Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Create Artists Everywhere!

Create Artists Everywhere !

The Bharathanatyam performance of Satoshi Tatsumi, a Japanese student of Prof C.V.Chandrashekar, at eAmbalam, brought a lot of thoughts to me.

Here is a man from a totally different culture, performing a South Indian classical dance form with so much of dedication, involvement. I was told that his wife Sachie runs a Bharathanatyam Academy in the city of Gifu, Japan and his two daughters are also training in Bharathanatyam. Many families around the world of different nationalities have dedicated their lives to the learning and propagation of Indian art forms.

Russians are well versed with the 1960s melodies and works of Hindi film superstar Raj Kapoor, Japanese are mesmerized by Tamil movies, especially those of superstar Rajnikanth, Indians are attracted to the great singers Pakistan has produced, Pakistanis are enamored by the Bollywood tunes, the French and Germans have a special place in the heart for Indian Arts. The list goes on…..

Where is the divide? It is these political boundaries we have drawn for ourselves, which only fine arts can transcend. Leave people to themselves and they will embrace cultures and be inclusive.

The only cure for the fallouts of this pseudo nationalism is to spread fine arts. Let’s learn Flamenco. Let’s teach Karnatic Music. Let’s learn to appreciate Jazz. Why not indulge in Salsa or let the world indulge in Bharathanatyam?

Lets ‘Create Artists Everywhere’ !

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Classical Dances of India 8


The Satthrīyā dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaiṣhṇava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahāpuruṣha Śhaṅkaradheva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaiṣhṇava faith. The dance form evolved and expanded as a distinctive style of dance later on. Form of Assamese dance and drama has been, for centuries, nurtured and preserved with great commitment by the Satthras i.e. Vaiṣhṇava maths or monasteries. Because of its religious character and association with the Sattras, this dance style has been aptly named Satthrīyā.

History: Satthras are the Vaiṣhṇava monasteries in Assam. The saint poet Śhaṅkaradheva of the 15th century AD started this institution to bring harmony to the region of Assam through religion by creating forms of dance-dramas, music, painting and collective prayer. Śhaṅkaradheva introduced this dance form by incorporating different elements from various treatises, local folk dances and his own rare outlook. The dance forms which have come to stay are called Satthrīyā dances, sharing all the characteristics of a classical dance form. Today, although Satthrīyā Nrithya has emerged from within the confines of the satthras to much wider horizons, the satthras continue to use the dance form for ritualistic and other purposes for which it was originally created around 500 years ago.

It was in the second half of the 19th century, that Satthrīyā Nrithya emerged from the sanctum of Assam's satthras. It moved from the monastery to the metropolitan stage. The satthras maintained certain rigid disciplines and austerities within their walls, and until the first half of the 19th century, this dance style was performed in a highly ritualistic manner by male dancers only. The classical rigidity, the strict adherence to certain principles, and the non-engagement of academic research on the dance form all contributed to the delayed recognition and acceptance of Satthrīyā Nrithya as one of the eight classical dance forms of India.

The core of Satthrīyā Nrithya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible and enjoyable manner. Traditionally, Satthrīyā was performed only by bhokots (male monks) in monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark special festivals. Today, in addition to this practice, Satthrīyā is performed on stage by men and women who are not members of the satthras, on themes not merely mythological.

Like the other seven schools of classical Indian dance, Satthrīyā Nrithya encompasses the principles required for a classical dance form: the treatises of dance and dramaturgy, like the Nāṭya Śhāsthra, Abhinaya Dharpaṇa and the Sangītha Rathnākara. There were two dance forms prevalent in Assam before the Vaiṣhṇava movement such as Ōjapali and Dhévadhāsi with many classical elements. Two varieties of Ōjapali dances are still prevalent in Assam. The dancers in a Ōjapali chorus not only sing and dance but also explain the narration with gestures and stylized movements.

Costumes: The dresses are usually made of pat, a type of silk produced in Assam, woven with intricate local motifs. The ornaments, too, are based on traditional Assamese designs. Specific characters in Satthrīyā dances have their own unique and special costumes. The sūthradhhāra is generally dressed in white: a turban (ready-made, of cloth, sometimes of paper today and fitted often with silvery ribbon stripes), a long-sleeved jama or shirt, and a fluffy skirt (ghuri) tied to the waist with a waist-band with flower designs on it (tangali). For ornaments he puts on silver bangles (gamkharu) studded with stones, a lace with a drum-like golden bead in the middle (matamaṇi), dangling ear-ornaments of gold (unti), and brass anklets (nepur). The gāyan-bāyan singers and accompanists are similarly, but more modestly, attired. Krishna, Rāma and other male characters drape their legs with dhotis and combine this with colourfully embroidered jackets. The gopis and other female characters use bright skirts and shawls. For makeup, colours prepared from vegetable dyes are used, and in most cases characters can be identified by the colours they wear. 

Compiled by: Aarthi Natarajan & Indira Kadambi 

Classical Dances of India 7


The classical dance practiced in Orissā is called Oḍissi.  It is the oldest surviving dance form in India on the basis of archaeological evidence. 

History: Oḍissi is claimed to be the earliest Indian dance on the basis of archaeological evidence. The earliest evidence is a stone edict from 2nd Century B.C in the Rāni Gumphā caves of Orissā which describes a dancer dancing with her accompanists. These might even be prior to the Nāṭya Śhāsthra.

There is absolutely no reference to dance from the 2nd century B.C to the 7th century A.D due to the Buddhist influence. It was during the reign of the Késari kings for 3 centuries from the 9th century AD that the construction of temples became an important feature. Both music and dance became closely connected with rituals and worship. The Oḍissi dance form has been preserved to this day by the Nāṭya Śhāsthra and Goṭipuā dancers.

Nāṭyaśhāsthra: Maharis were the female attendants of the temple. The earliest record of dancing girls in the temples is 10th century A.D. In the temple of Jagannātha at Pūri, the dancing girls were appointed for the essential ritual service of the deity by Ananthavarma Choḍogaṅgadheva in the 11th century. The Maharis were divided into several groups according to their services. The dancing girls were known as Nāchuni and others Bhīthara gāuni (female singers who sing inside the temple), Bāhara gāuni (female singers who sing outside the temple) and Gauḍasāni (those whose duty was to fan the god). There was another class of Maharis known as Samparadha Niyoga whose duty was to dance during ceremonial procession such as Ratha Yāthra, Chandhan Yāthra etc.

With the invasion of the Mughals and lack of royal patronage, the dance of the Maharis declined. The Maharis ceased to be respected as dhāsīs of the lord and came to be associated with being concubines. With the rule of the Marāṭhās in the 18th century, the arts were revived.

Goṭipuā: Goṭi means single and Puā means boy. A dance which is performed by a single boy dancer in a female costume is known as goṭipuā dance. When the dance of the Maharis slowly declined, a class of boy dancers was created to carry on the tradition. The dance of goṭipuās was in the Oḍissi style but the technique, costume and presentation differed from that of Maharis. The most interesting part of the goṭipuā dancers is the Bandha Nruthya which is a dance with acrobatic poses and movements. Most of the Oḍissi gurus were goṭipuā dancers earlier.

Costumes: The costume and jewellery have been derived from the Abhinaya Chandrikā. The female dancers use a Paṭṭa Sāri which is worn tightly by having equal lengths of material on both sides and by tying a knot on the navel. The Kanchula (traditional blouse) and Nibibandha (an apron with frill tied in front) are used. The ornaments are silver based. The head gear and the large girdle are very important. The hair is generally knotted with flowers. The makeup includes the Gorachana, a creeper design on the forehead running above the eyebrows down to the cheeks.

Compiled by: Aarthi Natarajan & Indira Kadambi 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Classical Dances of India 6


Mohiniāṭṭam is a dance form from Kerala in south-western India. The term Mohiniāṭṭam literally means 'Dance of the Enchantress'. Mohiniāṭṭam was performed in the temple precincts of Keraḷa. It developed from the Dhévadhāsi dance system just like Bharathanātyam, Kūchipūḍi and Oḍissi. The word 'Mohini' refers to a maiden who exerts desire or steals the heart of the onlooker. There is a well known story of Lord Viṣhṇu taking on the guise of 'Mohini' to enthrall people, once in the Kūrmavathāram to distract the asuras and once to slay Bhasmāsurā.

History: The earliest known textual reference to Mohiniāṭṭam can be found in the Vyāvaharamāla, a Sanskrit text written by Mazhamangalam Nambūdhiri in the 16th century. Another reference on Mohiniāṭṭam can be found in the Oṭṭanthuḷḷal (a semi-classical and semi-folk dramatic art form of Keraḷa) script Ghośhayāthrā, authored by Kunchan Nambiār in the 18th century. The male members of the affluent and powerful Nambūdhiri and Nāir families exploited the Mohiniāṭṭam dancers. Gradually the dance was considered inappropriate and there were few takers for it. There is a considerable amount of disagreement among scholars regarding the antiquity of Mohiniāṭṭam. Most of them agree that it was during Maharāja Swāthi Thirunāl‘s rule in the 16th century that Mohiniāṭṭam achieved its refined form. The Maharāja of Travancore was a great patron of the arts and encouraged artistes, singers, dancers from all over the country to come and perform in his court. Bharathanātyam which was brought into Keraḷa by the Tanjore Quartet influenced Mohiniāṭṭam. The Maharājā was a great bhaktha of Lord Padhmanābhha and composed innumerable kruthis, padhams and varṇams in Hindusthāni as well as Karnātic rāgās, in his praise. The Maharājā’s padhams are always a part of a Mohiniāṭṭam dancer’s repertoire.

It was in the 20th century that Mohiniāṭṭam flourished. When Mahākavi Vaḷḷathōl set up his premiere institution for Kathakaḷi, the Keraḷa Kalāmaṇḍalam, he invited three famous Mohiniāṭṭam dancers, Kalpurathe Kunjukuṭṭi Ammā, Thoṭṭachéri Chinnamuammā and Kalyāṇi Kuṭṭi Ammā to teach Mohiniāṭṭam in his institution.  Due to the relentless work of researchers, scholars, performers of Mohiniāṭṭam, the dance form has achieved its present classical standing. Scholar-poet and theater thespian Kāvālam Nārāyaṇa Paṇikkar came forward with new compositions and researched theories so as to prevent Mohiniāṭṭam from imitating the Bharathanātyam repertoire, by emphasizing on the aesthetics and ethnic influence of the art form.
Costume: The Mohiniāṭṭam costume is always white or off white with gold or red border. Today, different coloured borders are used. Some dancers tie their costumes in a way similar to that of Bharathanātyam. Usually, Mohiniāṭṭam dancers tie their hair in a bundle on the left side with white flowers, and a simple ornament tied on the bun. A choker and a long chain (kāśhumālā) adorn the neck of the dancer. For the ears the dancer wears a ‘thōḍu’ which is circular coin like earring with Jhimkis or dangling earrings. The waist belt is also used .The makeup is done with emphasis given to the eyes.

Compiled by: Aarthi Natarajan & Indira Kadambi 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Classical Dances of India - 5


Maṇipūr is a small hilly state in the north-eastern part of India. People in Maṇipūr are religious. Hence, the costumes and art have a religious background. Maṇipūri is a very graceful form of dance. It has very little facial expressions, but its body movements are beautiful and graceful.

History: The favourite dance of Maṇipūr is Lai Haroba which means festival of Gods. It is believed that this dance was performed by lord Śhiva and his consort Pārvathi. Legend says that once, Pārvathi and Śhiva were intoxicated with the music and dance of Rās līlā of Kriṣhṇa and Rādhhā. Śhiva with his consort re-created Rās līlā of his own and went off in search of a place to perform this new dance.  Finally they came to a beautiful place which was submerged under water. Pārvathi and Śhiva performed this Rās līlā with a few Gandhharvas. As Śhiva danced the diamond on the serpent’s head fell and illuminated the area. The entire area was radiated because of the gem and was called Maṇipūr -the place of gems.

Originally Maṇipūri had traditional and ritualistic dances like the “Lai Harōba”. Later, in the 18th Century, there was a great influence of Vaiṣhṇavism and the then ruler of Maṇipūr, Bhāgychandhrā composed the Rās Līlā. He composed three out of five types of līlās.
Costumes: The costumes of Manipūri dance depend on the type of dance. The costumes of the ritualistic dances are different from those of the Rās Līlā. The woman dancer wears a traditional Manipūri skirt and shirt with a head gear for the ritualistic dances. The most attractive costume is that of Rās Līlā. The peculiar feature is the flying skirt and the veil. Men wear plain dhothis for Pung Cholam and Kīrthan.

Compiled by: Aarthi Natarajan & Indira Kadambi