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Bharatha Natyam

The Indian dance system is one of the most comprehensive and oldest in the world. Various successive South Indian dynasties from the 6th century onwards have contributed patronage to this dance art. The interest in temple art was brought about by a sudden spurt of building temples in 9th and 10th century. The Devadasis (servants of God) enjoyed prosperity and status by performing dance at the temples. In the early 19th century dance tradition was defined by four brothers known as the Tanjore Quartet. But yet, the fundamental attribute of all Indian classical dance forms is that they have risen from religious urges of people and their thematic content mostly depend on the rich mythological lore of the Hindus.

Bharatha Natyam is believed to be the oldest form of classical dance and is based to a large extent on ancient text. The word "Bharatha Natyam" is believed to be composed of it's three main elements: Bhava [mood expression], Raga [melody or song], and Tala [rhythmic timing] and Natyam means a combination of dancing and acting. Bharatha Natyam is a solo feminine dance which is devotional in spirit. It has Nritta [pure dance], Nritya [expressional composition] and Natya, which in addition to pure dance and expressional composition uses spoken word.

Nataraja, The King Of Dance

The dance of Shiva symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, birth and death. His dance is therefore the dance of the Universe. The parallel is seen in modern physics, which has shown that the cycle of creation and destruction is not only reflected in the turn of seasons and in the birth and death of living creatures but is also the very essence of inorganic matter.

For centuries, our 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.

Dancing for Gods

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.

Art was an effective means to suggest the cosmic truth touching the hearts of the devotees through dance, music, sculpture, architecture or a piece of jewelery, when compared to the effect created by rigid ritualistic practices.

The earliest historical illustration of Nataraja preaching Natyagama in its pure form originates in the Chalukyan sanctuaries of Badami and Aihole in the mid 6th century A.D. The temple rituals necessitated the physical presence of women replacing the imaginative celestials, propitiating the Gods. The allegorical view of dance used for the purpose of the pleasure of devas, transformed into a divine service in the medieval temple traditions. As a result temples vied with one another in having the best dancers and musicians in their services. Thus temple dancing was institutionalized and the dancing girls were patronized by the kings and mahajans and were often respectfully mentioned in many inscriptions of temples built in the medieval age. The famous temple of Belurhas several epithets glorifying the Hoysala queen Shantala as Natya Saraswati, Vichitra Suthradhare etc.

Classical Dances of India

India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which can be traced to 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 BHARATHA NATYAM of Tamilnadu, KATHAKALI and MOHINIYATTAM of Kerala, ODISSI of Orissa, KATHAK of Uttarpradesh, KUCHIPUDI of Andhrapradesh and MANIPURI of Manipur.

Apart from these classical dance forms, India is particularly rich in folk idioms. Each area has its own special varieties, be they martial, seasonal, ritual, sacrificial or celebratory. It can vary from village to village but they all share a common heritage of myths and symbols. "Folk" in our practice today indicates community and expressions that are spontaneous. The expression is total. There is little difference between verbal and non verbal communication systems and techniques. Their expressions reflect their geographical postponing and their relationship to nature. They may be spontaneous expressions, innocent and done for no commercial gain.

Kuchipudi

This major classical form takes its name from the village Kuchelapuri now known as kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh where it originated as a form of dance drama with religious themes. It is a dance that is also drama, for the performers act and speak as well. Originally these dance dramas were performed only by men, but in recent years women too have taken to it. It is erotic, but glazed with touch of the sublime.

According to tradition, Kuchipudi dance was originally performed by men of the Brahmin community. These Brahmin families were known popularly as Bhagavathulu of Kuchipudi.

 

 

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