India, a land of dance

Dance has been an vital part of the Indian cultural heritage. In Hindu mythology, the image of the Nataraj, a dancing embodiment of Lord Shiva, is a symbol of both cosmic destruction and divine creation of the Universe. Dance has also been an ancient method of pleasing the god performed by the celestial dancers also referred to as the apsaras. Temple dancing has been a ritual passed on from generation to generation by the Devdasis of southern India or Maharis of Odisha. This divine practice was later exploited and portrayed as unholy. In fact dance has been a  fundamental part of our culture as depicted in the ancient text of Natyashastra, which dates back to 200 BC. Here we find the mention different aspects of dance and performing art. This text gives us the details of four basic requirements of any performance namely Aangik (use of body language), Vachik(use of dialogue), Aharya(use of costumes) and Satwik(the soul). But I shall delve into these intricacies later when I write about Natyashastra.

Kathak
Kathak

Manipuri
Manipuri

Kuchipudi
Kuchipudi

On a more general and introductory note, Indian dances can be broadly classified into Shashtriya Nritya (Classical Dance) and Lok Nritya (Folk Dance). As it currently stands, Indian classical dance has eight different varieties.
These divisions are not only based on the region from which they originated but also on the unique attributes of each dance form. Some of the forms like Bharatnatyam and Kathak are very popular and easy to recognize. But others like the recently incorporated Sattriya from Assam and Manipuri from fellow north-east state of Manipur are not very popular globally.

Odissi
Odissi

Bharatnatyam
Bharatnatyam

Sattriya
Sattriya

It is interesting to notice as we move from south to north east of India the dance forms become softer in nature. The harsh angles in postures of Bharatnatyam and Kathakali become toned down in Odissi and are completely absent in Manipuri.

Mohiniyattyam
Mohiniyattyam

Kathakali
Kathakali
Debangana Chakravorty

Debangana Chakravorty

Debangana Chakravorty is a 26 year old research student in the field of Biological Sciences who is also a trained Manipuri dancer, one of the many Indian classical dance forms. She began her training the tender age of three and has travelled all over India and abroad to perform. She has mastered the art of balancing her academics and performing art interests and still manages to devote time to other passions. She loves to travel to locations rich in cultural heritage or spend some tranquil times in the lap of nature. She is an ardent animal lover who idolizes Steve Irwin and shares his passion for animal conservation. She has rescued and adopted several of them and is proud to currently share her home with Romeo ( a 10 year old, possessive, male stray dog ) and Tsunami ( a mischievous male stray cat adopted a year ago).

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One thought on “India, a land of dance

  1. Suman Banerjee

    Nice article. 🙂

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