Re-construction background

Perini flourished centuries ago in the Telugu-speaking regions, reaching its peak during the Kakatiya rule. The dance finds mention in the early medieval work Bharataarnavam by Nandikeshwara. Based on this work, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna first made mention of Perini in his award-winning book Daakshinaatyula Natyakala Charithra (1968). Later, he made several visits to Ramappa temple, Palampet, to write a commentary on their sculptures as part of Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sarma’s Telugu translation of Jayapa Senani’s Sanskrit classic, Nritta Ratnavali.

That translation was published but not his commentary. Ramakrishna felt slighted. Moreover, he realized that none of the later works on dance had given due importance to Perini. He also believed it had great potential. All this created in him a resolve to revive that lost art. 

It is believed that Perini was presented for soldiers as inspiration (before the war) and entertainment (after the war). Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna based his re-conceptualization on textual evidence from Bharataarnavam, Nritta Ratnavali, Sarangadeva’s Sangeeta Rathnakara, and Sarvagna Bhoopala Yachendra’s Sabharanjani. These works helped him visualize Perini’s movement techniques as did a study of sculptures in Telangana temples especially Ramappa. Valuable inputs came from his guru Rajamma and his own vast knowledge of several classical dance forms.

His revival and reconstruction of Perini was the culmination of his decades-long study of Telugu dance traditions, the dance-texts and musical traditions pertaining to this part of the country, and study of (his pet-topic) the intimate relation between music and dance. He emphasized that sounds of percussion instruments and ‘solukattu’ (’shushkaaksharaalu’) generate a kind of vibration that in turn shapes the structure of movements of a dance.

Hence, Ramakrishna decided that Perini music i.e., sound and vibrations should be in sync with a dance for soldiers. He used music's dhrupada sampradaya's inviting experts of that tradition like Dhoopam Suryalingam and Dharmavaram Guruvulu to develop a specific mridangam-playing style for Perini. He employed jathis/shabdas drawn from dance-text Nandeeshwara Bharatam and Shaiva Agamas. He thus reconstructed Perini’s sequence of movements and found ideal accompanying musical instruments. The aaharyam was visualized on the basis of descriptions for Perini in Nritta Ratnavali ’s 7th chapter, with some modifications to suit a classical-dance form. Wisely, he also considered the modern stage when reconstructing it.

It was conceptualized as a Shiva-thatvam dance because Ramakrishna understood the importance of Shaivism/Veera-Shaivism for the Kakatiyas and the people of the region where Perini flourished.

Ramakrishna’s revival efforts were supported by Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi. In one essay, he wrote: “My 14-year-old-dream came true on January 26, 1974, when the first Perini performance was held under the aegis of AP Sangeet Natak Akademi.”

 

His passion for Perini led him to give lecture-demonstrations, conduct workshops across India for both the laity and the learned. He also authored articles on the art-form. 

Historic Background

Palampet,  where the Ramappa temple is located, is about 40 miles from the ancient Kakateeya capital Warangal. On the pillars, doors, panels, and freezes of the temple are sculptured unique poses of dance based on Nritta Ratnavali.

 

Nritta Ratnavali, an elaborate treatise on the dance forms prevalent in those days, was written by Jayasenani, a feudatory, and general of the elephant hordes of the Kakateeya king Ganapathi Deva. The Kakateeyas were mighty rulers from the 10th to the 13th centuries A. D. Jayapa was the disciple of Gundayamatya, a great teacher of dance,

 

The revival of this form which has now been taken up is based on the “Nritta Ratnavali'' of Jayasenani and the sculptures shaped at Palampet after the tradition described in this treatise. The other works consulted a “Bharatarnva” of Nandikeswara, ‘Sabha Ranjani’ of Sarvagna Kumara Yachendra, and for Jatis ‘ Nandeeswara Bharatam” originating in Bobbili. The tradition followed is ‘Saiva Aagama’ of Srikalahasti.

It was a time when the art of dance in India was developing into two different styles South-Indian and North Indian Sarangadeva, who belonged to the Devagiri* court, wrote ‘Sangeetha Ratnakara’ during this period.

The style followed in playing the drum and composition of the jatis is mainly of Druvapad Reeti.

 

This is an ancient style Which is still practiced in remote parts of Andhra Pradesh in Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam Districts.

The Kakateeyas were Saivites and Veera Saiva-Pasupathi Sampradaya, a sort of extreme Saivism gained popularity during their regime. Pasupatis, Mahesas, Veeras, and Mailaradevas who are all Saivites belonging to this extremist cult worshipped Siva with dancing rituals six times a day. This led to the popularisation of dances dedicated to Siva.

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Types of Siva Tandavams

Siva Tandava is of two types consisting of seven variations in each type. The first one consists of

  1. Ananda,

  2. Sandhya,

  3. Kalika,

  4. Urdhva,

  5. Uma,

  6. Gouri and

  7. Samhara

 

And the second one, also known as Desi Tandavas.

  1. Suddha,

  2. Desi,

  3. Perini,

  4. Prenkhana,

  5. Kundali,

  6. Danika, and

  7. Kalasa.

Jayapa described these forms elaborately in his treatise. Of these, Perini is an important dance performed in those days, It has five parts having 125 Vinyasas. 

Perini - It's Constitution

Perini flourished centuries ago in the Telugu-speaking regions, reaching its peak during the Kakatiya rule. The dance finds mention in the early medieval work Bharataarnavam by Nandikeshwara. Based on this work, Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna first mentioned Perini in his award-winning book Daakshinaatyula Natyakala Charithra (1968). Later, he made several visits to Ramappa temple, Palampet, to write a commentary on their sculptures as part of Rallapalli Ananta Krishna Sarma’s Telugu translation of Jayapa Senani’s Sanskrit classic, Nritta Ratnavali.

That translation was published but not his commentary. Ramakrishna felt slighted. Moreover, he realized that none of the later works on dance had given due importance to Perini. He also believed it had great potential. All this created in him a resolve to revive that lost art. 

It is believed that Perini was presented for soldiers as inspiration (before the war) and entertainment (after the war). Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna based his re-conceptualization on textual evidence from Bharataarnavam, Nritta Ratnavali, Sarangadeva’s Sangeeta Rathnakara, and Sarvagna Bhoopala Yachendra’s Sabharanjani. These works helped him visualize Perini’s movement techniques, as did a study of sculptures in Telangana temples, especially Ramappa. Valuable inputs came from his guru Rajamma and his own vast knowledge of several classical dance forms.

His revival and reconstruction of Perini culminated in his decades-long study of Telugu dance traditions, the dance-texts and musical traditions about this part of the country, and study of (his pet-topic) the intimate relation between music and dance. He emphasized that sounds of percussion instruments and ‘solukattu’ (’shushkaaksharaalu’) generate a kind of vibration that shapes the structure of movements of a dance.

Hence, Ramakrishna decided that Perini music, i.e., sound, and vibrations, should be in sync with a dance for soldiers. He used music's dhrupada sampradaya's inviting experts of that tradition like Dhoopam Suryalingam and Dharmavaram Guruvulu to develop a specific mridangam-playing style for Perini. He employed jathis/shabdas drawn from dance-text Nandeeshwara Bharatam and Shaiva Agamas. He thus reconstructed Perini’s sequence of movements and found ideal accompanying musical instruments. The aaharyam was visualized based on Perini's descriptions in Nritta Ratnavali ’s 7th chapter, with some modifications to suit a classical-dance form. Wisely, he also considered the modern stage when reconstructing it.

It was conceptualized as a Shiva-thatvam dance because Ramakrishna understood the importance of Shaivism/Veera-Shaivism for the Kakatiyas and the people of the region where Perini flourished.

Andhra Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi supported Ramakrishna’s revival efforts. In one essay, he wrote: “My 14-year-old-dream came true on January 26, 1974, when the first Perini performance was held under the aegis of AP Sangeet Natak Akademi.”

 

His passion for Perini led him to give lecture-demonstrations, conduct workshops across India for both the laity and the learned. He also authored articles on the art-form. 

Significance of Shrikalahasti and Bobbili

Srikalahasti is in Chitoor District,  the Southern end, and Bobbili is at the eastern end of Andhra Pradesh. Though they are thus located apart, there are reasons for the uniformity of art development throughout Andhra. Four major communities ruled the land - Kshatriyas, Vysyas, Reddys, and Kammas. The rulers of Karvetinagaram, Tuni. Peddapuram and Vijayanagaram are Kshtriyas. The rulers of Bobbili. Pithapuram, Nuzvid, ShriKalahasti to Venkatagiti are Velamas. These Zamindars were closely related, and the natyacharyas of one estate used to visit the other frequently. The famous Natyacharya at Bobbili Bhugata Ramayya was a great scholar in Natya Sastra and Mridangam players. He followed the ancient Drupad Bani. My Gurus ancestors were court artists families used to meet frequently. There was great similarity in developing art forms in these courts Nandiswarabharatam book of practical jatis performed by these artists. They were taught to me by my Guru, and I am using them in this dance composition. 

 

In Andhra, there was a great rivalry between the followers of Vira Saivas and Vira Vaishnavas. Frequently there were disturbances. To bring unity between these two sects Brahmanayaka of Palnadu and Tikkanen, the great poet started a new Harihara cult. In this, Siva and Vishnu cults were amalgamated. There is a temple for Chennakesava at  Macherla, and in the same compound is a temple of Veerabhadra. Here, Perini used to be performed at Kotappakonda by Viramustis. 

 

At Karamchedu, now a village near Macherla, there are temples for Virulu (heroes fallen in the battle of Palnadu). Every year there is a jatara here when some jatis are performed as invocations to these heroes. But for these, the form is almost dead now. And I have reconstructed this form with the aid of all the material available and taught it to one of my disciples K. Sudarshan.  Financial assistance has been provided by the Andhra Pradesh Sangeetha Nataka Academy, Hyderabad, for the project. Two drummers from Srikakulam District who play the Maha Maddela and Druvapada Bani have taken part as accompanists. Besides Maha  Maddela and a wind instrument, Mukha Veena used to accompany the songs. It is difficult to get Mukha Veena players, so also the rare instrumentalists of Panchamukha Vadyam Mandala, ChandraMandala, etc., the technicalities of Perini.

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The Repertoire

Perini consists of 5 parts and is performed in 25 talas, The popular Adi Tala and 24 other talas from the 101 talas are used. Some verses in Telugu, Ravana’s stotras, and Tripura Samhara stotras are recited. Kaivarams to the following 5 lingas are recited:

  1. Prithvi linga

  2. Jala linga

  3. Tejo linga,

  4. Vayu linga and 

  5. Akasa linga

In the end, a Kaivaram from Sukrachary’s Virabhadra Kavecham is recited followed by a Thirmanam.

 

The dance begins with Ambara vinyas (Alapa) in Nata Raga and ends with Surati Raga. Traditionally besides Nata and Surati, Kalyani, Mohana, Aarabhi, Sankarabharana, ‘Anandabhairavi, Bhairavi, Hindola, Kedaraganla, Nilambari, Kapi, Shanmukhapriy dhyamayati and Devagandhari are also sung.

 

The whole dance runs in Samagati Vinyasa. The following talas are used in the dance:

  1. Adi,

  2. Brahma,

  3. Vinayaka,

  4. Matya,

  5. Jampa,

  6. Mallikamoda,

  7. Hamsanada,

  8. Dwitiya,

  9. Purna Kankala,

  10. Abhanga,

  11. Simhavikrama,

  12. Udgata,

  13. Sarabhhla and

  14. Kokila priya.

 

In the invocation dance of EKADA - SARUDRA (NARTANA) the following 11 talas are used:

1. Rajavidyadhara,

2. Kuruttaka,

3. Makaranda,

4. Prati,

5. Turangalila,

6. Sama,

7. Laghusekhara,

8. Gajalila,

9. Simhalila,

10. Ratilila,

11. Garuda.

 

Jatis pertaining to these talas are danced. The five yatis are :

1, Sama,

2. Vishama,

3. Damaruka,

4. Mridanga,

 

The five Bandas are :

1, Padma

2. Jaza,

3. Chatra,

4. Khadga.

5, Chakra

The gati Vinyasas Vinyasas are as follows:

1. Mayura,

2. Marala,

3. Mattebha,

4, Hasina,

5. Sukha,

 

Jatis are five : 3,4, 5, 7,9 letter - metres.

 

Bhramaras are twenty-five :

1. Dakshina,

2. Vama, 

3. Sama,

4. Bhujanga,

5. Lata,

6. Lila,

7. Vidyuta,

8. Chakra,

9.Chatra,

10. Kuchita,

11, Anga

12, Thirada

13, Antarbhramara

14. Bahya

15.Ootha

16.Padma

17. Bhoobhrama

18. Urdava

19. Vayu

20. Parswa

21, Dola

22. Suchi

23. Chitra

24. Sankima

25, Samputi (kuta).

 

There are nine varieties of Sringaranartana.

 

Talas specified for each item are :

  1. Pushpanjali - Matya Tala

  2. Vinayaka Kautham Vinayaka Talam

  3. Devi Kaivaram - Bhrama Tala and Adi Tala

 

Vinayaka Kautham consists of five 

parts : 

1.Sulu Vinyasa

2. Tatkaram

3, Tahana jati

4. Kautam

5. Five thirmana jatis.

 

The five Angas of Perini are as follows : 

1. Gargara

2. Vishama

3. Kavi- Plvaraka

4, Gita
5. Vikata (also called Bhavasraya),

In some traditions, the order of performance of these Angas may vary.

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The Performance

Ambra (Alapam) in Nartaraga on flute or Mukha Veena, the Ayitham is sung followed by the invocation verse ti Vinayaka and Siva.

 

The performance begins with a Mukhtayi. After Mukhatyi Malaprapti is performed in Matya Tala. This is followed by Pushpanjali in Tahana Vinyasa.

  1. Then the first part of Perini follows thus:

    1. The gargara vinyasas are six:  Patavata, Patava, Lakadima, Sirabira, Kuluhula, halabida.In this the various types of pada vinyasas are demonstrated in 5 yatis- Mridangam, Damarukam etc.

    2. After these five varieties in footwork, the invocation to Mahasena (Kumara swami), Vinayaka Kautam, and a Kaivaram to Parvathi take place.

    3. Then follows Sringanartana of nine varieties-in this nine jatis and bhangimas are performed.

  2. Part II consists of the following: 

    1. 25 varieties of Bhramaras with 125 circular movements in Vishama is performed, This ends with a Samputi Karana Tana jati.

  3. Part III and IV have Kavivaraka and stotra gitams are sung in praise of the five lingas and different instruments played. Then 11 talas (jatis) are danced for the Ekadasa rudras.

  4. Part V is vikata or Bhavasraya; dance to ‘Panchamukha Sabdas” is performed. 

  5. Before the finale (Tirmanam) Virabadhra Kayacham of Sukracharya is recited.


SRINGANARTANA is composed of two charis and one Angahara and ends with a sthanaka,. Sringa is of 9 varieties. It starts with an Akasachari and ends with Bhuchari. In between comes Angahara, In this the Bhangimas from Ramappa temple are emonstrated. For the charis and Padabheda jayapa has given full details. While demonstrating the jatis in Sringa the tala is Adi, we have 9 Jatis with 9 different gati prastaras, taken from the 101 talas. Some of the jatis are from Saiva Agama and some from Nandiswara Bharatam. 

 

In Vikata or Bhavasraya the movements imitating birds, animals, and Kanduka krida (ball- game) are sometimes performed.

 

Panchamukha Sabdas: From the five faces of Siva, In this various  syllables (Patava Aksharas) are sung which form part of the Mridanga jatis of rare beauty. The jatis composed with these sabdas are danced in Bhavasraya.

 

The specific character of the tirmanams in this is that while generally a tirmanam is played three times it is played five times in Perini.

 

It took years to compose this dance and since one year two Drummers and one artist practiced this dance.

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