Males in Indian Classical dances | Daily News

Males in Indian Classical dances

The role of males in Indian classical dance forms is tremendous. In many Indian classical dance forms like Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Bhagavatha Mela, were only performed by the male dancers in ancient times. During later years, the females started participating in all the classical dance forms, except in Bhagavatha Mela and Kathakali.

Kuchipudi is a classical dance of Telugu Desha, based on drama. Earlier, the male dancers, dressed, as female dancers, and danced, but later females started playing an important role in Kuchipudi. Today Kuchipudi is the classical dance form of Andhra Pradesh, and female dancers are the main participants.

Oral conversation

The Bhagavatha Mela is another Indian classical dance form that has close links with Kuchipudi. Like Kuchipidi, this is also a drama based dance, that’s why it is considered as dance drama. Like in Kuchipudi, oral conversation, takes place, between the dancers and the musicians. Bhagavatha Mela dance drama is still preserved and practised by the males only. The special feature of Bhagavatha Mela is only preserved and practised by the male Brahmin community. But Bhagavatha Meladance drama had laid down a firm foundation for the development of dance drama, in Bharatha Natyam.

Besides, Odissi dance had its origin from the Orissa state. Earlier Odissi dancers were males. They were called Gothipuas. These male dancers dressed themselves as females while they danced. It is essentially a temple dance. Even today many of the Odissi dance teachers are Gothipuas of yesteryears. The male dancers Gothipuas are still dancing. The music of Odissi is a fusion of Carnatic music and Hindustani music. Traditionally Gothipuas was dancing on two important occasions. One was Chandran Jatra, and the other was Jhoolan Jatra. Initially, this dance form originated and was based on the Vaishnava cult. And later it was cherished and adopted in Saivaism. In olden days they adorned themselves with many ornaments, but today they use limited and necessary ornaments.

Another Indian classical dance form is Kathak. It is a popular classical dance form of North India. Here in this classical dance form, the male dancers play an equal role with female dancers. Even in teaching Kathak, the role of the males is equally important. The male Kathak dancers wear simple costumes. They wear long pyjama and specially designed tops. They don’t wear many ornaments, and they do not have any hairdressing.

Ithikasa stories

Kathakali is another Indian classical dance form based on Hinduism. Even the female characters are danced by the male dancers, and still, males play a major role in this classical dance form. Originally this was danced by the males alone. These male dancers were called Chakaiyar. The music is totally based on Carnatic music. The dance themes are generally based on various epics and Puranic and Ithikasa stories. Kathakali dance form uses heavy makeup and also uses different masks appropriate to the character portrayed. Kereedam or the crown is worn by the dancers along with the face side masks. The ornaments are placed and tied over the dresses. Even the female characters are performed by the male in Kathakali.

Another Indian classical dance form is Manipuri. The male dancers play an equally important role with female dancers. The male Manipuri dancers generally carry different variety and different shapes of drums, while they dance. Sometimes while dancing they carry large cymbals (which are called Kartaal).

The male Manipuri dancers generally wear white dhotis, and many times they do wear white colour turbans. This is the special and distinct feature of the Manipurimale dancers as compared to male dancers of other Indian classical dances. They hardly wear any ornaments. Even they do not wear ankle bells.

Outstanding performers

India’s most popular classical dance form is Bharatha Natyam. Bharatha Natyam evolved out of Sathir. In ancient days, many male dancers danced Sathir in temples. They were called by various names, like Chakai Maraiyan, Ponan, Santhi Koothan, Kootha Peraiyan, Nattuva Aasan, and Araiyer. High awards were awarded to these outstanding male dancers in olden days. For instance, ‘Nattuva Kulothunga Chola Nirutha Peraiyan’, ‘Thiruvorai Chakai Mummudi Chola Nirutha Peraiyan’ were some of the titles conferred on the outstanding performers. Still, there are a number of outstanding male dancers and numerous outstanding dance teachers, choreographers (some belong to the traditional nattuvanar clan) are in the classical Bharatha Natyam field.

In all the Indian classical dance forms, the males play an important role with female dancers. The contribution of males for the development of certain classical dance forms is more than that of the females. Kuchipudi and Odissi originally were danced by males alone. Bhagavatha Mela and Kathakali are still wholly performed by the male performers.

In Kathak and Manipuri the role of the male dancers is equally important as that of female dancers.

In Bharatha Natyam, the most outstanding gurus were the males, and today there are a very few outstanding male performers in this field.


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