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Mixed variety of essence in different Indian classical dances

The history of Bharatha Natyam could be traced back to centuries. It originated from the Tamil soil. It was called and recognized in the form of Sathir and later it was recognized under the name of Bharatha Natyam. However, it faced a new era during the Chola period. The Chola kings were the patrons and protectors of Tamil culture and Tamil civilization. The dance, music, art, culture and sculpture were continuously protected and preserved even after the Chola period. Even during the Nayaka and Marathi periods all these art forms were well protected.

In the 19th century, the rational repertoire of Bharatha Natyam was formulated on the basis of temple structure. The earlier repertoire consisted of Allarippu, Jeteswaram, Sabtham, Padam, Varnam, Javalli and Thillana.

Indian classical dancer

Bharatha Natyam has three main divisions: Nirtha (pure dance), Nirthiya, which includes Bhava, Rasa and Abinaya. Another one is Natya the theme based on story-oriented dance. All these three divisions are interwoven in classical Bharatha Natyam. Still numerous changes have taken place in the repertoire, orchestra, costumes, stage decor and lighting.

Bharatha Natyam and Kuchupidi both have lot of similarities in the execution of pure Nirtha (steps or adavus); Nirthya (includes abhinayas, bavas, and rasas) and Natya. The costumes makeup and hairdressings are same in Kuchupidi and Bharatha Natyam. Musical base for both is Carnatic music, but Kuchupidi uses only Telugu songs whilst Bharatha Natyam uses mainly Tamil, Telugu and sometimes-Sanskrit songs.

Another classical dance form of India is Kathakali, which originated from Kerala. It is another drama based dance form full of drama based bavas and rasas and abinayas. The dancers do not speak or sing while they dance. Nevertheless, they interpret the meaning of the song through vivid expression and beautiful hand gestures. In the 17th century Kathakali originated from Krishnaattam and Ramaraatam. Later compositions of Swathithirunal Maharaj, Iraiyimman Thami and so many other writers wrote texts for Kathakali. Presently the most popular themes used in Kathakali are Bali Vijeyam and Nala Charithiram.

Even the costumes are adapted to the needs of the characters. Thadi (beard) is adopted for villains; green colour is selected for Gods and kings. For the female characters, beautiful rich costumes are selected. Carnatic music is the basic music. Yet the style of singing is different and often called Sopana style. Unlike normal Carnatic, musical instruments some special instruments are used in normal Kathakali programs. Chenda, Chengala, Elattalam and Mandalam are used in Kathakali. All these musical instruments are not commonly used in Carnatic music.

Bharatha Natyam and Kuchupidi both have a lot of similarities in the execution of pure Nirtha (steps or adavus); Nirthya (includes abhinayas, bavas, and rasas) and Natya. The costumes makeup and hairdressings are same in Kuchupidi and Bharatha Natyam. Musical base for both is Carnatic music, but Kuchupidi uses only Telugu songs whilst Bharatha Natyam uses mainly Tamil, Telugu and sometimes-Sanskrit songs.

Another classical dance form of India is Kathakali, which originated from Kerala. It is another drama based dance form full of drama based bavas and rasas and abinayas. The dancers do not speak or sing while they dance. But they interpret the meaning of the song through vivid expression and beautiful hand gestures. In the 17th century, Kathakali originated from Krishnaattam and Ramaraatam. Later compositions of Swathithirunal Maharaj, Iraiyimman Thami and so many other writers wrote texts for Kathakali. Presently the most popular themes used in Kathakali are Bali Vijeyam and Nala Charithiram.

Even the costumes are adapted to the needs of the characters. Thadi (beard) is adopted for villains; green colour is selected for Gods and kings. For the female characters, beautiful rich costumes are selected. Carnatic music is the basic music. Yet the style of singing is different and often called Sopana style. Unlike normal Carnatic, musical instruments some special instruments are used in normal Kathakali programs. Chenda, Chengala, Elattalam and Mandalam are used in Kathakali. All these musical instruments are not commonly used in Carnatic music.

The word Kathakali is literally derived from the word Katha. Katha means story. Earlier Kathakali was often referred to as Aatta Kathai, which means drama based dance form. Kathakali has a unique makeup and specific costumes. Kathakali uses attractive heavy makeup, costumes, specified ornaments, half-face masks and kiridams (crown). The costumes and the makeup are adopted according to the role played by the character. The main theme of Kathakali is based on the well-established Indian philosophy. Whenever there is a conflict between the evil and the dharma, dharma eventually triumphs over evil.

The costumes, ornaments and make up are almost similar to Bharatha Natyam and Kuchupidi but in Kathakali, the makeup costumes and dresses are entirely different.

Like most of the classical Indian dance forms, Kathakali also uses many facial expressions, but the way of facial expressions is entirely different from Kuchupidi and Bharatha Natyam. In the facial expressions the use of eye movements, eyebrow movements and muscular movements of the cheeks, chin and nose are to a great extent different from the other two classical dance forms of South India. This makes the dance form more dramatic than that of normal dance.

In Kuchupidi and Kathakali, females were not permitted to take part in the dance earlier, but later they were allowed to take part in both dance forms. The typical pure dance in Kathakali is called Kalasams; it includes beautiful and graceful movements combined with elegant expressions by interpreting the meaning of the verses of the songs in an excellent manner. Nirtha movements are firm and steady. Leg positions and sitting positions are divided as in Bharatha Natyam and Kuchupidi but the extent of separation between the legs are wider than that of the other two. Variety of foot positions, which are used in Kathakali, are not used in Bharatha Natyam and Kucupidi. Jumping positions, vigorous movements, twists and turns are common and unique features could be seen only in Kathakali alone.

More or less the same hand muthras (gestures) are used in Kuchupidi, Bharatha Natyam, and Kathakali to interpret the songs.

Another south Indian classical dance form is Mohiniattam. This particular variety of dance form is a fusion of Bharatha Natyam and Kathakali. There is no reference about the period of origin of Mohiniattam. There is a reference about Mohiniattam in one of the commentaries written in 1709 A.D. Kunjan Nambir mentioned it in his text Ghoshayatra Ottan Tullal.

Beautiful and graceful movements are the special features of this dance form. Like Kathakali and Bharatha Natyam Carnatic, music is the basic source of music for this dance. However, the style of singing is sopana style like Kathakali. This way of singing helps the dancer to dance beautifully and gracefully. Specific costumes are white in colour and special hairstyle is adopted for this dance from. Beautiful eye movements help the dancer to express the expressions accurately, which is often called Nayana abinaya. The repertoire of Mohiniattam follows almost same repertoire of Bharatha Natyam to some extent. During the period of Swathi Thirunal Maharaj Mohiniattam influenced the minds of the Tanjore Quartette who were responsible for formulating the basic repertoire in Bharatha Natyam in 19th century. Yet the differences are there to maintain their identity. For instance, instead of Allaripu, Mohiniattam has Chollukadu the first invocation item. Similarly instead of Jetheswaram in Bharatha Swarajathi is adopted in Mohiniattam.Presently Swarajathi Sabtham is also adopted in Classical Bharatha Natyam. Sabtham and a lot and variety of abinaya-based padams are used as in Bharatha Natyam.

Odissi is another classical dance form which originated in Orissa state and like all other classical dance forms it was influenced by Hindu philosophy. Like Bharatha Natyam, devadasis female temple dancers played an important role initially for the development of this art form. The female dancers are called Maharis and the male dancers were called Gothipuas. Odissi derived the sources of odissi dance poses from the temple sculptures. That’s why Odissi dance poses resemble the temple sculptural poses. The unique feature of Odissi is that it maintains the thiripanga position. This means the three-anga positions of the body.

One is Battu Nirtha, which includes pure poses, depicting holding variety of musical instruments. Variety of musical instruments means the string instruments, (veena) leather instruments (drum), metal instrument (cymbals), and the wind instruments (flute). Another importa nt category is Pallavi. It means that within a prescribed time limit, (thala) the dancer dances for the swaras or musical notes of the chosen ragas, the pure Nirtha dance.

Another category of Nirtha is Moksha Nirtha. Moksha Nirtha is dance before the dance concludes. In Moksha, the dancer dances numerous sequences of pure dance units. Like all other classical dance forms, the Nirtha and Nirthiya are interwoven in the dance. The meaning of the songs is interpreted through graceful movements, subtle expressions, abinayas, bavas, and rasas. More importance is given to the moods of the song than the meaning of the song.

The main source for Nirthiya is taken from Geetha Govindam songs of Jayadeva of the 12th century. Even the same songs are used by Bharatha Natyam for Astapathi, which contains eight saranams. In Odissi, these Sanskrit compositions provide greater opportunity for the Odissi dancer to interweave with sculptural poses in the dance. Besides the Jayadeva’s compositions, various Oriya Poets’ compositions are adopted in Odissi dance forms.

In Odissi, the traditional repertoire begins with Bhaumi Pranam. This is followed by a dedicated dance on Lord Ganesha. Beautiful graceful items are often seen in this dance form. Among them is Swara Pallavi melodious and touching items of Banamurali Das and Upendra Bhanja are used for it. Beautiful ragas are used in Pallavi such as Sangarabaranam, and Kambothi. Another important items found in Odissi is Geetha Govintam of Jega Deva adopted for Thasa-Avatharam. The finale item of Odissi is called Moksha Nirtya.

Odissi uses numerous hand muthras or hastas. Moreover, these hand muthras are taken largely from Abinaya Dharpana. It also takes from Abinaya Chandrika. Like Bharatha Natyam and Kathkali, Odissi also uses the maximum amount of hand hastas. Although the pattern of costumes and ornaments resemble the costumes of Bharatha Natyam, the ornaments used in Odissi are plain and silver coated without stone studded ones.

Manipuri dance originated from Manipur district of East India. Manipuri dance form is entirely different from other classical state dances of India. Movements of Manipuri are very smooth free flowing, though the Thandava and Lassiya aspects could be seen in this traditional dance form. The languages used in Manipur dance are Bengali and Manipuri.

The poetic verses are derived from Jayadeva, Vidyapathy, Chandidas and from many other Manipuri poets. Manipuri is performed individually or by a group of individuals. Manipuri also uses the hastas to some extent but not to the extent of other classical Indian dances.

Kathak is the most popular classical dance form of North India. The North Indian classical dance form is known as Kathhak. Like all other classical dance forms, Kathhak has different styles.

The different styles or schools are known as gharanas in Kathhak. As in classical Bharatha Natyam, the gurus stationed in different areas developed the so-called styles. The so-called styles are imaginary creations of the masters who developed certain techniques in the dance.

 

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