Dance in Hinduism
In Hinduism beautiful Hindu epics are available. Ramayana and Maha
Bharatha are two important and outstanding epics. These epics are still
used in dance drama. Some extractions from these epics are taken up for
the classical dance forms. These dance forms play an important role in
South East Asian dances. South East Asian dances are mainly influenced
by Hindu epics Ramayana and Maha Bharatha. Both these epics are based on
* Ramayana and Maha Bharatha are used in dance drama
* Various epics of Shiva are used for classical dance
* Divine dancers dominated dance scenes
*Ganesha is referred to as ‘Narthana Ganapathy’
* Gantharvars are well versed in music
Besides, various epics on Lord Shiva are used for the classical dance
items such as Padams, Keerthanams, Sabthams, Varnams, Solokams,
Viruthams and Thillanas. All these items are based on different themes
in different epics.
In all epics the apsaras (the divine dancers) from heaven dominated
the dance scenes. There are even numerous references about Lord Shiva
and his 108 Thandavas. In Hinduism Lord Shiva is called as Koothapiraan,
Aadavallaan, Kootharasan, Thaandavamoorthy, Nataraja, Aadumtheivam,
Ampalakoothan and Narthana Nadesan. These are some terms used in epics
to refer to Lord Shiva. All these above said terms are related to dance.
Today many dancers in all classical and folk dances adopt beautiful epic
themes for their dances. These epics are based on various gods.
Similarly even Lord Ganesha was once referred to as ‘Narthana
Ganapathy’. Numerous beautiful references are seen about Lord Krishna’s
dances with Radha and Gopis. In classical dances such as Bharatha
Natyam, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchupidi, and Mohini Aattam beautiful and
attractive dance poses are adopted to depict Lord Krishna’s dance
themes. There are a lot of references about Goddess Kaali’s dances in
different epics, puranic and ithikaasa stories.
Most popular epics in Hinduism are Ramayana and Maha Bharatha. Both
provide a wealth of information about dance and music in earlier times.
According to Maha Bharatha ‘Gantharva’ dancers entertained the people in
the royal courts.
These ‘Gantharvars’ were well versed in music, dance and chanting.
Further there is a reference in Mahabharata that Arjuna also learnt
music and dance. Arjuna learnt Geetham, (music), Vaathya, (instrument)
and Nrithiya (dance). During the Mahabharata era dance and music were
imparted to princesses in the palaces.
In ancient times well defined rules and regulations were adopted for
systematic training. It was believed that dancing was an important
training for young girls. For this purpose, a particular hall was built.
That hall was named Natanasala or Nirthyasala. This was not only used
for performances, but also for training dance as well as for dance
practice. Even the dancers were divided into three different categories.
They were divine dancers, professional dancers and totally dedicated
dancers without getting any benefits.
According to Mahabharatha most characters were involved in dancing,
including Sage Narada, Baladeva, Krishna and their companions. Further
numerous evidences could be found that dance was performed in different
occasions. For instance Balarama and Krishna joined in the dance of
Revathi and Sathiyabhama.
Hallisha means the circular dance formation by the Gopis while they
dance and Raasa is another dance which prevailed in those days. In this
dance women danced with one male. There is an evidence that dance took
place mainly on the full moon days of autumn.
Hence numerous references about dance are scattered throughout the
Hindu epics: religious, devotional and Tamil literatures.