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Indian Art & Culture - Dances- Classical Dances
                                                                                                    October 2, 2017



Indian classical dance, or Shastriya Nritya, is an umbrella term for various performance arts rooted in religious Hindu musical theatre styles, whose theory and practice can be traced to the Sanskrit text Natya Shastra.

As per the ancient treatises, dance is considered as having three aspects: natya, nritya and nritta.

a) Natya highlights the dramatic element and most dance forms do not give emphasis to this aspect today with the exception of dance-drama forms like Kathakali. 

b) Nrityais essentially expressional, performed specifically to convey the meaning of a theme or idea. 

c) Nritta on the other hand, is pure dance where body movements do not express any mood (bhava), nor do they convey any meaning. 

To present nritya and natya effectively, a dancer should be trained to communicate the navarasas. These are: love (shringaara), mirth (haasya), compassion (karuna), valour(veera), anger (roudra), fear (bhayanak), disgust (bibhatsa), wonder (adbhuta) and peace (shaanta)


  • Mohiniyattam is the classical solo dance form of Kerala, performed by women.
  • It is interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the female form taken by Vishnu to kill Bhasmasura.
  • This dance form of Kerala was structured into the present day classical format by the Travancore Kings, Maharaja Kartika Tirunal and his successor Maharaja Swati Tirunal (18th -19th century C.E.).
  • References of Mohiniyattam can be found in the texts Vyavaharamala written in 1709 by Mazhamagalam Narayanan Namputiri and in Ghoshayatra, written later by great poet Kunjan Nambiar.
  • Movements have been borrowed from Nangiar Koothu and female folk dances Kaikottikali and the Tiruvatirakali. 
  • The hand gestures, 24 in number, are mainly adopted from Hastalakshana Deepika, a text followed by Kathakali. Few are also borrowed from NatyaShastra, AbhinayaDarpana and Balarambharatam. 
  • It is characterized by graceful, swaying body movements with no abrupt jerks or sudden leaps.
  • It lays emphasis on acting, where the dancer identifies herself with the character and sentiments existing in compositions and expresses through hand gestures and facial expressions.

Why in News?

Kuchipudi earned a place in Guinness book of world records when 6117 dancers from all over the world performed together in a single show in Vijaywada.

What is Kuchipudi dance?

 This dance originated in Kuchipudi village, Krishna district of modern Andhra Pradesh. It was conceived in 17th century by Vaishnava poet Siddhendra Yogi.

 It begins with an invocation to Lord Ganesha followed by Nritta (non-narrative pure dancing), Nritya (narrative dancing) and Natya.

The dance is performed on Carnatic music where singer is accompanied by musical instruments like mridangam, violin, flute and tambura.