Dances of India
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Dances of India

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Item Code: NAT533
Author: Leela Venkatarman
Publisher: Children Book, Trust
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789380076478
Pages: 120 (Throughout Coloured Illustrations)
Other Details: 10.00 X 7.00 inch
Weight 430 gm

Time ceased to exist for Jaahnavi as she watched in star-struck awe the dancer performing. One moment she seemed like a fleet-footed gazelle streaking across the stage at lightning speed, her movements making Jaahnavi’s heart beat in excitement. The next, she was serenely graceful, like the calm waters of an unruffled pool. The dancer’s delicate hands and supple fingers seemed to tell a whole story in a special sign language—one moment becoming a flower, the next a bee sucking nectar, and then a bird, a snake, the moon and so many other things, all of which Jaahnavi was not able to understand fully.

Every now and again Jaahnavi’s eyes would go to the corner of the stage, on the right side of the dancer, where the musicians were seated. As the singer sang and the drummer played, and the notes on the flute and the violin joined in, it seemed as if the music and the dance were made for each other. When the performance ended, there was a loud clapping from the audience as the dancer stood with folded hands and humbly accepted the resounding ovation.

Images of the dance kept flashing across Jaahnavi’s mind as she returned home with her grandmother. "The performance was so beautiful! Can I ever learn to dance like that?" she asked her. "What dance was it, Grandma?"

"That was a dance called Bharatanatyam. It is a classical dance," replied her grandmother.

"What is classical? Is it different from other dances?" "Classical is that which has an ancient history and its own set of conventions, performance rules and technique," her grandmother - explained. "But before I tell you about Bharatanatyam, there are some things you must know about the art form in general," she said. Then she narrated to her the history of the Indian classical dance that goes back several hundred years.

The origin of Dance

The oldest text in India on dance, music and theatre is about two thousand years old. Known as the Natya Sastra, it was written by Sage Bharata, who is believed to have been a very learned man. Story goes that the gods in heaven were bored and approached their creator, Lord Brahma, to think of something new to entertain them. So Brahma looked into the four sacred texts, The Vedas, to see what new ideas he could gather from them. He took speech and language from the Rig Veda, music from the Sama Veda, gestures from the Yajur Veda and emotions from the Atharva Veda, and with all this He created a fifth called Natya which was inclusive of dance, music and drama. Soon a special stage was designed and constructed by Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods, to put on the first presentation called ‘Amrita-Manthanam’.

The performance, using dance, music and drama was about the story of the tussle between the gods and the demons to - procure the ambrosia churned out of the ocean. The gods and their leader, Indra, due to a curse, had lost their power and were being constantly thwarted by the demons. When the gods pleaded with Vishnu to bail them out of their predicament, He advised them to churn the ocean for ambrosia, partaking of which would make them immortal. Armed with this power, there would be little harm the demons could inflict upon them.

A plan was formulated on how to set about this mammoth task of churning the ocean. The gods needed the help and strength of demons to accomplish this task, but foremost was the requirement of a firm base on the ocean floor to mount the churning rod which was none other than the mighty Mount Meru. Vishnu transformed himself into a giant tortoise providing the base on whose back the mountain rod was fixed. Since no ordinary rope would do to churn such a rod, the large serpent, Vasuki, whose coiled length forms the bed on which Vishnu rests on the ocean, became the rope. The two ends of the rope, after being wound round the mountain rod, were held by the gods on one side and demons on the other.

The churning began, and as it progressed, the enormous strain of being pulled back and forth made Vasuki’s breathing hard and heavy, his poisonous breath creating noxious fumes in the ocean, making it difficult for the gods and the demons to pull any more. Shiva came to their rescue and swallowed all the poison gathered in the ocean, holding it in his throat without allowing it to reach his stomach.

The poison gave Shiva’s throat the blue colour and He came to be called ‘Neela-kantha’ or Blue-throated one. After the gods had partaken of the ambrosia, they forgot to thank Shiva for his timely help, till they were reminded by Sage Narada of their lapse. Then falling at the feet of Shiva, the gods begged for forgiveness and thanked Him. They then requested Shiva to perform the Tandav Nritya to regale them and He obliged. The tandav nritya was a vigorous dance with a strong rhythm. In order to bring grace and softness into the dance, Brahma introduced the apsaras or the celestial maidens. The singing and playing of different instruments was the task of the gandharvas or celestial beings. "How did the humans learn this art which was performed by the gods?" asked Jaahnavi.

"There is an interesting story about that too," her grandmother replied and she narrated the following story: "When King Nahusha, grandson of Pururavas, the son of Ayus and father of Yayati died, he went straight to heaven because of all the good deeds he had done. In heaven he was so struck by the Natya he saw, that he urged this wonderful art be taught on earth to mortals through the hundred sons of Bharata. Thus this art form came to be practised on earth by human beings. It is said Shiva’s attendant, Tandu, who is believed to have been a great dancer, taught the same to Bharata.

About the Book

``Where the hand goes, the eyes must follow, Where the eyes go, the mind and heart go too, Where the mind and heart are, there is true expressions, Where is expressions, there is Enjoyment." The Indian classical dance, a heady combination of traditional Storytelling, physical art and musical compositions is a Distinguished visual art form that impacts the audience Through its abhinaya, rasa, attire and ornaments. Captured Within the pages of this book is the essence of various dances Explained in a manner only a great guru can tell.

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