Influence of dance and music in Ramayana
PERFORMER: A dancer on a modern stage.
DANCE: Dance and Music form an integral part of the life of the
people of India and Sri Lanka from ancient times. Dance and Music
influenced the life, customs, tradition and day-to-day life of the two
countries. This influence could be seen and traced from Ramayana period.
People danced during the time of sorrow and happiness.
Ramayana clearly indicates that a variety of Dance forms prevailed
and practised in Sri Lanka and India during those times. Evidence could
be seen in India and Sri Lanka. For instance, Sithavaka ad Asoka Vana in
Sri Lanka, Ramar Bridge under Sethu Samuthra and Rameshwaram Temple in
India are some of the historical evidence which could be seen in both
According to the historical evidence, due respect was given to
dancers and musicians. Dancers and Musicians were called Ganikas, their
artistic skills and talents were well respected and honoured in society.
In Ramayana the chapters were called Kandas. Most important Kandas
relating to Dance and Music mentioned in Ramayana were, Ayodhyaa Kanda,
Sundra Kanda and Kiskindhakanda. Apsaras, the divine dancers of Devaloka
dominated the entire scene of Ramayana. During the auspicious
ceremonies. Raja Abisheka, Coronation and in Royal Courts these divine
dancers danced. And later the court dancers were known as Raja Dasis.
The court dance teachers were named as Sailusha.
In Lord Rama's Kingdom Ayodya the roads could be referred to as
Nataka Saalai. The words such as Nartaka, Nata and Ganika could be seen
in Ramayana. Ganika in Ramayana refers to professional Musicians and
Dancers. The term Nata means the professional actors and the term
Nartaka denotes the professional dancers.
The term Lasya was used during those times. Lasya meant the Nirtha
section of the dance. During that period there were altogether six Rasas
in use. The foot bells were called either Nupura or Kinkini. Even today
the same terms are used in dance.
Even today the world Laya is in use. Laya means the balancing between
the rhythm and tempo. That term was in use even during the Ramayana
period. Variety of dance forms were in use. Some were folk traditions
and some were classical traditions.
Whatever it is all dance forms were based on Tala, Laya and Kala
(speed variation). Thala Laya instrument players during the Ramayana
period were called Pannivadaka. There are some references regarding how
the trees, plants, animals and birds enjoyed the dance and music. This
could be seen in the Kiskindhakanda. This is proved scientifically.
In the kingdom of Ravana, music and dance were held in high esteem.
In Ravana's palace permanent court musicians and dancers were employed.
During those days musicians meant not only the vocalists, but also the
They were also held in high esteem. String instruments, like Vipanchi
and Natya Salini, (almost like Veena) were in use. Besides these some of
the names of the air instruments like flute were also mentioned in the
ancient epic. Even the queens of Ravana were well versed in dance and
music. Bhava and Rasas were in use in their dances. Even the very
technical words such as Angahara were in use during the Ravana's regime.
Ravana himself was a great musican and veena player. By his
exceptional musical talent he influenced Lord Siva. According to
ramayana, Ravana was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva who was impressed by
his musical talent presented him a sword named 'Chandra Has'.
Even in the epic Rakshasis of his kingdom performed the Goddess
Kali's dances and Bathra Kali's dances to frighten Sitha during her
Dance and Music were practised and preserved as a part of life of the
Ramayana era. But these dances may not be in a very polished form.