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Nritya (Dance)

Nritya means dane. There are a few dances in India which are very famous, have their different specialties and different origins.

(1) Katthak Nritya from North - stresses not much on showing feelings, hand poses etc, but is quite rich in foot work.
(2) Kucheepudee Nritya from South
(3) Bharat Naatyam from South - stresses on eyes' work and face expressions to convey its message.

There are some other special dances also - Shiv's Taandav Nritya, Paarvatee's Laasya Nritya

Bharat Naatyam Dance
Bharatnatyam is a classical dance from Tamilnaadu in South India. This is a very popular dance form in South India. It is oldest of all classical dance forms in India. Dance of mind and soul. It is extremely traditional and known for its grace, purity, tenderness, staturasque and sculpturasque poses. It uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. The dancer is considered as a worshiper, worshiper of the Divine. An embodiment of beauty, charm and gracefulness.

The general interpretation for the name is Bhaav (expression) + Raag (music) + Taal (rhythm) + Naatyam (dance) = Bharatanaatyam. The Gods and Goddesses pleaded Lord Brahmaa to create another Ved which would be simple for the common man to understand. It is believed that considering this request Lord Brahmaa created the Pancham Ved (Fifth Ved) - Naatya Ved, an essence of the other four Ved. It is believed that he has taken Paathya (words) form the Rig Ved, Abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajur Ved, Geet (music and chant) from Saam Ved and Ras (sentiment and emotional element) from Atharv Ved to form the fifth Ved, Naatya Ved.

After creating this Naatya Ved, Lord Brahmaa gave the same to sage Bharat and asked him to popularize this Ved on earth. Following the words of Lord Brahmaa, sage Bharat wrote Naatya Shaastra or the Science of Dramaturgy, a great, comprehensive work on the science and technique of Indian drama, dance and music. Bharat Naatyam might have got its name from sage Bharat also. The dancers still follow this work to perform.

There is also another story which says that Goddess Paarvatee taught this dance form to Ushaa, daughter of Baanaasur. Ushaa taught the same to the Gopikaa of Gokul. That is how the divine dance form of Bharat Naatyam was introduced to the mankind. In Indian mythology, Lord Shiv is considered as the supreme Lord of dance. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiv and his wife Paarvatee.

Taandav Nritya
Bharat Muni says that Shiv conceived this dance, as he was very much fond of dancing every evening. According to scholars, Characteristics of the Taandav Dance have been described in the 4th chapter of Bharat Muniís Naatya Shaastra, which is referred to as the 5th Ved and an expression of Shivís eternal dance - Taandav. This dance performed by Shiv is known as Taandav, which depicts his violent nature as the destructor of the universe. The Taandav performed with joy is called Aanand Taandav and performed in violent mood is called Rudra Taandav. It is believed that there are 7 types of Taandav, namely Aanand Taandav, Tripur Taandav, Sandhyaa Taandav, Samar Taandav, Kaalee Taandav, Umaa Taandav and Gauree Taandav. There are a few people who believe that there are 16 types of Taandav. Taandav has vigorous, brisk movements.  The Naatya Shaastra says that Shivís Taandav is embellished with 108 Karan and the 32 Anghahar - the composite parts of the dance.  Shiv further mentioned that 108 Karn included in Taandav could be employed in the course of dance, fight, and personal combats and in other special movements like strolling. According to the Puraan, Shiv dances this wild and vigorous dance (Taandav) in the cremation grounds at night but dances the soft and graceful dance (Laasya) in the tranquility of the twilight

The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy - creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion. According to a learned scholar, Coomerswamy, the dance of Shiva also represents his five activities namely,'Shrishti' - creation, evolution 'Sthiti' - preservation; support 'Sanhaar' - destruction; evolution 'Tirobhaav ' - illusion; 'Anugraha' - release, emancipation, grace. The overall temper of the image is paradoxical, uniting the inner tranquility, and outside activity of Shiv.

Laasya Nritya
The dance performed by Goddess Paarvatee is known as Laasya, in which the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic also. Some scholars call Laasya as the feminine version of Taandav. Laasya has 2 kinds. Jaritaa Laasya and Yauvak Laasya.

History of Nritya
The art form has definitely gone through lot of changes over the years. In olden days it was performed mostly by female artists. They were called Devadaasee, who would perform in the temples. These Devadaasee were accomplished artists who would sing, dance, play many instruments. They were well versed in Sanskrit and other languages which helped them to interpret compositions which they would perform. But this tradition came to an end as the Devadaasee lost their position in the society.

Then dance entered the royal courts. Here the artists called Raaj Nartakee (royal dancers), performed in the courts of kings who gave them shelter. Mostly they were accomplished artists like Devadaasee. After that came the time of individual performances ad group performances. The contribution of Udayashankar, Rukmini Devee Arundale and Balasaraswathi etc, in the 20th century, cannot be forgotten at this juncture.

Even though Bharat Naatyam has gone through lot of changes, it still has its roots deep into the religious and rich mythological heritage of India. In the modern day scenario it is performed by both male and female artists. Many learn as a hobby and few make it as a profession. Whether taken as a hobby or a profession it certainly needs lot of practice, concentration and dedication.

About Bharat Naatyam
Bharatanatyam is evenly divided between three elements Nritta, Nritya and Naatya --
Nritta : Rhythmic Element. Interprets the language of rhythm with the help of body movements.
Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression. Conveys poetic meaning with the help of expressions,
rhythmic gaites and postures. eg. Varn, Shabd, Pad etc.
Naatya : Dramatic Element. Performing for a theme like Raamaayan, Mahaabhaarat etc.

Nritta - Nritta can be broadly divided into Chari, Karan, Angahaar and Mandal. Movement of a leg is called Chari. Movement of both the legs is Karan. 3 Karana make a Khand. 3 to 4 Khand make a Mandal. 4 to 9 Karan make a Angahaar. 4 to 5 Angahaar also make a Mandala. 108 Karan and 32 Angahaar are defined in Natyashatra. The 13 Nritta Hast are used to perform Nritta. The rhythmic body movements along with hand gestures are called Aduvu. Number of Aduvu constitute a Jati. Jati will generally end with a Muktaya or Teermana. There are 10 types of Aduvu and in each of the Aduvu there are 12, hence 120 Aduvu exist in total. Only about 70 - 80 are in practice. The Aduvu are more or less Karan, hence can be concluded that there are 108 Aduvus. The 108 Karan or Aduvu are carved in the Chidaambaram Temple in Tanjore, Tamilnaadu, India. To perform an Aduvu Aramandi, bending of the knees is very very important.

The entire body is divided as Ang, Pratyang and Upaang.
Ang - Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, and Legs are the Six Ang. Some people include Neck also.
Pratyang - Shoulders, Arms, Stomach, Thighs, Knees are the Six Pratyaang. Some people include Wrist, Elbow and Ankle also.
Upaang - Sight, Eyebrow, Eyelids, Eye balls, Cheeks, Nose, Gums, Lower Lip, Teeth, Tongue, Chin and Face are the 12 Upaang. Some people include Heels, Fingers, Feet, Palm also in Upaang.
Pratyaang and Upaang should move along with the Ang.
Anga Lakshana, the way of moving body parts,

When all Ang (main body parts) coordinate (along with Pratyaang and Upaang) the artist is said to have Ang-shuddhi. Ang meaning body parts and Shuadhi, meaning perfect. Any dancer should try to achieve this perfection. The Naatya Shaastra talks about all aspects of Bharat Naatyam,

Aspects of Abhinaya
The expressions which are shown to express poetic meanings is called Abhinaya. In Abhinaya, the emphasis is laid more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. The Abhinaya is divided as --
Aangik Abhinaya : Expressing the meanings of lyrics using the body parts like Head, Hands, Legs etc. is Angikabhinaya.
Vaachik Abhinaya : Expressing the Story using narrations in the dance drama is Vaachik Abhinaya.
Ahaary Abhinaya : Imitating the Costumes, Jewelry, Make-up etc in a dance comes under Ahary Abhinaya.
Saatwik Abhinaya :Showing the Bhaav (moods) come under Saatvik Abhinaya.
Lord Shiv is praised as the embodiment of the above 4 types of Abinaya in this following Shlok --
Aangikam bhuvanam yasya, Vaachicam sarva vaangmayam
Aharyam chandra taradi tam vande saatwikam shivam.
We bow to Him the benevolent One, Whose limbs are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all language, Whose costume is the moon and the stars..."

In Lord Shiv's well-known pose of Nataraaj,
his right hand holds the drum of creation - symbolizing a new awakening
his left hand holds fire - representing destruction of the old order
his other right hand is raised in blessing
the other left hand points to his left foot, which has crushed demon Muyalak - representing ignorance.

Emotions in Bharat Naatyam
There are nine Sthaayee Bhaav (main or primary emotions,). It is also termed as Ras (Mood).
Shringaar - Love (Sanyog and Viyog - meeting and separation)
Haasya - Mirth
Veer / Utsaah - Heroism
Raudra - Anger
Bhayaanak - Terror
Veebhats / Jugupsaa - Disgust
Adbhut / Vismaya / Aascharya - Wonder
Karunaa - Compassion
Shaant - Tranquility

Vaatsalya (Parental fondling) Ras is also sometimes included as one of the Sthaayee Bhaav.
Vi-bhaav (cause of emotion), Anubhaav (effect of emotion) and Sanchaaree Bhaav (subordinate emotions) constitute the state of Ras

Every drama has a Naayak (hero), a Naayikaa (heroine) and there is also some kind of Bhaav (emotions) between them. The following Bhaav may be depicted between the Naayak (the Hero) and the Naayikaa (the Heroine).

The Naayikaa Bhaav
The Shaastra have classified the basic mental status of woman, the Naayikaa, into eight divisions, called Asht Naayikaa Bhaav. These divisions portray the heroine in different situations, expressing different feelings, sentiments and reactions.

The Asht Naayikaa Bhaav are --
Abhisaarikaa - She is the one who boldly goes out to meet her lover.
Kalahantaarikaa - She is the one who is repenting her hastiness in quarrelling with her lover, which has resulted in their separation.
Khanditaa - She is the one who is angry with her lover for causing disappointment.
Proshit-patikaa - She is the one who is suffering in the absence of her beloved, who is away on a long journey.
Swaadheen-patikaa - She is the one who is proud of her husband's or beloved's love and loyalty.
Vasak-sajjikaa - She is the one who is preparing for the arrival of her beloved, by decorating herself and her     surroundings. to provide a pleasant welcome to her lover.
Virahotkaantitaa - She is the one who is separated from her lover and is yearning for reunion.
Vipralabdh - She is the one who is disappointed that her lover has not turned up at the tryst as he promised.

Other classifications of the Naayikaa Bhaav are --
Mugdhaa - Inexperienced in love.
Madhyaa - Partly Experienced in love.
Pragalbh - Matured in the art of love.
    This Pragalbh Naayikaa is further classified as, Dheer (patient), A-Dheer (impatient), and Dheeraadheer
    (half patient and half impatient)
Sweeya - Married and faithful to her husband.
Parakeeyaa - Married but in love with another man.
Saamaanya - A free woman, who truly belongs to any man for a price.
Jyeshth - The preferred one.
Kanishthaa - The other woman.

Further classification is --
Uttam - The best - Self-controlled and tolerant.
Madhyamaa - Literally the middle one, who gives as she gets.
Adham - Literally the low one, who has no self restraint.

Companion to Naayikaa
There is always a companion of te Naayikaa also. This companion to the Naayikaa plays an important role in any Padam, Javali or Asht Padee. This Companion is the one to whom the Naayikaa will convey her feelings, she is the one who will take the message to Naayikaa's lover, she is the one who will sort out the differences between the Naayikaa and the Naayak. This companion is usually a girl who is close to the Naayikaa. The classification of this female companion is as follows --
Daasee - Maid servant
Sakhee - Friend
Kaaroo - Woman from a lower caste
Chatriya - Step Sister
Prati-vanshinee - Neighbor
Lindinee - Saint
Shilpinee - Artist
Swaa - Naayika herself as a messenger

The Naayak Bhaav
Just like the heroines, the moods and emotions of the hero are also classified into different divisions.

The main division is --
Dheerodaatta eg. Lord Raam
Dheeroddhata eg. Demon Raavan
Dheeralalita eg. Vatsaraaja
Dheerashanta eg. Buddha

The other classification is --
Pati - Married and faithful to his wife.
Upa-pati - Married but in love with another woman.
Vaisika - One who pays and enjoys women.

Further Naayak classifications --
Anukool - Faithful to the Woman. eg. Lord Raam
Dakshina - Loves all his wives or women. eg. Arjun
Drishtaa - When rejected, pleads to be accepted by his woman. eg. Baali
Shath - The deceitful one. eg. Lord Krishn

Most of the Asht Naayikaa Bhaav are experienced by the Naayak also, although the depiction of Asht Naayikaa is more than the Naayak. Naayak's companion plays an important role too. This companion is categorized as Peetamardhan, Veet, Chet, Vidooshak.

Arangetram is a Tamil word. Aranga meaning raised floor and Etram meaning climbing. It is also called Rang Pravesh in Kannad language. Rang meaning Stage and Pravesh meaning Enter. Ideally this should be the first public performance of an artist. After learning Bharat Naatyam under the guidance of an accomplished Guru, this is the occasion for the proud Guru to present his disciple to the public. This is the testing time for both the Guru and the Shishya (disciple) as the Guru's knowledge and the disciple's talent both are judged by the public. Hence, only the Guru will decide when the disciple is ready for public appearance. At least 10-12 years of training is necessary to give a commendable performance.

This Arangetram was known as Gejje Poojaa in old Mysore district, meaning worshiping the jingles in Kannad language (Ghungaroo in Hindi). For a dancer, jingles are considered devine. In olden days, deciples were not allowed to wear jingles till their first public performance. In their first performance, they worshipped the jingles, wear them and then perform. Accompaniments play a major role in the making of a memorable dance performance. Basic accompaniments are a Singer, Mridang player, Violin player and of course the Natuvanga. Veenaa, Flute and other instruments are optional. These people sit in the corner of a stage or in a place in front of the stage which will be on a lower level than that of the stage. The artist will wear lot of jewelry, make-up and a specially stitched dress. Jingles are a must. Usually duration of an Arangetram will be 2 1/2 - 3 hours. To perform for such long hours one must have good stamina and concentration.

The Time of Arangnetram
This time is divided into two halves.
In the first half the artists generally perform - Pushpaanjali or Alaripu, Jaatiswar, Shabd and Varn.
In the second half, the artists perform - Padam, Ashtapadee or Devaranam, Tillana and Mangal.

(1) Pushpaanjali - This is an item where the artist salutes to God, Guru and the audience. This item is a warm up item where the artist prepares the body for the next few hours of vigorous performance.
(2) Alaripu - This is a Tamil word. Alar meaning to bloom. It comprises of set of movements without any meaning or expression. The movements are performed for syllables set for a beat (Taal). The complexity of the movements gradually increase. The steps are so formed that it looks like a bud blooming into a flower. This is also a warm up piece to prepare the body for the next few hours of performance. Even though there is no meaning, this can also be considered as an item where the artist salutes God, Guru and the audience.
(3) Jaatiswar - This is also an item where the movements will not convey any meaning or theme. Here the steps are more complex than the previous items. The composition can have amazing postures and Teermanas or Muktayas (ending of a Jaati). This is a musical composition set to a Raag unlike Alaripu which has only syllables.
(4) Shabd - This is a dance item with both Nritta and Abhinaya. Usually the theme of the lyrics will be devotional like praising lord Krishn, depicting lord Krishn's childhood , praising a king etc. The movements here are leisurely.
(5) Varn - This is the item where the dancers are tested for their capacity to perform Abhinaya and Nritta. This can be treated as a benchmark to judge the artist's talent. The item will contain many complex steps and will have lot of room for expressions also. To perform this item one should have lot of stamina and concentration. The lyrics can be devotional, praising a king etc. Varna can also have Shringaar Ras (see Ras) as its theme.
(6) Padam - In this dance item the dancer's Abhinaya is put into test. It narrates expression of divine love or pangs of separation in love. The tempo is slow and the performance is based on a specific mood of love. Padam will have Naayak (Hero, Supreme lover, Divine Lord) and Naayikaa (Heroine, the yearning soul). Heroine will talk to her friend (Sakhe) and narrate her feelings towards her hero. The lyrics can be about how the hero has betrayed, or how he has delayed the arrival, how she is angry with her beloved hero etc.
(7) Ashtapadee - These are poet Jayadev's Sanskrit compositions called Geet Govind, an extremely romantic composition. It describes the love of Krishn and Raadhaa in twelve cantos containing 24 songs. The songs are sung by Krishn or Raadhaa or by Raadhaa's maid. Each Canto is named differently considering Krishna's status of mind.

Saamo Daadamodar - Joyful Krishn
Aaklesh Keshav - Careless Krishn
Mugdh Madhusoodan - Bewildered Krishn
Snigdh Madhusoodan - Tender Krishn
Saakaanksh Pundareekaksh - Longing Krishn
Kunth Vaikunth - Indolent Krishn
Naagar Naaraayan - Cunning Krishn
Vilaksha Lakshmeepati - Abashed Krishn
Mand Mukunda - Languishing Krishn
Chatur Chaturbhuj - Intelligent Krishn
Saanand Daamodar - Blissful Krishn
Supreet Peetaambar - Ecstatic Krishn
Expressions are given foremost importance while performing these poems. Needs lot of grace. The artist
should be mature enough to understand the lyrics and the situation to show the Raas.

(8) Devaranama - This item is a devotional piece where the lyrics are in praise of god, describing the god etc. This is a pure Abhinaya item with almost no emphasis on Nritta. Usually the lyrics are in Kannad. These songs are the compositions of great mystics like Purandar Daas, Kanak Daas, Vijaya Daas, Vyaasaraaj to name a few. The compositions are popularly known as Daas Saahitya. It is a devotional literatures written in simple language understood by common man.
(9) Tillana - This is usually the last item in any Bharat Naatyam performance. Tillana is full of complicated movements and postures. This will also have complicated Muktayas or Sholkattu, ending of any step or Aduvu. This is mainly a Nritta piece which might have a Charan, a meaningful lyrics for which Abhinaya is shown.
(10) Mangal - Meaning ending the performance. Here the artist will again salute god, Guru and the audience for making the performance a success.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 06/09/11