India has always been admired for its uniqueness and cultural diversity. India is not just a country but a subcontinent in itself. It has one of the most vibrant and ancient cultures. Along with the food, states, religions and the festivals what makes India more incredible are its dance forms. There are numerous dance forms in India and all of them are divided mainly into two categories: Classical and Folk. The classical dance forms of India have the roots of their existence attributed to Natya Shastra which is considered as the Bible of Indian Dance. They emerge from different states and represent the cultural diversity and richness of the respective states. Read more to find out what are the classical dance forms and how different they are from each other.
Founded by Bharata Muni, the father of Natya Shastra, Bhartnatyam may indeed be described as a science among the performing arts. It is the most widely practiced Indian Classical Dance of south India and has its origin in Tamil Nadu. It is the most ancient of all the classical dance forms in India. It requires rigorous practice, hard work and full dedication in order to achieve the balance of body, hands, legs and eyes. Bhartnatyam is exact in the sense that it places equal emphasis on the different aspects that go to make a dance, namely Bhava (expression), Raga (Melody) and Thala (Rhythm).
Oddisi is an ancient dance form which originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha. Oddisi was predominately performed by women to express religious stories and spiritual ideas. Oddisi dancers expressed stories which revolved mostly around Lord Krishna through their art form. Considered as the traditional dance form of Odisha, it is almost two thousand years old. Due to patronage and support from the locals and royals this dance form was held with high esteem before the 17th century. Manglacharna, Pallavi, Abhinaya, Baturnya and Moksha are the different items of the oddisi dance style.
Also spelled as Mohiniattam, it is the classical dance form of Kerala. Mohiniyattam derived its name from the word Mohini – often regarded as a mythical enchantress avatar of Lord Vishnu, who helped the Devas (good ones) prevail over the Asuras (evil ones) by means of her feminine powers during a battle between the two. Unlike other dance forms, Mohiniyattam is known for its delicate, eros-filled and feminine characteristics. It is traditionally performed as a solo dance by women. The song on which the dance is performed is called Manipravala which is a hybrid of Malayalam and Sanskrit. Mridangam (barrel drum), Idakka (hour glass drum), Veena, flute and cymbals are the musical instruments used in this dance form.
The travelling bards commonly called as Kathakaras or story tellers of ancient northern Indian are attributed to the origin of Kathak. The term “Katha” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Katha” which means “story”? As the name suggests, Kathak was used by storytellers to communicate stories from ancient mythologies and great epics. Stories from the life and childhood of Lord Krishna were depicted through this dance from during the Bhakti Movement. What differentiates Kathak from the other dance forms are its constant and fast rhythmic foot movements which goes in harmony with the music. It is primarily prominent in the northern Indian places of Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras.
One of the major classical dance forms of India, Kathakali has its origin in Kerala. Being an art form that comes under the genre of “story play”, Kathakali distinguishes itself by its vibrant costume, elaborately colorful-makeup and face-masks wearing actor-dancers. Though traditionally performed by male dancers, the modern compositions of Indian Kathakali has started including women artists as well and also have taken adaptations from Shakespearean plays and stories from Christianity. Religious legends, spiritual ideas from the Purana’s and Hindu epics and folk mythologies tend to remain the traditional themes of Kathakali over the years. Kathakali is one of the most difficult art forms to be executed on stage and it takes several years of preparation for young artists to get a chance to perform on stage. Kathakali has also gained significant popularity in foreign countries and is often performed on international platforms.
Kuchipudi was originated in a village of Krishna district in the Indian state, Andhra Pradesh. Like many other major classical dance forms of India, Kuchipudi was developed as a religious art which was linked to temples, travelling bards and spiritual beliefs. According to study the evidence of Kuchipudi’s existence was found in copper inscriptions of the 10th century. Mridangam, Cymbals, Flute, Veena and the Tambura are the typical musical instruments in Kuchipudi. This dance form derived its name from the village Kuchelepuram or Kuchilapuram of Andhra Pradesh where it was first developed.
7. Gaudiya Nritya
Gaudiya Nritya is the classical dance form of Bengal. This dance form was developed among the Devdasi’s of Bengal who performed this dance in temples.it is also included in paintings, sculptures, drama and other forms of art. This dance form was practiced by the Devdasi’s as a form of spiritual expression.
Manipuri is named after the north Indian state of Manipuri which is said to be the region of its origin. This dance form is also known as “Jagoi”. With its own unique aesthetics, conventions, costumes and repertoire Manipuri is performed in teams and is widely known for its graceful and sinuous emphasis on the gestures of upper body and hand. Being a religious dance for, the ultimate aim of Manipuri dance is to express spiritual values. The costume of Manipuri dance is inspired by local and ancient traditions.
Chhau is a semi-classical dance form and has its origins in the Eastern Indian States of Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal. It is also known to have martial, Folk and tribal origin. It is performed in festive as well as religious Themes and brings together people of diverse socio-economic backgrounds in its religious and festive spirit. Chhau is celebrated in the spring season.
Sattriya is said to have its origin in Assam and it is associated with the vaishnavism monasteries of Assam. The Sangeet Natak Akademi of India recognized Sattriya as an Indian classical dance form in the year 2000 and now it is performed worldwide. Sattriya focuses on the stories from the lives of the Gods Krishna and Radha and also on Rama and Sita who are considered as the Avatars of Lord Vishnu. Although it is a different dance form, the facial make up of Sattriya is similar to the other classical dance forms.