- Hindustani classical music originated in north India around the 13th and 14th centuries.
- Kathak is the Hindustani name for one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance.
- The origin of puppetry in India dates back to the era of the 5th Century BC.
- The cinema is the most popular form of entertainment in India.
Indian classical dance
India has thousands of year old tradition of fine arts, classical and folk music, and dances. Most of the Indian arts, music and culture are related to Hindu gods and goddesses that speaks of their life stories, such as Shiva and Vishnu.
Today India still performs and practices ancient traditional fine arts like classical and folk music and dances. Most of Indian art, music, and culture is related to Hindu gods and goddesses and tell stories of their lives, such as the stories of Shiva and Vishnu.
Indian classical dance originated as a form of worship in temples and gradually acquired a more resplendent style with royal patronage. Originally these styles of dance were based on ancient texts that were compiled from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD.
A range of hand gestures, facial expressions, body postures, acting techniques, and the theory of rasa constitute the "language" of Indian classical dance forms. Every movement of Indian dance is meant to express emotions, spiritual ideas, and the teachings of scriptures. Every mood, from love, hate, sadness, and comedy can be presented through the actor's art of communication.
Generally, Indian classical dance is categorized as a form of margi, or a spiritual path that's purpose is to explore one's inner self and liberate the soul. While folk performances are called desi and are a more popular dance form that varies from region to region.
Some of the world-famous dance forms that originated and evolved in India are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Mohiniattam, and Odissi. The most famous is Kathak which features two styles of performance, Nritta, and Nritya. Nritta moves from slow to a faster pace while Nritya uses facial expression to convey a story.
Kathak is one of the main genres of ancient Indian classical dance and also once the favorite dance of the royal courts of North India.
Kathak is traditionally thought to have originated from the traveling groups known as Kathakars, or storytellers, whose performances told various traditional stories and communicated feelings through the dancers' gestures, body motions, and facial expressions.
- Jaipur, Banaras, and Lucknow's form of Kathak
There are three distinct forms, or gharanas, of Kathak that can be found from in the cities of Jaipur, Banaras, and Lucknow. The Jaipur gharana emphasizes foot movements in beat to the music. In this style, the dancers' ankles are adorned with small metallic bells called Ghungroo, which accentuate the rhythm.
The Banaras and Lucknow gharana tell stories more through facial expressions and hand movements. The graceful gestures of arms, bends and turns of the upper body, and facial expressions help transport the dancer into a sensual inner state and helps arouse emotion and joy from the spectators.
- Nritta and Nritya
There are two styles of performing Kathak dance. In Nritta style, the performances center on slower gestures of the wrist, neck, and eyebrows. Gradually, the dancer brings the show to a faster pace by increasing each movement's speed and energy.
Then reaching a crescendo when the dancer engages the audience with intense footwork and turns. Finally, the sequence is completed by a turn of the head.
The second style is called Nritya which is an expressive dance where actors use facial expressions, hand gestures, and body gestures to convey a story and communicate feelings with the audience.
According to ancient Sanskrit texts, the emphasis of Nritya is to engage every aspect of life, in order to glorify and gift a state of joyful consciousness. Four aspects including Angik (gestures), Vachik (rhythm), Aharya (costume), and Satvik (emotional expressions) are the keys to a successful performance.
Bharatanatyam is a major form of Indian classical dance form, presumably the oldest classical dance heritage of India. It is regarded as the mother of many Indian classical dance forms. It is indigenous to the Tamil Nadu region and prevalent in southern India.
Bharatanatyam style features a fixed upper torso, bent legs, and flexed knees combined with symmetrical stances. Accompanied by classical music and a leading singer, in this style, a female sole dancer often enacts spirituals ideas and scenes from great legends and via chiseled movements and eloquent eye and facial expressions.
In Bharatanatyam dance, the solo artist is dressed in a beautiful silk sari and wears with elaborate jewelry with fresh flowers decorating the hair. Her hands and feet are painted red to draw attention to the intricate movements synchronized with the music.
Following the correct sequence, the dancer will devote all herself to the rhythm and music to express the spirit of the story. Some Bharatanatyam dance troupes adapt the performance to involve more than one dancer with each playing specific characters in a story.
A program of Bharatanatyam usually lasts two hours without interruption and includes a specific list of procedures, all performed by one dancer, who does not leave the stage or change costume. The accompanying orchestra, composing of drums, drone, and singer, occupies the back of the stage.
Kathakali dance is a highly evolved classical form of dance, drama, and music that also incorporates elements from Indian athletic traditions. Originating from South India, Kathakali has fully developed around the 17th century and features spectacular masks worn by male actor-dancers.
The actor-dancers do not speak but instead use symbolic hand gestures and facial expressions to create the show. They wear colorful skirts and elaborate headdresses and jewelry to enact folk mythologies, spiritual ideas, and religious stories from the Puranas and Hindu epics like the Mahabharata.
Applying the make-up for this dance style is a complicated process that takes several hours. The purpose of the makeup is to help the audience easily identify characters and understand who is a god, demon, saints, or animal. Mineral pigments are the main ingredients of the makeup.
The costumes of the dancers use symbolic colors. Green signifies divine and heroic characters, such as Arjuna and Krishna, the archer and charioteer from the Bhagavad Gita.
A red patch applied over the bridge of the nose on a green background is used to symbolize royalty and arrogant personalities, such as that of Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka. Yellow is used for monks and black for demons.
Odissi is a classical dance form originated in the Hindu temples of the eastern coastal state of Orissa in India. The traditional Odissi dance is accompanied with musical instruments, such as the drums, flute, string instruments, vocals, and a spoken beat called "bol".
Odissi is a dance of love and passion touching on the divine and the human, the sublime, and the mundane. This dance form includes themes from Vaishnavism and others associated with Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Surya, and Shakti.
Kuchipudi is a pre-eminent Indian classical dance counted among ten leading classical dance form of India. It is originated in a village of Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Kuchipudi is based on the Natya Shastra, a codified text on dance, music, and theater.
Today, a Kuchioudi performance is primarily performed on a stage, accompanied by a live orchestra consisting of a singer, a percussionist, a violinist, and a flutist. Together, they play notes and melodies from Carnatic music that supports the dancer's performance.
Manipuri dance is regarded as one of the major classical dance forms of India. This style of dance is indigenous to Manipur. Themes are generally taken from episodes in the life of Krishna, the pastoral god.
Manipuri is smooth, graceful and technically easier, and more limited than the other classic styles. During the dance interpretations, a narrator may chant a dialogue and descriptive action, interspersed with choral singing.
Sattriya is a highly dramatic dance form from the eastern state of Assam. This style has its roots in the Krishna monasteries and combines religious ideas with beautiful choreography. The themes of Sattriya are mostly based on Krishna's life and the legends of other avatars of the god Vishnu.
Sattriya performances consist of three parts. The first is in nritta style which presents sinuous motions in speed and pattern via the beautiful swirling skirt of the dancer. The second is nritya, a solo expressive dance to communicate feelings via facial expression and gestures. The third is natya dramatic play performed in groups to expand the viewer's sensory experience.
Mohiniyattam, a dance style from the state of Kerala, enacts the story of Mohini, a femme fatale, and the only female avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who uses her feminine powers to restore moral order. Mohiniyattam is traditionally a graceful solo dance performed by a female artist accompanied by singing and music.
The sequence of Mohiniyattam follows a structured story-telling line and comprises main postures of parted feet, knees bent outwards, and an erect upper torso. The female dancer usually wears a plain white sari embroidered with golden brocade, simple jewelry, and light make-up.
Indian folk theater, music, and dance
Stemming from the ancient Vedic culture, live traditional Indian folk theatre forms are coveted around the world. Their rich legacy and classical facets are immersed in regional, local, and folk coloring.
In the theatrical art forms of India, all emotions such as sorrow, joy, frustration, hatred, and love have a role and place.
Hindustani classical music originated in north India around the 13th and 14th centuries. The classical music was influenced by ancient Hindu musical traditions and Vedic philosophy. It is the most popular stream of Indian music.
Hindustani music is based on the raga system. The Raga is a melodic scale, comprising of notes from the basic seven which are Sa, Re, Ga, Ma Pa, Dha, and Ni, and the form is determined by the particular pattern of ascent and descent of the notes.
The Chhau dance is a popular form of tribal dance in India that incorporates elements of martial arts into its movements. Predominantly seen in the states of Odisha, West Bengal, and Jharkhand, this dance form is a unique spectacle.
This dance is usually performed during important ceremonies that have a strong religious significance, such as the Gajan Festival, weddings, and on the Sun Festival.
These dances are mostly performed on the floor with the audience sitting in a circle or a semi-circle around them to watch.
Garba is a dance form originated in Gujarat, performed during Navratri which is a 9-day festival of the Goddess Durga. It is also known as Garbi, Garbha or Garbha Deep. It is a joyful style of dance, based on a circular pattern and characterized by a sweeping action from side to side.
Garba dances celebrate fertility, honor womanhood, and pay respect to an array of mother goddesses. In Gujarat, the dances customarily mark a girl's first menstrual cycle and, later, her imminent marriage.
The Manganiyars are professional Muslim folk musicians belonging to Jaisalmer, Barmer, parts of Jalor, Bikaner, and Jodhpur districts in western Rajasthan. Since generations, they provide musical service to their patrons to receive cattle, camels, goats, or cash as a gift.
The music is an indispensable component of functions such as weddings, engagements, and births. Many songs are associated with planting and harvesting. In these activities, the villagers routinely sing about their hopes, fears, and aspirations.