The Natyashastra is known as the encyclopaedia of Indian classical dance. It is accepted as the foundation to all the dance forms in our country.
As per Hindu mythology, the first era of the earth was known as the Satya Yuga or the Krita Yuga; the "Era of Truth", when mankind was ruled by the gods themselves and the world was filled with goodness and justice. The Krita Yuga was followed 10,000 years later by the Treta Yuga where lust and desire started creeping into the minds of man. So at the onset of the Treta Yuga, the mythological king of the gods, Indra, requested Lord Brahma (the Creator) to combine the universal of all ancient scriptures, the four Vedas, into a single text in order to make it both comprehensible and interesting for ordinary mortals, regardless of their caste or creed. Hence was authored the Natya Veda.
|Brahma creating the Natya Veda|
The main essence of the Natya Veda is as follows:
- Recitative (style of delivery) from the Rig Veda
- Music from the Sama Veda
- Theatrical Representation (Angika Abhinaya) from the Yajur Veda
- Expressions and Sentiments (Rasa & Bhava) from the Atharva Veda
As the story goes, the gods themselves felt that they were quite incapable of learning and enacting the Natya Veda effectively, this was duly taught to Bharatamuni; the son of Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma then created 25 apsaras (celestial beauties) bestowed with unparalleled beauty and talent, to learn the knowledge of dance, namely; Manjukesi, Sukesi, Misrakesi, Sulochana, Saudamini, Devadatta, Devasena, Manorama, Sudati, Sundari, Vigagdha, Vividha, Budha, Sumala, Santati, Sunanda, Sumukhi, Magadhi, Arjuni, Sarala, Dhrti, Nanda, Supuskala, Supuspamala and Kalabha.
Bharatamuni then taught the Vrittis (expressions) to his 105 sons and the above named Apsaras. The Vrittis are four in number and are as follows:
|Illustration of Apsaras|
- Bharati (Vocals)
- Satthvathi (Emotions)
- Aarabhati (Forceful movements - includes running, jumping & exercises)
- Kaishiki (Delicate movements)
The first 3 were taught to his sons and the last one to the apsaras. As per the mythological account of the time, Bharatamuni and his entourage then performed Natya (dramatic representation), Nrithya (intepretative dance) and Nritta (pure dance steps performed rhythmically) for the first time at Lord Indra's Dhwajotsav (Flag Festival) which was highly appreciated by everyone present. The same was performed in front of Nataraja (Lord Shiva, the Destroyer) himself who was extremely pleased and also contributed his opinion. He advised Bharatamuni to add “Aṅgahāra” i.e. the process of moving the limbs from one point to another. Since it is loved and practiced by Hara (Lord Shiva), the shadow of his name is incorporated in the term Aṅgahāra. He also instructed Bharatamuni to add the “Pradosha Nrithya” into their repertoire as Poorvarangam (worship and preparation of the stage). Pradosha Nrithya is a cosmic dance performed by Lord Shiva. The word ‘pradosha’ means ‘dusk’, while ‘nrithya’ means ‘dance’. As the name suggests, Lord Shiva performs this dance at twilight in the presence of Parvati, His consort. According to Hindu mythology, this dance is performed to free his devotees from their suffering.
As the story goes, Lord Shiva also appointed one of his attendants Tandu to teach them his own aggressive form of dance, known as the Tandava while His consort Parvati taught Lasya (an extremely feminine & fluid type of dance) to Usha, the daughter of Shiva’s ardent devotee Banu. Usha was then directed to teach Lasya to the milkmaids of Dwarka (the city that Lord Krishna built on earth) i.e. the Gopikas, who in turn passed this on to the women in Sourashtra (present day Western India). Thus the art of Lasya was spread across ancient India, and subsequently, the world.
|Illustration of Lasya|
- The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma (my Guru's Guru)