The Indians have created various dance forms to celebrate occasions, express joy and most importantly – as a means of worshiping their gods and goddesses. The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves and many other monuments reflect this culture through the sculptures inscribed in the walls. God Nataraja is the god of dance whose sculptures depicts him dancing and getting triumph over the evil. There is a huge variety of different dance forms in India based on geographic location and socio-economical condition of various states and regions.
Bharata Natyam flourished in the royal courts and temples of ancient India. Finally in the 19th century it was codified and certified as performing arts. The Tanjore Quartet made a great contribution to this dance form by making great musical compositions. Bharata Natyam was also practiced by Devadasi who were women who dedicated their life to the temple and used to dance to please god and goddesses as part of religious rituals. Bharata Natyam gives a chance for both the male and female to bring out their talents as dancers. As time passed by people began recognizing the talent and presenting it on a bigger platform. Rukmini Devi Arundale and E Krishna Iyer were the prominent figures who were responsible in the upbringing of this classical art. Many universities award degree in graduation and post graduation in Bharata Natyam. The field is very elaborate because of the wide extent of movement, postures, facial expressions and stylized mime.
Kathak is the form of dance nurtured by the nomads of the northern India. The word “Kathak” means story teller as its performer depicts the storyline with the help of facial expressions and hand gestures. Dancers wear bells or “Ghungru” on their feet and with their footwork used to synchronize with the accompanying Indian classical instruments such as Pakhawaj or Tabla at a lightning speed. The shows were hosted in temple and village squares. The themes of these dances were stories from moral and mythological epics. Song and instrumental music added to the realistic illusion of the story. During the Mogul era this form of art gained recognition and dancers were encouraged to perform in royal palaces. To please the art loving rulers more effort was put in to refine the art and more dramatic aspects and rhythms were added. Banaras, Jaipur and Luckhnow are the breeding grounds of this refined art.
Kuchipudi nourished in a village Kuchelapuram of the state of Andhra Pradesh which is located in the South. This dance form is famous for its fast footwork and “sculpturesque” body gyrations. It is one kind of dance form where the dancer speaks some dialogues and at other times uses facial expressions and hand gestures.
Being honored by UNESCO as the “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” Koodiyattam is the oldest form of Indian Classical dance. It is the traditional dance of the Sanskrit theater of Kerala. The prominent Sanskrit dramatists who dedicated their life to this art form are Bhasa, Kalidaas, Harsha,and Saktibhadra. The attire of the artist is really attractive and outstanding. They stick on artificial beard and huge hips and the makeup, too, which is very loud and the whole face is painted.
The most graceful dance form of India is Manipuri. It flourished in the northeastern state of India, Manipur which means a jewel of the land. According to folklore the gods emptied a lake to make a place to dance and due to this Manipuri dance has become an integral part of the day to day life as well as important occasions like birthdays, wedding, and holy ceremonies. The dancers wear long flared skirts with beautiful embellishments and the main lead who enacts the role of God Krishna wears tall peacock crown playing a flute to whose tune the beautiful girls dance gracefully. Another version of this art form involves Pung Cholam or drum dance, where dancers dance to the tune of drums or pung with fast gyrations taking thrilling leaps.
Odissi originated in Orissa, a state geographically located in the middle of India. The two important facets of this dance form are Abhinaya, a stylized mime involving facial expressions and hand gestures and the other is Nritta or non-representational dance, where ornamental patters are depicted using the body movements.
India is a rich country in heritage and culture. Other than the above mentioned variety of theater arts, the others are Chhau, Kathakali, Mohiniattam, and Satriya. Along with these dance forms instruments such as Flute, Pakhawaj, Sitar, Santoor, Sarangi, Sarod, Shehnai, Tabla, and Veena have been deployed to reach great heights of perfection.