It was the beginning
of time, just after Creation had taken place. The Gods were bored. They asked
Brahma, the wisest amongst them, who also had created the Universe, to
release them from their boredom. Brahma then began to meditate.
Carefully examining each Veda (sacred scripture), he took speech from the
RIG VEDA, song from the SAMA VEDA, mime from the ATHARVA VEDA and sentient thought
from the YAJUR VEDA. He then called upon Bharata Muni to create a new Veda,
the NATYASHASTRA, a book of guidance for dance, drama and music. After
the completion of his work, Bharata Muni trained one hundred of his sons to bring
this gift of the Gods to the earth for its salvation.
The work was presented collectively to an enlightened audience, the
Hindu Trinity, i.e. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The reception of the work
was overwhelming, and the Gods felt that their effort had not been in vain.
They were no longer bored. The Gods also realized that here was a way for
them to be depicted on earth.
Here the humans, through dance and music, were given the possibility to understand the notions of
the good and evil, morality and immorality, the temporary and the
Thus the art of Indian dance was born.
Indian Classical Dance is essentially a communication with the Gods. It is a celebration of spirituality where the dancer and the God are united. The base for dance is the worship of the Gods as they appear in different forms. The profound source for the dance is of the inner beauty, not only the outer. It is the inner core of poetry, expression, worship or praise of the Gods, that is at the core of Indian Dance. Many dancers depend on traditional material written by poets, savants and saints, although now some artists use modern work as well.
The word Kathak comes from the word Kathavaachak. Kathavaachaks were wandering singers (storytellers) who traveled from village to village praising the Gods by singing and dancing. Their way of dancing was to dance in circles whilst holding their arms above the shoulders, thus expressing worship. They were supported by the local temples and the villagers, and gradually expanded its reach. At the beginning, Kathak was performed by and for the common people, but slowly began to enter the royal palaces and courts becoming an art for the elite. It developed a set structure and format with subtle movements of eyes and wrists that we still can see today.
With the arrival the Muslim invaders in the tenth century the local courts came under the influence of the Mughals and the etiquette and traits of the invaders made a great impact and a new chamber art developed where the dancers focused more on foot work and body balance, and the interaction between musicians, singers and the dancers became a new and very important element.