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Once all-male, now women Kuchipudi dancers outnumber men

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Once all-male

Amaravati, March 7 : It was only in the early 1900s that women were allowed to perform Kuchipudi, the medieval classical dance form that originated in the eponymous village in Andhra Pradesh. Now, women outnumber men both in teaching and learning, and have taken up the task of infusing a new lease of life into the art — including through digital means.

About an hour-and-a-half’s drive from this new Andhra Pradesh capital, through lush paddy fields and mounds of gleaming red chillies spread out under the hard sun, Kuchipudi village in Krishna district at first seems nondescript.

There is no buzz about the 6,117 performers creating a new Guinness World Record for the largest Kuchipudi dance. Neither is there the larger-than-life aura that one would associate with a classical entity that has touched the shores of the US, the UK, Africa and many others.

But step inside the Sri Siddhendra Yogi Kuchipudi Kala Peetham, and you will have stepped back in time, what with photographs of the maestros who helped shape the dance-drama format of Kuchipudi and faint sounds of talam (beats) accompanying young disciples.

“Initially, it was only men who performed. Vedanta Lakshmi Narayana Sastri in the early 1900s introduced it among women. He also started the trend of solo choreography. Up until then it was an ensemble performance. Besides, it was strictly restricted to the Brahmin community and Sastri opened it up to other communities. Now it is mostly women who are into it,” Anupama, a final year Master of Performing Arts student at the institute, told IANS.

The Kala Peetham is an institute affiliated to the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University and is named after the dance form’s founding father, Siddhendra Yogi.

“This year, we plan to float an exclusive platform on social media to popularise Kuchipudi. The effort will be to showcase the village and the institute as the point of origin of the dance, which many do not know is named after a village,” said Anupama.

The new building of the century-old institute stands on a 600-acre plot gifted by the then Nawab of Golconda, Abdul Hassan Tahnisha, to the villagers in the 17th century, after he was moved by a performance. His only condition was that the tradition should be carried on.

And survived it has, despite vicissitudes of migration, loss of patronage and shrinking family size.

There are around 13 families in the village and all of them are dedicated to Kuchipudi.

“Earlier, there used to be more families. Siddhendra Yogi brought all families engaged in the dance drama to the village and the village’s name, which means small (‘kuchi’) village in Telugu, gradually got aligned to the dance,” Anupama explained after a nourishing traditional meal of rice, curd and vegetables that is served to the 100-odd students of the institute who come from across the state and the country.

Elaborating on its genesis at a time when Vaishnavism and the Bhakti movement were sweeping the region, Anupama said the dance form has an intimate connection with Lord Krishna.

Siddhendra Yogi’s play “Bhama Kalapam” — the story of Satyabhama, the charming but jealous wife of Krishna — is a crown jewel of the dance.

“Men used to dress up as women and enact the role of Satyabhama. The steps and mudras as well as the style of dressing and make-up are rooted in Natya Shastra, the oldest surviving text on stagecraft in the world. One’s calibre is mapped from the way one portrays Satyabhama,” noted Anupama.

This is where Kuchipudi differs from the other comparatively better-off classical sister forms like Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak.

It is all about the act, or “abhinaya”.

“Kuchipudi has four aspects: vachika (speaking or narration), aahaarya (costumes or vastra), aangika (postures) and abhinay or expressions. The dancer or danseuse narrates the dialogues or shlokas and, therefore, the focus is more on the expressions and acting. Mridangam, harmonium and violin are the key accompaniments, and a pair of vocalists keeps the narration rolling. A ‘sutradhar’ is also involved in the storytelling,” said Anupama and her classmates.

There is an a new earnestness about revitalising Kuchipudi, with the state government sanctioning Rs 100 crore for the promotion of both the dance form and the village.

“There was a slack period where employment was hard to find. Now the Chandrababu Naidu government has planned to include Kuchipudi in the school curriculum and recruit teachers. The village also is being developed as a prominent tourism destination,” said an enthusiastic Anupama, hoping the associated woodcraft and weaving industry will also be revived.

However, Anupama and her batchmates are resolute on one thing: the dance has to stay pure.

(Sahana Ghosh was in Amravati at the invitation of the Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival’s organisers. She can be contacted at [email protected])

Health

Treat sunburn, improve gastro immune system with yogurt

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yogurt dahi

New Delhi, April 21: Yogurt, the versatile dairy product, is filled with nutrition and is equally useful for skin and hair. Treat sunburns, acne and improve your immunity with yogurt, say experts.

Himanshu Chadha, Founder, APS Cosmetoofood, and Nmami Agarwal, Nutritionist and Dietician, have listed the goodness of yogurt:

* Treat sunburn: Spread yogurt on the affected area, leave it for 20-25 minutes and then wash it off with lukewarm water. Yogurt is rich in zinc and has anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains probiotics that will help restore your skin’s natural barrier.

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* Treat acne with yogurt as it contains natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Rub a dab of the creamy yogurt onto acne-prone areas. Rinse it off after 30 minutes. A regular beauty regime with a yogurt facial mask will help keep skin cleansed, which will also reduce irritating breakouts.

* Yogurt is a great ingredient for a hair conditioner. It has moisturising properties which helps repair dry and damaged hair.

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Take a cup of yogurt and whip it. Apply it on your scalp, hair and hair ends by massaging it well. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let it rest for 20 minutes, then wash your hair with a mild shampoo.

* Using yogurt, which is full of nutrients that are good for your hair, can help stop hair fall. Due to the presence of vitamin B5 and D, yogurt helps nourish the hair follicles.

A mixture of pepper and curd used daily for washing the hair helps in reducing hair fall. Curd and Amla powder can be mixed together to make a paste that can be applied on the scalp and hair to reduce hair loss.

* Since it is a well-known probiotic food, it helps to flourish the healthy bacteria in your gut which can improve the gastro immune system. Along with this, it aids in digestion by reducing the side effects of the irritant stomach such as diarrhoea, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.

* Strengthen your bones by adding yogurt to your everyday diet. It will add that daily dose of calcium which your body requires for stronger bones as well as for regulating the bone mineral density.

By having a diet in a combination with calcium and vitamin D, it can work as a treatment for osteoporosis.

* Yogurt works perfectly for women. It is often advised for women to consume freshly prepared yogurt in their diet considering they are powerful for fighting against the yeast infections such as Candida which can be a causing trouble to a lot of women.

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The bacterium, Lactobacillus acidophilus found in yogurt, kills the yeast infections and improves health in the longer run.

* Consuming probiotic yogurt helps reduce inflammation and improve the overall body immune response to counter with several viral or gut related infections and illness.

Along with this, yogurt also helps in increasing the absorption of trace minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

IANS

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Health

Switch to stevia for a sweet, healthy lifestyle

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stevia leaf
Stevia leaves have almost no calories and does not increase blood glucose.

New Delhi, April 20: In the midst of today’s hectic lifestyle, let’s spare a thought for one of the biggest threats to our health and general well-being: Excess of processed high calories and sugar. It is said that “prevention is better than cure”. Does this mean we should stop consuming food and drinks which have sugar? Maybe not.

What if someone told you that you can maintain the sweetness in your life without adding any calories? And this, from a natural source with the same sweet flavour that your taste buds love? And, yes, with no harmful side-effects? Sounds too good to be true, but nature has gifted us “stevia” — a plant which has sweetness in its leaves — a sweetness that surpasses that of sugar, sugarcane juice, honey or coconut sugar.

Given that stevia can replace unwanted sweetener calories, it can be the one tool for cutting calories from the Indian diet without affecting blood sugar or insulin levels. Plus, it is safe for people with diabetes and is also tooth friendly.

Here are some of its advantages:

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Stevia does not increase blood glucose: Numerous studies have been conducted on the use of stevia and its effects on consumption. The stevia plant’s leaves contain naturally sweet molecules called steviol glycosides, which can be up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, but studies have shown that stevia has no effect on blood glucose levels. Thus, one can consume it without fear of affecting the blood sugar level.

Stevia leaves have almost no calories: It’s a gift of nature that has been used in various parts of the world. The leaves have been used by Guarani Indians in Paraguay for several hundreds of years to sweeten their “matte” (tea). In the 1970s, the Japanese picked it up as a natural sweetening option. Today, it is the No. 1 sugar substitute in Japan and the fastest-growing sweetener in most markets in the developed world like France and the US.

Global safety recognition: Stevia sweeteners are permitted for use in foods and beverages in countries around the globe. Over 200 global studies have illustrated stevia’s safety for the entire family. Studies have also shown that it is safe for pregnant women. Stevia is safe for people with diabetes as it does not contain any calories or carbohydrates and therefore does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels. It has zero glycemic index.

Stevia v/s artificial sweeteners: Realisation of the harm caused to health from consuming excess calories from sugar was the reason that ignited the search for substitutes, or artificial sweeteners. Saccharin, aspartame sucralose and the like became popular substitutes and then went out of favour owing to concerns from public about their origin and perceived lack of safety.

What evidently seals the deal in stevia’s case as a sugar substitute is the fact that it is zero-calorie, zero-fat and 100 per cent natural.

Imagine your rassogulla or gulab jamun without an overload of sugar, serving your child tomato ketchup without thinking of the extra sugar and calories, enjoying a serving of ice cream, cool carbonated drink without any sugar at all. The latest varieties of star leaf stevia can make the greatest taste possible without any harm or guilt.

IANS

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Lifestyle

Food, yoga, parenting and complex love squares

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Book Release

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) Fill yourself with joy at the idea of food as what we eat is a part of who we are; know the importance of preparing the body and soul for a healthy change from a celebrated yoga expert; get access to an exclusive handbook on parenting of teens that focuses on decoding the insecurities, dilemmas and interests of our youngsters to understand them better; and read the complicated love tales of three men who end up falling for the same woman.

For this weekend, IANS bookshelf has interesting reads for different age groups.

1. Book: Eat Up; Author: Ruby Tandoh; Publisher: Hachette; Price: Rs 499; Pages: 248

Think about that first tickle of hunger in your stomach. A moment ago, you could have been thinking about anything, but now it’s thickly buttered marmite toast, a frosty scoop of ice cream straight from the tub, some creamy, cheesy scrambled eggs or a fuzzy, perfectly-ripe peach.

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Food nourishes our bodies, helps us celebrate our successes (from a wedding cake to a post-night out kebab), cheers us up when we’re down, introduces us to new cultures and – when we cook and eat together – connects us with the people we love.

In Eat Up, Ruby Tandoh celebrates the fun and pleasure of food, taking a look at everything from gluttons and gourmets in the movies, to the symbolism of food and sex. She will arm you against the fad diets, food crazes and bad science that can make eating guilt-laden and expensive, drawing eating inspiration from influences as diverse as Roald Dahl, Nora Ephron and Gemma from TOWIE. Filled with straight-talking, sympathetic advice on everything from mental health to recipe ideas and shopping tips, this is a book that clears away the fog, to help you fall back in love with food.

2. Book: Own The Bump; Author: Payal Gidwani Tiwari; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 299; Pages: 196

Keeping in mind the fast-paced lives of nuclear families and sometimes unhealthy lifestyles, Bollywood’s celebrated yoga expert, Payal Gidwani Tiwari, brings to fore the importance of preparing the body and soul for such a change.

From pre-pregnancy to post-natal, Tiwari utilises her age-old knowledge of yoga and provides essential advice to take care of oneself before, during and after the birth. Her workout sessions are specially designed for modern parents.

3. Book: Paranteen; Author: Prakriti Prasad; Publisher: Rupa; Price: Rs 295; Pages: 185

Children act as our biggest stress busters, bringing happiness and meaning into our lives. Overcome with love and commitment to raise the best kind we invariably stretch our time, attention and wealth. Just when we begin to revel in the camaraderie we share with our growing child, teenage strikes. And lo and behold! Our lovable bundles of joy suddenly turn into our biggest stress creators. All the laughter and banter in the house tend to get replaced by unwarranted outbursts, tears and verbal duels, which constantly test our limits.

Teenage can be stressful both for children, who experience all kinds of physical and emotional changes, as well as for parents who find themselves emotionally drained dealing with constant authority challenges, indifference and slammed doors.

This exclusive handbook on parenting of teens focuses on decoding the insecurities, dilemmas and interests of our youngsters in order to understand them better. It emphasizes on keeping all channels of communication open and addresses an entire gamut of teenage issues pertaining to peer pressure, gadget addiction, underage drinking, stress, anger, complacency and privacy to name a few.

Armed with a better understanding of teenagers instead of archaic perceptions of parenting, we can hope to not just steer our children towards excellence, but even make friends for life with our teens.

4. Book: Love Curry; Author: Pankaj Dubey; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 250; Pages: 202

Three flat-mates in London begin to see how different their lives are and at the same time how similar their backgrounds. And when life begins to deal its rough cards, how easy things become when they are all together.

Ali is a Pakistani chef with the dream of setting up his own nihari restaurant. Shehzad is a cool tattoo artist from Bangladesh with a broken past, and Rishi is an Indian with nondescript skills.

They all make one mistake: that of falling in love with the same girl. They become arch-rivals. But when their worlds turn topsy-turvy, they have no one but each other to turn to, learning that love is as much about letting go as it is about possessing.

IANS

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