Andhra Natyam is a traditional dance form
dating back to 2000 years. It was performed by 'Devadasis' in
temples as a
form of worship. In olden days wherever there was a temple some or the
other form of dance was associated with it. These dances have been
This dance form was initially known by different names - Kacheri Aatam, Kelika, Daasi Aatam, Chinna Melam, Nattuva Melam, Carnatakam and so on. Later on it was decided by Anna Bathula Bule Venkata Ratnamma and the dancing ladies ('Devagnikas') that the entire dance forms should be given one common name after the people of the region. Hence, it came to be called as Andhra Natyam.
The early forms of Andhra Natyam can be traced in the Buddhist era. Sculptures on the 'Stupa' at Amaravathi also depict ladies dedicated to this art saluting the feet of Buddha as Atmarpana. This art form was practised as 'Nruthyam' - a form of worship to God, during the period of 'Hinayana' (Lesser vehicle) Buddhism.
Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna is regarded as the father of this temple ritual dance (Andhra Natyam), as he revived it when it of was on the verge of extinction. He brought renaissance in Perini dance, which was also becoming extinct.
A Temple Dance
Andhra Natyam is similar in style to Bharatanatyam, as they originated in the temple dance of the South and were performed in all Shaiva and Vaishnava temples. These two dance forms were based on Nandikesa's "Abhinava Darpana" and Bharata's "Natya Shastra". It was performed by well - cultured ladies in the days of yore. This was the female tradition of dance, which was characterised by a rich display of footwork and 'Abhinaya'.
Today Andhra Natyam comprises of the 'Lasya' tradition of female dance and the male warrior dance called Perini, with vigorous dance form is characterised by rapid footsteps and the essence is to invoke Lord Shiva.
As far as costumes are concerned temple dancers never wore any elaborate costumes except simple sarees. Previously dancers were extremely beautiful and wore simple cotton sari that had a zari border sometimes.
Telugu University at Hyderabad has formally included a five-year diploma course in Andhra Natyam.