Performing Arts of India

Music Love, humor, pathos, anger, heroism, terror, disgust, wonder and serenity are the Nava Rasa’s or nine basic emotions which are fundamental to all Indian aesthetics. The Raga, or musical mode, forms the basis of the entire musical event. The Raga is essentially an aesthetic rendering of the seven musical notes and each Raga is said to have a specific flavor and mood. Tala is what binds music together. It is essentially a fixed time cycle for each rendition and repeats itself after completion of each cycle. Tala makes possible a lot of improvisations between beats and allows complex variations between each cycle. With the help of the Raga, Tala and the infinite shrutis or microtones, Indian musicians create a variety of feelings. The melodious sounds of a musical rendition can evoke the innermost emotions and moods of the audience, connoisseurs and non-connoisseurs alike. Today, the Indian Musical tradition has two dominant strains: the Carnatic or South Indian music and the Hindustani or North Indian music. The Northern school of Indian Music can boast of names like Amir Khusro (13th century) and Miyan Tansen who lived in the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. The great musicians of the Southern style include Venkatamakhi (17th century), Thyagaraja and Shyama Shastri. All Indian musicians belong to a particular gharana (house) or school. Each gharana has its own traditions and manner of rendition and these styles are fiercely guarded and maintained. Some of the well-known gharanas are those of Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Jaipur.
Dance 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. Bharata's Natya Shastra (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 Shastra, 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, expression from the Yajur Veda and aesthetic experience from the Atharva Veda. It also contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the mudras or hand formations and their meanings. All dance forms are thus structured around the nine rasas or emotions, hasya (happiness), krodha (anger), bhibatsa (disgust), bhaya (fear), shoka (sorrow), vira (courage), karuna (compassion), adbhuta (wonder) and shanta (serenity). Theater India has a longest and richest tradition in theatre. Origin of Indian theatre is closely related to the ancient rituals and seasonal festivities of the country. The traditional account in Natya Shastra gives a divine origin to Indian Theatre According to legend, when the world passed from the Golden Age to Silver Age, and people became addicted to sensual pleasures, and jealousy, anger, desire and greed filled their hearts. God Indra, with the rest of the gods, approached Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, and begged for a mode of recreation accessible to all classes of society. Brahma acceded to this request and decided to compose a fifth Veda on Natya. From the four Vedas he extracted the four elements of speech, song, mime and sentiment and thus created Natyaveda, the holy book of dramaturgy. He asked Indra to pass the book to those of the Gods who are skillful, learned, free from stage fright and given to hard work. As Indra pleaded the gods' inability to enact the play, Brahma looked to Bharata and revealed the fifth Veda to him by God Brahma himself. Thus, when the dramatic art was well comprehended, the first drama was enacted on the auspicious occasion of Indra's Banner Day. The Natya Shastra legend indicates an intimate relation between the idea of dancing and dramatic representation. Dance has an important role in the birth of Indian theatre. As dance is a function of life, even from the primitive to the most cultured community, drama finds a semi-religious origin from the art of dancing. Film On July 7, 1896, an agent who had brought equipment and films from France first showed his moving pictures in Bombay. That was an important day in the social and cultural history of the Indian people. The first Indian-made feature film (3700 feet long) was released in 1913. It was made by Dadasaheb Phalke and was called Raja Harishchandra. Based on a story from the Mahabharata it was a stirring film concerned with honor, sacrifice and mighty deeds. From then on many "mythologicals" were made and took India by storm. Phalke's company alone produced about a hundred films. What little remains of Indian silent cinema up to 1931 barely fills six video-cassettes in the National Film Archives of India, but it is remarkable for the way traditional "theatrical" framing (static characters, faced front on by the camera) is animated by a considerable investment in location shooting, both in natural surroundings and in the city. This is evident not only in Raja Harishchandra, but also in historical-cum-stunt films such as Diler Jigar/Gallant Hearts (SS Agarwal; 1931) and Gulaminu Patan/The Fall of Slavery (SS Agarwal; 1931), and in the international co-productions directed by Himansu Rai and the German Franz Osten. Among these, Light of Asia (1925), about the Buddha, and Shiraz (1928), about the origins of the Taj Mahal, referred to as 'Romances from India' by their producers, render "India" as a startling, exotic assemblage: scenes of ancient and medieval court life, attended by the ritual of courtly gesture, and by spectacular processions of elephants and camels, are juxtaposed with a glittering naturalism.