The common root of all class-
ical dance forms can be traced to Natyasastra, ascribed to Sage Bharata who is believed to have lived between the 1st and 2nd Century AD. The Indian dance forms are based on the instructions in the Natyasastra. It also contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the mudras or hand formations and their meanings, the kind of emotions and their categorisation, not to mention the kind of attire, the stage, the ornaments and even the audience.

All dance forms are thus structured around the nine rasas or emotions, hasya (happiness), krodha (anger), bhibasta (disgust), bhaya (fear), shoka (sorrow), viram (courage), karuna (compassion), adbhuta (wonder) and shanta (serenity). Rasa acts as a double-fold. The artists experience it in their creation and others as audience or spectators. It is a kind of participation in an inner spiritual vision and enlightenment. This common sharing transforms a dance recital into a holy ritual, a spiritual interaction or communication.

All dance forms follow the same hand gestures or hasta mudras for each of these rasas. The dances differ where the local genius has adapted it to local demands and needs.

Indian dance is divided into nritta - the rhythmic elements, nritya - the combination of rhythm with expression and natya - the dramatic element. Nritya is usually expressed through the eyes, hands and facial movements. Nritya combined with nritta makes up the usual dance programmes. To appreciate natya or dance drama, one has to understand and appreciate Indian legends. Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesse like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depic-
ting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people.

 Hand Gestures
in Classical Indian Dance forms.

 Brief words
on the Natyashastra
& various Indian Classical Dances.

Mudra ||  4000 years old! ||  Dance of Shiva ||  Bharatanatyam ||  Kathak ||  Kuchipudi ||  Kathakali || 
Mohini Attam ||  Odissi ||  Manipuri ||  Bibliography ||