The cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh is rich with classical and folk arts ranging from the ballad singing 'Burrakatha' to the refined classical form of 'Kuchipudi' dance. The various dynasties that ruled the State, from the Ikshvakus to the Asaf Jahis have contributed significantly to the State's rich cultural legacy and left behind a heritage studded with spectacular monuments, temples, mosques and palaces all vibrant with arts, crafts, dance and literature.
Andhra Pradesh has several museums, including the Salar Jung Museum, which features a varied collection of sculptures, paintings, and religious artifacts, and the Archaeological Museum, which features Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and other antiques; both museums are located in Hyderabad
In keeping with the rich traditions of the State, the people of Andhra Pradesh have utilized a host of arts and crafts that not only enrich the environment but earn the artisans a decent livelihood. Kalamkari, Bidri, handlooms and textiles, metal ware, carpets, wood and stone carving, silver filigree and brass and sheet metalwork all have earned a name all over the world.
Kuchipudi, one of the famous classical dances in India takes its name from a village, Kuchelapuram, 60km away from Vijayawada. This dance drama enactment throbs with Telugu lyrics and Sanskrit verses. It is distinguished from other dance forms by narrative interruptions that makes it very popular and expressive. This art form emphasizes on animation. Apart from that it is akin to 'Bharathanatyam'. The present style of Kuchipudi and its developemet are accredited to 'Siddhendra Yogi' and 'Tirtha Narayana'.
The traditional dance form of 'Andhra Natyam' originated as a temple dance that dates back to as early as 2000 years. The dance form was categorized as 'Agma Nartana' performed in the temples, 'Carnatakam' performed in the royal courts, and 'Darbari Attam' performed in the courtyards of temples for the common man. Andhra Natyam is similar in style to Bharatanatyam and is based on Nandikesa's 'Abhinaya Darpana' and Bharata's 'Natya Shastra'. This was the female tradition (Lasya) of dance that was characterized by a rich display of foot work and superior 'abhinaya'. Unlike the original version, the present Andhra Natyam is performed with stylish costumes, makeup, ornaments and orchestra.
It is a folk dance in narrative form that combines devotion with entertainment. 'Tappatta Gallu' is confined to Visakapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts. The dance involves 15 - 30 dancers dressed in colorful attire with a small drum locally called 'tappetta gundu'. With rhythmic beat of the drum, the performers sing and dance to enchant the villagers. This dance form has become a popular ballad being performed at important cultural festivals in Andhra Pradesh.
'Burra Katha' is the most popular narrative folk form in Andhra Pradesh. The name Burra Katha came from the percussion instrument used in the narrative. This folk form has perfected by fusing the dramatic and narrative elements with music and humor. The performing team consists of three narrators in colorful dress. The main narrator co-ordinates with narration, description, explanation etc. while the assistants provide rhythm with a small drum and chorus.
Used to publicize information and royal orders in the olden days, the present 'dappu' dancer still plays an important role during village festivals and village Panchayat. Using 'dappu', a percussion instrument, the dappu dancer moves rhythmically in circles during a performance. Over the years 'dappu dance' had transformed into two variations, dappu with songs and 'kolattam dappu' where players use sticks to make rhythmic strikes at each other's.
'Kollattam' or the stick dance is one of the most popular dance narratives in Andhra Pradesh. Known in different names in different places of the state, kolattam can be traced back to 7th century AD. A rural art usually performed during village festivals, kolattam is a combination of rhythmic movements, songs and music. In kolattam, performed by 8 to 40 artists grouped in pairs, The stick provides the main rhythm. The artists lead by the leader move into two circles, the inner circle receiving the strikes while the outer circle delivering them.
Began as a ballad singing art form in the olden days, Yakshagana transformed into a dance drama form. It was initially performed by a single dancer and gradually evolved into a complete dramatic form with many characters. The ballad form, the poetic patterns, the musical styles and the theoretical works contributed to the making of Yakshagana. With passing of time, the structure of Yakshagana form underwent a lot of changes with the interaction of classical drama tradition. The evolution of Kuchipudi Yakshagana form set an example for the performing groups where verses and prose were introduced. The art form is experimented with social themes without altering the basic structure.
This is an open air performance usually enacted during Dasara or Moharrum in villages and during festivals in towns. It is one of the most popular dance forms in Andhra Pradesh and variations are seen throughout South India.
The Puli Vesham is a dance performed by two, the hunter and the hunted. The dance is supplemented with musical instruments. The dance usually starts with the 'tiger' jumping and marching to the rhythm of drum-beats. The hunter enters and wounds the tiger. Then the encounter to subdue each other begins. The dance ends with the tiger falling dead.
The costume and makeup of the Puli Vesham is complicated. The body of the person who plays tiger is smeared with yellow paint with bold black stripes. He also wears a mask and a long tail. The acrobatic skills, fearful facial expressions and charging moves make Puli Vesham a very active, awe-inspiring and popular entertainment.
Arts & Crafts
In keeping with the rich traditions of the State, the people of Andhra Pradesh have patronized a host of arts and crafts and enriched the environment. Kalamkari, Bidri, Nirmal paintings, handlooms and textiles, metal ware, carpets, wood and stone carving, silver filigree and brass and sheet metalwork all have earned a name all over the world.
It is an art found and practiced in and around Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti of the State. Kalamkari refers to a method of painting natural dyes onto cotton or silk fabric with a bamboo pen or kalam. The name kalamkari translates as pen (kalam) work (kari) in Hindi/Urdu. The Srikalahasti style is to draw outlines with a pen or quill and fill in the colours through a wax process. In Machilipatnam, wooden blocks carved into designs are used for printing. In both styles, dyes and colors are natural and the process of Kalamkari printing on fabric involves as many as a dozen stages
Metal ware is another area in which the Andhra artisans excel. Whether it is the brass sheet metalwork of Pembarti in Warangal district, the silver filigree of Karimnagar, the Bidriware of Hyderabad or the bronze castings in Chittoor and East Godavari district, the artistry is prominent to global acclaim and acceptance.
The technique of bidri came to India from Iran in the 14th century. Though it flourished in Bidar in Karnataka, bidriware is perhaps one of the most popular crafts of Andhra. Bidriware is shiny silver inlay work against a black background. Designs in pure silver are inlaid in an alloy of Zinc and Copper. Alloys are used in moulds to create shapes and the dark metal is then inlaid with designs using silver thread. Decorative pieces, bangles, ashtrays, pen-stands, caskets, cufflinks and paper-cutters are some of the Bidriware manufactured in and around Hyderabad.
Under the royal patronage of then ruling nobility Nirmal craftsmen have flourished in wooden engravings. The list of Nirmal goods is endless but the basic material used is wood whether it is furniture, toys, plaques, bangles, jewellery boxes, screens or miniature paintings. The craftsmen use indigenous mineral and vegetable dyes for colouring their products. They even produce gold covers from herbal extracts.
In Chittoor wood carving is one of the oldest traditional crafts in which craftsmen vie with each other to produce delicate and intricate designs. The carvings normally depict scenes from mythology as well as figures of deities. In other parts of the State, wood carving is done to make musical instruments and in places like in Vizianagaram town and in Nuzvid of Krishna district, such instruments as Veena and Tambura are carved out of a single block of wood.
Dolls & Toys
Toys are made from soft wood available in many parts of the State which is very light and flexible and can be cut into desired shape and size to make brightly colored vegetables, fruits and animals. Then various parts of toy are glued, then dried and finally colored with brilliant indigenously prepared hues. The wooden figures are painted in bright colors that are pleasing to the eye.
Kondapalli in Krishna district, and the town of Nirmal in Adilabad district is where the toys and dolls, those won international acclaim, are made. The simple-looking dolls depict the typical rural Indian life. Kondapalli dolls take the shape of humans, birds, animals and fruits. Nirmal toys areshapes of brightly colored vegetables, fruits and animals.
Weaving is another area where the craftsmen of Andhra Pradesh are doing extremely well. Silk, cotton or a mixture of both are used to create alluring weaves and designs.
Venkatagiri in Nellore district is known for its excellent cotton saris with gold borders and large golden 'pallu'. Narayanpet cotton saris are less expensive and long-lasting. Silk saris from Dhamavaram match up to the rich silks of Kancheepuram in broad borders with extensive gold 'zari' work.
The rich heritage and culture of Andhra Pradesh are reflected in the culinary skills of its people. Andhra and Hyderabadi cuisine brings to one's mind a wholesome meal accompanied by hot and tasty pickles or 'Biryani' accompanied by an appetizing aroma.
Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have their own distinctive style of cooking. The cuisine is generally vegetarian using Chillies and spice in abundance. The chillies grown in the region are highly potent and this gives the special flavor to the pickles. Rice is the staple food in Andhra Pradesh and forms the main dish. A typical Andhra meal has lots of chillies and is often accompanied by pickles. While raw mango pickle is the favorite, lemon, gooseberry, 'Gongura' and even ripe chilly pickles are also in demand.
While Hyderabad is known for its wholesome Biryani and a wide range of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian delicacies, the Mughal influence has made 'Mughlai' cooking popular in the State and one can choose form a large variety of dishes made from meat and vegetables. Such delicacies are offered by the hotels and restaurants in and around all major cities of the State.