Indian Classical Dances

  • Natyashastra written by Bharat Muni defines principles of Indian classical dance. All 4 Vedas contribute towards this art form.
    • Pathya (words) is taken from Rigveda.
    • Geet (music) taken from Samaveda, and
  • Includes 2 basic aspects of Indian Classical Dances i.e.,
    • Tandava which is male characteristic of power and strength and
    • Lasya which comprises of grace, bhava, rasa and abhinaya (Feminine characteristic).
  • There are 108 mudras (poses) and 9 Rasas. The following equation expresses complete dance:
    • NRITTA (Basic dance) + NATYA (Expressions) =   NRITYA   (Complete dance: Sentiments & emotions)
  • There are nine rasas or emotions that are expressed through the dance.
    • Shringara Rasa (the rapture of love)
    • Haasya Rasa (the rapture of Humour)
    • Karuna Rasa (the rapture of Pathos)
    • Raudra Rasa (the rapture of Wrath or extreme anger)
    • Veera Rasa (the rapture of Chivalry)
    • Bhayaanaka Rasa (the rapture of fear)
    • Beebhatsa Rasa (the rapture of Abhorrence)
    • Adbhuta Rasa (the rapture of wonder)
    • Shanta Rasa (the rapture of peace)
  • Sangeet Nataka Academy classical dance status to 8 dance forms. They are:

Bharatnatyam, Tamil Nadu (Oldest)

  • A solo dance but in modern times couples also practice it. Usually done by females.
  • It is said to have evolved from Devadasi system.
  • Its movements resemble dancing flame/ elements of fire.
  • Both basic aspects Tandava and Lasya are its part.
  • Emphasizes on hand movements to convey emotions. One dancer takes many roles.
  • Bharatnatyam poses are found on the Gopurams of Chidambaram temple.
  • Musical instruments include vocalist, veena, flautist, cymbal player.
  • The Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikesvara is one of the main sources of textual material, for the study of the technique and grammar of body movement in Bharatnatyam Dance.
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Kathakali, Kerala

  • Ritual performing arts of Koodiyattam, Krishnattam, Ramanattam and Chakiarkoothu and early martial art traditions of Kerala have influence on it. (Body movements and chronological patterns)
  • Its poses are depicted on frescoes of Mattancheri temple, Kerala.
  • It is a blend of dance, music and acting based on Indian epics.
  • It includes hastamudras and facial expressions following the verses (padams). The entire body is used during this dance performance.
  • It gets its textual sanction from Balarama Bharatam and Hastalakshana Deepika.
  • Characters in a Kathakali performance are divided into satvika, rajasika and tamasika types.
  • It follows traditional Sopana sangeet of Kerala.
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Kathak, Uttar Pradesh

  • Emergence of Raslila in Braj region with Radha-Krishna theme influenced this dance form.
  • It is the only classical dance form which has links with Islamic culture. Under Mughals a transition from the temple courtyard to the palace durbar took place which changed its presentation and great stress was laid on nritya and bhava.
  • Golden age of Kathak began under patronage of Wajid Ali Shah (last Nawab of Oudh). He established the Lucknow Gharana. Jaipur gharana and Banaras gharana are other prominent schools of Kathak.
  • Movements include intricate system of footwork, torso movements without any use of sharp bends or curves of the upper or lower parts of body.
  • It is the only classical dance form wedded to North Indian music. Musical instruments include: Pakhawaj, type of Mridangam or a pair of Tabla.
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Manipuri, Manipur

  • The dance gives legendary references to the dances of Shiva and Parvati who created the universe.
  • Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance which forms the basis of all stylized dances in Manipur.
  • With the arrival of Vaishnavism in 15th cen AD Radha Krishna theme was introduced. Rasleela dances originated under King Bhagyachandra.
  • Its popular forms include Ras, Sankirtana and Thang Ta (martial dancers).
  • Manipuri dance has a highly evolved tala system.
  • Manipur classical style of singing is called Nat and main musical instruments include Pung (drum type), Pena (stringed instrument), cymbals and flute.
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Odissi, Odisha

  • Archaeological evidence dates it back to 2nd cen BC with evidence found in Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, Bhubaneshwar.
  • It is based on Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpana.
  • Maharis were chief repositories of this dance. They were temple dancers. Later a class of boys called Gotipuas was trained in the art.
  • Another variant of this art, ‘Nartala’ continued to be practiced at the royal courts.
  • Movement technique includes two basic postures of Chowk (masculine) and Tribhanga (feminine). Hand gestures and torso movement are its vital part.
  • Odissi orchestra consists of Pakhavaj player, flutist, sitar player, manjira player and a singer.
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Kuchipudi, Andhra Pradesh

  • In 17th century, Kuchipudi style of Yakshagana was conceived by Siddhendra yogi, a Vaishnava poet. He had a dream where Lord Krishna asked him to compose a dance-drama based on story of bringing paarijaata flower for Satyabhaama, most beloved queen of Lord Krishna. He composed Bhaamaakalaapam.
  • Stories of Bhagavat purana became a central theme of Kuchipudi, and dancers came to be known as Bhagavathalus.
  • The dance form gained prominence under the patronage of the Vijayanagar and Golconda rulers.
  • Lakshminarayan Shastry introduced many new elements including solo dance and training of female dancers in this style. Later, Kuchipudi fully crystallized as a separate classical solo dance style.
  • Two forms of Kuchipudi: traditional musical dance drama and solo dance.
  • This form uses Carnatic music and instruments include mridangam, veena and cymbals.
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Sattriya, Assam

  • Introduced in 15th century AD by Vaishnava saint Sankaradeva.
  • This dance form is influenced by earlier dance forms like Devadasi and Ojapali. Assamese folk dances like Bihu, Bodos etc also bear an influence.
  • The dance is governed by hastamudras, footworks and aharyas.
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Mohiniyattam, Kerala

  • It is a classical solo dance form. Mohini here refers to the celestial enchanter of Hindu mythology.
  • Traces its origin to temples of Kerala and was performed only by women.
  • References of Mohiniyattam can be found in  Vyavaharamala written in 1709 by Mazhamagalam Narayanan Namputiri and in Ghoshayatra, written later by great poet Kunjan Nambiar.
  • It was structured into its present-day classical format by Travancore Kings, Maharaja Tirunal & Maharaja Swati Tirunal (18th – 19th cen AD).
  • Early specimens of this dance include Nangiars (women of Nambiar community) and Dasiyattam.
  • Their dance was called as ‘Dasiyattam’. The existence of Dasiyattam is further corroborated in the epic ‘Cilappatikaram’, written by the Chera Prince Illango Adikkalin 2nd-5th century C.E.
  • Mahakavi Vallatol a poet laureate of Kerala succeeded in giving this art form a distinct classical solo style. He established Kerala Kalamandalam (1930), a pioneer institute for training in art forms.
  • Movement technique includes feminine movements, hand gestures and soft footwork.
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