Using the body as a medium of communication, the expression of dance
is perhaps the most intricate and developed, yet easily understood art
form. Dance in India has seeped into several other realms like poetry,
sculpture, architecture, literature, music and theatre. The earliest archaeological
evidence is a beautiful statuette of a dancing girl, dated around 6000
B.C. Bharatha's Natya Sastra (believed to be penned between second century
B.C. and second century A.D.) is the earliest available treatise on dramaturgy.
All forms of Indian classical dances owe allegiance to Natya Sastra, regarded
as the fifth Veda. It is said that Brahma, the Creator, created Natya,
taking literature from the Rig Veda, song from the Sama Veda, abhinaya
or expression from the Yajur Veda and rasa or aesthetic experience
from the Atharvana Veda. Temple
also contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the mudras
or hand formations and their meanings, the kind of emotions and their categorisation,
not to mention the kind of attire, the stage, the ornaments and even the
audience. All dance forms are thus structured around the nine rasas
or emotions, hasya (happiness), krodha (anger), bhibasta
(disgust), bhaya (fear), shoka (sorrow), viram (courage),
karuna (compassion), adbhuta (wonder) and shanta (serenity).
All dance forms follow the same hand gestures or hasta mudras for
each of these rasas. The dances differ where the local genius has
adapted it to local demands and needs.
Indian dance is a blend of nritta - the rhythmic elements, nritya
- the combination of rhythm with expression and natya - the
dramatic element. Nritta is the rhythmic movement of the body in
dance, pure dance. It does not express any emotion. Nritya is usually
expressed through the eyes, hands and facial movements. Nritya combined
with nritta makes up the usual dance programmes. Nritya comprises
abhinaya, depicting rasa (sentiment) and bhava (mood).To
appreciate natya or dance drama, one has to understand and appreciate
Indian legends. Most Indian dances take their themes from India's
rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and
Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical
Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting
the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people.
The fascination for Indian dance all over the world is indicative of
the deep-felt need to use the human body to express and celebrate the great
universal truths. Indian dance does just that in a heightened, reverential
form. Also, since dance is physical and visual, it illuminates India's
culture in a direct manner, playing on the sensibilities of the onlooker.
Thus, those who are attracted to India will find the idiom of dance the
best introduction to India's rich ethos and traditions.
One of the most enduring symbols of India is the figure of Shiv Nataraj
or the dancing Shiva. Shiva's cosmic dance is believed to encompass creation,
preservation, and destruction and this idea has been embedded in Hindu
thought and ritual since the dawn of civilisation.
In India, dance and music pervade all
aspects of life and bring colour, joy and gaiety to a number of festivals
and ceremonies. In fact, dance and music are tied inextricably to festivity
of any kind.
Classical Dance Forms of India
The genesis of the contemporary styles of classical dances can be traced
to the period between 1300-1400 A.D. India offers a number of classical
dance forms, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country.
Each form represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a
group of people. The most popular classical styles seen on the Indian stage
are Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu, Kathakali
and Mohiniyattam of Kerala, Odissi
of Orissa, Kathak of Uttar Pradesh, Kuchipudi
of Andhra Pradesh and Manipuri of Manipur. Besides
these, there are several semi-classical dances that contribute to the plethora
of Indian dances.
Apart from the classical dances, India is particularly rich in folk
idioms. Each area has its own special varieties, be they martial, seasonal,
ritual, sacrificial, celebratory, instructional or talismanic. It can vary
from village to village, but they all share a common heritage of myths
and symbols. Some of the folk forms of India are Chauu dance of Bihar,
Garba of Gujarat and Bhangra of Punjab and Banjara of Andhra Pradesh.
Popular Folk Dances of India
Arts of Kerala