The Need of a Shaastric Framework for Indian Dance – 5

We had an overview of Bharata Muni’s Naatyashaastra in the previous article. We picked only one shloka from the 6000 that Bharata has written and analyzed its meaning. We have seen that just like all other art forms, dance too is governed by techniques as laid down by the shaastra. We also discussed the advantage of relying on shaastra and on classical heritage.

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The Need of a Shaastric Framework for Indian Dance – 4

We shall have a look at Indian dance from the perspective of shaastra and heritage (sampradaaya).

Indian dance, just like other art forms and knowledge systems of India, is idealized. It mainly shows us how things ought to be and not how they currently are or how they appear to be. In other words, it helps us look at nature from the perspective of culture. Bharata Muni speaks of this at the beginning of the Naatyashaastra (1.107 to 1.123)

The Need of a Shaastric Framework for Indian Dance – 3

Shaastra is inevitable for the learning of any art form. However, it is also true that it is almost impossible to ‘teach’ an art. Any learning that can develop only through experience cannot be ‘taught’ using external means.  This can be better appreciated when seen from the perspective of Vedanta and Brahmaanubhava (the experience of the Brahman – the non-dual entity, Bliss in essence).

The Need of a Shaastric Framework for Indian Dance – 2

Change is of two kinds – external and internal. Only when there is a harmonious balance between external and internal changes, activities associated with it can have a smooth flow. If one changes at a rate much higher than the other and if the two lose sync with each other, the whole system will face the danger of failure. Harmony will be lost and will lead to chaos. In most cases, such accelerated changes occur only on the external parameters, i.e., those related to the structure (form). The internal change is usually slow, steady and controlled.

The Need of a Shaastric Framework for Indian Dance - 1

The word ‘Shaastra’ means ‘to rule’ or ‘to govern’ and is derived from the root ‘शासु-अनुशिष्टौ’. ‘To govern’ means to protect like a king, and to keep everything that comes within his purview under control. However, this does not mean that shaastra is dictatorial, rigid and restrictive. Just like a forest protects a lion and the lion in turn protects the forest (popularly known as ‘vana-simha-nyaaya’), the shaastra and all the aspects that come under its purview mutually safeguard each other.

Raagaanuraaga – Part 2

Evolution of Raaga


Raagas have changed and even transformed with respect to the definition given by Bharatamuni. Of course, it is only natural for perspective of arts to change with times. The most ancient forms of music that we can trace goes back to the Vedas. We can experience the early forms in folk, tribal music as well as  in some theatrical music such as in yakshagaana or sopaanam. Apart from this, musicologists like Shrangadeva, PandarikaVitthala have theorized and described in detail the lakshana(characteristics) in their works.

The Cacophony of Art Therapy

Of late, echoes of a certain something called "Art Therapy" has been resonating throughout our land. More specifically, there has been an increase in the number of self-proclaimed "Art Therapists" strutting around with claims that they can cure a wide variety of diseases using music, dance, painting and poetry. They occupy the line already populated by that class of people who've anointed themselves as Sanyasis-Babas and Gurujis.

Raagaanuraaga - Part 1

The etymology of the word ‘Raaga’:

The word raaga has many meanings. Raaga means love, color (referring to red in particular), emotion, bliss, comfort, beauty, pathos , passion, attraction etc., In common parlance, however, raaga is understood as the essence of a song/music. Now what does the etymology of the word say? 'रञ्जनाद्रागः'- It means one that entertains.

Yakshagana and allied art forms - Part III

Vaachikaabhinaya (vocal communication – through words) is of two kinds – songs/ poems set to a rhythmic cycle (taala) and prose. Kuchupudi, Bhagavatamela and Kathakali have completely adopted Carnatic classical music today. This is even more prominent in Melattur Bhagavatamela. Kuchupdi has retained some special features of the Natya-sangeetha of Andhra. One can observe traces of Sopaana-Sangeetha in Kathakali, but it does not have the regional flavor that the music used in Krishnanaattam has.