Middle Period | Classical Dance Forms | Dance: A Survey
In the medieval period, though the Nāṭyaśāstra tradition was alive, yet there were departures and modifications. Sāraṅgadeva, who in his Saṅgītaratnākara introduced the concept of paddhati (style) and the movements, spoke of basic movements under two categories: śuddha (purely classical or academic form) and deśī (regional variants). The recognition of regional styles contributed greatly to the further development of the individual, distinctive, classical styles of the various regions. From the 13th century onward the important manuals of different regions, which include Nṛttyaratnāvalī of Jayasenāpati from Andhra Pradesh, Saṅgītopanīśat Sarodhara of Vacanācārya, Śudhākalaśa of Gujarat, Hastamuktāvalī of Assam, Govinda Saṅgita Lilā Vilāsa of Maṇipur, Abhinava Candrikā of Maheśvara Mahāpātra from Orissa, Saṅgīta Dāmodar of Raghunāth from Bengal, ‘Ādi Bharatam’, ‘Bharatarnava’ and ‘Nṛtta Addhyāya’ of the Saṅgītamakaranda from Tamil Nadu, Balarāma Bharatam and Hastalākṣṇadīpikā from Kerala, the Nṛtyaratnakośa by Kumbhakaraṇa from Rajasthan, and the Saṇgītamallikā of Mohammad Shah from north India attest to numerous regional variations.
The temples of medieval India also show that the sculptors had considerable technical knowledge of the art of dance. The Bṛhadeśvara temple of Thanjavur (or Tanjore, 11th century) and, as we mentioned earlier, the Naṭarāja temple of Chidambaram depicted karaṇas, while the Orissan temples of Vithal Deul, Parmeśwara, and Rājarāni (9th– 11th century) described cārīs and sthānas (positions) as given in the Nāṭyaśāstra. The Khajurāho temples of the Candela kings (11th–13th century) and the whole range of medieval sculpture extending from Rajapūtānā and Saurāṣṭra to Odisha and from Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram (11th–13th century) portray a variety of dance poses and movements which are accurate illustrations of either the original styles or of texts that were followed by the artists.
The different styles of classical Indian dance were practiced and perfected by creative masters belonging to different gharānās (family traditions or schools) in different regions. These masters were the repositories of an invaluable oral tradition. They frequently contributed to the growth of their art despite their lack of basic education and academic knowledge of the Sanskrit language. Now the Indian classical dances, which were limited to the temple premises, were performed in royal courts, in the presence of the elite and the nobility.