Classical dances of India - Kuchipudi and Odissi

All the seven classical dances of India have a common genesis, be it Bharatnatyam or any other dance. Today we try to see how Kuchipudi and Odissi are different from each other while sharing many similarities. Kuchipudi is a classical dance that originated in Andhra Pradesh while Odissi developed in the neighbouring Orissa. They both derive from the common texts- Abhinaya Darpanam and the Natya Shastra, however Odissi also draws a lot from the Abhinaya Chandrika. The language used in Kuchipudi is primarily Sanskrit and Telugu. Odissi too, has many songs in Sanskrit but uses the Oriya language as well, owing to the region it flourished in.

When we talk of the costumes, they are quite similarly tailored except that the fan of the Kuchipudi costume is longer; in fact it has the longest fan amongst all the classical dances of India. The sarees are of silk but are typical to the regional style of Orissa and Andhra respectively. The jewellery worn by Kuchipudi dancers is temple jewellery set in gold with semi precious stones – white, red and green in colour. Odissi dancers wear only silver ornaments and have a special head gear worn above the flowers at the centre of the head.

Music plays a very important role in both the dance forms. While Kuchipudi is performed to Carnatic music, Odissi is performed to Hindustani classical music. The songs are different in both styles but the Geet Govind which is extensively used in Odissi is also very popular in Kuchipudi. The musical instruments used also vary primarily because of the different style of music. In Kuchipudi mridanga, flute, violin, nadaswaram and veena are used where as in Odissi, the instruments are Veena, pakhawaj, venu and kartala.

The main difference in the performance of these styles is that in Kuchipudi the vachikabhinayam is emphasized, ie, the lip movements are involved. The dancer lip syncs while performing. In Odissi, like all other classical dances, there is no lip syncing allowed.

In the angika abhinaya, the hasta mudras used are common to both dances, although they might have different names. Yet, some of them are very unique to Odissi specifically. Odissi shares some Karanas found in the Natya Shastra, but the majority of them are taken from the Abhinaya Chandrika. Some of them are only found in the temples of Orissa. Odissi uses the tribhanga (a deflection of three parts of the body) where the head, chest and pelvis move independently. This is not commonly seen in Kuchipudi which might use the dvibhanga at most.

In terms of the repertoire, Kuchipudi concentrates more on the jatiswarams and Tillanas, but it also has within its margam, sabdams, padams, varnams and shlokas. It has elaborate footwork based on teermanams performed within the talam. This is known as kannakole. It can also be done on thalis completely or with a jugalbandi with the percussionist. Odissi has a more elaborate margam which starts with bhumi pranaam, Vandana, bighnaraj puja, ishtadevata Vandana, batu, swara pallabi nritya, gita – abhinaya or sa- abhinaya, ashtapadi with the concluding item being the tarajan.

In Kuchipudi, for the longest time, even female characters were presented by men. In the recent years, Kuchipudi is also being performed by women. The famous Kuchipudi dancers of India are Yamini Krishnamurti and Raja and Radha Reddy. The stalwarts of Odissi have been Kelucharan Mahapatra, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Sonal Mansingh, Madhavi Mudgal and Sharon Lowen.

Thus we realise that even though both the dance forms, Kuchipudi as well as Odissi, draw from the same resources they are very different in terms of the music used, costumes, repertoire, language and basic movements too. Regional influences have played an important role in all the aspects of these dance forms.