The Indian perspective has always been holistic and all-inclusive: thought and activity in different fields, at different level, have been interlinked to produce what has been timeless. Indian arts is a classic example of such amalgamation: it interlinks aspects of art, philosophy, mythology, religion, and mysticism. This book is an attempt to unravel such links with specific reference to the Kathaka dance form.
Dr. Ranjana Srivastava explores the roots of Kathaka dance form to reveal its sublime, philosophic, esoteric and divine dimensions. Focusing on inter-relationships, she unflolds how dance embraces other disciplines of Yoga - Tantra, Mantra and Yantra. She discusses the concept of Tantra and its approximation and application to the dance form - the way Kathaka absorbed the sacred knowledge within its form. She deals with the importance and aspects of sound in the Hindu religious scheme and its manifestation in Kathaka. Explaining the significance of the yantra as diagrammatic/geometric representation and the way it functions, she analyses the techniques of Kathaka which create distinct yantra formations both in the surrounding space as well as on the dancing floor. The study abounds in extensive notes to explain numerous terms and concepts and has references to noted works and authors on the subject.
The book will be useful to experts and student of Indian art and, in particular, dance and will interest general people keen to know more about India's art traditions.
Dr. Ranjana Srivastava, Reader, Kathak Dance, Faculty of Performing Arts, B.H.U., is anaartist, a performer, a researcher and a choreographer of international repute. She is credited with starting Kathaka Dimploma Classes from the scratch in the faculty of Performing arts, B.H.U., which has now grown into a Degree Course enrolling students from abroad. A disciple of stalwarts like Guru Vikram Singh, Pandit Shambhu Maharaj, Pandit Birju Maharaj, Pandit Sunder Prasad and Guru M.R. Kalyanpurkar she is a recipient of the U.P., Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She is currently working on a University Grant's Commission. Spnosred major project: Dhrupada Nrtya: A Reconstruction.
LIKE all Indian arts, the Indian classical art form of dance
Kathaka - the classical dance of north India - is sublime,
philosophical, esoteric and divine. From the mundane to the
transcendent, from the human body to beyond the physical
form, from religion and aesthetics to metaphysics, the journey
is not a simple linear growth, but rather a whole process of
evolution and revelation in which one has to loose one's self
in order to experience the ultimate joy/truth, Saccidananda.
Nada-sadhana by the yogis and svara-sadhana by the sadhakas of
sangtia is an important aspect of the spiritual discipline and
culture of India, where Sangita is also referred to as Nada-
yoga. It is, in fact, the process of the understanding and the
realization of the inter-relatedness and the interdependence
of the Indian arts. It is in this process that dance expands to
embrace the other disciplines of Yoga, viz., Tantra, Mantra
My inspiration to write a book on Tanira-Manira- Yantra in
Dance : An Exposition of Kathaka is largely a result of my growth
and evolution as a student, artist, performer, teacher, and
researcher of Kathaka dance, as well as my effort to integrate
the traditional knowledge which I received from my late Guru,
Vikram Singhji, largely in the form of an oral tradition,
combined with a critical approach in an academic context after
I completed my Ph.D. on Kathaka : Its Origin and Development
(A Study based on Ancient and Mediaeval Sculptures and
Paintings) under the supervision of Dr. T.K. Biswas, Jt.
Director & Administrative Head, Bharat Kala Bhavan, BHU.
My association with Prof. Prem Lata Sharma, Vice-Chairman,
Sangeet Natak Akademi and Prof. Ranganayiki Ayyangar,
Dept. of Musicology, BHU, further sharpened my questioning
instincts. The book is also, perhaps partly, a reaction to the
gross commercialization of Kaihaka both by the dancers as well
as those in charge of preserving and promoting the Indian
classical dances as a heritage.
Indian classical dance, Kathaka, is part of a vibrant living
tradition, a cultural heritage of India. As part of a living
tradition, Kathaka has constantly been evolving. I am witness
to this process of evolution and growth for almost fifty years! As an art form Kathaka is a product of human organizational
skills, aesthetic sensitivity and cultural enterprise. Besides,
dance as a timeless art, as yoga, is perhaps only an elaboration of a coherent cosmic system, which helps transform the
knowledge of principle into practice. The guru-sisya parampara was, in fact, the embodiment of such a tradition in which values and principles were bequeathed as a legacy from one
generation to the other. In the words of Stella Kramrische,
"Tradition thus is not only an oral transmission of information and beliefs from ancestors to posterity but also an inherited
culture. It is a body of doctrine and discipline, put forth and
revealed in the words of the Veda." (vide Exploring India's
Sacred Art). The Veda teaches the means for the realization
of a state which ultimately yields abiding satisfaction to man. According to it, it may be found in Brahman, Nada, Bhuman or
Amtia. The Veda also emphatically states that man can never
realize the object of the innermost yearning of his heart, what is Alpa or Martya in the Vedic terminology. Thus, sangita (music and dance) to be Upavedic or Vedic as a summum bonum, must partake of the character of Brahman, Nada, Bhuman or Amrta.
The Chandogva Upanisad (1.24.1), defines Bhuman and Alpa as
"Where a man does not see another, does not hear another,
does not know another, there is Bhuman, and where he sees
another, hears another, knows another, there is I Alpa' that
which is Bhuman is immortal and that which is Alpa is mortal." According to Brahmasutra (1.3.8), this Bhuman is Para Vak, beyond the Pasyanti. The Bhuman or Para Vak, thus implies,
extraordinary concentration on the Atman or Paramatman,
which can only be made possible in an esoteric process, and
sangita appears to be best suited and fitted as an instrument
for use or employment in that process, for the reasons that it
is the most tangible and the least utilitarian of all arts and it
thus enables the human mind, more than any other art, to
detach itself from worldly affairs and to engage itself in the
contemplation of the Divine (vide Sangitaraja, ed. Prem Lata
Another characteristic of Vedic Brahman, Nada, Bhuman or
Amrta is that it is Saccidananda. The Vedic philosophy postulates
that of the three aspects of Saccidananda, Cit is superior to Sat
and Ananda is superior to Cit. Of the four Upavedas, Gandharva
is considered pre-eminent, as it is derived from the Ananda
Amsa of Saccidananda; the Dhanurveda and Sthapatya or
Arthasastra are initially concerned with the gross matter
(mahabhatas) and are thus derived from the Sat Amsa. The
science or art of Ayurveda is derived from the Cit Arhsa of
Saccidananda as it deals initially with Prana which is nearer to
Bhuman or Saccidananda than is the gross matter of Dhanur or
Sthapatya Upavedas. Gandharvaveda deals initially with sound
(a Tanmantra) which is more close to Nada-Brahman Himself.
The Para Vak or Nada, in order to be seen, heard and known,
must have a body or form. Nada must have a Tanu. The R.V.S.
II, mentions the body of Nada :
Indian dance, if performed as a ritual, sustains a continuity
both emotional as well as experiential, thus practise leading
to meditation, which ultimately helps man to unravel the
secrets of nature. The path is arduous and perilous because the journey is from the profane to the sacred, from illusion to
reality, from man to divinity. There is in the process a complete metamorphoses in form, function and behaviour.
In the fast changing cultural scenario, with the doors and
windows widely opened towards globalization, with a
consumer-oriented approach, there has been an acute turn
towards commercialization. In fact, with the advent of satellite
television, there has been a revolutionary change in our
methods of entertainment and education as well. It is perhaps
only the aspect of artha (money) which seems to be fully
validated. The horizon of Kathaka dance today, is wider than
ever before. With an unprecedented increase in the number
of dancers all vying for commercial success, the spectrum is
much more colourful, the repertoire is, perhaps, much more
secular with the presentation of new items and themes in
works of fusion and choreography, the desire of the dancers
for greater self-expression, bold enough to enunciate
revolutionary trends; an effort to re-choreograph with a
mixture of the old and the new, indigenous as well as foreign.
Though the efforts are applaudable, yet I feel that somewhere
and at some point, we are loosing out on the centuries old
spiritual basel aspect of the dance form. What was this
spirituality and what was the element of sentient? In what
way did it manifest in dance? Kathaka especially.
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