The Classic India series portrays the panorama of India's cultural heritage. For centuries India was perceived as the land of fabulous riches, of wisdom, of mystique and romance. It is this magic that the series captures. It provides a window to one of the world's most ancient civilizations anachronistic at times but most often vibrant and alive today. A collector's item, each book in this series is a visual delight.
Indian classical dance is the embodiment of a whole range of expressions which include fantasy and yogic discipline. The different forms represent the meeting point of three arts: music, drama and dance. Though highly defined and codified, they are perceived primarily as a form of worship, as homage to the Almighty. Their classicism lies in the continuity of an unbroken history of over five thousand millennia, one which overwhelms yet inspires.
The gods created dance as a device for entertainment. Later, in order to place the gods, human beings enacted the tale and glory of the gods. Thus began a cycle of celebration manifested in the joyous abandon of movement and music. Over a period of two millennia, dance in India acquired a set grammar, which led to a certain codification of technique. Thus were sown the seeds for Bharata Muni's celebrated treatise on dance, the Natyashastra. This was complemented with an accelerated manifestation of formalized religion through the temple. In the temples, the art of dance evolved to its pristine glory, offered as it were to the gods. The kings were patrons of various art forms and thus the court, too, played an important role in the promotion of dance.
With new cultural influences in the past millennia, a fusion and synthesis came about. The traditions f central Asia were absorbed in the repertoire of dance which partly left its moorings in the temple and moved to the court. The colonial rule of India led to the slow demise of classical dance which when the country gained Independence were revived. The spirit of rejuvenation has helped Indian classical dance attain an important place in world culture.
Saraswati, the goddess of arts and higher knowledge, in an Orissi projection by dancer Protima Gauri Bedi.
Cover: The theme of Krishna, enacted through Krishnattam, performed by only one group in the country, affiliated to the Guruvayoor temple in Kerala.
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