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North India Dances
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Dances of North India

The classical dance is performed by the dancers as the highest form of worship. They dedicated themselves to Shiva, the dancing Nataraja and the supreme symbol of cosmic energy. There is also a myth that when Lord Shiva shook his hand drum, the world heard its first rhythm. As he moved his body with its beat, the universe came into being. Dance forms an intrinsic part of worship in the temples where the dancers offer the God the dance and music, being the most beautiful expression of the human spirit. The Indian classical dance subscribes to a rigorous code and depends upon the convenience of the body. But the origin of Indian dance has been lost in times. The four distinct classes of Indian Classical dances are Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Manipuri.

In the recent years, there has been a major change in the classical dances of India. Various experiments

North India Dances

have been done with the Indian dances to adapt them to modern ballets by great Indian and foreign artists. But, they have still remained close to their traditional classical form and do not generally attempt to portray contemporary themes. They are now performed in the various parts of India as well as in abroad, far from their places of their origin and attracts a large group of people. Some young people in the western countries have also started learning the techniques of Indian dances. Its excellent quality and rhythm have caught the imagination of the people.

Indian dance has also developed a rich classical tradition. It has become the medium of expression of emotions, of telling a story and of drama. The story of Indian dance can be seen in the temple sculptures of ancient and medieval times. The popular image of Shiva in the form of Nataraja symbolizes the influence this art form on the life of the Indian people. It received the patronage of emperors and kings as also of the common people. Some styles of classical dance that have evolved through the centuries are Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Manipuri. All these styles have developed over a long period of time. Practically every region and area in the country has also developed rich traditions of folk dances. The rich variety in music and dance forms, classical and folk, is a major component of India’s cultural heritage. Through their music and dance, North Indian people have expressed their joys and sorrows, their struggles and aspirations, and a myriad other emotions. While at work and during their hours of leisure, they have danced, sung and played music. These art forms have been inspired by life and in turn have enriched life.

Indian Classical Dances
In Indian dance, the Rasas or the aesthetic mood holds the central place. There are Nine rasas in the Indian Dances which are the Shringara Rasa or love, devotion, humour, pathos, heroism, fury, terror, disgust, wonder and peace. These dances of India are performed for more than 3,000 years. The various themes of the dances are the myth, legend and ancient literature with which it has been associated through its long history. The Natya Shashtra, India’s canonical treaty on dramaturgy was written in the 3rd century B.C. This Shastra is generally recognized as the most authoritative work on the subject. According to the Indian history, dance is a part of drama and the classical dancer is like a storyteller. For this purpose, the dancers use the hand gesture. A hastamudra or the hand gesture is used to convey a wide range of meanings like pearl, fragrance, a drop of water, silence, salvation, generosity, testing medicine, and calling the beloved. There are various mudras and there are various possibilities of expression through the different combinations. In the dance there is use of intricate patterns of rhythm which is evident in the footwork and is also emphasized by the jingling ankle-bells.


Kathaks were originally the storytellers who used dance to illustrate the 'Kathas' or stories. These dances were originally performed in the temples of North India, But as a result of Mughal rule in the 16th to 17th centuries, they went from the temple to the courts and have grown directly out of the ancient tradition of Indian dances. The Kathak dance has an elegance and sophistication that indicates the urban society in which it flourished. In this dance, the dancer’s feet take up the challenge

Kathak Dance North India

of the drums. Light footwork and ankle bells are accompanied by the beats on the table (drum) and the dancer brings out the most intricate patterns in the perfect time and rhythm. To the dancers it is the most natural medium of self-expression. There are two schools or Gharana of the the Kathak dance, which are the Jaipur Gharana, that focus on the Layakari or rhythmic wizardry and the Lucknow Gharana that focus on the Bhava or moods and emotions.

Folk Dances
The folk dances of India are very old, but the prestige associated with them is new. Now, these dances form the most colourful part of India’s Republic Day parade. These dances have now travelled from rural to urban areas. The dancers from the Himalayan regions sway and bend and thus recreate the vast and undulating ranges of the Himalayas. The agitated movements and abrupt changes of posture with the rhythms in the folk dances of Assam signify violent storms and the uprooting of trees. The tense and watchful attitudes in the dances of the Nagas and the Gonds tribes denote the perils of the jungle. The dances of the fishermen of Bombay suggest the roaring, mounting waves of the sea. The folk dances of the people in North India impart a sense of peace and harmony.


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