Kuchipudi is a small village located in the Movva mandal of Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. It is closely situated to the shores of River Krishna near the borders of the Bay of Bengal. The village is believed to be the origin of the classical Indian dance "Kuchipudi" which is very famous all over the world. In the earlier days, the village was known as Kuchelapuram which has become Kuchipudi over time. The nearest villages and towns are Movva, Penumatcha, Vuyyur and Machilipatnam.
History of Kuchipudi Dance: The ancient and classical dance art - Kuchipudi is believed to be born in the village of Kuchipudi and the art has been developed into full form by the great legendary Guru Siddhendra Yogi. Initially, it was a dance-drama shaped and nurtured by the Bhagavatulas and Acharyas (different sects) of the Brahmin community and the art was flourished during 15th century AD. It was also the period during which the Bhakthi movement spread all over the country and this dance-drama became means of its expansion.
Siddhendra Yogi, a fond devotee of Krishna, is believed to be the founder of this Kuchipudi dance-drama tradition. He was a Brahmin orphan boy who was taken care of by a kind neighbouring family and he was married to a girl in that family in his childhood. Later, he was sent to Udipi (presently a city in Karnataka) for his Vedic studies. After completing his studies he returned and resided in the town of Srikakulam and was called as Siddhendra. Later he was insisted by the elders to join his wife who had been waiting for him. So, he started to his wife's home and on the way he had to cross a river which is in full spate. Suddenly, due to a strong wave in the river, the boat in which he was travelling was capsized and it was very difficult for him to swim across the river. Momentarily, he prayed to Lord Krishna to save him and that if he reached the other bank alive, he would dedicate his entire life in the worship of the Lord. As, he was survived and was able to reach the shore safely, he then became Sanyasi and relinquished all worldly attachments and devoted his life in the propagation of Bhakthi. Later, he has migrated to Kuchelapuram (which is now known as Kuchipudi) and composed several dance-dramas on the tales of "Bhagavatam" (a popular Hindu mythology related to Lord Krishna), such as "Parijatapaharana", "Bhama Kalapam", "Amrutha Madhanam" and many more.
He has formed a group with the neighbouring Brahmin boys and taught them the dance-art, developed it and performed it to the public as a tribute to Lord Krishna. He took a word from his students that they would perform it at least once a year and that they would flourish the dance and would make their successors preserve the tradition.
The successors of Brahmin families have been continuing the tradition of Kuchipudi dance till date. In the earlier days, the dance-drama is confined to males only. But, now-a-days women are also widely allowed to learn the dance. Most of the performers are male and even some of them impersonate the characteristics of female characters as the concept demands. Also, a few female performers impersonate the features of male characters and play an exceptional role. These Brahmin artists are known as Bhagavatulus in Andhra Pradesh and Bhagavataras in Tamilnadu. In order to differentiate the dance-dramas with the Bhagavata Mela Natakas (other dramas), the dance-dramas performed by Bhagavatulus are styled as Kuchipudi dance-dramas and were very popular over time.
During 1678 AD, the Nawab (King) of Golconda, Abdul Hasan Tahnishah had a visit to Masulipatanam (which is now known as Machilipatnam) and a Kuchipudi dance performance was arranged for the king. Being delighted and pleased by the performance, the king had presented a piece of land of a staggering 600 acres approximately to the Brahmin families involved in the performance and given them the title of land written on a copperplate. Later some disputes have aroused between the Brahmin families for the land and it was distributed among them. Those families are Vedantam, Hari, Bhagavatulu, Pasumarti, Josyula, Mahankali and some others who have been adopting and preserving the tradition of Kuchipudi dance.