Classical Period | Classical Dance Forms | Dance: A Survey
The first still available classical manual on dance is Bharata Muni’s Nāṭyaśāstra (about 2nd century BCE). It gives a clear and detailed account of dance. It is said that apsarās (celestial dancers) were made to perform in the earliest drama to make the performance interesting for the audience. After watching the first performance of the drama, Nāṭyaśāstra narrates that Śiva wanted to dance and dance movements to be made a part of the drama, and for that, the sage Taṇḍu was requested to compose and direct a dance. Taṇḍu taught dance movements — cārīs (foot and leg positions), maṇḍalas (circular movements),karaṇas (movements of hands), and aṅgāhāras (dance postures) — to Bharata Muni who made them part of the training of actors and dancers in a play. The dance came to be called tāṇḍava, a series of body postures that form the basic language of Indian dance. The parallel dance performed by women is known as lāsya.
After the Nāṭyaśāstra, another significant available work on dance is Nandikeśvar’s Abhinaya Darpaṇa (2ndcentury CE). These two manuals present the principles of dance. Indian dance has grammar. Each dance form is a system of structures at different levels. For instance, the minimal units in dance are (1) sthāna, standing position; (2) cārī, foot, and leg movements; (3) nṛttahasta, hands in A karaṇa at the Chidambaram temple dancing position. A configuration of these constitutes a see them sculptured at the Chidambaram Naṭarāja temple. Any two karaṇas constitute a mātrika; a combination of two, three or four mātrikas constitutes, in turn, an aṅgahāra, an organized sequence of postures. Finally, an arranged sequence of aṅgahāras constitutes a dance Dance is either mārgī or deśī, the two categories that:
Which periods do the above two sculptures apply to all arts? Mārgī is the standard, formal tradition; that deśi is belong? folk, variable traditions. Another classification of dance, as we have noted, is tāṇḍava and lāsya in character. In one sense
tāṇḍava stands for the vigorous expression and actions and feelings regardless of whether the dance is performed by men or women. Lāsya, on the other hand, stands for elements of grace and softness and gentle emotions. These are usually associated with women because Pārvatī, Śiva’s consort, taught it to Uṣā, sage Bāṇa’s daughter, who then passed on the art to the women of India. However, since love is the predominant sentiment in lāsya, it is also danced
by men when their dance needs to express this sentiment. For example, Kṛṣṇa’s dance with gopīs is in lāsya mode.
There are three main components — nāṭya, nṛtya, and nṛtta — which together with other elements make up the classical dance. Nāṭya corresponds to drama; it is the dramatic element of a stage performance. Bharata defines nāṭya as ‘a mimicry of the exploits of gods, demons, kings, as well as of householders of this world’. (See module Theatre and Drama for Class XI for more on nāṭya.) Nṛtya is the rhythmic movement of the body in dance combined with emotion or rasa and bhāva. Nṛtta stands for rhythmic movements and steps. On this basis, the technique of dancing can be categorized under two clear heads, nṛtta and nṛtya.
Both rasa and bhāva are conveyed through abhinaya or dramatic expression — āṅgika (gestures of the body), vācika (verbal), āhārya (costume and make-up) and sāttvika (physical manifestations of mental and emotional states) — which govern nāṭya. The vācikabhinaya of the nāṭya is replaced by the music accompanying the dance. The musical accompaniment invariably consists of poetry or lyric or narrative which is set to music and rhythm and strengthens the bhāva. The dancer also depicts those emotions through sāttvika (voluntary physical manifestations of mental and emotional states) like paralysis, perspiration, hair standing on end, change of voice, change of color, trembling, fainting, and weeping and helps in the realization and experience of rasa.
Indian classical dance forms were nurtured with a purpose in the sacred premises of temples. Temple dancing was imbued with the idea of taking art to the people and conveying a message to the masses. The temple rituals necessitated the physical presence of mortal women (instead of the ornate, carved figures of apsarās to propitiate the gods. The allegorical view of dance, used for the purpose of pleasing the devas,
was gradually transformed into a regular, service (with deep religious connotations) in the temples of medieval times. This was possibly the reason behind the origin of devadāsīs, the earliest performers of the classical Indian dances. They were supposed to pursue
A devadāsī was a girl married to a deity, who dedicated her life in service of the temple or deity. Find out more about the history of devadāsīs.
the dance forms devotedly and excels in them. They lived and danced only on the temple premises, their vocation enjoying great religious prestige.