Indian classical dance. Kuchipudi style.

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The origin of Indian classical dance

Once Gods called a council and were surprised to find out that they had nothing to do. There was absolutely nothing to occupy their minds with or draw their attention to. They realized that they must put an end to such situation and after taking council with each other they decided to retell stories with the help of gestures and motions. So the art of dance and drama came into being.

All this happened approximately in the era which is called the Golden Age or Krita Yuga in Indian mythology. No one heard anything about the art of neither dance nor drama then. The Golden Age lasted for hundreds of thousands of years and then according to cosmic laws Krita Yuga was replaced by Treta Yuga and everything in the world underwent great changes. Ideals, morals, ethics were distorted. People were unsatisfied and bored.

BrahmaAnd then Indra, after calling the council of Gods suggested that they made a request to Brahma to create such an art that would be pleasant for both eyes and ears like the most beautiful things in the world, the art for the highest castes and at the same time available even to the lowest castes which were forbidden to study Vedas.

The Lord Brahma heeded their request and went into the state of meditation. In his mind he called for the four sacred Vedas, the embodiment of "the eternal truths" in Hinduism, and took the very essence from each of the four.


He took music from the Samaveda,

And words from the Rigveda,

And the law of gestures from the Yajurveda,

And the element of sentimentality (rasa) from the Atharvaveda.


He united all these components into a harmonious form and added a little of his divine talent. He created a brand new art, the art of drama or Natyaveda.

Now it was necessary to put all this into practice. To do that Brahma called for assistance to his loyal helper sage Bharata. Bharata had 100 sons and with their help he started the work. But soon he realized that his work would be too monotonous if he used only men in his project. Brahma solved the problem immediately by embracing his fingers to materialize 23 apsaras (nymphs) whom he gave to Bharata to successfully make the art of Natya come true.


Initially Bharata could use only 3 Vritis (ways of expression):

-Bharati -speech

-Arabhati-expression of manhood

-Sattwati-expression of emotions


These proved to be not enough and then Brahma, upon Bharata's request, created the 4th way:

-Kaisiki -gracefulness


Sage Narada and gandharwas (celestial musicians) provided musical accompaniment, and the divine ensemble called Natya Brindam was formed.

Time flew fast and everyone waited for the performance impatiently. It was decided that "Indra Dwajamaha" (or festival of Indra's banner) would be the suitable event. When all preparations were over and the great day came, the art of Natya was introduced to the audience of Devas (gods) and Danavas (demons).

It happened so that the theme of the first drama called "Asuraparajyam" was the conflict between Gods and Demons, where Gods were victorious. Seeing this, the Demons became furious and started to weave magic spells to stop the performance and paralyze the dancers.

But Brahma stopped them and explained that it was just entertainment aimed at showing the idea of superiority of one creature over another in war or peace. A group of people only pretended to be those whom they wanted to portray and reproduced events from the past. However, the aim of the performance is not only entertainment but also the enlightenment.

Brahma said: "Do know that what I have created reflects life of three worlds - worlds of gods, demons and men and is destined equally for the High and the Low. The art of Natya will show you the value of the Good and vices of the Evil, it has absorbed the essence of all arts of all the three worlds and is going to be the never ending source of rest and enlightenment from which each one will get what he/she is looking for".

So the first performance of Natya took place.

Then Brahma offered to show the art of Natya to the great Shiva.

Shiva gladly agreed. It was decided that two dramas "Amrita Manthana" (The Churning of the Ocean)Shiva and "Tripura Daha" (The Burning of Three Palaces) would be staged in the Himalayas. Shiva surrounded by bhuts and gans enjoyed the wonderful performance. He congratulated Brahma and noted that while he was watching the drama he unintentionally remembered of his cosmic dance Nritta (or its other name - Tandava). Shiva said that it would be a great idea to unite Tandava and Natya into a single whole.

Brahma supported this idea enthusiastically and asked Shiva to train Bharata in dance technique. Shiva in his turn ordered his disciple Tanda to train Bharata. So the dance united with the art of Natya and became its integral part. The written source Natyashastra written by sage Bharata became the climax.

They say that while Tanda was training Bharata in Tandava, Shiva's spouse the goddess Parvati offered her own dance style - Lasya. Later she trained the demon Banu's daughter Ushu in this style, who in her turn passed this knowledge down to the women of Saurashtra (western India).

So two main lines in Indian dance, Tandava and Lasya, spread all around the world.

In spite of the fact that the art of Natya was created by Brahma as a source of entertainment and enlightenment it is important to remember that it is also a sacrament. That's why Brahma gave instructions to all dancers that before performance they are sure to do Puja (or Puravangaram Vriti - rituals of worshipping the Deity before performance; there are 19 of them, 9 are performed behind the scenes, the other 10 are performed on stage after curtain rise).

It is believed that if Puravangaram Vriti is ignored or performed incorrectly by performers or their teachers, such people will be in woe. Their performance will be Nicha Natyam (vulgar) and those who watch such a performance will be reincarnated as animals in next lives.

Whereas performing Puja according to all rules and with proper respect will let even mortal dancers get grace and place in heaven from Gods.

Thus the art of dance is the incarnation of the highest form of deity. That's why classical dance in India has been considered to be worthy of Gods' view for so many centuries.

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