Kuchipudi dancer in "Tribhanga" bangima (posture).
Kuchipudi dancer performing a tarangam

A Kuchipudi hasta (mudra).[1]

Kuchipudi (i/) is one of the eleven major Indian classical dances.[2] It originated in a village named Kuchipudi in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.[3]

Kuchipudi is a dance-drama performance, with its roots in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.[4][5][6] It developed as a religious art linked to traveling bards, temples and spiritual beliefs, like all major classical dances of India.[7] Evidence of Kuchipudi's existence in an older version are found in copper inscriptions of the 10th century, and by the 15th century in texts such as the Machupalli Kaifat.[8][9] Kuchipudi tradition holds that Tirtha Narayana Yati – a sanyassin of Advaita Vedanta persuasion,[10] and his disciple, an orphan named Siddhendra Yogi, founded and systematized the modern version of Kuchipudi in the 17th century.[11][12][13] Kuchipudi largely developed as a Hindu god Krishna-oriented Vaishnavism tradition,[14] and it is most closely related to Bhagavata Mela performance art found in Tamil Nadu.[8]

The traditional Kuchipudi was performed by all males troupe. A dancer in a male role would be in Angivastra, also known as Bagalbandi, wear a dhoti (a single pleated piece of cloth hanging down from the waist).[15][16] A dancer in a female role would wear a Sari with light makeup.[16]

The Kuchipudi performance usually begins with an invocation. Then, each costumed actor is introduced, their role stated, and they then perform a short preliminary dance set to music (dharavu). Next, the performance presents pure dance (nritta).[17] This is followed with by the expressive part of the performance (nritya), where rhythmic hand gestures help convey the story.[17][18] Vocal and instrumental Carnatic music in the Telugu language accompanies the performance.[19] The typical musical instruments in Kuchipudi are mridangam, cymbals, veena, flute and the tambura.[20]

The popularity of Kuchipudi has grown within India, and it is performed worldwide.[21][22]


Kuchipudi is named after the village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh named Kuchipudi – shortened form of the full name Kuchelapuram or Kuchilapuri[23] – where it developed.[4][24][25] The name of village, states Ragini Devi, is itself derived from Sanskrit Kusilava-puram, which means "the village of actors".[23] Kusilava is a term found in ancient Sanskrit texts and refers to "traveling bard, dancer, newsmonger".[26]