, the dappu dancer moves rhythmically in circles during a performance. Over the years 'dappu dance' had transformed into two variations, dappu with songs and 'kolattam dappu' where players use sticks to make rhythmic strikes at each other's.


7. Kolattam

'Kollattam' or the stick dance is one of the most popular dance narratives in Andhra Pradesh. Known in different names in different places of the state, kolattam can be traced back to 7th century AD. A rural art usually performed during village festivals, kolattam is a combination of rhythmic movements, songs and music. In kolattam, performed by 8 to 40 artists grouped in pairs, The stick provides the main rhythm. The artists lead by the leader move into two circles, the inner circle receiving the strikes while the outer circle delivering them.


8. Yakshagana

Began as a ballad singing art form in the olden days, Yakshagana transformed into a dance drama form. It was initially performed by a single dancer and gradually evolved into a complete dramatic form with many characters. The ballad form, the poetic patterns, the musical styles and the theoretical works contributed to the making of Yakshagana. With passing of time, the structure of Yakshagana form underwent a lot of changes with the interaction of classical drama tradition. The evolution of Kuchipudi Yakshagana form set an example for the performing groups where verses and prose were introduced. The art form is experimented with social themes without altering the basic structure.


9. Puli Vesham

This is an open air performance usually enacted during Dasara or Moharrum in villages and during festivals in towns. It is one of the most popular dance forms in Andhra Pradesh and variations are seen throughout South India.

The Puli Vesham is a dance performed by two, the hunter and the hunted. The dance is supplemented with musical instruments. The dance usually starts with the 'tiger' jumping and marching to the rhythm of drum-beats. The hunter enters and wounds the tiger. Then the encounter to subdue each other begins. The dance ends with the tiger falling dead.

The costume and makeup of the Puli Vesham is complicated. The body of the person who plays tiger is smeared with yellow paint with bold black stripes. He also wears a mask and a long tail. The acrobatic skills, fearful facial expressions and charging moves make Puli Vesham a very active, awe-inspiring and popular entertainment.


10. Bhamakalpam

Bhama refers to Satyabhama , Krishna's beautiful but jealous wife and kalpam means complaint or argument. Bhamakalpam is both a theatre form (like Gollakalpam) and a drama. The drama was created by Siddhendra Yogi in the seventeenth century for the devotional use of Kuchipudi performers. The theatre is performed by several troupes in Andhra Pradesh and is a fine example of the feminine movements in dance (lasya) as opposed to the masculine tandava movements of Kathakaliand Yakshagana.


11. Veeranatyam

Lord Siva, outraged at the humiliation met by his consort, picked up a strand out of his Jata-Jhuta (hair) and created Veerabhadra.
The Veeramusti community which claims to be the descendant of Veerabhadra, performs this vigorous dance with instruments like Tambura, Soolam, Dolu, Tasha and Veeranam usually at Draksharamam in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, which is believed to be Dakshavatika, the birth place of Veerabhadra



12. Butta bommalu

A typical folk dance form, popular in Tanuku of West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, Butta Bommalu which literally means basket toys are made of woodhusk, dry grass and cow dung. Each dancer wears a different mask over the head and shoulders enlarging the scope of the performer and dances to a nonverbal rhythm which adds colour to the movements.



13. Lambadi

Associated with daily tasks harvesting, planting, sowing etc., the Lambadi is performed by the Ganjaras, a seminomadic tribe seen all over Andhra Pradesh.
Costumes embroidered with glass beads and mirrors, ornate jewellery, ivory bangles, brass anklets and a natural rhythm make this dance a colourful exposition of joy which is the highlight of many a festive occasion



14. Bonalu

The folk festival of Bonalu in the Telangana region brings with it celebrations which see the colourfully dressed female dancers balancing pots (Bonalu), step to the rhythmic beats and tunes in praise of the village deity Mahankali.
Male dancers called Potharajus precede the female dancers to the temple lashing whips and neem leaves adding colour to the festivity


15. Dhimsa

Generally performed in the local fairs and festivals of Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam District, this tribal dance sees 15-20 women forming a chain and dancing in praise of the local deity. Women attired in typical tribal dresses and ornaments dance to the beat of instruments like Mori, Thudum and Dappu played by the male members