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Books > Performing Arts > Dancing to Play or to Pray (A Comparative Study of Prahlada Yakshaganam in Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavata Mela Traditions)
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Dancing to Play or to Pray (A Comparative Study of Prahlada Yakshaganam in Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavata Mela Traditions)
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Dancing to Play or to Pray (A Comparative Study of Prahlada Yakshaganam in Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavata Mela Traditions)
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About the Book

The present work is organized into five chapters, being introductory, attempts to provide the basis of this book. The second and third lay foundation and provide background for this comparison. The first chapter is a comparative study of the repertoires of the Melattur and the Kuchipudi dancer traditions which provides they hypothesis with which the comparison of Prahlada Charitra Natakams in the third and the fourth chapters is taken up. The first chapter is also a comparative introduction to the tradition of Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. Kuchipudi is performance oriented, while Melattur is spiritual and ritualistic oriented. Review of previous literature on the subject is also provided in this chapter to emphasize on the relevance of research undertaken.

The second chapter provides cultural, historical and literary backgound against which a comparison in the third and the fourth chapters is carried out. In all these chapters a consistent stream of comparative analysis has been consciously maintained. The comparison between Prahlada Charitra Natakams has been included in the third and the fourth chapters, which are macro and micro level comparisons of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams, respectively.

On account of the state and nature of dance research, heavy reliance on interviews with the tradition bearers of different dance forms and senior scholars in the field becomes inevitable. The third and the fourth chapters deal with performance study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams. These chapters are supported by fieldwork observations and analysis rather than by references to existing literature, which finds place in the first and second chapters. The fifth chapter is the concluding chapter and it enlists the results of the research undertaken and also offers suggestions for undertaking further research in this area. Dr. M.S. Siva Raju has a Masters Degree in Performing Arts (Dance). He was awarded Ph.D. in 1997 for his research work on ‘Prahlada Yakshaganam’: A Comparative study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance traditions, by the University of Hyderabad.

He is an established dancer, music composer and choreographer. He has designed and choreographed more than a dozen ballets, many solo numbers and six large group compositions using about 500 participants for national events. He also designed and produced dance compositions for electronic media, which received appreciation from the art lovers.

He is an Asst. Professor in the Department of Dance, S.N. School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, since 2001.

Currently, he is working on a volume dealing with dance music.

 

About the Author

Dr. M.S. Siva Raju has Masters Degree in performing Arts (Dance). He was awarded Ph.D. in 1997 for his research work on ‘Prahlada Yakshaganam’: A comparative study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance traditions, by the University of Hyderabad.

He is an established dancer, music composer and choreographer. He has designed and choreographer. He has designed and choreographed more than a dozen dance ballets, many solo numbers and six large group compositions using about 500 participants for national events. He also designed and produced dance compositions for electronic media, which received appreciation from the art lovers.

He is an Asst. Professor in the Department of Dance, S.N. School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, since 2001.

Currently, he is working on a volume dealing with dance music.

 

Foreword

In the contemporary Indian classical dance we hardly find any comparative study of forms. Therefore, the present study by Dr. M.S. Siva Raju is really a very refreshing one. His study is a pioneering attempt to look into the roots of two South Indian dance forms through a critical and methodological analysis. This study is also important in another sense. His study is based on rigorous fieldwork and extensive interviews with eminent scholars/performers in the concerned area of research. It is rooted in rich empirical data.

This book is perfectly in tune with the contemporary trends in classical dance research, in the sense that is a more sharply focused study of a particular item from a specific point of view, which is a marked development over the conventional trend of a broad survey of dance forms.

I am very much impressed by this work. He took lot of pains in contacting the performers of Kuchipudi and Melattur teams and established dance scholars. His approach in these interviews is worth emulating by the other researchers. One of the most important strengths of his book is the extensive review of past literature on the subject. While giving due credit to all past researchers, he justified the relevance of his work in the entire body of knowledge available on the subject.

His findings about the subject are original and significant. He could successfully establish that the spirit of the Kuchipudi dance tradition is artistic, whereas that of the Melattur tradition is religious. Though the religiosity of Melattur tradition is well known, the way Raju uses this information to contrast with the Kuchipudi tradition and to identify identify tof Kuchipudi tradition is new. The similarities with Bharatanatyam found in Melattur tradition are exemplified meticulously by him because of his good background in Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, classical music and tala system. His particularity to bring home the verbally inexplicable aspects through pictures is evident in the pains he took in getting the pictures drawn by the artist wherever necessary. I commend his effort in bringing out this work in a professional and scholarly manner. This book is a welcome addition to the existing literature and it is value addition to the scholars and practitioners of South Indian classical dance forms, especially Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions.

 

Preface

My interest in the comparison between Kuchipudi and Melattur, in general, and Prahlada Charita Natakam, in particular, is the culmination of my 28 years of quest about the identity of Kuchipudi dance tradition into which I got initiated in the year 1980 through my Guru Sri Pasumarit Seeta Ramayya of Visakhapatnam. To begin with, the picture of my quest was hazy. Incidentally, the literature available in published form on Indian Classical Dance, in general, and Kuchipudi dance, in particular, also do not provide a methodologically worked out background from where the discussion on the technique of classical dance can be continued, nor does the available literature throw any light for investigation.

I happened to watch the Melattur Bhagavatamela Performance in the years 1994. The impressive performance technique of the Melattur Bhagavatars with an approach closely resembling the tradition of Kuchipudi stimulated several exciting questions in my mind. The Kuchipudi and Melattur performances seemed to be very much similar yet different from each other. It seemed to me that a comparison between these two traditions would also provide with clues to arrive at the characteristic features of Kuchipudi dance tradition, which was the objective of my quest.

Things progressed quickly after this. To my pleasant surprise, the similarity between the two traditions was already pointed out by most of the scholars. However, they did not touch the features of difference between these two traditions. Therefore, I felt that the clue for the identity of the Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions lies in these points of distinction.

For a comparative understanding, I decided to focus on a specific item, Prahlada Charitra Natakam, which is common to both Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions. During 1994-96, I began my filedwork and watched Prahlada Charitra Natakam Performance of Melattur consecutively for three year and I revisited thesame performance of Kuchipudi in 1995. My close interaction with the performers of both the teams and my performance study and analysis yielded good results, and some satisfying answers to my enquiry became available.

As is methodologically required by contemporary research in performing arts, visual documentation in the form of still and video photography has been given considerable significance in the present work.

Substantiation and illustration through photographs has been provided at appropriate places in this book, though the photo documents included here make only a small part of the entire documentation done by me, Incidentally, photo documents of Melattur performance are cited more in this book than for kuchipudi because there are many features seemingly unusual for the audience of Melattur than Kuchipudi,which is familiar to dance audience.

The Melattur tradition as performed by Natarajan has been the reference point of comparison with the Kuchipudi Prahlada Charitra Natakams. The Comparison and observations made about Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavatamela Natakams are from the contemporary Melattur and Kuchipudi performances, many scholars, right from Vissa Appa Rao Ramandham, have drawn their conclusions based on some cursory observations and they stated that Melattur Bhagavatamela Natakam was an offshoot of Kuchipudi Bhagavatam. However, none of them produced any evidence in support of their statements. These scholars started comparing the Yakshaganam technique of both the traditions by talking about the structure and presentations aspects of daruva system. One of the reasons for these scholars to point out that Melattur was an offshoot of Kuchipudi is because of the existence of pravesa daruvu in both Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. And the second reason was the importance of Prahlada Natakam in both the forms. Third was female impersonation and using masks. Fourth was fasting by the dancer/actor who plays Narasimha role player in both the forms. Many scholars have not gone into the subject, like the technique of dance form, style of singing, presentational aspects of the character and makeup and costume of the character.

As per the historical records, artists (Brahmin Bhagavatars) from Andhra Pradesh had migrated to Melattur during 16th century (then the village was known as Achyutapuram), on the invitation of Atchyutappa Nayaka. There was no evidence to show that the artists who migrated to Melattur were the descendants of Kuchipudi Brahmin Bhagavatars.

After a comparative analysis of both the dance forms, I find a clear distinction between Kuchipudi and Melattur performances, Kuchipudi is performance oriented, while Melattur is spiritual and ritualistic oriented. The present book, thus, is a result of my logical quest into the similarities and differences between Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions, without any digression. Obviously, to focus on a specific item or aspect in the two dance traditions is a new development in dance research when compared to the earlier phase of working on broad issues issues of an entire dance tradition.

The present work is organized into five chapters. The first chapter, being introductory, attempts to provide the basis of this book. The second and third chapters lay foundation and provide background for this comparison. The first chapter is a comparative study of the repertories of the Melattur and the Kuchipudi dance traditions which provides the hypothesis with which the comparison of Prahlada Charitra Natakams in the third and the fourth chapters is taken up. The first chapter is also a comparative introduction to the tradition of Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. Review of previous literature on the present subject is also provided in this chapter to emphasize on the relevance of research undertaken.

The second chapter provides cultural, historical and literary backgound against which a comparison in the third and the fourth chapters is carried out. In all these chapters a consistent stream of comparative analysis has been consciously maintained.

The comparison between Prahlada Charitra Natakams has been included in the third and the fourth chapters, which are macro and micro level comparisons of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra micro Natakams, respectively.

On account of the state and nature of dance research, heavy reliance on interviews with the tradition bearers of different dance form and senior scholars in the field becmes inevitable. The third and the fourth chapters deal with performance study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams. These chapters are supported by filedwork observations and analysis rather than by references to existing literature, which finds place in the first and second chapters. The fifth chapter is the concluding chapter and it enlists the results of the research undertaken and also offers suggestions for undertaking further research in this area.

Repeating the definitions of art forms, histories, legends of art forms, etc., which we amply dealt with several books in the past, are avoided in this work.

 

Contents

 

  Foreword v
  Preface vii
  Acknowledgements xi
  List of Plates xv
1. An Introductory Comparison to the Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance Traditions 1
2. Sources and Significance of Prahlada Story in Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance Traditions 32
3. The Two Prahlada Yakshaganams-A Macro Level Comparison 67
4. The Two Prahlada Yakshaganams-A Micro Level Comparison 89
5. Conclusion 135
  Bibliography 139
  Index 145

 

Sample Pages








Dancing to Play or to Pray (A Comparative Study of Prahlada Yakshaganam in Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavata Mela Traditions)

Item Code:
NAL477
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Edition:
2010
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ISBN:
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165 (14 B/W and 25 Color Illustrations)
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Weight of the Book: 340 gms
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About the Book

The present work is organized into five chapters, being introductory, attempts to provide the basis of this book. The second and third lay foundation and provide background for this comparison. The first chapter is a comparative study of the repertoires of the Melattur and the Kuchipudi dancer traditions which provides they hypothesis with which the comparison of Prahlada Charitra Natakams in the third and the fourth chapters is taken up. The first chapter is also a comparative introduction to the tradition of Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. Kuchipudi is performance oriented, while Melattur is spiritual and ritualistic oriented. Review of previous literature on the subject is also provided in this chapter to emphasize on the relevance of research undertaken.

The second chapter provides cultural, historical and literary backgound against which a comparison in the third and the fourth chapters is carried out. In all these chapters a consistent stream of comparative analysis has been consciously maintained. The comparison between Prahlada Charitra Natakams has been included in the third and the fourth chapters, which are macro and micro level comparisons of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams, respectively.

On account of the state and nature of dance research, heavy reliance on interviews with the tradition bearers of different dance forms and senior scholars in the field becomes inevitable. The third and the fourth chapters deal with performance study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams. These chapters are supported by fieldwork observations and analysis rather than by references to existing literature, which finds place in the first and second chapters. The fifth chapter is the concluding chapter and it enlists the results of the research undertaken and also offers suggestions for undertaking further research in this area. Dr. M.S. Siva Raju has a Masters Degree in Performing Arts (Dance). He was awarded Ph.D. in 1997 for his research work on ‘Prahlada Yakshaganam’: A Comparative study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance traditions, by the University of Hyderabad.

He is an established dancer, music composer and choreographer. He has designed and choreographed more than a dozen ballets, many solo numbers and six large group compositions using about 500 participants for national events. He also designed and produced dance compositions for electronic media, which received appreciation from the art lovers.

He is an Asst. Professor in the Department of Dance, S.N. School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, since 2001.

Currently, he is working on a volume dealing with dance music.

 

About the Author

Dr. M.S. Siva Raju has Masters Degree in performing Arts (Dance). He was awarded Ph.D. in 1997 for his research work on ‘Prahlada Yakshaganam’: A comparative study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance traditions, by the University of Hyderabad.

He is an established dancer, music composer and choreographer. He has designed and choreographer. He has designed and choreographed more than a dozen dance ballets, many solo numbers and six large group compositions using about 500 participants for national events. He also designed and produced dance compositions for electronic media, which received appreciation from the art lovers.

He is an Asst. Professor in the Department of Dance, S.N. School of Arts and Communication, University of Hyderabad, since 2001.

Currently, he is working on a volume dealing with dance music.

 

Foreword

In the contemporary Indian classical dance we hardly find any comparative study of forms. Therefore, the present study by Dr. M.S. Siva Raju is really a very refreshing one. His study is a pioneering attempt to look into the roots of two South Indian dance forms through a critical and methodological analysis. This study is also important in another sense. His study is based on rigorous fieldwork and extensive interviews with eminent scholars/performers in the concerned area of research. It is rooted in rich empirical data.

This book is perfectly in tune with the contemporary trends in classical dance research, in the sense that is a more sharply focused study of a particular item from a specific point of view, which is a marked development over the conventional trend of a broad survey of dance forms.

I am very much impressed by this work. He took lot of pains in contacting the performers of Kuchipudi and Melattur teams and established dance scholars. His approach in these interviews is worth emulating by the other researchers. One of the most important strengths of his book is the extensive review of past literature on the subject. While giving due credit to all past researchers, he justified the relevance of his work in the entire body of knowledge available on the subject.

His findings about the subject are original and significant. He could successfully establish that the spirit of the Kuchipudi dance tradition is artistic, whereas that of the Melattur tradition is religious. Though the religiosity of Melattur tradition is well known, the way Raju uses this information to contrast with the Kuchipudi tradition and to identify identify tof Kuchipudi tradition is new. The similarities with Bharatanatyam found in Melattur tradition are exemplified meticulously by him because of his good background in Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, classical music and tala system. His particularity to bring home the verbally inexplicable aspects through pictures is evident in the pains he took in getting the pictures drawn by the artist wherever necessary. I commend his effort in bringing out this work in a professional and scholarly manner. This book is a welcome addition to the existing literature and it is value addition to the scholars and practitioners of South Indian classical dance forms, especially Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions.

 

Preface

My interest in the comparison between Kuchipudi and Melattur, in general, and Prahlada Charita Natakam, in particular, is the culmination of my 28 years of quest about the identity of Kuchipudi dance tradition into which I got initiated in the year 1980 through my Guru Sri Pasumarit Seeta Ramayya of Visakhapatnam. To begin with, the picture of my quest was hazy. Incidentally, the literature available in published form on Indian Classical Dance, in general, and Kuchipudi dance, in particular, also do not provide a methodologically worked out background from where the discussion on the technique of classical dance can be continued, nor does the available literature throw any light for investigation.

I happened to watch the Melattur Bhagavatamela Performance in the years 1994. The impressive performance technique of the Melattur Bhagavatars with an approach closely resembling the tradition of Kuchipudi stimulated several exciting questions in my mind. The Kuchipudi and Melattur performances seemed to be very much similar yet different from each other. It seemed to me that a comparison between these two traditions would also provide with clues to arrive at the characteristic features of Kuchipudi dance tradition, which was the objective of my quest.

Things progressed quickly after this. To my pleasant surprise, the similarity between the two traditions was already pointed out by most of the scholars. However, they did not touch the features of difference between these two traditions. Therefore, I felt that the clue for the identity of the Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions lies in these points of distinction.

For a comparative understanding, I decided to focus on a specific item, Prahlada Charitra Natakam, which is common to both Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions. During 1994-96, I began my filedwork and watched Prahlada Charitra Natakam Performance of Melattur consecutively for three year and I revisited thesame performance of Kuchipudi in 1995. My close interaction with the performers of both the teams and my performance study and analysis yielded good results, and some satisfying answers to my enquiry became available.

As is methodologically required by contemporary research in performing arts, visual documentation in the form of still and video photography has been given considerable significance in the present work.

Substantiation and illustration through photographs has been provided at appropriate places in this book, though the photo documents included here make only a small part of the entire documentation done by me, Incidentally, photo documents of Melattur performance are cited more in this book than for kuchipudi because there are many features seemingly unusual for the audience of Melattur than Kuchipudi,which is familiar to dance audience.

The Melattur tradition as performed by Natarajan has been the reference point of comparison with the Kuchipudi Prahlada Charitra Natakams. The Comparison and observations made about Kuchipudi and Melattur Bhagavatamela Natakams are from the contemporary Melattur and Kuchipudi performances, many scholars, right from Vissa Appa Rao Ramandham, have drawn their conclusions based on some cursory observations and they stated that Melattur Bhagavatamela Natakam was an offshoot of Kuchipudi Bhagavatam. However, none of them produced any evidence in support of their statements. These scholars started comparing the Yakshaganam technique of both the traditions by talking about the structure and presentations aspects of daruva system. One of the reasons for these scholars to point out that Melattur was an offshoot of Kuchipudi is because of the existence of pravesa daruvu in both Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. And the second reason was the importance of Prahlada Natakam in both the forms. Third was female impersonation and using masks. Fourth was fasting by the dancer/actor who plays Narasimha role player in both the forms. Many scholars have not gone into the subject, like the technique of dance form, style of singing, presentational aspects of the character and makeup and costume of the character.

As per the historical records, artists (Brahmin Bhagavatars) from Andhra Pradesh had migrated to Melattur during 16th century (then the village was known as Achyutapuram), on the invitation of Atchyutappa Nayaka. There was no evidence to show that the artists who migrated to Melattur were the descendants of Kuchipudi Brahmin Bhagavatars.

After a comparative analysis of both the dance forms, I find a clear distinction between Kuchipudi and Melattur performances, Kuchipudi is performance oriented, while Melattur is spiritual and ritualistic oriented. The present book, thus, is a result of my logical quest into the similarities and differences between Kuchipudi and Melattur traditions, without any digression. Obviously, to focus on a specific item or aspect in the two dance traditions is a new development in dance research when compared to the earlier phase of working on broad issues issues of an entire dance tradition.

The present work is organized into five chapters. The first chapter, being introductory, attempts to provide the basis of this book. The second and third chapters lay foundation and provide background for this comparison. The first chapter is a comparative study of the repertories of the Melattur and the Kuchipudi dance traditions which provides the hypothesis with which the comparison of Prahlada Charitra Natakams in the third and the fourth chapters is taken up. The first chapter is also a comparative introduction to the tradition of Kuchipudi and Melattur dance forms. Review of previous literature on the present subject is also provided in this chapter to emphasize on the relevance of research undertaken.

The second chapter provides cultural, historical and literary backgound against which a comparison in the third and the fourth chapters is carried out. In all these chapters a consistent stream of comparative analysis has been consciously maintained.

The comparison between Prahlada Charitra Natakams has been included in the third and the fourth chapters, which are macro and micro level comparisons of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra micro Natakams, respectively.

On account of the state and nature of dance research, heavy reliance on interviews with the tradition bearers of different dance form and senior scholars in the field becmes inevitable. The third and the fourth chapters deal with performance study of Kuchipudi and Melattur Prahlada Charitra Natakams. These chapters are supported by filedwork observations and analysis rather than by references to existing literature, which finds place in the first and second chapters. The fifth chapter is the concluding chapter and it enlists the results of the research undertaken and also offers suggestions for undertaking further research in this area.

Repeating the definitions of art forms, histories, legends of art forms, etc., which we amply dealt with several books in the past, are avoided in this work.

 

Contents

 

  Foreword v
  Preface vii
  Acknowledgements xi
  List of Plates xv
1. An Introductory Comparison to the Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance Traditions 1
2. Sources and Significance of Prahlada Story in Kuchipudi and Melattur Dance Traditions 32
3. The Two Prahlada Yakshaganams-A Macro Level Comparison 67
4. The Two Prahlada Yakshaganams-A Micro Level Comparison 89
5. Conclusion 135
  Bibliography 139
  Index 145

 

Sample Pages








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