Indian classical Dance Saumyadip Maiti Amity University, Noida
Bharat Natyam is the most widely known and exalted of theclassical Indian dances. Although it has been traditionallyassociated with Tamil Nadu, it now has a strong presencethroughout India. Even outside of India, the majority ofschools that teach Indian dance, teach this style.The history of Bharat Natyam is interesting. The genre of BharatNatyam was developed by amalgamating a number of elementsfrom the earlier forms of Dassi Attam and Sadr. Dassi Attam wasa dance form of the Deva Dassis (temple dancing girls) whileSadr was a form found in the palaces of southern India. Anumber of people contributed to the development of BharatNatyam, but the most notable was E. Krishna Iyer of Madras(Chennai). This was in the 1930s
It is difficult to determine the age of Bharat Natyam; this is due to theevolving nature of Indian dance. Although Bharat Natyam evolvedfrom Sadr and Dassi Attam, there are differences. If one feels thatBharat Natyam is different enough to be considered a distinct genre,then we may safely say that it is only about 70 years old. On the otherhand, if we consider the differences to be insignificant, then we maypush the age back several hundred years. However, the carelessmanner in which many artists date Bharat Natyam back to the NatyaShastra is absolutely preposterous. The cumulative changes that haveoccurred over the last 2000 years make such statements totallyinsupportable.
There are a number of musicians and instrumentalist who provide themusical accompaniment. Typically there is one or more vocalist, aperson reciting the dance syllables, and a mridangam. Additionally,one usually finds violin, vina (saraswati vina), or venu (bamboo flute).There is also a thallam (manjira) which is usually played by the personreciting the dance syllables. The overall style of the Bharat Natyammusical accompaniment is not unlike other Carnatic performances.All of the traditional elements of classical dance are present in BharatNatyam. The mudras (hand positions), abhinaya (facial expressions),and padams (narrative dances) form the basis for the performance.
KathakKathak dances is basically from UttarPradesh.This north Indian dance form is inextricablybound with classical Hindustani music, andthe rhythmic nimbleness of the feet isaccompanied by the table or pakhawaj.Traditionally the stories were of Radha and Krishna, in theNatwari style (as it was then called) but the Moghulinvasion of North India had a serious impact on the dance.The dance was taken to Muslim courts and thus it becamemore entertaining and less religious in content. Moreemphasis was laid on nritta, the pure dance aspect andless on abhinaya
These rahapsodists and minstrels were associated with temples and shrines. Their particular dance-forms, which had its origin in simple story-telling, later came to be known as Kathak. Kathak is danced by both men and women. A Kathak dancer is not required strictly to adhere to fixed steps and stages in a fixed order. He or she can change the sequence of stages to suit his or her aptitude and style of dancing.
IntroductionKathakali is the most well known dance drama from the southIndian state of Kerala. The word Kathakali literally means"Story-Play". It is known for its large, elaborate makeup andcostumes. The elaborate costumes of Kathakali have becomethe most recognised icon for Kerala.HistoryThe themes of the Kathakali are religious in nature. Theytypically deal with the Mahabarat, the Ramayana and the ancientscriptures known as the Puranas. This is performed in a textwhich is generally Sanskritised Malayalam.A Kathakali performance is a major social event. They generallystart at dusk and go through out the night. Kathakali is usuallyperformed only by men. Female characters are portrayed by mendressed in womens costume. However, in recent years, womenhave started to becomeKathakali dancers
Kathakali has a long tradition. It dates back to the 17thcentury. It was given its present form by Mahakavi VallatholNarayan Menon, who was the founder of the Kerala KalaMandalam.The actors rely very heavily on hand gesture to convey thestory. These hand gestures, known as mudra, are commonthrough out much of classical Indian dance.
CostumeThe costume is the most distinctive characteristic of Kathakali. The makeup is veryelaborate and the costumes are very large and heavy.There are several kinds of costume. There are: Sathwika (the hero), Kathi (thevillain), Minukku (females), and Thatti. These basic divisions are further subdividedin a way which is very well known to Malayali (Keralite) audiences. Each characteris instantly recognisable by their characteristic makeup and costume.The makeup is very elaborate. It is so elaborate that it is more like a mask thanmakeup in the usual sense. The materials that comprise the makeup is all locallyavailable. The white is made from rice flour, the red is made from Vermilion (a redearth such as cinnabar). The black is made from soot. The colours are not merelydecoration, but are also a means of portraying characters. For instance, red on thefeet is used to symbolise evil character and evil intent.
Manipuri Introduction Manipuri is the classical dance from the north East Indian state of Manipur. Its themes are devotional and are performed on religious occasions and in temples throughout the area. It is even often referred to as "sankirtan". The term Manipuri actually covers a number of dance forms from the region. The most important being the Ras Lila and the Pung Cholom.
History The history and development of Manipuri dance is interesting. It is said that King Khuyoi Tompok was a great patron of the arts and developedManipuri in the 2nd century AD. However, it is not very likely that this early form of Manipuri had much in common with contemporary forms. It is more likely that Manipuri began to take a familiar form with the introduction of Vaishnavism in the 15th century AD. This was first introduced by King Kyamba and greatly expanded under the support of later kings such as Khagemba, Chairairangaba and a host of others. The earlier forms of Manipuri had not been codified or given a scientific base. This was accomplished in the 18th century by King Bhagyachandra. He invited the major teachers and performers from all over the area to codify their art into a coherent system. Today, Manipuri is generally acknowledge as a classical dance form of very high artistic and technical standards.
Forms There are a number of forms in Manipuri. These are the Ras Lila, the Pung Cholom, Nupa Cholom, Thoibi and a host of others. The Ras Lila is the most important dance form in the Manipuri style. The theme revolves around the love of Krishna and the milkmaids(gopinis). Although the themes are romantic, we must remember that the Bhakti school of Hinduism considers physical love as a metaphor for spiritual longing. There are five Ras Lilas that deal with the divine love of Radha and Krishna. These are: Maharas, Vasantras, Kunjaras, Nityaras and Divaras. Other Ras deal with various aspects of Krishnas life such as Karnabheda (ear piercing), marriage, etc. The performance of Ras Lila is generally performed in a special enclosure in front of the temple called a Nat Mandap.
The Pung Cholom is a very characteristic dance of Manipur. It is based upon the drum known as pung or Manipuri mridang. This dance may be performed by men or women and is usually a prelude to the Ras Lila. In this style, the dancers play the pung at the same time that they are dancing. Sometimes acrobatics are used for an exciting effect, all without breaking the flow of the music.
The Odissi (Orissi) dance is the Indian classical dance from the Easternstate of Odissa. It has a long, yet broken tradition. Although dance inOdissa may be traced back more than 2000 years, it was brought tonear extinction during the colonial period. Therefore, modern Odissidance is a reconstruction.HistoryLike other forms of Indian classical dance, the Odissi style traces its originsback to antiquity. Dancers are found depicted in bas-relief in the hills ofUdaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) dating back to the 1st centuryBC. The Natya Shastra speaks of the dance from this region and refers toit asOdra-Magadhi.Over the centuries three schools of Odissi dance developed: Mahari,Nartaki, and Gotipua. The Mahari tradition is the devadasi tradition; this isthe use of women who are attached to deities in thetemple. The Nartaki tradition is the school of Odissi dance whichdeveloped in the royal courts. Gotipua is a style characteristed by the useof young boys dressed up in female clothing to perform female roles
StyleThere are a number of characteristics of the Odissi dance. The style maybe seen as a conglomeration of aesthetic and technical details.One of the most characteristic features of Odissi dance isthe Tribhangi. The concept of Tribhang divides the body into three parts,head, bust, and torso. Any posture which deals with these three elementsis called tribhangi. This concept has created the very characteristic poseswhich are more contorted than found in other classical Indian dances.The mudras are also important. The term mudra means "stamp" and is ahand position which signifies things. The use of mudras help tell a story ina manner similar to the hula of Hawaii.
Mohini Attam is the feminine dance form of Kerala, a state in the southwestern most part of India. It is danced by women and is known for itsvery sensual themes. Mohini Attam has an extremely, slow seductivequality. It has only been in recent decades that Mohini Attam has risen inpopularity and acceptabilityThere is a typical costume for Mohini Attam. It is generally simple and white,or off-white. Usually there is a gold brocade, possibly with a border ofred. One of the most characteristic signs of the Mohini Attam dancer is thebun of hair worn off-centre. This is very much a characteristic of women fromKerala.The myth of Mohini is central to the performance. According to the story,Brahma tells the other Gods how they can obtain amrit (celestialambrosia); amrit bestows immortality and great power. He informs them thatthey can do so by churned up the ocean of milk. Unfortunately, the job is sogreat that the gods are forced to seek the assistance of the demons. Thedemons agree to help, but are secretly plotting to keep it all for themselves.
Andhra Natyam is a classical dance form from the south Indianstate of Andhra Pradesh. It is a style that became extinct butwas revived in the 20th century.It is derived from the general soup of south Indian danceforms. Therefore, it shows strong similarities to such formsas Kuchipudi, andBharat Natyam, as well as the older formsof Dasi Attam, Kacheri Attam, Chinna Melam, and a host ofothers.
Kuchipudi Kuchipudi is the classical dance form from the South- East Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It derives its name from the village of Kuchelapuram, a small village about 65 kms from Vijaywada. It is known for its graceful movements and its strong narrative / dramatic character. Kuchipudi flourished as a dramatic form of dance for hundreds of years. It was held in high esteem by the rules of the Deccan. For instance Tana Shah in 1678 granted the lands around Kuchipudi to the Brahmins who performed the dance.