Classical Indian Dance







This north Indian dance form is inextricably bound with classical Hindustani music, and the rhythmic nimbleness of the feet is accompanied by the table or pakhawaj. Traditionally the stories were of Radha and Krishna, in the Natwari style (as it was then called) but the Moghul invasion of North India had a serious impact on the dance. The dance was taken to Muslim courts and thus it became more entertaining and less religious in content. More emphasis was laid on nritta, the pure dance aspect and less on abhinaya (expression and emotion).






Bharatnatyam, is an artistic yoga (natya yoga), for revealing the spiritual through the corporeal. It is the most widely practised of Indian classical dances in South India. It is the most ancient of all the classical dance forms in India, which are based on Natya Shastra.


Gods and Godesses pleaded with Lord Brahma for another Veda to be created that would be simple for the common man to understand, which is particularly important in Kali Yuga. Granting their wish, Lord Brahma created the Panchamaveda, the Fifth Veda, or NatyaVeda, a quintessence of the main four Vedas. Brahma took pathya (words) form the Rigveda, abhinaya (communicative elements of the body movements, cf. mime) from the Yajurveda, geeth (music and chant) from Samaveda, and rasa (vital sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda to form the fifth Veda, NatyaVeda. After creating this Veda, Lord Brahma handed it to sage Bharata and asked him to propagate it on earth. Obeying the fiat of Lord Brahma, sage Bharata wrote down Natyashastra. Bharata together with groups of the Gandharavas and Apsaras performed natya, nrtta and nrtya before Siva. It became the most authoritative text on the artistic technique of classical Indian dances, especially Bharatnatyam and Odissi. It is also possible that the term "Bharatnatyam" partly owes its name to sage Bharata.


The Natya Shastra reads, "When the world had become steeped in greed and desire, in jealousy and anger, in pleasure and pain, the Supreme One (Brahma) was asked by the people to create an entertainment which could be seen and heard by all, for the scriptures were not enjoyed by the masses, being too learned and ambiguous."  Another version of the origin of Bharatnatyam is that Goddess Parvathi taught this dance art to Usha, daughter of demon Banasura. Usha handed it down to the Gopikas of the city of Dwaraka, Lord Krishna's birth place. Lord Shiva is himself the Supreme Dancer, and the whole Universe is His Divine Dance. Goddess Parvathi dances with Him. 















The dance drama that still exists today and can most closely be associated with the Sanskrit theatrical tradition is Kuchipudi which is also known as Bhagavata Mela Natakam. The dance form Kuchipudi in what is known as the state of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India. Kuchipudi derives its name from the village Kuchelapuram, where it was nurtured by great scholars and artists who built up the repertoire and refined the dance technique. The technique of kuchipudi makes use of fast rhythmic footwork and sculpturesque body movements. Stylized mime, using hand gestures and subtle facial expressions, is combined with realistic acting. Kuchipudi is accompanied by Carnatic music.






The fervent devotion to Krishna of the celebrated milk-maids (Gopis or Gopikas) of Brindavan, and particularly of Radha the most prominent of them all, is the best example of madhura-bhakti (Devotion through Love) for all time. There is a large variety of legends and representations of this bhakti in painting and sculpture that spreads through every part of India. The first poetic expression of the Radha-Krishna story was in the Gita-Govindam of Jayadeva (12th century A.D.).


The principal character in that poem is Radha, the beloved of Krishna. She spoke no word except prayer. She moved no step except towards Krishna. She saw and heard only Krishna. She spoke only of Him, to Him, for Him, whoever might be in her vicinity. Krishna filled her heart entirely.


This magnificent poem is held in high respect and is sung all over India particularly in congregatory singing of Bhajans, the singers often reaching heights of ecstasy. This lyrical extravaganza of Jayadeva is delightful poetry without inhibitions. It is at the very center of religious poetry in the Bhakti tradition, though it may be considered erotic from a Victorian viewpoint. It is venerated as God’s own writing. The singing and dancing associated with this poem are so absorbing not only in its music and rhythm but also in its lyric that describes the love-sport of Radha and Krishna.