Music & Dance

Indian dance forms are said to speak the values of Temple Tradition. Indian dance forms as practiced today have captured global attention sensitising the Indianness in all the cultural vistas of the world.

Nataraja i.e. Lord Siva in a dancing pose is worshipped all over India, by the classical dancers, as the king of dance. The famous cosmic dance of Siva truly depicts the nature of India classical dance. A poet says, about the cosmic dance,"With each step he took he scattered stars in space. With each movement of his outstretched arms he enveloped space and time. With his long hair flying in the wind he dances in ecstasy to the delight of his devotees."

The dance of Shiva symbolises the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, birth and death. His dance is therefore the dance of the Universe.
For centuries, Indian culture has accepted that the dance of Shiva is the dance of life, myths, symbolism, mystic responses and philosophical explanations all merely add to the strength of such belief in a power that transcends the merely mortal, and when the human dancer enacts this act encompassing concept, he or she only makes a humble offering of acknowledgement.

The reason why Indian classical dance speaks of the Temple Tradition is that, the dance forms were nurtured with a purpose in the sacred premises of temples. Temple dancing had a mission : to take art to the people and conveying a message to the masses. The monotony of the life of commonness as well as the elite was equally shared in the premises of a Temple. True religion sanctified every element with a touch of beauty.

The Badami and the Aihole Prashasti in the 6th century A.D. had the illustrations of Nataraja preaching Natyagama in its pure form during the Chalukyan period. In the medieval temple tradition, the allegorical view of dance used for the purpose of entertaining the gods or the Devas transformed into a divine service.

Temple dancing was institutionalised and the dancing girls were patronised by the kings and maharajas and were often respectfully mentioned in many inscriptions of temples built in the medieval age. The famous temple of Belur has several epithets glorifying the Hoysala queen Shantala as Natya Saraswati, Vichitra Suthradhari etc. The dancing girls of the temples were called Devadasis and the temple activity was considered as a means of dedication.
The temples of Khajuraho, Bhubaneswar and Puri echoed with the lyrics of poet Jayadeva. The Devadasi system in these temples was a living tradition till recently. Later, the term Devadasi, which was originally used in the divine sense was replaced by the term "Bhogastree" and dance and music were used as a means of attracting clients.


Classical dance forms of India:
India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which can be traced to the different parts of the country. Each form represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a group of people. The most famous classical forms are Bharatanatyam of Tamilnadu, Kathakali and Mohiniyattam of Kerala, Odissi of Orissa, Kathak of Uttarpradesh, Kuchipudi of Andhrapradesh and Manipuri of Manipur. The common root of all these dance forms is Bharata's Natyashastra.

Indian classical dance is divided into 'nritta'- the rhythmic elements, 'nritya'- the combination of rhythm and expression and 'natya'- the dramatic element. 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, Shiva, Lakshmi and Sita are all depicted in these dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life and beliefs of the Indians.

Bharathanatyam is the term coined by E.Krishna Iyer, one of the freedom fighters to the then Sadir dance. This dance has now come to stay as the classical dance that originated in Tamilnadu. But this again has no relevance today, for it has become deeply rooted in various states of India.

Mohiniyattam is a female classical dance form of Kerala. It was mainly performed in the Temples of Kerala. The word Mohini means a maiden who enacts desire or steals the heart of the onlookers.

Kathakali is one of the most dramatic dance forms in India, wherein the performer dances all through the night
and tells stories of heroes and heroines, Gods and Demons from the Indian epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana. The techniques of Kathakali are extremely complicated and the dancers, mainly men, execute rapid spins, leaps and freezes with split-second timings.

Orissa, on the Eastern Sea-Coast of India, is the home of the highly sensuous and lyrical form of dance called Odissi.The Odissi dancer bends the hips and sways the torso in curves and flexions known as "Tribhangi" (Triple Bend) and "Atibhangi" (Semi-circular bend) from the torso downwards.

Kathak is a major solo style of Northern India. It is said to be originated from the Braj region in Uttar Pradesh by "Kathakars" or story- tellers.

Another dance form in India, Manipuri originates in beautiful valley in the North East of India. Lyrical grace,lightness or delicacy of hand gestures set Manipuri apart from the geometric structure of Bharatanatyam and the linear quality of Kathak. The costumes and ornaments in Ras are colourful and glittering.