Koochipoodi is the classical dance form from the Southeast Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, a small village about 65 kms from Vijaywada. It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative / dramatic character

Many legends exist about the origin of the Bhagavata Mela Natakam of Andhra. In the 14th Century, the southern parts of India were ruled by a succession of dynasties committed to the propagation of art and literature. The rulers not only gave land and money to gurus and performers, but also paid for the upkeep of several hundred temple dancers, the Rajanartakis and Devadasis…

It is said that there was once an orphan of Srikakulam who was raised by the village. However, for his training he went to Udipi for Vedic studies. During his study he acquired the name Sidhendra Yogi.

He decided to come back to his wife and as he was swimming across the river he suddenly realized that he could swim no further. He then prayed to God to give him the strength to make it across. He did make it, and upon reaching the shore he vowed to become a sanyasi (renunciate) and devote his life to religious affairs.

He then settled in the village of Kuchelapuram and started teaching. Here, he instructed Brahmin boys in devotional dance dramas based upon religious themes. It was here that Siddhendra Yogi first developed a unique and particular style based on the Natya Shastra and Nandikeshwar’s Bharatarnava…

While its close cousin, Bharatanatyam achieved recognition and international fame, Koochipoodi was lagging behind and was confined to its village setting. In the forties, a few teachers ventured into big cities like Madras and Hyderabad, and started training female students as well as directing dance sequences for the cinema. New dance pieces were added to the existing repertoire and soon Kuchipudi gained popularity.

Like Bharatanatyam it also comprises of Abhinaya, Nritta and Nritya. Kuchipudi art, to be noted was intended as a dance drama requiring a set of character, never as a mere dance by a soloist which is common in present times. This dance drama is sometimes known as Ata Bhagavatham. The plays are in Telugu and traditionally men take all roles alone.

Kuchipudi music is based on the Carnatic system of Indian music and the orchestra consists of the Nattuvanar (conductor) with his hand-held cymbals, the vocalist, Mridangam (drum), violin, flute and Veena (a stringed instrument).