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  • Classical Dance forms of India

    India is a land of different cultures, festivals and rituals and has thousands of years of tradition in classical dance and music. Classical dance comprise of various performances from Hindu epics mostly and is adopted from Sanskrit text Natya Shastra. In past, dance was not only a form of celebration, but also a way to entertain various Gods and Goddesses. Classical dances also represent the culture and heritage of the state to which it belongs. The chorographical patterns and certain dance scenes can be seen on the frescoes of Indian temples. Dance is a great source of motivation as it connects oneself with the higher power and world around. To accrue the changing needs and sensibilities of audiences, Indian classical dance is now acquiring various contemporary styles and themes. Eight popular classical dances of our country are:

    Bharatanatyam

    This is presumably the oldest and most traditional classical dance of Tamil Nadu. The dance got its name from Sage Bharata who wrote the Natya Shastra. Though the style of Bharatanatyam is over two thousand years old, the freshness and richness of its essence is still retained. It has been handed down over ages by nattuvanars (teachers) and traditional dancers known as devadasis who used to dance during important festivals and ceremonies in South Indian temples.The prominent features of this dance are bent legs in a sculpturesque style, abstract hand gestures and graceful facial expression along with music, emotion and poetry. It is also known as the fire dance as the dancing steps resembles a dancing flame. The costume and theme of the dance form a distinguishing aspect of this dance drama.

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    Kathak

    Kathak (the art of storytelling) is one of the most celebrated classical dances of North India. It is often a dance of love and performed by both men and women.Like other Indian dances it began as a temple dance and moved to the courts of ruling emperors later on.The three main components of Kathak dance are invocation, Nritta and Nritya. The dance starts with slow body movements offering respect to Gods, transcends into a set of stylized gestures and intricate footwork and ends with a story or a spiritual message.

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    Kathakali

    Kathakali is the most well known dance drama of Kerala. It is a highly charged and influential performance that combines dance, music and dramatizes stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The most distinguishing feature of this impressive form of dance is its cheerful make up and elaborated costume. The dance is performed by men and usually starts in morning and continues through night. Kathakali is more of a devotional act displaying the universal struggle between good and evil. The various elements in the dance include angikaaharya, achika, satvika and nritya. A Kathakali dancer undergoes a hard training to understand and develop the language of hastmudras to convey the story.

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    Kuchipudi

    Kuchipudi is a popular classical dance of Andhra Pradesh and was held in high esteem and honor before the rulers of the state at that time, presenting different scenes from Indian mythology and Hindu epics The classic element of Kuchipudi repertoire is taranagam, where the dancer use scintillating foot movements to dance on the rising edges of a brass plate. Starting with a formal song, sprinkling of holy water and burning of incense, the attractive gestures of this dance are worth watching. An important aspect of Kuchipudi is the use of speech along with dance, histrionics and mime.

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    Manipuri
    Manipuri is a major classical dance of India and is native to Manipur, the North eastern state of India. The dance style is very much ritualistic and usually depicts Manipuri culture and tales of Lord Krishna.Unlike other rhythmic classical dances, it is characterized by smooth and graceful body movements. The most attractive part of Manipuri dance is the exquisitely embellished long barrel shaped skirt worn by female dancers.

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    Mohiniattam
    Mohiniattam is a graceful classical dance that originated in the state of Kerala. Mohiniattam is derived from the word Mohini (means beautiful women) and attam(means dance). Mohiniattam is a mesmerizing dance performance depicting many styles of divine and feminine love through swaying body movements. The white and gold costume, the hairstyle and sophisticated gestures gives an aesthetic dance effect.

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    Odissi
    Odissi is one of the famous classical dances from the state of Orissa. With a history of more than two thousand years, Odissi is a highly inspired, passionate, ecstatic and sensuous form of dancing style. It is predominantly a dance for women that involves more than fifty complex mudras (symbolic hand gestures) representing great cultural history of Orissa. Like most of the classical dances of India, Odissi too originated from the Devadasi system of dancing.

    Sattriya

    The dance was started by saint and scholar Shankara Deva in Vaishnavai monasteries of Assam that are known as Sattras. Sattriya is an amalgamation of music, beats ballad and drama and is usually performed in monasteries and community halls of Assam .The music is provided by khol drum. Dressed in white costumes and turbans, dancers use a variety of graceful hand gestures and elegant footwork to spread the charm of the performance.

  • NATYANJALI FESTIVAL

    ‘Natyanjali’ is a festival of dance. The word Natyanjali is composed of two words; ‘natya’, which means dance and ‘anjali’ which means offering. So,Natyanjali is a festival, where dancers devote their dance and reverence to the Lord of Dance i.e. Lord Nataraja.

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    Natyanjali festival falls in the Tamil month of Masi; which coincides with the English months of February and March. In Tamil Nadu, at Chidambaram, Natyanjali festival is celebrated at the Nataraja Temple.Dancers from all across India participate in this festival to dedicate their dance to Lord Nataraja; the dancing manifestation of Lord Shiva. All the forms of classical dances i.e. the Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, MohiniAttam, Odissi, etc.are performed by well-known dancers.Besides having a religious significance, the Natyanjali festival is also a great occasion to revive the spirit of ‘unity in diversity’ as dancers from all over India perform at a common platform. Each group of dancers gets around 20 – 30 minutes to perform their dance recitals.

    To express devotion and to worship Lord Shiva in a unique style, in the year 1981, an annual event of a combined dance program was organized. This tradition of performing at a concert has since then been carried out each year. Natyanjali has developed not only as a National Festival,but has also gained international fame. It is a five day event in which more than 300 dancers show their dancing talent in the traditional dress and offer it to Lord Nataraja. The celebration starts from the day of MahaShivaratri.

    Initially,this annual classical Indian dance festival was celebrated at the Chidambaram Temple only, but now it is also organized at other temples in Thanjavur, Mayavaram, Nagapatinam, Chennai, Thirunallar,etc.  An interesting fact about the festival is that it was started in Chidambaram by a Muslim person, as a mark of religious integrity. He began by teaching dance to children from Dheekshidar, without charging any remuneration for it. He mixed his own compositions with Kirthanas.

    The celebration of this festival is the result of collective effort by the Tourism Department of Tamil Nadu and the Natyanjali Trust within the vicinity of the Shiva Temples.

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