NATYA SHASTRA: An Introduction

Author: Mrs. Nandini

About Her:

Mrs. Nandini is a dance lover and teacher. She teaches multiple dance forms and is a certified Zumba instructor as well. She was my team instructor for an annual program of one of my company I have worked in.

About his article:

In this article you can find her profound love and respect to all Indian Dance forms and culture. She introduces Natya Shastra in this articles to us.

The Article:

Dance is a rhythmic movement of body on music to express thoughts and feelings. Dance is like talking without uttering words with your facial expressions.

Dance has been an important part of ceremonyritualscelebrations and entertainment since before the birth of the earliest human civilizationsArchaeology delivers traces of dance from prehistoric times such as the 9000-year-old Bhimbetka rock shelters paintings in India and Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from c. 3300 BC.

An early manuscript describing dance is the Natya Shastra on which is based the modern interpretation of classical Indian dance (e.g. Bharatanatyam).

During the reign of the last Mughals and Nawabs of Oudh dance fell down to the status of ‘nautch‘, an unethical sensuous thing of courtesans.

Origin of Indian Dance:

Brahma wrote a thesis on Natya Veda known as Natyashastra. It contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the hand formations and their meanings, the kind of emotions and their classifications. Thus, all the forms of Indian classical dances owe faithfulness to Natyashastra which is often regarded as the fifth Veda.

In India there are 29 traditional dance forms and 12 classical dance forms.

Traditional Dance Forms –

Andhra Natyam (art dance of Andhra Pradesh & TelanganaSouth India)

Bagurumba (folk dance of AssamNorth India)

Bhangra (Folk Dance of PunjabNorth India)

Bihu dance (Folk dance of AssamEast India)

Bathukamma (Folk dance of TelanganaSouth India)

Dandiya (Folk dance of GujaratWest India)

Dhemsa (Tribal dance of KoraputOdisha)

Dollu Kunitha (Folk Dance Of Karnataka, India)

Garba (Folk dance of GujaratWest India)

Giddha (folk dance of Punjab North India)

Lavani (folk dance of Maharashtra North India)

Ghoomar (folk dance of Rajasthan West India)

Kathakali (KeralaIndia, Incorporates dance)

Kerala Natanam (Indian Dance created by Guru Gopinath)


Kolattam (folk Tamil Nadu)

Karakattam (folk Tamil Nadu)

Thirayattam (Folk Dance, Kerala)

Kanyarkali (Folk Dance,Kerala

Nautanki (dance form of Uttar Pradesh)

oyilattam aka oyilattam (MaduraiTamil Nadu)

Panthi (folk dance of Chhattisgarh, India)

Puliyattam (folk dance of Tamil Nadu, India)

Perini shiva thandavam (dance form of Telangana)

Raut Nacha (Folk dance of Chhattisgarh, India)

Sambalpuri (dance from Odisha)

Sattriya ( semi-classical dance form )

Vilasini Natyam (art dance of Andhra PradeshSouth India)

Yakshagana (Karnataka)


Indian Classical Dances –        

Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu)

Chhau (Orrisa, West Bengal, Jharkhand)

Gaudiya Nritya (West Bengal)

Katthak (U.P.)

Kathakali (Kerala)

Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)

Manipuri (Manipur)

Mohiniyattam (Kerala)

Odishi (Odisha)

Sattriya (Assam)

Ghoomer (Rajasthan)

Thang Ta (Manipuir)

Indian classical dance is an umbrella term for various codified art forms rooted in sacred Hindu musical theatre styles whose theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni (400 BCE).

The term “classical” (Sanskrit: “Shastriya”) was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. Classical dance performances usually feature a story. The dance is traditionally presented in a dramatic manner called ‘Nritta’, which uses “clean” facial expressions and ‘mudrā’, or hand gestures, to narrate the story and to demonstrate concepts such as particular objects, weather, aspects of nature and emotions. Classical Indian dance is also known as NatyaNatya includes singing and abhinaya (mime acting).

The Natya Shastra, written by Bharata Muni, does not mention the name of any classical dance forms recognised today, but listed the four Pravrittis as Dakshinatya, Audramagadhi, Avanti and Panchali.

BharatanatyamKuchipudi, and Mohiniyattam evolved from the Pravritti form called Dakshinatya.

Of the recognised dance forms, the only two temple dance styles that have their origin in Natya Shastra and are prescribed by the Agamas are Bharata Natyam and Odissi. Currently, Sangeet Natak Akademi does not consider the recently reconstructed dance styles of Andhra Pradesh, such as Andhra Natyam and Vilasini Natyam, as “classical.”



Please like and share this article if you find it interesting or if you just like Dancing (Indian or Western). 

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