Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Indian Classical Dance and its relation with Hinduism

Nataraja or Nataraj The Lord of Dance

     Indian classical dances are dances of the mind and soul and are extremely traditional. It is deeply rooted with Hinduism. The main steam of Indian classical dance is worship dance that were undertaken centuries back by the Devadasies (servant of lord or temple girls) to please their Gods. It is believed from a Hindu point of view that the whole Universe is being brought into existence as the manifestation of the dance of the Supreme Dancer, Nataraja or Shiva.

        It is also to be said Gods and Goddesses pleaded with Lord Brahma for another Veda (Religious Book) to be created that would be simple for the common man to understand, which is particularly important in Kali Yuga (Modern Age). Granting their wish, Lord Brahma created the Panchama veda, the Fifth Veda, or NatyaVeda (Religious Book of dance), a quintessence of the main four Vedas. Brahma took pathya (words) form the Rig veda, abhinaya (communicative elements of the body movements or mime) from the Yajur veda, geeth (music and chant) from Samaveda, and rasa (vital sentiment and emotional element) from Atharva veda to form the fifth Veda, NatyaVeda.

       This NatyaVeda or Natya Shastra(400BC) is the most ancient and the most elaborate scripture describing every element and aspect of dance-worship. According to Natya Shastra all Classical Indian dances comprise three aspects, Nritta (rhythmic elements), Natya (dramatic element, mime or expression) and Nritya (combination of rhythm with expression). A very important feature of Indian classical dances is the use of the mudras or hand gestures by the artists as a short-hand sign language to narrate a story. Many classical dances include facial expressions as an integral part of the dance form. Over time, many classical dance forms emerged into beautiful forms such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Kathak and numerous other vigorous folk dances. 
Most of these dances was born and bred in the ancient temples and shrines and then a few centuries later, reached the the public platforms. 

    Bharatanatyam is a classic dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, a state in South India and is the known as the Indian National Dance. It resembles the old way of worship dance performed by temple Devadasis in ancient times. Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharatanatyam dance postures.

  Odissi originates from the state of Orissa. It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis, and upon the basic square stance known as chauka.

    Mohini Attam is the feminine dance form of Kerala. It is danced by women and is known for its very sensual themes. The word “Mohiniyattam” literally means “dance of the enchantress”. There is a typical costume for Mohini Attam. It is generally simple and white, or off-white. Usually there is gold brocade, possibly with a border of red. One of the most characteristic signs of the Mohini Attam dancer is the bun of hair worn off-centre.

     Kathak dance form traces its origins to the nomadic bards of ancient northern India. These bards, performing in village squares and temple courtyards, mostly specialized in recounting mythological and moral tales from the scriptures, and embellished their recitals with hand gestures and facial expressions.

   Kathakali is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for its attractive make-up code of characters, their elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements, traditionally based on themes of Hindu mythology; especially, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It originated in the country’s southern state of Kerala during the 16th century AD.

   Kuchipudi is a Classical Indian dance form from Andhra Pradesh, combines fast rhythms with fluid movements, creating a nice blend of control and abandon, strength and delicacy. Specifically there is the Tarangam of Kuchipudi which is unique in that the dancer must dance upon a brass plate, placing the feet upon the raised edges. The dancer moves the plate with much balance as the individual is traditionally dancing on the plate with two diyas (small oil-burning candles) in his or her hands while balncing a “kundi” (small vessel) containing water on their head.

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