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Indian Classical Dance - Performing Art - Indian Art and Culture Notes for IAS

Indian Classical Dance - Performing Art:

In India, the roots of dance are extremely deep and it reflects India's rich culture and history. There have been several existence of classical dance in different parts of India, each of which has some specialties.
Description of the oldest dance is found in Bharata's "Natyashastra". Apart from this, it existence is also found in Nandikeshwara's "Abhinaya Darpan".
Bronze dancing girl from the Indus Valley civilization shows that the tradition of dancing in Bharat land is centuries old.
Classical dance is based on Rag, Bhav, Ras, technique etc. which are mentioned in various ancient literature.

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Types of Ras and Their Mood:

  • Shringar - love
  • Hasya - Humor
  • karuna - compassion
  • Raudra - Anger
  • Bhayankar - horror
  • Veer - heroes
  • Adbhut - Wonder 
  • Vibhatsa - disgust
  • Bhakti - calm

At present, 8 classical dance forms exist in India, which have been described below.

1- Bharatnatyam - Tamil Nadu
2- Kathakali - Kerala
3- Odyssey-Odisa
4-Kuchipudi - Andhra Pradesh
5- Kathak - Uttar Pradesh
6- Mohiniattam - Kerala
7- Manipuri - Manipur
8-Class Dance - Assam

Read Also: Indus Valley Study Material and QA series

Bharatnatyam - Tamilnadu:

Bharatnatyam word
भा - Bhav
र - Rag
त  - Tal
नाट्यम - Drama.

This is India's oldest dance form. It is also found in Bharat Muni's Natyshastra (200 BC - 200 CE). Apart from this, it is also described in Shilpaatikaram.
First of all, it was used by Devdasis (a gifted girl in Hindu temples) in the temples of Tamil Nadu, due to which it is also called Dasiattam.
It was revived with the efforts of E. Krishna Iyar and Rukminidevi Arundale. This is done by both men and women.
It was also known as Tanjorenatyam in the preservation of the four teachers of Thanjavur, known as Tanjour Chatusk.

Image Source : Flickr

Characteristics of Bharatnatyam -

Alarippu - Initial Part
Jatiswaram - Pure Mode of Dance - Nritta
Sabam - the theatrical element that was used in praise of God
Character - Combination of Nritya and Nritta
Padam - The Principle of Dancer
Jawali - Short love song
Thillen - ending stage

"Katak Mukh Hast" is a major Mudra in which the ॐ is displayed with the help of three fingers.
Bharatnatyam has an equal arrangement of Tandya and Lasya(Lust).
It is also called fire dance because most of its Mudra is in the wavy state.
It is also known by the Ekcharya lasyam dance form. In this, the knee is mostly folded and both knees are given equal emphasis.

Prominent dancer - Yamini Krishnamurthy, Saroj Vaidyanathan, Janaki Rangarajan, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Padma Subramaniam etc.

Kathakali - Kerala:

It has been developed in the temples of Kerala in the protection of the collectors and feudalists. This is a mix of two dance forms - Ramatattam and KrishnaAattam.
Kathakali used to name Katha ie Story and Kali. It is credited with reviving Goes to V. N. Menon. It is also called the Purva Ki Gatha  as it demonstrates the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Image : Flickr

Characteristics of Kathakali -

Its characteristics are mainly the display of Bhavs and Rasas through the movement of eyes and eyebrows. This sky represents the element. Brass lamps are used for lighting.
With its crown, different colors are used to make face, in which every color has its own importance.

Green color - richness and decency
Red color - dominance
Black color - for evil
Yellow color - for women

In it, instruments like drum, stanza etc. are used.

Head Dancer - Rita Ganguly, Gopi Nath, Guru Kunchchu Krupa etc.

Odissi - Odissa :

It is evidenced in Odissa's Khandagiri-Udaigiri cave. Its name is derived from the Odra dance mentioned in the Natyshastra. It is displayed by two parts.

Maharishi - Devadasi
Gotipua - Boys of under age

The credit for celebrating this is to Indrani Rehman and Charles Faibri. Both Hindustani and Carnatic music are used in it.

Image : By Madhumita Rao | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Characteristics of Odyssey -

"Tribhanga" Mudra is its main feature in which the body twists in three places.
It has the following parts-

Manglacharan - 
Batu Nritya - fast and pure dance in which the dancer participates.
Pallavi - song is performed.
Tharizham - Part of pure dance
Trikhand Manjur - part of the closing

Head Dancer - Sonal Mansingh, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Kalucharan Mohapatra, etc.

Kuchipudi - Andhra Pradesh : 

This dance has evolved from the village of Krishnapuri or Kuchelapuram in Andhra Pradesh, where they represents the dance form in fronts of the villagers. It is mainly influenced by The Bhagawat Purana. In the 20th century, With the efforts of Balasaraswati and Ragini Devi,  Kuchipudi dance form were revived and made famous.

Image : Challiyan | Commons | CC-SA2.0

Characteristics of Kuchipudi -

It is mainly contained the Shringara Ras. In this, each main character comes to the stage with the presentation of "Daru". Daru is a miniature composition.
In this dance, the dancer can also present a part of the singer himself. It contains both the Lasya and the Tandya.
The main instrument is Violin, Mridangam and Jugalbandi of Carnatic Music is done in it.

Some single elements contained in Kuchipudi -

Manduk Shabdam - Story of Frogs
Tarangam - dance presentation by placing feet on the edges of the brass platter
Jal Chitra Nrityam - Making a picture on the surface with toe.

Head Dancer - Yamini Krishnamurthy, Indrani Rehman, Radha - Raja Reddy, Uma - Rama Rao etc.

Kathak - Uttar Pradesh :

Kathak is a traditional classical dance form of Uttar Pradesh which reached its peak in the Mughal period. In this period, this traditional classical dance form turned into a sexually transmitted genre and was introduced in the Raj Darbar. It was also flourished in the Mughal period. It was resurrected by Lady Leela Sokha in the 20th Century.

Image : Flickr

Characteristics of Kathak -

The important feature of Kathak is that the Gharana were developed in it.

Lucknow Gharana - It reached its peak during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. It was emphasized on expression.

Jaipur Gharana - It is known for its long rhythmic patterns, speed and flow. It was started by Bhanu Ji.

Banaras Gharana - This gharana, founded by Janki Prasad Mishra, was paid more attention to Florwork.

Raigadh Gharana - This gharana, developed in the protection of Raja Chakradhar Singh, is given more emphasis on acute music.

Jode and Tukade are in small portions with acute rhythm. While introducing her/his introduction, the dancer starts the dance.
Jugalbandi is the main feature of  Kathak has a unique identity in which competition between a tabla player and a dancer is done.
Tarana is an important part of kathak. It is the closing part.
Kathak is mainly performed with Jugalbandi of Dhrupad. Instruments like Tabla, Dholak etc. are used.

Head Dancer - Birju Maharaj Lachhu Maharaj, Damayanti Joshi etc.

Mohiniyattam - Kerala :

Mohiniyattam literally interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the celestial enchantress of the Hindu mythology, is the classical solo dance form of Kerala.
VN Menon and Kalyani Amma revived it.

Image : Flickr

Features of Mohiniyattam -

In this, the story of Lord Vishnu's feminine form, Mohini is mainly displayed. There is more emphasis on Lasya. Generally, white clothes are worn in it.

Head Dancer - Jayaprabha Menon, Madhuri Amma etc.

Manipuri - Manipur :

Manipuri mode of dance is related to Manipur state. The source of its origin is told in the Puranas, the dance of Shiva Parvati. It gives more emphasis on devotion.

Image : Flickr

Characteristics of Manipuri -

There is both Tandya and Lasya. Nagbhandra is an important posture of this dance form. In it, the instruments is used like kartal, drum etc.

Head Dancer - Nayana, Swarna, Ranjana (Three Jhaveri Sisters), Guru Bipin Singh etc.

Sattriya - Assam:

This dance form, developed in the 15th century, was founded by Vaishnav saint Sankardeva. This is the classical dance form of Assam which was held in the Vaishnava Maths, which is called Satra in Assam. The song is composed by Shankardev and it is called Bore song.

Image : By Subhrajit at Assamese Wikipedia

Characteristics of Sattriya -

It mainly focuses on the description of Bhagwat stories. It is a mix of Ozapali and Devadasi dances that are popular in Assam. There is more emphasis on dance Mudras with the flow of the song. There are very strict rules for Mudras in this dance form.
In it, Khol, flute etc instruments is used.

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