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Indian Classical Dances
Indian Classical Dances are of different types and are popular. They have been practiced since ancient times but today they have acquired a new dimension.
More on Indian Classical Dances (262 Articles)
Odissi  (65)
Bharatnatyam  (48)
Kathak  (45)
Kathakali  (44)
Kuchipudi  (21)
Manipuri  (13)
 Indian Classical DancesIndian classical dances have evolved through the years and each region has a distinct classical style of its own. The Indian classical dance forms have definite rules that have been followed traditionally over the years. Dance is a physical as well as virtual form of art. India is a land of multiple languages, culture and traditions. Natyashastra, which is regarded as the fifth Veda, is considered to be the source of all classical dance forms in India. It is believed to have been written between 2nd century BC and 2nd century A.D.

The Indian classical dance forms gyrate around the 'Navarasas' or emotions - Hasya Rasa in Natyashastra, Raudra Rasa in Natyashastra, Bibhatsa Rasa in Natyashastra, Bhayanaka Rasa in Natyashastra, Vira Rasa in Natyashastra, Sringara Rasa in Natyashastra, Karuna Rasa in Natyashastra, Adbhuta and Shanta. Almost all the classical dance forms follow the same hand gestures. There are various names by which the dance forms are known. Eight Indian dance forms have been considered as classical dance forms by the Sangeet Natak Academy of India, they are: Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam, Odissi, and Sattriya. There are shlokas in Natyashastra that describe how to perform all the movements in Indian classical dances.

Bhartanatyam is considered to be a 'fire dance'. It includes the element of water, element of air, element of earth and element of sky. The movement of a Bharatnatyam dancer resembles that of the movements of a dancing flame. Bharatnatyam is a solo dance, which has graceful feminine lines and movements and also the masculine aspect. E. Krishna Iyer was the one who raised the status of Bhartanatyam and popularized it. Rukmini Devi Arundale was influential in bringing it to the attention of the West. There are several religious mythologies associated with the origin of this dance form. It got its name from sage Bharata who was entrusted with the work of writing Natyashastra following the instructions of Lord Brahma. In the ancient times, female artists performed this dance and were called Devadasis.

Indian Classical Dances Kathak has evolved in northern India. From16th century onwards it absorbed certain features of Persian dance and Central Asian dance which were imported by the Mughal era. There are three major gharanas of Kathak from which performers today draw their lineage: the gharanas of Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras and less prominent Raigarh gharana. The name Kathak is derived from Sanskrit word katha meaning story, and katthaka in Sanskrit means she who tells a story. One of the most popular characteristics of this dance form is its fast footwork, spins and use of Bhava in abhinaya.

Kathakali literally means story play. This dance-drama originated in the 17th century in Kerala. This name was derived from the Malayalam words katha which means story and kali, which means play. It is believed to be a blend of five elements of fine art. It involves a painting on the face of the actors with different colours which have different implication and are used to portray evil or good with colour variations. Green is used for noble characters, red for evil, black also for uncivilized ones. Women and saints are portrayed with lustrous yellowish faces. The expressions are derived from Natyashastra similar to other classical forms.

Kuchipudi is a form of dance-drama which adapts Natya, Nritta and Nritya. It originated in Andhra Pradesh and presents scenes from mythological tales and Hindu epics. It combines various aspects of music, dance and acting. Kuchipudi dance dramas comprise single or a series of episodes. Pure dance, mime and histrionics are the features of Kuchipudi dance dramas. It has been accompanied with instruments like Mridanga, Madala and a pair of cymbals. Sutradhara announces the theme of the play and introduces the characters thereafter. The play progressed at a slow pace and rhythm. In the beginning it has some complicated footwork

Manipuri was a temple dance form and has a close association with the religious and social framework of Manipur. It is religious in nature and depicts Hindu deities Radha and Krishna. It is very elegant accompanied with graceful movements. It is smooth and soft in its presentation. Musical instruments like Pena, bansuri and small cymbals are used. The costumes are very colourful, attractive and very richly decked. The dress worn by the female dancers are called 'patloi', and the lehenga is called 'Kumin' with mirror work woven into gorgeous designs and layered with a transparent silk.

Mohiniyattam is an Indian classical dance form that evolved in Kerala. Women dancers basically perform it and its movements are very graceful. Mohini means an enchantress. It basically includes a white saree with gold borders and jewellery charming the audience. The dance has the mnemonic syllables, which are sung. Though the dance units in Mohiniyattam are limited, its distinct features are the exemplary grace and the measured movements.

Odissi dance has its origins in Orissa. It is a temple dance. Major theme is the love of Radha and Lord Krishna. The Devadasis were responsible for the popularity of this dance. They used to dance to the narration of hymns and bols of talas in temples before the introduction of the Gita Govinda. Odissi performances are full with teachings of the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna. The different elements of Odissi dance style are Mangalacharna, Batu Nritya, Pallavi Nritya and Abhinaya. The dancer dedicates herself to the Lord and begs forgiveness of the Mother Earth for stamping her feet upon her. She apologizes to her audience for any shortcomings and offers salutations to the Guru in Mangalacharna. Moksha is the last item, and is performed in a fast tempo.

Sattriya is a classical dance that belongs to Assam. Its origin lies in five hundred years old theatre tradition nourished in the Vaishnava Monasteries of Assam. It was popular among the holy monks. It has been extracted from a massive organisation of theatrical activities which constitutes the Ankiya Bhaona form. It got its name from the monasteries. Sattras are monasteries of the followers of Lord Vishnu. It has a rhythmic beat and a sensitive style. It is gender specific. The upper part of the body is given in to melody, and the lower part is generally surrendered to interpreting rhythms. Abhinaya or expression is also an essential part of the whole process.

Indian classical dances had enormous impact on all the other arts of India; from sculpture to literature. It reflects the rich cultural heritage of the country. Indian classical dances forms are renowned all over the world. They are mostly known for their individual strong identities.

(Last Updated on : 02/12/2013)
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