(Last Updated on : 28/12/2011)
Legends of Indian classical dance
form an intriguing part of Indian dance folklore. It is said that goddess and gods literally pleaded in front of Lord Brahma
for creation of another Veda which would be easy for people to understand, and be more significant in Kali Yuga. Lord Brahma granted their wish and created the Fifth Veda named Panchamavada or NatyaVeda. This particular Veda is quintessence of four main Vedas
. Lord Brahma took pathya (words) form the Rig Veda
(communicative elements of the body movements, cf. mime) from the Yajur Veda
, geeth (music and chant) from Samaveda, and rasa (vital sentiment and emotional element) from Atharva Vedato form the fifth Veda, Natya Veda. After creating this Veda, Lord Brahma handed it to sage Bharata and asked him to propagate it on earth. Obeying the order to Lord Brahma, Bharata wrote down Natyashastra. With time it became the most respected text on techniques of classical Indian dances, especially Bharatanatyam and Odissi.
Bharata performed natya, nrtta and nrtya, together with groups of the Gandharavas and Apsaras, before Shiva. Lord Shivamodified and improved upon the dance and also instructed the science of dance to Thandu Maharishi. This particular field of dance gained the name as Thandava (cosmic dance of Shiva). Shiva instructed Parvathi on Lasya Natya who passed it on to Banasura's daughter, Goddess Usha. It was through Usha that this form of dance was passed on to the Gopis of Dwaraka, which in turn was passed on to the maidens of Sowrashtra.
Being great dancers themselves, the gods and goddesses have been passing on the art of heavenly dance through many of other human channels, whose understanding, attitude and personal eccentrics naturally varied from people to people, and helped create a number of styles ranging from Bharatanatyam to Odissi.
Many centuries ago the Hindu temple in South India had Devadasis (dancers or priestess who would dance dasiattam. They would also sing and play various musical instruments. These women were well versed in Sanskrit as well as in other languages as well. To start with the devadasis lead very celibate and strict life and did not even have family or children. As the dance entered the royal courts, the dancers were called Rajanartakis, who performed in the royal courts and gradually became royal concubines. The Devadasi culture was completely corrupted under the British rule.
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