The Divine Origin Of Indian Dance

by Tejesh Murthy - Nov 18, 2016 06:10 PM +05:30 IST
The Divine Origin Of Indian DanceCredits: Amruth
Snapshot
  • India is home to various art forms and is renowned for its excellence in the various forms of Fine Arts.

    Dance has been the most appealing and yet the most challenging among the fine arts.

    Dancing is like a language, a medium for the expression of various ideas and emotions.

India is home to various art forms and is renowned for its excellence in the various forms of Fine Arts. Among the 64 arts (chatushashti Kalas) Music, Dancing, Painting, Sculpture, the art of theatricals are considered most important. Dance has been the most appealing and yet the most challenging among the fine arts. Among the fine arts, music and poetry is described as Time Arts (also called Speaking arts) while painting and sculpture are called Space Arts (also known as Pure shaping arts). Dancing is called Time – Space art . It is like a language, a medium for the expression of various ideas and emotions.

Most people actually lack the knowledge of the origin of ‘Dancing’ which is rooted in the Natya Shastra. ‘Natya Shastra’, is a Sanskrit text on the performing arts attributed to Bharata Muni. In the Shastra there is an interesting story about the origin of the three performing arts - Singing, Dancing and Drama. This is how Bharata narrates it :

With the passing of Krita Yuga (Golden Age) and the beginning of the Tretha Yuga, people on earth became addicted to sensual pleasure, excessive desire, greed, jealousy and anger and found their state of happiness mixed with sorrow. The Gods under the lead of 'Indra', the lord of the immortals implored Brahma Deva (the God of Creation) to create a new Veda which removes evil and which forms a source of knowledge, entertainment and pleasure for gods and men. Brahma Deva withdrew himself into an intense concentration of mind, recalled the four Vedas and created the fifth Veda called Natya Veda. He took the lyrics from the Rigveda, music from Samaveda, the language of gestures and emotions from the Yajurveda and the aesthetic experience or Rasa from Atharvaveda.

After its creation, Brahma asked Indra and the other gods to practise the Natya Veda. The Gods upon realising the intensity and dedication required to practice the Natya Shastra declined from practicing the divine arts. Brahma Deva then called upon Bharata Muni to practice the Natya Veda along with his 100 children. Bharata then explained to Brahma that it would not be possible to carry out this practice without the inclusion of women dancers. Brahma then created Apsaras or Celestial nymphs and presented them to Bharata.

The Natya Veda of Brahma Deva is believed to have 36,000 verses and was difficult to understand for the residents of Earth. Bhratha Muni then simplified the text realising the difficulty in understanding and named it Natya Shastra which is said to be the base of all the art forms. The Natya Shastra has 6000 verses and covers various issues like stage design, music, dance, emotion, aesthetic expression, makeup, virtually every aspect of theatre. It has been divided into 36 chapters, sometimes into 37 or 38 due to further bifurcation of a chapter or chapters.

The first ‘Natya’ presented was on the victory of the Devas over the Asuras during the Amruthmanthan or the churning of the Nectar. Another notable ‘Natya’ was from the Tripura Samhara story which was narrated to Lord Shiva, who then suggested learning the Karnas and Angaharas from one of his Ganas named Thandu. The dance mastered from Thandu is hence known as Thandava. Bharatha also learned dancing from Ushe or Parvathi. and that from is called Lasya.

The art of music and dance are considered divine since it soothes the human mind. Therefore it is not incorrect to say that the Natya Shastra with its insights brings enlightenment to its practitioners as well as admirers.

The author is grateful for the inputs given by Shri P Praveen Kumar.

Tejesh is Senior Manager at Swarajya and a practitioner of the art of Bharatanatyam.

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