Indian Classical Dance
India has a very rich cultural heritage of classical, folk and tribal dance forms that have originated during the ancient times. Different forms of dance have originated from different parts of the country and the dance styles have been developed according to the local cultural traditions. The national academy for performing arts in India had declared 8 dance forms as Classical Dances of India. Classical dances have their root to ancient Hindu art and religion and obeys the guidelines laid down in the Natyashastra. The eight Indian classical dance forms are namely Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Mohiniyattam and Sattriya
Bharatanatyam is one of the popular classical dances of India that originated in the state of Tamil Nadu. This dance was performed exclusively by women in the Hindu temples. It is the oldest and considered as the mother of all dance forms. It is famous for its hand mudras, rhythmic foot movement, and facial expressions.
Kathak is another popular Indian classical dance, has originated from Northern India and is similar to the dance form of Bharatanatyam. Initially it was performed in temples but later moved to the royal courts. Song, music and drama was mixed with drama to narrate stories of love. The movements include intricate footwork and stylized gestures. This form of dance is performed by both men and women.
Kathakali is another important classical dance form of India that originated from the state of Kerala is Kathakali. Like Bharatanatyam, it is also a religious dance with themes derived from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other Hindu epics, mythologies and legends. The striking feature of this dance is its elaborate makeup, loud costumes and enormous head dresses. Kathakali is performed by boys and men.
Kuchipudi derives its name from the Kuchipudi village of Andhra Pradesh. This indigenous dance form of Southern India is a blend of music, song and drama accompanied by flute, violin and tambura. It depicts scenes from Hindu epics, legends and mythological tales. Traditionally the dance was performed by men, although now it is predominantly performed by women.
Odissi is the Hindu temple dance form of Odissa has its origin to the eastern coastal state of Odisha and was performed by women. This dance resembles religious stories and spiritual ideas. The dancers use symbolic costumes, mudras, expressions and body movement to perform this dance-drama style of art.
The Manipuri dance form inherits from the state of Manipur in the north eastern part of India. This dance depicts the love inspired Raas-Lila of Radha Krishna.
The costume has a unique stiff skirt that goes down till the feet. The movements of this dance style are smooth and graceful – women are fluid in arms and hands while men roles are forceful. This dance shows the rich culture of the state and its people.
This classical dance form of South India also belongs to Kerala. Mohiniyattam is derived from the words “Mohini” meaning beautiful women and “Attam” meaning dance. This dance is performed by women. The dress worn is off-white in colour and the hair is tied into a side knot. Mohiniyattam is related to the ‘Lashya’ style, which is feminine, soft and beautiful.
Sattriya, another major classical dance style was introduced in the 15th century. It originated in the Krishna centred Vaishnavism monasteries of Assam and displays an aesthetic and religious act combining ballad, dance and drama. Initially it was performed only by the male monks but today Sattriya dance is also performed by the females and also by the members outside of Sattras.
All classical dances of India use similar symbols and gestures of acting. The mudras and facial expressions convey the sentiment, emotional taste and mood of the underlying story. In Hindu classical dance, the artist successfully expresses the spiritual ideas by taking care of the facets of the performance.