Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dance in India (like all other traditions and beliefs) has a mythological beginning as well. Centuries ago when the world was steeped in anger and jealousy, greed and desire, pleasure and pain the people went to Brahma to seek an end to this misery. 

It is said that Brahma created the Natya Veda, the fifth scripture to save humanity from deterioration from moral values. He created this Veda by taking elements from the other four Vedas. He took
  • Speech from the Rig-Veda.
  • Abhinaya(the entire gamut of speech, body, dress and facial expressions) from the Yajur Veda.
  • Music from the Sama Veda. 
  • Aesthetic experiences from the Atharva Veda. 

He revealed this Veda to Sage Bharata. The Sage went to Lord Shiva to learn and add dance movements to the  drama he had created according to the Veda. And thus dance and drama were created. Sage Bharata's Natya Shastra is the most exhaustive text on theatre art. It is the easily the oldest in the world and is the common basis for the Indian classical tradition of music, dance, drama and iconography.    

Sage Bharata has noted in his colossal work that 

"Natya teaches duty to those who go against it, love to those who desire it, chastises those who are ill-bred or unruly, promotes self restraint in those who are undisciplined, gives courage to the cowards, enthusiasm to the valorous, enlightenment to those of poor intellect and gives wisdom to the learned. It gives diversion to the kings, solace to those with a sorrowful mind, wealth to those desirous of it and composure to a mind of conflicts." 

Dance is a sacred movement of the various limbs with deep divine feeling. 

The songs are purely devotional love songs with the dancer being the devotee and God being her beloved. 

The heroine longing for her lover is not a male chauvinistic theme as considered today but is the Jeevatma (Individual Self) longing for the union with the Paramatma (Divine Self). 

When the dancer believes in this, she not only transports herself to a higher plane of consciousness but also takes her audience with her. Her audience walks out of the performance feeling exactly like what Sage Bharata said!!!

Today when moral values are declining and violence is increasing, it is the duty of the dancer to create an atmosphere of peace through her dance and the deep spiritual dedication that accompanies any performer of the classical dance style. 

After all, Brahma created this audio-visual art form to check the moral deterioration in the world.


 Techniques and Terminologies in Indian Dance !
  • Indian dance does not concern itself with the layout of the muscles in the human body and instead focuses on the joints and the bone structure. 
  • Indian dancers are always trying to achieve the perfect pose. This is only possible after clearly understanding bone and joint structure of the body. 
  • The basic theory of Indian dance assumes the body to be a mass which is equally divisible along a central median. 
  • When weight is perfectly balanced the samabhanga position emerges. 
  • When there is a slight imbalance the abhanga position is achieved 
  • When there are two deviations on opposite sides then a thrice deflected position appears known as the tribhanga 

  • According to the Natyasastra there are two broad classifications for the different parts of the body, they are the major and minor limbs (the angas and the upangas ). 
  • The angas are the head, hands, chest, waist, hips and feet. 
  • The upangas are the eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, chin and mouth. 

  • Indian dance movements are divided into several units of movement, depending on which parts of the body are used, and combinations of certain events also have certain names. 
  • Movement with one foot is known as a chari and movement with both feet is known as a karana 

  • Akarana is also used to refer to a unit of movement which combines both hands and feet. 

  • There are a few other terminologies like for instance when contact with the ground is maximum it is known as bhaumi and when there is any effort to release from gravity it is known as akasiki .

  • A circular movement is called a rechika , turns are known asbhramiris , jumps or elevations are known as utplavanas 
  • These are just a few of the terms used in dance, and each of the classical dances have their own set of such terms.

Traditional Indian dance comprises three aspects, NrittaNritya and Natya.
·         Nritta are rhythmical and repetitive elements, i.e. it is dance proper
·         Natya is the dramatic art, and is a language of gestures, poses and mime. cf. Abhinaya 
·         Nritya is a combination of Nritta and Natya


Nritta can be broadly divided into Chari, Karana, Angahara and Mandala.
  • One-leg movement are called Chari.
  • Two-leg movements are Karana.
  • 3 Karanas make a Khanda.
  • 3 to 4 Khandas make a Mandala.
  • 4 to 9 Karanas make a Angahara.
  • 4 to 5 Angaharas also make a Mandala.
108 Karanas and 32 Angaharas are defined in Natyashatra. 

The 13 Nritta Hastas  are used to perform nritta. 

Aduvus !!!

  • The rythmic body movements along with hand gestures are called aduvus
  • A number of aduvus constitute a jati
  • Jati will generally end with a Muktaya or Teermana.
  • There are diferent types of Aduvus: Tattaduvu, Mettaduvu, Nataduvu, Kattaduvu, Kudittamettaduvu, Maiaduvu, Mandiaduvu, Jati, Nadai, Ardi
  • There are 12 aduvus in each type, making it 120 aduvus in total. 
  • Only about 70-80 are generally practised by an average traditional Indian dancer. 
  • Aduvus are often confused with the 108 Karanas carved in the Chidambaram Temple in Tamilnadu, India.

Abhinaya : 
  • Communication is the main and important aspect of classical dance. 
  • Abhinaya is common to all Classical Indian dances. 
  • The expression, which is shown to express poetic meanings, is Abinaya. 
  • Here the emphasis is more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. 
  • Abhinaya is the expressional aspect of dance. 

There are four kinds of Abhinaya:

1. Angika (of limbs) 
2. Vachika (of speech) 
3. Aharya (of costumes) 
4. Sattwika 

The entire body is divided into Anga, Pratyanga and Upaanga.

  • Anga -Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, Legs are the Six Angas. Some traditional Indian dance experts distinguish also Neck. 
  • Pratyanga-Shoulders, Arms, Stomach, Thighs, Knees are the Six Pratyangas. Some traditional Indian dance experts distinguish also Wrists, Elbows and Ankles . 
  • Upaanga-Sight, Eyebrow, Eyelids, Eyeballs, Cheeks, Nose, Gums, Lower lip, Teeth, Tongue, Chin and 

Face are the 12 Upaangas. Some traditional Indian dance experts distinguish also Heels, Fingers, Feet and Palms. Pratynaga and Upaangas should move along with the Angas. 

Anga Lakshana, the movements of body parts, are described below. 

Shirobhedha - Head Movement 
Greevabhedha - Neck Movement 
Drushtibhedha - Eye Movement 
Mandala - Standing Posture 
Utplavana - Leaps 
Bhramari - Circling Movement 
Chari - Leg Movement 
Gatibhedha - Characteristic walks 

Hastas or Mudras - Hand Movements: 

  • Asamyuta Hasta 
  • Samyuta Hasta 
  • Deva Hasta 
  • Dashavatara Hasta 
  • Navagraha Hasta 
  • Jaati Hasta 
  • Bandhu Hasta 
  • Nritta Hasta 

Asamyukta hastas are done with one hand, while samyukta hastas are done with two.

Mudras are a separate set of hand gestures used across a number of classical Indian dance forms. There are about 108 mudras in total.


  • When all Angas(main body parts) are coordinated (along with pratyanga and upaanga), the traditional Indian dancer is said to possess Angashudhi. 
  • Anga meaning body parts, and shudhi means perfection or purity. 
  • The Natyashastra has shlokas describing how to perform all the above movements. 


Bhava is the secondary and complementary features. Bhavas may be of four kinds. 

1.    Vibhava, which is again sub divided in to abalambanam and its accessory Udipan. Love in the Radha Krishna dance may be expressed through the former, while the latter helps the mood with the external aid of moonlight setting.

2.  Anubhava expresses the effect of a mood such as the ravages of anger or sorrow, or the rapture of love.

3. Vyavicharibhava pertains to the temporary changes of settings to fit in with the mood of particular scene. 

4.  Sattwikbhava consists of eight standardized movements to express such emotions as joy, fear or disgust.


The Dance performed by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava, virile aspect. 

  1. The tandava performed with bliss is called Ananda Tandava. 
  2. The tandava of the violent and destructive aspect is called Rudra Tandava. 

There are 7 types of Tandava in traditional Indian dance of Bharatanatyam: 

  • Ananda Tandava, 
  • Tripura Tandava, 
  • Sandhya Tandava, 
  • Samara Tandava, 
  • Kaali tandava, 
  • Uma Tandava 
  • Gauri Tandava.

There are some traditional Indian dance experts who distinguish 16 types of Tandava. Tandava produces vigourous, brisk movements. 

Lasya !

When the dance is performed by Goddess Parvathi, it is known as Lasya, where the movements are soft, gentle, graceful and sometimes seen as erotic. Some traditional Indian dance scholars consider Lasya as the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya is of 2 kinds: 

  • Jarita Lasya and 
  • Yauvaka Lasya.

Difference between Indian form of dance and Western form of dance ?

  • Indian dances differ significantly from Western Dance forms. 
  • Western dancers are concerned more with space, and their dance movements involve moving around in space. 
  • Hence they are characteristic by great leaps into the air, or the rapid movement from one place to another. 
  • Western dancers create movement by reaching into space and carving out intricate movements in the air, and the central aim is to make movement appear free from gravity. 
  • Indian dancers on the other hand have a very different concept, they do not concern themselves with spaces but with time. 
  • The central aim of Indian dance is to make a pose so perfect that it appears timeless. 
  • Hence the movements take place in time and must be perfectly synchronized with the rhythm, in order to create a series of perfect poses. 
  • A perfect pose would be able to capture time for a moment, and in a limited space. 
  • As a result most Indian dances, except for certain movements in Kathakhali, do not feature any major leaps or other sudden changes in space.


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