Dances of India

Among the various dance forms in vogue in India are Bharatanatyam, Chakiarkoothu Kathak, Kathakali, Krishnanattam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Odissi, Ottanthullal and Yakshagana .Beside there are umpteen numbers of folkdances peculiar to various regions and sub-cultures.

Bharat Natyam

Bharat Natyam is poetry in motion. Tracing its its hoary origins in the Natya Shastra, written by the great sage, Bharat, it is a highly traditional and stylized dance form. Crystallized in the cast-iron mould of Bhararata s technique, this art form grossily disallows new-fangled innovations or gimmicks except in repertoire and forms of presentation. Emerging far back in the labyrinthine twists of ancient history (as information for the date conscious, 4000 B.C. is the ascribed date to the Natya Shastra), Bharatnatyam has been immortalized in successive generations, as much by the sensuous grace of great dancers as by the nimble fingers of renowned sculptors who have demonstrated the perfection of Bharata's technique in the flowing lines of temple sculptures.

Its present form was evolved by the Tanjore quartet namely Poniah Pillai and brothers. Earlier variedly known as Dasi attam and Sadir, it was practised by Devadasis of the South Indian temples. It went into disrepute due to economic and social conditions and it was Rukmini Devi who gave it new life and respectability. Its format consists of Alarippu (invocation), jathi Swaram (note combinations), Shabdam (notes and lyrics), Varnam (a combination of pure dance and abhinaya), lighter items like Padams and Javalis (all erotic) and finally the thillana (again pure dance). On par with Rukmini Devi, there was Bala Saraswati, the queen of Bharata Natyam.



This form is believed to have been introduced to Kerala by the early Aryan immigrants and is performed only by the menbers of the Chakiar caste. A highly orthodox type of entertainment, it can be stged inside temples only and witnessed by the Hindus of the higher castes. The theatre is known as Koothambalam. The story is recited in a quasidramatic style with emphasis on eloquent declarations with appropriately suggestive facial expressions and hand gestures. The only accompaniments are the cymbals and the drum known as the miazhavu, made of copper with a narrow mouth on which is stretched a piece of perchment.

Folk Dances of India vary according to the region and have no specfic grammar. They fit in with the scheme of festivals in each region.


It has its root in Katha story. A band of story tellers who were attached to temples in North India, Narrated stories from epicsw, Later, they added mime and gesture to their recitation. The next stage in its evolution came in the 15th and 16th centuries A.D. with the popularisation of the Radha-Krishna legend. With the advent of the Muslim rule, it was taken out from the temples to the courts. Jaipur, Lucknow and Benaras became the centres. While Jaipur gave predominace to pure dance with emphasis on rhythm, the Lucknow one drifted into erotics.

Benaras also stuck to pure dance but it provided for the sensuous aspect by delineating episodes from the Radha-Krishna legend. The patron King of the Lucknow style was Wajid Ali Shah who spent extravagantly on art. The place of women in Kathak was of different order. They were known as nach-walis who adorned the courts of the Mughals. Apart from this, they were used for entertainment of the pleasure seeking rulers and their fawning toadies. Eventually they came to be categorised as women of easy virtue. The Kathak dance goes through a regular format mostly concentrating on rhythm, variously called Tatkar, Paltas, Thoras, Amad and Parans. Binda Din Maharaja, Kalkdin, Aachan Maharaja, Gopi Krishna and Birju Maharaha are but a few maestros in this line.



Kathakali is the most refined, the most scientific and elaborately defined dance form of Kerala. As it is obtained today it is not only complete control of practically every fibre of the artistes body, but also intense senstivity of emotion.

The stories for attakathas (the verse text for a Kathakali piece) are selected from epics and mythologies and are written in a highly Sanskritisied verse form in Mlayalam. The actor does not speak, but expresses himself through highly complicated and scientifically ordained mudras and steps, closely following the text being sung from the background of the stage.




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