Siddhendra Yogi Mahotsav 2007 at Natya Kshetram Kuchipudi  
- Sree Kriti Chapa, Visakhapatnam 
June 11, 2007 

Kuchipudi is an art form, which showcases the best of the culture and heritage of Andhra Pradesh. This ancient art form has been passed down the generations, and has undergone several changes. However, these changes did not mar the splendor of the dance; on the contrary they have helped it evolve into one of the most beautiful expressions of art in India today. 

The small village of Kuchipudi, from which the dance originated, (hence the name), housed some of the finest artists. The first Kuchipudi festival "Siddendhra Yogi Prathama Varshika Jayanthi Utsavam" was held in December 1948, and was organized by Sri Lalitha Natya Kala Samithi. However, starting with the Siddendhra Yogi Mahotsav'06 when the legendary guru Dr.Vempati Chinna Satyam and his sons, Vempati Ravi Shankar and Vempati Venkat took upon themselves the task to put Kuchipudi on the world map, the village of Kuchipudi came into limelight once again. 

The objective behind this festival is to bring the rich cultural heritage of Kuchipudi to limelight and mark the tiny village of Kuchipudi on the map of India as an abode of art and a tourist destination and to encourage more artistes and residents of Kuchipudi to pursue a career in the Kuchipudi art form. The festival also addresses the issue of lack of patronage to the art of Kuchipudi. It is believed that several artistes in the village are struggling to support their families and are compelled to take up alternative careers. And the Mahotsav is an attempt to bring awareness about the Kuchipudi village at an international level.  

This year, the week long Siddendhra Yogi Mahotsav '07 from February 26th to March 4th featured eight classical dance forms from across the country and overseas along with varied forms of Kuchipudi. Morning sessions were mainly devoted to Seminars, Lecture Demonstrations and workshops by scholars and artistes in their respective fields. 
With some of the world-renowned dancers/gurus in Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam performing with their respective disciples, the village of Kuchipudi has once again re-lived its past glory. The seven-day event marked the performances of some of the greatest exponents of Indian classical dance and music such as Pandit Birju Maharaj, the Dhananjayans, Kiran Segal, T V Sankaranarayanan and the like. 

A gist of the week's grandeur:  

Monday, 26th February: 
The evening started off magnificently, with the inauguration of the village arch and the unveiling of the statue of Saint Siddendhra Yogi by Shri Navin Mittal, Collector of Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh. 

The program began with a Carnatic music concert by T V Sankaranarayanan. The accompanying artistes were Thiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam on mridangam, Nagai R Muralidharan on violin, and E M Subramanian on ghatam.  

Later, Pandit Birju Maharaj was honored with the "Siddhendra Yogi Puraskar" award for his lifetime contribution in the promotion of performing arts (Kathak), by Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam and Guru Vedantam Satyanarayana Sharma after which, Pt Birju Maharaj along with his disciple Saswathi Sen and others, danced on late into the night, reveling in the ecstasy of his beloved art form.  This was a real treat to the eyes of all the thousands of connoisseurs of art watching the performance that day.  

Tuesday, 27th February: 
The morning session of the second day of the Siddendhra Yogi Mahotsav commenced with a combined lecture demonstration by Vempati Ravi Shankar and Jonnalagudda Anuradha featuring the changes the Kuchipudi dance form has undergone over the ages. It was an intriguing topic, but was not very tastefully done. 

The evening session showcased an Odissi performance by Kiran Segal and her disciples followed by Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry and troupe's Kuchipudi dance ballet 'Sasirekha Parinayam.' The ballet was very enjoyable with the story line being that of the well known mythological epic "Maya Bazaar" from the Mahabharata. While T Rami Naidu as Lakshmana Kumara was the cynosure of the show, Vedantam Venkata Chalapati as Abhimanyu did an excellent job.  

Wednesday, 28th February: 
In the morning session, words do not suffice to describe the Bharatanatyam lecture demonstration by the Dhananjayans.  The mark of a maestro was clearly evident in guru Dhananjayan's depiction of both the traditional Bharatanatyam repertoire and the present day modern world of computers and rockets. In the evening, music concert of the Priya sisters, Hari Priya and Shanmukha Priya was followed by the performance of the Dhananjayans with their disciples. The performance was exceptional as expected. In an item depicting a few parts of the Ramayana, the portrayal of guru Dhananjayan as Manthara and Dasaratha, and guru Shanta Dhananjayan as Kaikeyi left the audience spellbound.  

Thursday, 1st March: 
The morning session went as planned, featuring the lecture demonstrations of Professor Balagangadhar Rao, Vibhisana Sharma and Keremane Shambhu Hegde. The evening session however, did not go quite as smoothly. The Kuchipudi Yakshaganam 'Bhakta Prahlada' was postponed to the 4th of March due to a tragic death in the family of the Nattuvanar. This was replaced by Kuchipudi performances by Vempati Chinna Satyam’s disciples.  Vempati Ravi Shankar, Telugu film actress Prabha Ramesh, Divya Yeluri from New Jersey, and Vempati's daughter-in-law Vempati Sri Moy performed Kuchipudi solo items choreographed by their guru with a high degree of perfection and grace which marks Vempati's style of Kuchipudi. Divya Yeluri's rendition of 'Kamakshi Stuti' deserves special mention. The other items were 'Surya Stuti' performed by Vempati Ravi Shankar and Vempati Sri Moy, Saint Thyagaraja's composition 'Ksheera Sagara Sayana' by Vempati Ravi Shankar, Jayadeva's Ashtapadi by Vempati Sri Moy and Kshetrayya padam by Prabha Ramesh. The ending item was a Tillana in Hindolam which is a composition of the maestro Vempati himself. This was performed by Divya Yeluri and Vempati Sri Moy.  

Later, that evening, guru Keremane Shambhu Hegde and troupe’s Karnataka Yakshaganam 'JaraSandha Vadhe' drew gasps of admiration from an enthralled audience.  

Friday, 2nd March: 
The morning session was highlighted by a workshop on Manipuri by the acclaimed Manipuri exponent Dharshana Jhaveri and troupe.   

The evening session showcased the Kannada puppet show of ‘Parijatam’ by M.R Ranganatha Rao and the popular Kuchipudi dance ballet 'Rukmini Kalyanam' of Vempati Chinna Satyam. The cast had Vempati Ravi Shankar as Rukmi, Prabha Ramesh as Lord Krishna, Vempati Sri Moy as Rukmini, Principal of Kuchipudi Kalakshetra, Visakhapatnam, Hari Rama Murthy as Sishupala, Chinta Rama Murthy as Agni Dhyotana, Divya Yeluri, Jayanti Lalitha Kalpana, Laina, Hima Bindu, Sumathi, Subha Maruvada, Vasavi and Shruti in other roles. 

Saturday, 3rd March: 
The dance drama of Annamayya (Sri Pada Parijatham), performed by Vempati Chinna Satyam and troupe, was choreographed with unparalleled skill and precision by guru Vempati Chinna Satyam in the year 2000. 

Although all the dancers did justice to the characters they were portraying, some of the sets, backdrops and the like could have been handled with more care. 'Sri Pada Parijatham' is the life story of the music composer Annamayya. Kavitha as Bala Annamayya did an excellent job. Vempati Ravi Shankar was Annamayya. Divya Yeluri and Vempati Sri Moy played the wives of Annamayya. Vasavi as Lord Vishnu and Divya Yeluri who also played the role of Alamelu Manga, the consort of Lord Vishnu were extremely captivating in their roles. Hari Rama Murthy played both Ghana Vishnu and Salva Raja and Narayana played the role of Purandara Dasa. Kanti Lal on mridangam, Vanaja and DSV Sastri gave excellent vocal rendition and nattuvangam by guru Vempati himself added great value to the dance drama.  

Sunday, 4th March: 
The last day of the festival, Holi and Vasantotsavam (Festival of Spring), all fell on Sunday, the fourth of March. The agenda was very packed both in the morning and evening. The morning session was exceptionally good, featuring the lecture demonstrations of dance critic Dr. Sunil Kothari, dancers Ananda Shankar Jayant, Ranee Kumar, Anupama Mohan and Kalamandalam Kshemavathy. Anupama, a Kuchipudi exponent from Kerala, depicted a scintillating episode about Bhakta Kannappa, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva so artistically, that the entire audience was in tears by the end of it. 

The evening's programs started off with excellent Bharatanatyam by Ananda Shankar Jayanth and her troupe. The highlight of this program was the depiction of the Dasavataras in a very novel way in the Ramadas Kirtana 'Takkuvemi Manaku.' This program was followed Jayanth Kastuar's Kathak presentation which was followed by the Kuchipudi dance Drama 'Bhakta Prahlada,' which concluded the whole festival. Once again, both the Kathak recital and Vedantam Venkata Naga Chalapathi’s Bhakta Prahlada were of very high standard.  

To conclude, with the venue being an aesthetically designed stage with the flood-lit tower of Ramaligeswara Swamy and Balatripurasundari temple as backdrop, with good accommodation at the Siddhendra Yogi University in Kuchipudi and in Vijayawada, with Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, Vempati Venkat and Vempati Ravi Shankar, all the exponents of Kuchipudi and other great artistes of all the Indian classical arts coming together, with the exhibition of antique jewellery, crowns, costumes, photographs and artifacts, the Siddhendra Yogi Mahotsav '07 was a real treat for the more than ten thousand people who attended it from all the neighboring villages. Kuchipudi village was a real Natya Kshetram the whole week. Kudos to the organizers Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai and Akhila Bharata Kuchipudi Natya Kalamandali, Kuchipudi and to guru Vempati Chinna Satyam who can use each disciple of his as a chisel to sculpt the wonderful art of Kuchipudi. 

Sree Kriti Chapa is a 9th grader from Visakhapatnam. In addition to learning Kuchipudi, Kriti is also a student of classical Carnatic music.