In previous issue you had known the importance, glory of dance especially the Indian classical dance forms. The dance originated 5000 years ago and comprises of several arts like sculpture, painting, theatre, literature, music, dramaturgy, and poetry. And I also referred the name Bharatha who gave foundation for Indian theatre. So now let us discuss about the changes that the Dance in India has undergone throughout history.
The common root, common text of all Indian classical dance forms can be traced to Bharatha’s NATYASHASTRA. Though historians found other experts before Bharata, the Indain theatre has considered Bharatha was real architect who given a definite shape to dances and other theatre activities. Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra is a great work on the science and technique of Indian drama, dance and music. It contains the history of dance world, different kinds of postures, movements, the construction of stage, makeup and about orchestra.
He says that Brahma, the creator, was asked by gods to create an entertain and knowledge oriented patterns. As such, Brahma had created drama. He took Patya (words) form the Rigveda, Abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajurveda, Geeta (music and chant) from Samaveda and Rasa (sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda and created the fifth Veda, Natyaveda. Sage Bharatha practiced and demonstrated this art and propagated it along with his 104 children and Apsaras. Along with this we can read the story which explains about the different levels of development of dance such as performance of Bharatha before Lord Brahma, Shiva and other Gods and Goddess, and their blessings, modification suggested, disciples and their arrangements to establish dance in earth.
But still, question arises! Does the dance and dramas are creation of Gods? What was the intension behind for calling ‘dance is a creation of Brahma’ and Bharatha was a sage who developed the concept of dance in all over world? Can’t we notice other experts like Shilali, Krushaashwa who wrote Natasutra long before Bharata? Was Bharatha a real hero? Or was he combined other previous dance texts and made it as one?
Anyhow, Indian culture today has a distinct identity through Temple traditions. Dance forms were nurtured in 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. The evolution and development of Temple arts speak volumes of the great cultural endeavor. Indian classical dances have their roots deep in the religious aspects and rich mythological tales of India.
To appreciate the Indian classical dances one has to understand and appreciate Indian legends. Most of Indian dances take their themes from India’s rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu Gods and Goddesses are all depicted in these dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life and beliefs of the Indians.
For centuries, dances were performed on a regular basis at temples before the deity as a devotional exercise. This gave rise to the Devadasis, the temple dancing girls who were held in great respect in those early days. These girls were accomplished artists; they could sing, dance, play many instruments and read and interpret religious texts to perfection. Their first and foremost duty was to sing and dance before the temple deity. They offered their dances and songs as prayer at His feet. Unfortunately, their position deteriorated as time went by.
The temple tradition of dancing that was practiced in the ancient times has got an entirely new dimension later. Few centuries later, dance reached the royal courts. It took even a few more centuries before it reached the public platforms.
The varied dance forms of India depict the rich cultural heritage of our country. It is a sincere depiction of the imagination and gracefulness and realities in life. The traditional dances of India have crossed all the boundaries and today they stand above all others having an identity of their own. These dances has not just gained popularity amongst the Indians, but has also brought about a sensation in the western countries.
Classical dances are traditional. It is undebatable. But is these dances are impersonal? Yes, of course! The dance movements, rhythms and accompanying music all remain the same whoever the dancer might be. And also it’s been correctly observed that in Indian classical dance most of them are professionals. The dancer has to undergo vigorous, continuous practice and training before he/she can perform before spectators.
India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which represents the culture and tradition, system of a particular region or a group of people. The most famous classical forms are BHARATANATYAM of Tamilnad, KATHAKALI and MOHINIYATTAM of Kerala, ODISSI of Orissa, KATHAK of Uttarpradesh, KUCHIPUDI of Andhra Pradesh 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 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. Their expressions reflect their geographical and their relationship to nature.
But in course of time some of the Folk forms got systematic structure modified styles, patterns, adopted traditional behaviors. Some of the scholars tried to renew the things, so that those folk traditions can acquire classical approach. For E.g. Karnataka’s YAKSHAGANA, Assam’s SATRIYA etc…
But can we consider it as classical dance forms? Why should not we consider the renowned, renewed folk forms which are very nearest to so called ‘classical’; If we are agreeing that all classical forms which we are practicing now, is a folk tradition in its origin, took the themes from daily life and later got particular structure? Why we should brand some of the dances is classical? And others were not? For what this compulsion is needed? The debate is still going on..!