Classical Dance- Part II

Kathakali

  • Kathakali, as a dance form popular today in Kerala, is considered to be of comparatively recent origin.
    • However, it is an art which has evolved from many social and religious theatrical forms which existed in the southern region in ancient times.
    • Chakiarkoothu, Koodiyattam, Krishnattam and Ramanattam are few of the ritual performing arts of Kerala which have had a direct influence on Kathakali in its form and technique.
    • Legend has it that the refusal of the Zamorin of Calicut to send his Krishnattam troupe to Travancore, so enraged the Raja of Kottarakkara, that he was inspired to compose the Ramanattam.
    • In the temple sculptures in Kerala and the frescoes in the Mattancheri temple of approximately the 16th century, dance scenes depicting the square and rectangular basic positions so typical to Kathakali are seen.
    • For body movements and choreographical patterns, Kathakali is also indebted to the early martial arts of Kerala.
  • ‘Katha’= Story or tale, ‘Kali’= Performance and Art.
  • Kathakali has similarities with other dance forms like that of the Japanese ‘ Noh’ and ‘Kabuki’ dance forms have similarities with Kathakali.
  • Kathakali is a blend of dance, music and acting and dramatizes stories, which are mostly adapted from the Indian epics.
    • It is a stylised art form, the four aspects of abhinaya – angika, aharya, vachika, satvika and the nritta, nritya and natya aspects are combined perfectly.
    • The dancer expresses himself through codified hastamudras and facial expressions, closely following the verses (padams) that are sung.
    • Kathakali derives its textual sanction from Balarama Bharatam and Hastalakshana Deepika.
  • The attakkathasor stories are selected from the epics and myths and are written in a highly Sanskritised verse form in Malayalam. Many Malayalam writers have also contributed to the vast repertoire of Kathakali literature.
  • Kathakali is a visual art where aharya, costume and make-up are suited to the characters, as per the tenets laid down in the Natya Shastra.
    • The characters are grouped under certain clearly defined types like the pacha, kathi, thadi, kari or minukku.
    • The face of the artist is painted over to appear as though a mask is worn.
    • The lips, the eyelashes and the eyebrows are made to look prominent.
    • A mixture of rice paste and lime is applied to make the chutti on the face which highlights the facial make-up.
    • Kathakali dance is chiefly interpretative. The characters in a Kathakali performance are broadly divided into satvika, rajasika and tamasika types.
      • Satvika characters are noble, heroic, generous and refined.
    • In pacha, green colour dominates and kirita (headgear) is worn by all.
    • Krishna and Rama wear special crowns decorated with peacock feathers.
    • The noble characters like Indra, Arjun and the Devas are some of the pacha characters.
    • The kathi type depict anti-heroes.
      • Though they are of the rajasika category, they are sometimes great warriors and scholars such as Ravana, Kamsa and Sisupala to name a few.
      • The moustache and the small knob called chuttippu fixed on “the tip of the nose and another in the centre of the forehead, is peculiar to the kathi character.
    • The characters of the thadi (beard) category are the chuvanna thadi, (red beard), vellathadi (white beard) and the karutha thadi (black beard).
      • Vellathadi or the white bearded character is generally that of Hanuman, the dancer also wears the costume of a monkey.
    • Kari are characters whose make-up have a black base, they wear black costume depicting a hunter or forest dweller.
    • Apart from these, there are minor characters like minukku which are the women and sages.
  • Kathakali costumes and make-up are elaborate and designed so as to give a super human effect.
    • The make-up of Kathakali can be classified into the teppu, chuttikuthu and uduthukettu.
    • The teppud done by the actor himself. Each character has a distinct teppu.
    • The second stage is done by experts who specialise in make-up.
    • The wearing of huge bellowing skirts is called uduthukettu.
  • A simple stage is used. A large oil-fed lamp is placed in front of the stage and two people hold a curtain called Tirasseela on the stage, the main dancers stand behind it before the performance.
  • In no other dance style is the entire body used so completely as in Kathakali.
    • The technical details cover every part of the body from facial muscles to fingers, eyes, hands and wrists.
    • The facial muscles play an important part.
    • The movement of the eyebrows, the eye-balls and the lower eye-lids as described in the Natya Shastra are not used to such an extent in any other dance style.
    • The weight of the body is on the outer edges of the feet which are slightly bent and curved.
  • Kalasams are pure dance sequences where the actor is at great liberty to express himself and display his skills.
  • A Kathakali performance begins with the kelikottu, calling the audience to attention followed by the todayam. It is a devotional number performed where one or two characters invoke the blessings of the gods.
    • Kelikottu is the formal announcement of the performance done in the evening when drums and cymbals are played for a while in the courtyard.
    • A pure nritta piece known as the purappadu comes as a sequel to this.
    • Then the musicians and drummers hold the stage entertaining the audience with an exhibition of their skills in melappada.
    • Tiranokku is the debut on the stage of all characters other than the pacha or minukku.
    • Thereafter, the play or the particular scene of the chosen play begins.
  • Kathakali music follows the traditional sopana sangeet of Kerala.
    • It is said to be the ritual singing of the Ashtapadis on the flight of steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum.
    • Now, Kathakali music also uses Carnatic ragas-the raga and tala conforming to the bhava, rasa and dance patterns (nritta and natya).
  • The orchestra which is also used in other traditional performing arts of Kerala, normally comprises the Chenda, Maddalam, Chengila, Ilathalam, Idakka and Shankhu.
    • Ilakiattam is that part of the performance when the characters get an opportunity to demonstrate their excellence in abhinaya.
    • For the most part of the performance the dancers engage themselves in chodiattam which means acting in strict conformity to the words in the padams sung by the accompanying musicians.
  • Themes
    • Mythological themes include Ramayan, Mahabharat, Bhagvat Purana, etc.
    • Also modern day Kathakali dancers present stories and plays of Shakespeare.
  • Makeup
    • According to the role of the dancer, his face is colored/painted.
    • The colors are made in rice paste with vegetable colors and applied on the face.
    • The Green for Noble characters.
    • Tati (Red) for evil like Ravana.
    • Kari (black) for hunters and monsters.
    • Yellow for women etc.
  • Famous artists
    • Kalamandalam Krishna Prasad.
    • Kalamandalam Kesavan Namboodiri.
    • Kalamandalam Gopi etc.

Mohiniattam

  • Mohiniyattam literally interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the celestial enchantress of the Hindu mythology, is the classical solo dance form of Kerala.
  • According to a Puranic story, Lord Vishnu took on the guise of a ‘Mohini’ to seduce the Asuras.
  • The delicate body movements and subtle facial expressions are more feminine in nature and therefore are ideally suited for performance by women.
  • References of Mohiniyattam can be found in the texts Vyavaharamala written in 1709 by Mazhamagalam Narayanan Namputiri and in Ghoshayatra, written later by great poet Kunjan Nambiar.
  • This dance form of Kerala was structured into the present day classical format by the Travancore Kings, Maharaja Kartika Tirunal and his successor Maharaja Swati Tirunal (18th -19th century C.E.).
  • Mohiniyattam traces its origin to the temples of Kerala.
    • There are evidences to prove the existence of a community of female temple dancers who assisted the temple rituals by adding expressive gestures to the mantras chanted by the temple priests.
    • The dancers were called by different names during different periods of time. They were called as Tai Nangai or Nangachi (one with beautiful hand), Dasi (servant), Tevitichi or Deva-Adi-Achi (the one who served at the feet of the Lord), Koothachi (who performed koothu or dance).
    • Their dances were known as ‘Nangai Natakam, Dasiyattam, Tevitichiyattam, etc.
    • The Nangiars, who are the women folk of Nambiar community, still follow a strict code of dance, performed in a small performing space, within the temple precincts, as practised in the olden times.
  • Some scholars opine that around 19th century C.E, the Perumaals, rulers from Tamilnadu, ruled the Chera Empire, with their capital in Tiruvanchikulam (presently Kodungallur, Kerala).
    • These rulers brought along with them fine dancers who were settled in temples that were constructed in different parts of the capital.
    • Their dance was called as ‘Dasiyattam’.
    • The existence of Dasiyattam is further corroborated in the epic ‘Cilappatikaram’, written by the Chera Prince Illango Adikkalin 2nd-5th century C.E.
    • With the fall of the Chera Empire or the Perumal regime and the subsequent socio-economic changes, these Dasis were forced to come out of the temple precincts.
    • Few united with the Nangiars, who lived and performed in the temples of other regions of Kerala and enhanced the Nangiar Koothu.
    • There were the others who entertained the rich feudal chiefs and warlords.
    • This caused a serious degradation of Dasiyattam which led to its downfall and final eclipse.
  • Dasiyattam was revived with the able efforts of the Tanjore Quartets (Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Sivananda and Vadivelu).
    • They were the Nattuvanars (the dance teachers) who also structured the present day Bharatanatyam.
    • One of the Tanjore brothers ‘Vadivelu’ along with a Devadasi ‘Sugandhavalli’ found refuge in the court of Maharaja Swati Tirunal.
    • Swati Tirunal, who ascended the throne when he was barely 16 years old in 1829, promoted all fine arts, particularly music and dancing.
    • During his reign there was a flow of artists and scholars from all parts of India to Travancore, the region of the Kerala Maharajas.
    • It was during that time, Swati along with his court musicians was engaged in developing Mohiniyattam.
    • Vadivelu structured Mohiniyattam with a proper repertoire that included
      • Chollukettu (the first invocatory item in Mohiniyattam),
      • Jatiswaram,
      • Padavarnam,
      • Padam and
      • Tillana.
    • The dance was then performed by the Devadasi Sugandhavalli.
    • Swati himself composed Padams in Malayalam, Telugu and Sanskrit which dancers eagerly embraced.
  • However, the early and untimely demise of this royal patron marked the beginning of another dark period for this dance, primarily because of the lack of royal patronage by the succeeding King.
    • Mohiniyattam got a new lease of life with the arduous efforts of Mahakavi Vallatol, a poet laureate of Kerala and Mukundaraja, another connoisseur of art.
    • The poet succeeded in giving it the dignity of a distinct classical solo style.
    • In 1930, Vallatol established the Kerala Kalamandalam, a pioneer institute for imparting training in art forms of Kerala with Nattuvanar, Guru Krishna Panikker and Kalyani Amma, as the first regular teachers of Mohiniyattam.
    • Their disciples Thankamani Gopinath, Chinnamu Amma and Kalyani Kutty Amma, became the torch bearers of this enchanting dance style.
    • The teaching methodology adopted movements that had the refined features of the dance while deleting the obscene and indecorous movements.
  • Salient Features of Mohiniyattam Dance
    • Mohiniyattam is characterized by graceful, swaying body movements with no abrupt jerks or sudden leaps.
    • It belongs to the lasya style which is feminine, tender and graceful.
    • The movements are emphasized by the glides and the up and down movement on toes, like the waves of the sea and the swaying of the coconut, palm trees and the paddy fields.
    • Importance is given to the hand gestures and Mukhabhinaya with subtle facial expressions.
    • Movements have been borrowed from Nangiar Koothu and female folk dances Kaikottikali and the Tiruvatirakali.
    • Nritta in Tripataka mudra Mohiniyattam lays emphasis on acting.
    • The dancer identifies herself with the character and sentiments existing in the compositions like the Padams and Pada Varnams which give ample opportunity for facial expressions.
    • The hand gestures, 24 in number, are mainly adopted from Hastalakshana Deepika, a text followed by Kathakali.
      • Few are also borrowed from Natya Shastra, Abhinaya Darpana and Balarambharatam.
    • The gestures and facial expressions are closer to the natural (gramya) and the realistic (lokadharmi) than to the dramatic or rigidly conventional (natyadharmi).
    • The traditional repertoire includes Chollukettu, Jatiswaram, Padavarnam, Padam, Tillana and Slokam.
    • Besides these Pandattam and Omanatinkal (lullaby), introduced by Vallatol are also popular and are often included in a recital.
    • Most of the compositions included in the repertoire have been composed by Swati Tirunal which emphasizes the Sahitya Bhava i.e. the literary content.
  • Costumes
    • Mohiniyattam has a unique White/Off-White Costume.
    • the prominent one-sided hairstyle (bun) also called as ‘Kuduma’.
    • Adorable ornaments make it unique.
  • Sequence of Mohiniyattam
    • Invocation.
    • Jatiswaram.
    • Varnam.
    • Shlokam.
    • Shabdam
    • Padam.
    • Tillana.
  • Revival
    • In 1930, Nationalist Malayalam poet Vallathol Narayan Menon helped to repeal the ban on temple dancing in Kerala as well as established the Kerala Kalmandalam dance school and gave encouragement for its training and practice.
    • Mukundraj, Krishna Panicker, Thankamony as well as Guru and Dancer Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma gave their heroic contribution in reviving the traditional art form.

Manipuri

  • Manipuri, one of the main styles of Indian Art or Classical Dances originated in the picturesque and secluded state of Manipur in the north-eastern.
  • Because of its geographical location, the people of Manipur have been protected from outside influences, and this region has been able to retain its unique traditional culture.
  • The origin of Manipuri dance can be traced back to ancient times that go beyond recorded history.
    • The dance in Manipur is associated with rituals and traditional festivals, there are legendary references to the dances of Shiva and Parvati and other gods and goddesses who created the universe.
  • Lai Haraoba is one of the main festivals still performed in Manipur which has its roots in the pre-Vaishnavite period.
    • Lai Haraoba is the earliest form of dance which forms the basis of all stylised dances in Manipur.
    • Literally meaning – the merrymaking of the gods, it is performed as a ceremonial offering of song and dance.
    • The principal performers are the maibas and maibis (priests and priestesses) who re-enact the theme of the creation of the world.
  • With the arrival of Vaishnavism in the 15th century A.D., new compositions based on episodes from the life of Radha and Krishna were gradually introduced.
    • It was in the reign of King Bhagyachandra that the popular Rasleela dances of Manipur originated.
  • Manipur dance has a large repertoire, however, the most popular forms are the Ras, the Sankirtana and the Thang-Ta. There are five principal Ras dances of which four are linked with specific seasons, while the fifth can be presented at any time of the year.
  • In Manipuri Ras, the main characters are Radha, Krishna and the gopis.
    • Radha and Krishna The themes often depict the pangs of separation of the gopis and Radha from Krishna.
    • The parengs or pure dance sequences performed in the Rasleela dances follow the specific rhythmic patterns and body movements.
    • The Ras costume consists of a richly embroidered stiff skirt which extends to the feet. A short fine white muslin skirt is worn over it.
    • A dark coloured velvet blouse covers the upper part of the body and a traditional white veil is worn over a special hair-do.
    • Krishna wears a yellow dhoti, a dark velvet jacket and a crown of peacock feathers.
    • The jewellery is very delicate and the designs are unique to the region.
  • The Kirtan form of congregational singing accompanies the dance which is known as Sankirtana in Manipur.
    • The male dancers play the Pung and Kartal while dancing.
    • The masculine aspect of dance – the Choloms are a part of the Sankirtana tradition.
    • The Pung and Kartal choloms are performed at all social and religious festivals.
  • The martial dancers of Manipur – the Thang-ta – have their origins in the days when man’s survival depended on his ability to defend himself from wild animals.
    • Today, Manipur has an evolved and sophisticated repertoire of martial dances, the dancers use swords, spears and shields.
    • Real fight scenes between the dancers show an extensive training and control of the body.
  • Manipuri dance incorporates both the tandava and lasya and ranges from the most vigorous masculine to the subdued and graceful feminine.
    • Generally known for its lyrical and graceful movements, Manipuri dance has an elusive quality.
    • In keeping with the subtleness of the style, Manipuri abhinaya does not play up the mukhabhinaya very much – the facial expressions are natural and not exaggerated -sarvangabhinaya, or the use of the whole body to convey a certain rasa, is its forte.
    • The dancers do not wear ankle bells to stamp out the rhythms in a theatrical display, as this interferes with the delicate body movements.
    • However, Manipuri dance and music has a highly evolved tala system.
  • The Manipuri classical style of singing is called Nat – very different from both north and south Indian music, this style is immediately recognizable with its high pitched open throated.
  • The main musical instrument is the Pung or the Manipuri classical drum. There are also many other kinds of drums used in Manipuri dance and music.
    • The Pena, a stringed instrument is used in Lai Haraoba and Pena singing.
    • Various kinds of cymbals are used in Sankirtana and Ras.
    • The flute is also used to accompany vocal singing.
  • The Ashtapadis of Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda are very popular and are sung and danced in Manipur with great religious fervour.
  • Besides the Ras and other leelas, each stage in one’s life is celebrated with Sankirtana performances – child birth, upanayanam, wedding and shradha are all occasions for singing and dancing in Manipur.
  • Themes
    • Mostly influenced by Hindu Vaishnavism themes.
    • It also includes themes related to Shaivism and Shaktism and regional deities.
    • Tandav Manipuri depicts themes of Shiv, Shakti or Krishna as warrior.
    • Lasya theme includes Love inspired stories of Radha-Krishna.
  • Manipuri Raslila: Three styles
    • Tal Rasak: It is accompanied by clapping.
    • Danda Rasak: The synchronous beat of two sticks where dancers position creates geometric patterns.
    • Mandal Rasak: The Gopis make a circle while Krishna attains the center.
  • Different types of Manipuri Dance Styles
    • Raas.
    • Nata-Sankirtan.
    • Pung Cholam.
    • Dhola Cholam.
    • Kartal Cholam.
    • Thang ta (a Martial art of Manipuri) etc.
  • Music and instruments
    • The expressions used in Manipuri are from the poetry of Jayadev, Vidyapti, Chandidas, Govindadas and Gyandas that may be in Sanskrit, Maithili, Brij or any other language.
    • Pung (A barrel Drum ) and small kartals (Cymbals) are employed in dance
    • Other instruments include Sembong, Harmonium, Pena (String Instrument), Flute(Wind Instrument), Esraj and Shankh (conch).
  • The costumes of Manipuri dance
    • The female dancers wear decorative barrel-shaped drum like long stiff skirt till bottom with decorative embellishments. Dark colored velvet blouse covers the upper part of the body and a traditional veil is worn over hair that falls gracefully over the face.
    • The male dancers adorn themselves with dhoti kurta white turban, a folded shawl over the left shoulder and the drum strap over the right shoulder.
    • The costume for the character of Lord Krishna is Yellow dhoti, dark velvet jacket, and crown of peacock feathers.
  • Manipuri dancers
    • Guru Bipin Sinha.
    • Nirmala Mehta.
    • Savita Mehta.
    • Yumlembam Gambhini Devi.
    • Darshana Jhaveri .

Sattriya

  • The Sattriya dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahapurusha Sankaradeva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaishnava faith.
  • The dance form evolved and expanded as a distinctive style of dance later on.
  • This neo-Vaishnava treasure of Assamese dance and drama has been, for centuries, nurtured and preserved with great commitment by the Sattras i.e. Vaishnava maths or monasteries.
    • Because of its religious character and association with the Sattras, this dance style has been aptly named Sattriya.
  • Sankaradeva introduced this dance form by incorporating different elements from various treatises, local folk dances with his own rare outlook.
    • There were two dance forms prevalent in Assam before the neo-Vaishnava movement such as Ojapali and Devadasi with many classical elements.
    • Ojapali:
      • Two varieties of Ojapali dances are still prevalent in Assam i.e. Sukananni or Maroi Goa Ojah and Vyah Goa Ojah.
      • Sukananni Oja paali is of Sakti cult and Vyah Goa Oja paali is of Vaishnava cult.
      • Sankaradeva included Vyah Goa Ojah into his daily rituals in Sattra. Till now Vyah Goa Ojah is a part of rituals of the Sattras of Assam.
      • The dancers in a Oja paali chorus not only sing and dance but also explain the narration by gestures and stylized movements.
    • Devadasi:
      • As far as Devadasi dance is concerned, resemblance of a good number of rhythmic syllables and dance postures along with footwork with Sattriya dance is a clear indication of the influence of the former on the latter.
    • Other visible influences on Sattriya dance are those from Assamese folk dances namely Bihu, Bodos etc.
      • Many hand gestures and rhythmic syllables are strikingly similar in these dance forms.
  • Sattriya dance tradition is governed by strictly laid down principles in respect of hastamudras, footworks, aharyas, music etc.
  • This tradition, has two distinctly separate streams – the Bhaona-related repertoire starting from the Gayan-Bhayanar Nach to the Kharmanar Nach, secondly the dance numbers which are independent, such as Chali, Rajagharia Chali, Jhumura, Nadu Bhangi etc.
    • Chali is characterized by gracefulness and elegance, while the Jhumura is marked by vigor and majestic beauty.
  • Themes and styles
    • The themes performed are mostly on Radha-Krishna and other myths.
    • Dramas written by Sankardev are typically presented.
    • Sattriya performance integrated two styles: One Masculine (Paurashik Bhangi — energetic and with jumps) and Feminine (Stri Bhangi—Lasya or delicate).
    • Both male and female perform this beautiful, expressive dance openly on the modern platform.
  • Costumes
    • Male—Dhoti, chadar, paguri (turban).
    • Female—Ghuri, chadar, Kanchi (waist cloth) made up of materials manufactured in Assam.
    • The play and Character specific costumes are also seen in Sattriya.
    • Masks are used for special characters (like demons) sometimes.
    • Traditional Assamese jewelry is employed.
  • Music and instruments
    • Borgeet of Sankardev and Madhavdev.
    • Khol (two faced asymmetrical drum).
    • Cymbals- Manjira Bhortal.
    • Flute, Violin, Harmonium etc.
  • Revival
    • Conventionally, it was only performed by ‘Bhokots’/Monks’ as a part of their daily rituals not before the idol but before the copy of Bhagvat Purana placed in the eastern corner of dance community hall (namghar).
    • After the second half of the 20th century, this dance form moved from the den of Assam’s Monasteries to the modern day stage.
    • Sattriya received patronage outside Assam and Outside India too.
    • Sattriya Kendra Guwahati is a constituent body of Sangeet Natak Akademi established for preserving, promoting and providing training to young aspirants of Sattriya.
    • Today Sattriya performances are a part of Major Dance Festivals in India and Abroad.
  • Famous Artists
    • Guru Indira P.P Bora.
    • Late Pradip Chaliha.
    • Jatin Goswami.
    • Anita Sarma etc.

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