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.
The number of recognized classical dances range from eight to more,
depending on the source and scholar. The Sangeet Natak Akademi
recognizes eight – Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi,
Kathakali, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. Scholars such as
Drid Williams add Chhau,
Bhagavata Mela to the
list. The Culture Ministry of the Government of India includes
Chhau in its classical list. These dances are traditionally regional,
all of them include music and recitation in local language or
Sanskrit, and they represent a unity of core ideas in a diversity of
styles, costumes and expression.
Indian classical dance
Indian classical dance is made from
India and classical dance is played by various actors.
1 Texts and roots
3 Shared aspects
4 See also
6 External links
Texts and roots
Natya Shastra is the foundational treatise for classical dances of
India, and this text is attributed to the ancient scholar
Bharata Muni. Its first complete compilation is dated to
between 200 BCE and 200 CE, but estimates vary
between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The most studied version of
Natya Shastra text consists of about 6000 verses structured into
36 chapters. The text, states Natalia Lidova, describes the
theory of Tāṇḍava dance (Shiva), the theory of rasa, of bhāva,
expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, standing
postures – all of which are part of Indian classical dances.
Dance and performance arts, states this ancient text, are a form of
expression of spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of
Performance arts and culture
Let Nātya (drama and dance) be the fifth vedic scripture.
Combined with an epic story,
tending to virtue, wealth, joy and spiritual freedom,
it must contain the significance of every scripture,
and forward every art.
— Nātyaśāstra 1.14–15
Natya Shastra is the revered ancient text in the Hindu
tradition, there are numerous other ancient and medieval Sanskrit
dance-drama related texts that further discuss and expand on the
classical repertoire of performance arts, such as the Abhinaya
Darpana, Abhinaba Bharati, Natya Darpana,
Bhava Prakasa and many
others. The term "classical" (Sanskrit: "Shastriya")
denotes the Natya Shastra-based performing arts.
Natya Shastra describes religious arts as a form as margi, or
a "spiritual traditional path" that liberates the soul, while the folk
entertainment is called desi, or a "regional popular
Indian classical dances are traditionally performed as an expressive
drama-dance form of religious performance art, related to
Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, pan-
Hindu Epics and the Vedic
literature, or a folksy entertainment that includes story-telling from
Sanskrit or regional language plays. As a religious art, they are
either performed inside the sanctum of a
Hindu temple, or near
it. Folksy entertainment may also be performed in temple grounds
or any fairground, typically in a rural setting by traveling troupes
of artists; alternatively, they have been performed inside the halls
of royal courts or public squares during festivals.
Natya Shastra mentions four Pravrittis (traditions, genres) of
ancient dance-drama in vogue when it was composed – Avanti (Ujjain,
central), Dakshinatya (south), Panchali (north, west) and Odra-Magadhi
Sources differ in their list of
Indian classical dance
Indian classical dance forms.
Encyclopædia Britannica mentions six dances. The Sangeet Natak
Akademi has given recognition to eight Indian dances. The Indian
government's Ministry of Culture includes eleven dance forms.
Scholars such as Drid Williams and others include Chhau,
Bhagavata Mela to the eight classical Indian dances in the Sangeet
Natak Akademi list.
The classical dance forms recognised by the
Sangeet Natak Akademi
Sangeet Natak Akademi and
the Ministry of Culture are:
Bharatanatyam, from Tamil Nadu
Kathak, from Northern and Western India
Kathakali, from Kerala
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Odissi, from Odisha
Sattriya, from Assam
Manipuri, from Manipur
Mohiniyattam, from Kerala
All major classical Indian dance forms include in repertoire, three
categories of performance in the Natya Shastra. These are Nritta,
Nritya and Natya:
The Nritta performance is abstract, fast and rhythmic aspect of the
dance. The viewer is presented with pure movement, wherein the
emphasis is the beauty in motion, form, speed, range and pattern.
This part of the repertoire has no interpretative aspect, no telling
of story. It is a technical performance, and aims to engage the senses
(prakriti) of the audience.
The Nritya is slower and expressive aspect of the dance that attempts
to communicate feelings, storyline particularly with spiritual themes
Hindu dance traditions. In a nritya, the dance-acting expands
to include silent expression of words through gestures and body motion
set to musical notes. The actor articulates a legend or a spiritual
message. This part of the repertoire is more than sensory enjoyment,
it aims to engage the emotions and mind of the viewer.
The Natyam is a play, typically a team performance, but can be
acted out by a solo performer where the dancer uses certain
standardized body movements to indicate a new character in the
underlying story. A Natya incorporates the elements of a
All classical dances of India used similar symbolism and rules of
gestures in abhinaya (acting). The roots of abhinaya are found in the
Natyashastra text which defines drama in verse 6.10 as that which
aesthetically arouses joy in the spectator, through the medium of
actor's art of communication, that helps connect and transport the
individual into a super sensual inner state of being. A
performance art, asserts Natyashastra, connects the artists and the
audience through abhinaya (literally, "carrying to the spectators"),
that is applying body-speech-mind and scene, wherein the actors
communicate to the audience, through song and music. Drama in this
Sanskrit text, thus is an art to engage every aspect of life,
in order to glorify and gift a state of joyful consciousness.
The communication through symbols is in the form of expressive
gestures (mudras or hastas) and pantomime set to music. The gestures
and facial expressions convey the ras (sentiment, emotional taste) and
bhava (mood) of the underlying story. In
Hindu classical dances,
the artist successfully expresses the spiritual ideas by paying
attention to four aspects of a performance:
Angika (gestures and body language),
Vachika (song, recitation, music and rhythm),
Aharya (stage setting, costume, make up, jewelry),
Sattvika (artist's mental disposition and emotional connection with
the story and audience, wherein the artist's inner and outer state
Abhinaya draws out the bhava (mood, psychological states).
Culture of India
Languages of India
^ a b Julius Lipner (2012). Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and
Practices. Routledge. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-135-24061-5. ,
Quote: "It would be appropriate here to comment on
dance. This developed in a religious context and was given high
profile as part of temple worship. There are a number of regional and
other styles as well as source texts, but the point we wish to stress
is the participative nature of such dance. In form and content, the
heart of dance as worship in
Hinduism has always been 'expression'
(abhinaya), i.e. the enacting of various themes".
^ a b Jean Holm; John Bowker (1994). Worship. Bloomsbury Academic.
p. 85. ISBN 978-1-85567-111-9. , Quote:
Hindu music, are associated with worship. References
to dance and music are found in the vedic literature, (...)".
^ a b c d Frank Burch Brown (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Religion
and the Arts. Oxford University Press. pp. 195–196.
ISBN 978-0-19-972103-0. , Quote: All of the dances
considered to be part of the Indian classical canon (Bharata Natyam,
Chhau, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, Odissi,
Yakshagana) trace their roots to religious practices (...) the Indian
diaspora has led to the translocation of
Hindu dances to Europe, North
America and the world."
^ a b James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 467.
ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4. , Quote: "the Natyashastra remains
the ultimate authority for any dance form that claims to be
'classical' dance, rather than 'folk' dance".
Devi 1990, pp. 60-68.
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^ a b Williams 2004, pp. 83-84, the other major classical Indian
dances are: Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kathakali, Kuchipudi,
Sattriya, Cchau, Manipuri,
Yaksagana and Bhagavata Mela.
^ Tanvi Bajaj; Swasti Shrimali Vohra (2015). Performing Arts and
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^ Wallace Dace 1963, p. 249.
^ Emmie Te Nijenhuis 1974, pp. 1–25.
^ Kapila Vatsyayan 2001.
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performing arts as its central feature. It is also full of invocations
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