Spirituality in Indian dances | Daily News

Spirituality in Indian dances

Most of the Indian classical dances are deeply rooted in Hinduism and promote spiritualism. Inside the temple courtyard, various religious, cultural and ritual activities were carried out. These activities were directly involved with the moral, spiritual, and upliftment of the individuals. For these purposes certain halls were built up, to hold the kathapirasangaas (sermons). These Katha piarasangaas imparted religious values and epics. Similarly to protect and promote the dance through religious worships, dance halls were built in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Kerala and Manipur.

Temples played an important role in Hindu society. These temples were built not only for religious worship but they were also considered as community development centres. The construction of temples of each religion has its own architecture. They resemble culture, customs, regional and religious influences of different periods. Besides, a construction pattern of each religious temple of each region provides ample evidence of each ruler’s taste with their involvement in art, culture and religion as a result of these they built temples throughout India.

In South India, East India and West India the institution of devadasis flourished. The devadasis were attached to the temples, as the handmaids of the Lord. According to puranic sources, the female dancers were proficient in music and dance. In Karnataka, a dance called Yakshagana has close ties with dramas. That is why the Yakshagana was regarded as a dance drama. Like many other classical Indian dance forms, this particular dance was also practised and performed in temples, and temple festivals.

Vaishnava monasteries

Sattariya is another dance form of the East Indian state of Assam. It originated in the 16th century. This was practised in the Vaishnava monasteries. Chhu, another dance form of Assam is performed during the temple festival. Kuchipudi has its origin in the village of Kuchipudi, in the modern Andhra State. Earlier it was performed in the Ramalingeswara Temple, and later it was performed in various other temples.

In Kerala, chakiyarkoothu, koodiattam, Krishna attam, and Kathakali, are the main dance forms of Kerala. All these are strongly linked with spiritualism and all start with religious rituals. ChakiyarKoothu took place in Koothampalam theatre which looked very dull and dim. To bring out the real effect of the performances inside the hall. Small windows were kept to prevent the effect of the crosswind. Koothampalam was a permanent theatre built inside the temples.

Kathakali though it did not originate in temples, eventually, was danced in temples. In the East Indian state Manipur, the Manipuri dance gained worldwide recognition. In the Manipuri dance the Rasa Leela, dances are deeply linked to devotional Vaishnava worship and these dances were danced in temples. The dances were performed at the Nat Mandapas in temples.

Similarly, BharathaNatyam evolved out of temple dance Sadir which was essentially a temple dance. Sadir was practised in temple rituals, processions, and festivals. Sadir was practised and preserved by the devadasi clan. The devadasis mean the female servants of the gods. Earlier there was a belief that the devadasis were formally married to the god of the temple where they served. And those who were serving in Vaishnava temples were called Sri VaishnavaManikam and the male dancers were called Ariyer. In temples, dance halls were separately established and managed.

Carved dancing figures

In Manipuri, several Rasa Leela dances took place as a form of worship. Each temple had its dance hall, called Nat Mandapa. Even today dancehalls the Nat Mandapas are decorated with leaves, colourful flowers, and white cloth. It is a large Mandapam which accommodates from 2500 to 3000 audience.

In Orissa Maharis held their dance at Nat Mandapa. There is a reference, that at the sun god temple in Konarak, dances took place. The temple was built during the 13th century with Nat Mandapa. This Nat Mandapa was fully and thoroughly decorated with beautifully carved dancing figures. Now it provides an opportunity for dance researchers, art lovers, and foreign tourists to enjoy ancient Indian architecture.

The structure of the Konarak temple resembles the sun god’s, chariot driven by seven horses. The Maharis were allowed to perform not only inside the Nat Mandapa but they were allowed to enter the inner temple, with a certain discipline.

In Tamil Nadu, dance halls were built up to promote dance and drama inside the temple premises. These dance halls were very well administered and maintained by the temple authorities. The classical dances of India are based on spiritual and religious philosophy. The female temple dancers were called devadasis, kuthier and Sri Vaishnavamaikam in different temples and different regions.

Hence most of the Indian classical dances were originated in temples and promoted spiritualism. Through spiritualism, these dance forms uplift the souls towards salvation.