Andhra Natyam is a dance form that has originated from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and has had a history that has traversed throughout two millenniums. The special characteristics of this dance-form include rhythmic stepping and facial expressions known as ‘Abhinaya’. The performances are accompanied by several classical instruments like mridangam, manjira, veena, venu, tanpura and kanjira. It follows the traditional South Indian dance form of Nattuva Melamu.
Stemming from Nattuva Melamu tradition of performance, it originates from a partial nomenclature of elements of Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Kacheriattam, and Chinnamelam and bears resemblance to them. Originally, though it was performed by temple dancers, it later spread to courts and open air theaters.
Unfortunately, this semi-ancient dance form had vanished for several years after facing severe monetary and societal hurdles. Approximately half a century ago this dance form resurfaced mostly under the profound contribution of Padmasri Acharya Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna. His rigorous efforts, dedication, and inspiration have managed to reinstitute this dance form into the main stream.
Throughout Andhra Pradesh, this dance form has attained distinct styles.
This style usually stars in the performances meant for the general masses. It developed with a purpose to ensure and propagate ancient Indian culture, traditions, history, and mythology. Most dances are usually performed based on legends and fables involving mythological characters and events. Often these choreographies also depict current political and cultural events. These performances are usually held during festivals and gain popularity among the common people.
Two such examples can be stated: The Bhama Kalapam and The Golla Kalapam, The first being a more romanticized and melodious affair while the latter reflects on philosophical ideas.
This is the most unadulterated style since its origin. This style is prevalent in performances at temples. The Vedas serves as its basic source of Bhakti Rasa that forms the base of this dance form. A detailed description of this style that involves usage of traditional musical instruments can be found in Agama Shastra. The rituals of deity worship are demonstrated via Rangabhogamu. Even though modern day worship rituals do not include a real dance performance, the priests still chant the mantra of Nritya Samarpayani via which they offer this dance form to the Gods.
This particular style is one that developed for court-performances. The court-dancers who were known as Raja Narthakis or Asthana Narthakis would have an elegant presentation of choreography before the members of the royal court and the royal guests. By ancient traditions, the dancers who performed at the royal court were well educated in the fields of poetry, politics, art, and literature. They were honored as regally as the members of the royal family. However, the dissolution of monarchy led to an endangerment of court dancers. Yet modern dancers who perform this particular style have kept alive the stylistic features of Asthana Nrityam.
A dance with a diverse and multi-colored history as that of Andhra Natyam has been around for almost two centuries with an unfortunate gap of dissolution. However, the revival of it as a prevalent and popular dance form has led to a cultural enrichment of Indian ethnicity.
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