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Articles: Arts and Culture
Classical Dances of India - Part III of the series
- Ms Vidya Murthy K
  Page: 1 of 1    
This is third article in a series.

Refer to earlier articles at:

* * * * *

The rules of the art were a revelation, and to the artist, each creation carried with it the bliss of spiritual experience. In Hindu thought, every action became a stirring ritual and work was both a prayer and an inspiration.Yet, at the same time, through analytical study techniques and significant principles, disciplines were seriously evaluated and codified. All facets of art were catalogued, discussed and clearly enumerated.

In previous article on 'classical dances of India'. a gist of the eleven aspects of 'Natya Sastra' were given.

The second major literary work on dance was 'Abhinaya Darpana' by 'NANDIKESHWARA' which was later traslated as 'Mirror of Gestures' by Anand K. Coomaraswamy and Gopalakrishna Duggirala. This was written in 3 and 4th Century A.D. This book speaks about dance exclusively and more elaborately about angikabhinaya followed by South Indian dance forms. This treatise concentrates mainly on the techniques of communication in dance.

The Abhinaya Darpana lists 28 single-hand gestures & 24 double hand gestures. Each hand gesture has given number of uses, in addition to which an imaginative dancer can further explore the language of gesture to construct sentences, verses & Stories,. A variation of speed or grouping of `hastas' is vital for expression in the language of gesture.

Kanteenaalambayet geetam,
Hasteenaardham Pradarsayet,
Chakshurbhyaam darsayeet bhaavam,
Paadaabhyam taalamaacharet.

According to Nandikeshara the dancer should sing with the mouth, express the meaning of the song with hand gestures, her eyes should express the emotions or bhava, the tala, the beat or rhythm should be done with her feet.

Further he goes on to say -

'Yato hastas tato drushti
Yato drushitis tato manaha
Yato manahas tato bhavo
Yato bhavas tato Rasaha'

'Where the hand goes, there should follow the eyes,
Where the eyes move, mind should follow it,
Where the mind follow, Bhava or emotion is created, &
lastly when Bhava is created the sentiment or Rasa will arise.'

All the mudras or gestures represent word when held at a particular position around the frame of the body and when used in a particular way.

According to Nandikeshwara there are 9 movements of head, 8 movements of Glances, 4 movements of neck which are incorporated while performing Natya, Nritya & Nritta.

Subhakalpa tarurbhaati,
Vedasaakoopa shobitah,
Shastra pushpa samaakeernoo,
Vidvat bhramara Samyutah.

According to him 'The Audience shines like a wishing tree, (kalpatharuvu) where the vedas are its branches, scriptures of art and science are its flowers and learned men are the bees.

Rangamadhyee Sthitoo patre,
Tathsameepee natoothamah,
dakshinee taala dhaaricha,
Parsvadvande Mrudangikow,
Tayoor Madhyee Geeta Kaarah,
Srutikaaras tadamtaree
EEvam tishteth Krameenaiva
Natyaadow ranga Mantapee

He also describes the placement of Dancers and their accompanists. The danseus (Patra) should stand in the middle of the stage, and the dancer (Nata) near her, on the right of dancer should be the cymbalist (Taladhari). On either side of the drummers (Mridangists), the singer & Chorus (Gitakaras) between them and the drove (Srutikara) a little behind. Each of these, and thus ordered, should be present on the stage.

Abhinayadarpana's script is in telugu and it is generally believed that Nandikeshwara hailed from Andhra Pradesh.
This book consits of 324 slokas all in a single chapter. All South Indian dance forms like Kuchipudi & Bharatanatyam follow this text extensively.

This is another basic text which deals not only in dance but also about painting, music, sculpture etc. This was wirtten in 500-600 A.D. The fifteen chapters in the third Khanda of this purana (Chapters 20 to 34) deals with Nritta Sutra. The following topics were disucssed:

Chapter - 20 - Samanya abhinaya
Chapter - 22 - Asana Vidhi
Chapter - 23 - Sthanaka Vidhi
Chapter - 24 - Anga karma
Chapter - 25 - Upanaga Karma
Chapter - 26 - Hastabhinaya
Chapter - 27 - Aharyabhinaya
Chapter - 28 - Samanyabhinaya
Chapter - 29 - Gatipracara
Chapter - 30 - Rasa
Chapter - 31 - Bhaava
Chapter - 32 - Rahasya Mudras
Chapter - 33 - Nritta Sastra Mudras
Chapter - 34 - Nritta sutra or nrittotpatti

This book is written by Sarangadeva in 9th Century. Basically it is a text on music. The seventh chapter of the book deals with dance; i.e., Nrittam, Geetam & Vadyam. All these three put together is sangeeta. Sarangadeva lived during 1210-47 and was a Raja Ganika in king Singhana's court of Devagiri.
At the beginning of his work Sarangadeva says that his work is the result of a deep study of musical Mastroes and he only brought the essence of their sastra into one compendium. This perhaps explains why `Sangeeta Ratnakara' has remained a standard work of reference.
In the seventh chapter the author deals with 7 angas, 12 upangas and 9 pratyangas in detail.

This book is written by Jayapa Senani who belongs to Kakatiya Period. He was Chief Sainyadhipati of Kakati Ganapatideva. This is written during 1253-54 A.D. He is the first person who wrote about the dances prevelant in Andhra Pradesh. Both Desi & Margi forms of dances have been included in it. It contains eight chapters. Folk dance forms like perani, Prenkhana, Suddha Nartana, Carcari, Rasaka, Danda Rasaka, Shiva Priya, Kanduka Nartana, Bhandika Nrityam, Carana Nrityam, chindu, Gondali and Kolatam are described.
In the first chapter author deals with discussion of the differences between Marga and desi, tandava and lasya, Natya and nritta. In the 2nd & 3rd chapter he deals with angikabhinaya, caris, Sthanakas and mandalas. In the 4th Chapter Karnas, angaharas and recakas are described. In following chapters he described the local dance forms i.e. desi nritya. In the last chapter he deals with art and practice of dance.

Other than the above said five major literary works there were other vernacular texts like -

1. Govinda Sangeeta Leela Vilas
2. Abhilashitartha Chintamani
3. Abhinaya chandrika
4. Sangeeta Saramruta
5. Hasta lakshana deepika
6. Balaramabharatam
7. Sringaraprakasa
8. Vasantarajeeyam
9. Rasakaumudi
10. Nrityadhyayam

India has a rich tradition of both classical and folk dances. The transitional forms created by the blending of the two traditions and the regional modulations have yielded an infinite variety of styles the discovery of which has still not been exhausted by the Modern Indian Sensibility.

[To be continued]

(Vidya Murthy, M.A. & M.P.A (Dance) is the Founder Secretary of Nartana Academy of Performing Arts, 197, Jawahar Nagar, Moula Ali, Hyderabad 500 040)

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