Classical Dances of India Indian dances are an ancient art form whose beginning can be traced to 'Natya Veda'. It is based on Natya Veda. Bharat has explained in detail the art of dance in Natya Shastra. Initially, the object of dance was only spiritual elevation and the performance was only to worship the God. Such dances were called 'Margi' dance. Additionally, another dance style was also common, called 'Desi' which was for public entertainment. 'Margi' and 'Desi' dances have evolved into today's classical dance forms.
Kathak Dance KATHAK is a word of Sanskrit language and it literally means story or story teller, one who reads aloud "Puranas' i.e. "Kathakar" or "Kathavachak". It is from the word Katha the word 'Kathak' developed. Learned people have said 'One who tells story is called Kathak'. It is evident that the dance Kathak relates to story (Katha) and the tradition of the story telling is quite ancient. In fact, this dance form has its origin to the period of Lord Rama. The storytellers who followed this style were called Kushilava and later on were called "Kathak'. Similarly, the story of Lord Krishna i.e. "Bhagvata" was narrated in the temples through songs and dances.
In the medieval age, when large scale destruction of temples took place, these story tellers lost their shelter and began to scatter and found refuge in the courts of Kings or Nawabs and started creating dances according to their respective tastes to establish themselves in the court, they innovated to create extraordinary effects. It is also believed that in the Muslim age, Kathak had to be totally transformed. Hindu culture was destroyed and Kathak had to absorb the court's show and sense of pleasure. In this age, Kathak style of dance emerged as a means of entertainment and sensual pleasure. In this age the "King" replaced the Lord and "Devdasis" became "Saki'. The dance imbibed Muslim literature, Ragas and Beats and poems like Ghazals. The three houses of Kathak i.e. Lucknow, Jaipur and Banares were founded.
During the declining phase of Muslim rule, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and thereafter Nawab Rampur, Raja Chakradhar Singh etc. made their contribution to keep this dance form alive but generally during the European age, this dance form almost became extinct. However, during last few decades, the attitude of society towards Kathak has undergone a change and with the establishment of music institutes, the image of Kathak has improved. As a result, boys and girls of cultured families were attracted to this dance form.
Kathak is the classical dance form of Northern India. In the performance of Kathak, the artists enjoy a lot of freedom usually not available in other dance forms. Each Kathak dancer begins the dance in his or her unique way and organizes the performance according to his preference. Women usually wear Lehnga Choli and Dupatta while performing Kathak. Male dancers wear Churidar Paijama, Kurta and Angarkha and tie a Dupatta in the waist.
Bharat Natyam Bharat Natyam is a popular classical dance form of South India. It is related to Devdasis. For the beautiful expression and artistic presentation of Bharat Natyam, much credit goes to Devdasis. The teachers of Bharat Natyam called Nattuvan were considered to be acharyas.
Being naturally religious, in southern provinces Bharat Natyam was popularised by Devdasis in temples. These Devdasis could be divided into three categories: - Rajdasi, Devdasi & Swadasi Bharat Natyam is considered famous for its spectacular speed and expressions through body movements.The presentation of the dance can be divided into following seven sequential stages: 1. Allaripu 2. Jethiswaram 3. Shabdam 4. Varnam 5. Padam 6. Tillana 7. Shlokam Costume of Bharat Natyam: The dancers wear tight dhoti in which an attractive dhoti with pleats is joined in the centre; which at the time of foot work spreads like peacock feathers between the legs. Patka and kamarbandh add further attraction to the costume. Men usually wear a Patka and Kanthi (a type of necklace) while women wear choli and special garlands.
Kathakali This dance is particularly popular in Kerala state of South India. It has a beautiful combination of music, story and emoting. In this dance form, 'emoting' has dominance. The dance features stories of Ramayana, Mahabharat or any other mythological story. The actor playing the role comes on the stage and enacts according to the story while in the back ground, musical compositions are played to explain the Bhavas.
Kathakali dance is characterised with the dominance of 'Tandava' element and Veerta (Bravery), Adbhut (spectacular) and Shant (peace) rasas are also established. The body movements are complex and the number of mudras also is many more than those found in other classical dance form. In this style of dance, the Abhinay part is important. The dance begins with a prayer to God sung from behind the screen. Thereafter, the instrumentalists play together and in the same beat the dancers come on the stage and emote according to their roles through body movements.
Costume of Kathakali: In this dance costume designing and make up are of great importance. Characters wear tight jacket and colourful Ghaghara (long skirt) which remains blown. They also wear a crown according to the role whose halo may stretch upto their feet. The colour of the face is according to the role. The faces of gods are green, that of demons, red or black. Women and other minor actors have natural coloured face. The decoration and make up is according to Abhinaya.
Manipuri Dance There is folklore related to this dance that once when the Gopies were engaged in dancing with Krishna in 'Maharaas' the Natraj Shiva sought permission to witness the same. Krishna permitted him to watch the performance but only with his back facing the dancers but Shiva was so enchanted with the dance that he forgot his promise and hiding himself watched the dance. He then returned to his abode in Himalaya and decided to perform the 'Raas' with his wife Parvati. For performing 'Raas', Shiva chose a place. Sheshnag (the king of serpents) lit up this area with the 'mani' in his hood and since then the region is known as 'Manipur'.
The dance having been influenced by 'Maharaas' describes mostly the playful acts of Krishna. This dance is usually performed by girls but men are not barred from performing it. In the Manipuri dances four types of Raaslilas are performed i.e. Vasant Raas (Raas of spring season), Maharaas (Raas of full moon day), Kunj Raas (Raas of tree clusters) and Nitya Raas (Eternal Raas). This dance has a preponderance of 'Lasya' and the footwork, eyebrow movements, hand postures and body postures all imbibe 'Lasya'.
Costume: The costume of Manipuri dance is extremely, attractive and colourful. The women dancers wear a costume called 'Pulloi' A loose lehanga of bright satin or silk is worn which is called 'coomin'. It is adorned with motifs made with glass and Jari which is covered by transparent silk or peshwan. To blow the 'coomin' near the knees, bamboo sticks are placed inside in a circular form. The face of the dancer is covered with transparent silk. The hairs are raised and then tied in a knot. The shape of the knot is according to the type of Raas. The Gopis usually wear costume of red colour while Radha wears green colour.
Kuchipudi The history of Kuchipudi dance is quite old but it was recognised as a classical dance much later. Its origin is placed around 2nd century BC. Since the dance evolved in the Kuchipudi region of Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Kuchipudi dance. It is a traditional dance drama which bears distinct influence of Vaishnav sect. This dance form is also influenced by oddissi and Bharat Natyam dance styles.
The dance is usually performed in the following manner:
(a) Poorvarang: This is akin to Bhoomi puja followed by prayers to Venkateshwar.
(b) Bhamakalapam: In this stage which the dance is performed based on a story line.
(c) Shabdam: In this stage a "word' is expressed by emoting in various manners.
(d) Dashavatar: In this stage all the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are described.
(e) Rama Pattabhishek: In this stage the story of Rama-right from his birth to ascendancy on the throne is described through the medium of dance.
(f) Tillana: In this stage dance is performed through "Tillana" which is pure beats and laya. (g) Tarangam: Tarangam are the poems composed by Narayan Tirtha describing the childhood acts of Lord Krishna. In the end there is spectacular exhibition of 'Layakari' and 'body movements' which is performed by the dancer while standing in a Thali (plate)
Costume:—the women wear sari and blouse and use waist band. Women also wear an ornamental belt in the waist and arm bands, tika and necklace. Men usually wear a dhoti, waistband and Dupatta.
Oddissi Dance Oddissi is one of the oldest classical dance forms of India. It was born in the temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri in oddissa which was always the centre of art, literature and culture in the Eastern India. The dance evolved through devdasis in the temple. It is a solo dance conforming to the roles of 'Natya Shastra' and 'Shilp Shashtra' and is performed in the following six stages :
1. The dance begins with bowing to earth and prayer to' Vighnaraj' by singing 'Mangalacharan'.
2. The next stage is 'Batunritya' initially performed at slow pace then speeded up gradually.
3. After Batunritya, prayers are offered to the Lord which are taken from Sanskrit literature.
4. Next stage is called 'Pallavi' in which hand gestures are demonstrated according to music.
5. Next stage is 'Abhinaya' which is similar to 'Padam' in Bharat Natyam or Thumri in Kathak. Expression through eyes is of much importance in 'Abhinaya'.
6. The performance is concluded with 'Tarjan' which is somewhat similar to Tarana of Kathak or Tillana of Bharatnatyam.
Costume: The women wear silk sari with a 'Lang' whose spread hangs in the front. They wear a waistband of silver; most of the ornaments are made of silver the hairs are arranged in a round knot and adorned with buds of pearls.
Mohiniattam According to some folklore, Lord Vishnu first performed 'Mohini' dance on the shores of Kerala and the same dance is popular in Kerala in some or other form and is known as 'Mohiniattam'. The origin of this dance form is attributed to the devdasis of Tamilnadu combining with the Nagyars of Kerala. While the dance of devdasis had a preponderance of Lasya, the Nagyars were skilled in emoting through facial expressions and combination of the two skills led to development of Mohiniattam style of dance in the temples. In this dance there is a distinct importance of court songs and music. The dance is performed in the following sequence.
First stage commences with 'Cholketu' in which the Lord is worshipped with prayers. It is followed by Taliswar Varnanam, Padm and Tillana. The dance is concluded with shlokam in a very interesting style. The shlokam are devotional in nature. Costume: The female dancer usually wears a white sari with a broad red border. The sari is kept upto the calves. Hairs are tied into a bun on the left side above the temple and further adorned with fresh fragrant flowers.