The Divine Origin of Dance in India.

"When the world had become steeped in greed and desire, in jealousy and anger, in pleasure and pain, Bramha, the Supreme one was asked by the people to create an amusement which could be seen and heard by all, for the Scriptures being learned and ambiguous, were not enjoyed by the masses". Thus does Bharata's Natya Shastra explain the emergence of this divine art in his treatise on Indian Dance. Brahma, the Supreme one, the knower of truth, mediated on the four vedas (Scriptures) and drew up the fifth, Natya Veda, the scripture of drama, presenting moral and spiritual truth. "The creator of the world Brahma extracted recitation from Rig Veda, `abhiyana' from Yajurveda, song from samaveda and 'rasas' from Atharvaveda respectively, for fulfilling the high requirements of life, viz. Dharma or righteousness, Artha or wealth, Kama or love and Moksha or liberation. Though these, fame, self-confidence, fortune and cleverness are acquired, thus causing peace, patience, liberality, pleasure, and wiping our misery, pain sorrow and hatred. It exceeds the Ananda imparted by the knowledge of the Absolute, otherwise how could this conquer the heart of sages like Narada?. Bramha tried to impart to the people the diversity and the all encompassing nature of this new creation and said that "This art is not purely for your pleasure but exhibits bhava (emotion) for all the three worlds. I have made this art following the movements of the world, whether in work or in profit, peace, laughter, battle or slaughter, yielding the fruit of righteousness to those who follow, moral law, a restraint for the unruly, a discipline for the followers of a rule, to create wisdom in hte ignorant, learning in scholars, affording sport to kings and endurance to the sorrow-stricken, replete with diverse moods, informed with the varying passions of the soul, linked to the deeds of all manking, the best, the average and the low, affording excellent counsel, pastime and all else". And thus, "Brahma gave the first lessons on Natya to Bharata. Thereafter Bharata demonstrated the three forms of dancing , namely, Natya, Nritya and Nritta before the Lord Siva with the help of the Gandharvas and the Apsaras. Then Siva remembering his own violent style of dance asked Tandu to transmit its technique to Bharata with the help of his retinue and out of affection asked Parvati to demonstrate to him the Lasya Style. Then understanding the technique of Tandava the saints transmitted its knowledge to others. Similarly Parvati taught the Lasya style to Usha, daughter of Bana. She transmitted it to the milkmaids of dwarka and then from them it spread to women of other places. This is the order in which these dance styles spread in the world". Abhinayam the language of gestures is the focal point during a course of study. It provides a depth of understanding and insight into this dance form. According to Abhinaya Darpanam (mirror of gestures) the description of abhinaya is divided into four parts. 1. Angika Abhinaya is the abhinaya expressed through the limbs. Ideas and emotions are beautifully displayed through various parts of the body. This includes the actor's posture, gait and movements of features and limbs. There is a difference of opinion in the exhibition of artistic gestures, sometimes there seems to be no connection between realistic, gestures happening in the daily life and the aesthetic appeal of the play through the appropriate gesture along with speech or songas the case may be. What were once the "mudras" used by the priest in prayer became a whole language for the dancer known as "hastas", the symbols of the hands. 2. Aharya abhinaya is related to the costumes and make-up of the actor in his various roles. This is depicted through the costumes and other decorations of the body. 3. Vachika abhinaya is regarded as the most important among these four by some Hindu theorists. This indicates the use of language, regulation of the tone of voice, accent and rhythm which can bring out the lyrical qualities of the play. 4. Satwika abhinaya or abhinaya of the mind denotes the eight conditions, viz., stoppage of action, perspiration, horripilation, change of voice, trembling, change of colour, tears and fainting. These are to be exhibited with suitable gestures of Angika abhinaya as this is the expansion of mental emotions through bodily reactions. The dance or the four-fold abhinaya is of three kinds Natya, Nritta and Nritya. According to Bharata, Natya or Nataka gives the stories of the epics. Where there is no abhinaya or bhava it is termed nritta. Nritya is a combination of nine sentiments (Rasas) and bhavas. In all important Indian Literature dance holds an important place. The two great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata are full of reference to the religious significance puranam, Unmai Vilakkam, Tiru-Arul Paya, etc. which speack of the use, meaning and purpose of spiritual identification and perfection. In the Vedic period people used dance for religious, social and ritual purposes. Like during horse sacrifice, weddings and many other important es . Like during the horse sacrifice, weddings and many other important rituals. During the Buddist, Gupta and medieval periods, dance played and important role in achieving the spiritual inspiration and identification of the people of that time. The existing temple sculptures, paintings and icons are compelling proof , shedding light on the past. Later, with the invasion of the Muslim, who considered it almost a scandal to use music and dance for divine worship, dance found its way into the courts and as a form of entertainment. Also, due to the apathy of people with regard to their religion, many in society used dance for erotic pleasure. Thus, with the Muslim rule, there came into existence a new class of people called "Naach-wali". When the Europeans, for whom dance was mainly a social function, came to India, the degeneration of dance continued. With these developments, the aim, purpose and goal of dance apparently changed. It could be likened to a diamond which had lost its luster. However, the middle of the 20th Century saw a new renaissance in Indian Dance. It was due to the dedication of professional artists like Rukmini Devi, Krishna Iyer and others who strove to restore the lost dignity and spiritual sanctity of this divine art. Although today the Indian classical dance has moved from the temple to the auditorium and stage, the dedication of its performers remains the same. "Art emerges from the womb of religion and from the mystery of magic".5 This is very true in India, where religion and philosophy are preached and God worshipped through dance forms. "The Indian mind has always sublimated the fine arts from their, mundance origin to the highest level of social and cultural life, inextricably interweaving them with religion".6 That is why "Art in ancient India could perhaps be called temple art, not because it was necessarily part of the temple, but because its aim was the perception of spiritual identification". 7 In India, the temple was been a place of communication between God and man. Different arts have sprung up form the temples and God was worshipped in music and dance. The driving thirst of man for union with the Almighty led him to establish "in every temple a Natty saber or rangamantappa, where music and dance performance took place as part of religious ritual".8 Dancing was considered to be the highest form of worship. Wishnudhamottara Puranam tells us that "to worship God by nritta (dance) is to fulfill all desire, and to him who dances the paths of salvation are unfolded. The dancer, as he undergoes mystical experiences in the dance, communicates the same to the audience. In other words, dance becomes the expression of the experience of revelation and complete union with God, which leads us to believe that dance and all other fine arts have not only a utilitarian function but also a spiritual and cultural function in India".9 Spirituality and Indian Classical Dance. Indian classical dance is inseparably bound with spirituality in its inception, growth, development, existence, purpose and goal. It is not just a performance but a Sadhana, as Tapas and a Bhakti. It commands devotion, and through and in it one hopes to realize the divine in himself. Through dance the artist aims for a vision of the divine, to use Eastern Orthodox terminology, he attains the beatific vision, that is Ananda (Bliss). At this level, he or she forgets himself or herself and realizes the Supreme. "The body, which in ecstasy is conquered and forgotten and which becomes merely a receptacle for the superhuman power of the soul, and the soul which acheives happiness and bliss in the accelerated movements of a body, is freed of its own weight:10 So, in ecstasy of he dance, man is bridges the chasms between this and the other world, to the realm of demons, spirits and God. Captivated and enchanced he bursts his earthly chains and trembling, feels himself in tune with all the world":11 "Whosoever knoweth the power of the dance dwelleth in God", says Persian poet Rumi, Curt Sachs a points out that "dance is a sacred act and priestly office, not a pastime to be tolerated only, but a very serious activity of the entire tribe:.12 It is at this elevated stage that the dance becomes a sacrificial rite, a charm, a prayer and a prophetic vision, both for the artist and the appreciator, in relation to their realm of spiritual experience. The creative activity of the artist gives expression to his Spiritual experience in dance and the appreciator experiences the spiritual experience by evocation. Understanding Christ in and Through Indian Classical Dance I remember, years back when I started to learn dance (Bharata Natyam), one of the well-known exponents of Bharata Natyam, a dedicatd theosophist and a respected lady asked me a question, 'Why are you, a Christian learning Bharata Natyam?' And later, when I ventured to have Christian themes in my recital in 1979, there was vehement opposition from many corners of the church. Needless to say none of these critics had witnessed my recitals prior to asking such questions and making such sweeping statements. Now, when I looks and analyze, I can clearly see that either these critics of mine wore ignorant of the significance of the dance in India or didn't know exactly was my aim. In other words, they posed questions - `What's wrong with the ways of Christianity in India?'. Well on the face of its there was nothing wring with Christianity in the garb of Western Culture. But, surely this outs us off from the indigenous cultural cord and defeated the incarnational aspect ( the word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth, Jn:1:14) of the Religion. Upto the Vat.II everything in the Indian Christian's life was dominantly in the western mode and taste. His rites, feast fine-arts etc., were not even considered for understanding the teachings of Christ or for Worship. Vat.II marked a new chapter in the life of the church. It kindled an interest in the usage of indigenous art-forms. It clearly states: "In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are people who have their own musical traditions and these play a great part in their religious and social life. For this reason, due importance is to be attached to their music and suitable place is to be given to it, not only by way of forming their attitude toward religion, but also when there is a question of adapting worship to their native genius. Therefore, when missionaries are being given training in music, every effort should be made to see that they become competent in promoting traditional music of these peoples, both in schools and sacred services, as far as may be practical." And again it says "This ancient interest in the theatre should be maintained by Christians today and full use to be made of its possibilities. Playwrights should be encouraged and helped to set man's religious preoccupation on the public stage. This is often the first step in much wider diffusion made possible by the communications media."14 At present, the church uses the terms like, 'adaption', 'adoption', 'accommodation'. 'inculturation', etc. Some use phrases like, presenting the Gospel through dance forms, others proudly talk about promoting the use of indigenous art forms for the proclamation of the Gospel. Underlying all these expressions one can find a sort of utilitarian attitude, that is using other people, other arts and other culture for delivering Christ's message. The lady who questioned my motive in learning dance must have had a similar problem in her mind. Further this sort of understanding also gives the impression that the Gospel is a ready-made product, neatly bound and packaged. When artforms like dance are used for Christian salesmanship, the traditional terms used for this are 'proclamation'or 'preaching'. Commenting on this Rev. P. Nirmal says, "Art-forms are not primarily meant to propagate, proclaim or communicate a static and well-formulated Gospel. Their primary value lies in the fact that they enable us to understand and grasp the Gospel in a now way. They offer us fresh, new insights into the Gospel. They offer us new visions of the Gospel. Art and art-forms , therefore, have a tremendous hermeneutical an heuristic value. They make possible new understandings, and formulations of the Gospel. They make the Gospel and 'event' a 'happening' and an emergence. Art and art-forms unfold new Gospel mysteries, new Gospel dimensions and new Gospel facts. Arts and art-forms are Gospel realizations and the Gospel of God in Jesus confessed to be the Christ is inexhaustibility rich. Art, art-forms and culture are not merely means and media for proclamation and communication of the Gospel. Rather they are an integral part of that process through which the Gospel is understood, comprehended and appropriated, may, realized in ever new ways".15 Here, we must speak about the cultural Christ rather than just relate him to he culture. There are many versions of this cultural Christ within the New Testament. staple’s Christ is the 'Lord'. St. John's Christ is a 'Friend' and the 'Logos'. The Christ of the writer of the Epistle to he Hebrews is the 'High Priest'. St. Johns's Christ in a pastoral perspective is the 'Lamb', the 'Shepherd' the 'Door' through which a flock of sheep goes - a curious mixture of metaphors idea. The Latin-American Christ is the 'Liberator'. Raja Ram Mohan Roe’s Christ is the 'Preceptor' and Swami Vivekananda's Christ is an 'Advaitin'. The point is that culture through its expressions in arts, art-forms, literature and language shapes are very understanding of Christ and His Gospel. We should now begin to speak in terms of a cultural comprehension and realization of Christ and His Gospel, rather than 'propagation', 'proclamation' and 'communication' of the Gospel through indigenous art and art-forms. That kind of language speaks of an explorative use of arts and art-forms. In the light of this an artist should stress on the aspect of comprehending, understanding and realizing Christ's message in Indian Classical dance. It is only then that he can give or share that God-experience with others. Here the communication goes more deeper than just imparting Christ's teachings on a superficial level which is done in most cases. Once, the famous ballet dance Anne Pavlova was asked the meaning of a particular dance, 'If if could tell you, I wouldn't dance' she replied. Many people working in this field of dance, put the cart in front of the horse. They want to communicate a ready-made Gospel, a static one which is self-defeating in its approach both in relation to the Gospel, Which should be dynamic, moving and life-giving, and to Indian Classical dance which speaks for itself as regards its origin, nature and end. Like the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, dance is also a 'Kenosis', 'samadhi' self-emptying or giving of oneself in love. A dancer gives himself, his most personal experience and visions to others through the medium of his artistic object of form. It's essential quality is also "koinonia" sharing with the community which is the very basic principle of Christian life, In this dynamic art form, the dancer shares his personal feelings, his insights, understanding, realization, comprehension and experienced life itself. As Francois Delsarte puts it beautifully 'To every manifestation of the body there corresponds and interior manifestation of the Spirit'. All these of us who are engaged in the field of indigenous art-forms should ask ourselves this question - 'Has our work helped God's people to dance, to sing, to recite, and to paint? Has it helped them to attain the blissful state and experience anubhave in which the Divine is comprehended contemplated and realized? Or have we been proclaiming he teachings of Christ without even understanding or realizing them in our culture and art forms. Is our Christ living, dynamic, growing and incarnate or dead (ready-made) static, dormant and abstract? Is our Christ-experience personal and first hand or impersonal, second-hand (borrowed) and stale one ? In other words are we spiritual or commercial in giving and sharing our Christ - experience with others? Indian Classical dance, especially Bharata Natyam, puts the emphasis on understanding, comprehending, realising contemplating and living the word of God. Sharing or giving the God-experience could be considered the result of this activity. Hence it is high time we begin to speak in terms of a cultural comprehension and realization of Christ and His Gospel through Indigenous arts and art-forms. That kind of language smacks of an exploitative use of art and arts-forms. More than just a media of expression they should be viewed as an integral part of this dynamic life giving experience. In the light of this treatise, it is but a foregone conclusion that indigenous arts and art-forms play a vital role in shaping, defining and enriching man's spiritual and human life. Finally in the words of Yajnavakya a fitting tribute to dance. "Even though a person may be an expert in the Shritis (Vedas), mritis, literature and various Sastras if he is ignorant of Sangitha (music, dance and dramatics), he is but an animal standing on two feet". (Smriti, III 115). REFERENCES 1. Sachs C. World History of the Dance, Newyork Norton & Com Inc. 1963 2. Origin of Dance : Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni Ch.1 : 23. 3. Abhinaya Darpanam - By Nandikeshwara 7-10. 4. Origin of Dance Natya Shastra by B.M. Ch.I 23t. 5. Abhinaya Darpnam 2-6. 6. R. Sathyanarayana, Studies on Indian Dance, Pub. Sri Varalakshmi Academies of Fine Arts, Mysore 1970 page 89. 7. Ibid page 7. 8. Mrinalini Sarabai, Understanding Bharata Natyam, Maharaja S. University of Baroda, 1975, page 17. 9. Ibid, page 20. 10. R.Sathyanarayana, Studies on Indian Dance, Pub. Sri Varalakshmi Academies of Fine Arts, Mysore 1970, page 7. 11. Curt Sachs, World History of the Dance, W.W. Norton & Company Inc, New York, 1963 page 4. 12. Ibid Page - 4. 13. Ibid Page -5. 14. Constitution on the Sacred litrug Ch.6, entitled "Sacred Music". 15. Pastoral instructions on "Communio et Progressio" No : 161. 16. Festival of Performing Arts and literature, Keynote address, Jabalpur, Oct.1982. DICTIONARY OF INDIAN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY : DANCE Dr. Francis Barboza svd. The impulse or urge to units with God through dance has a long and involved history. It is found animism of primitive people, in the Gods of Egypt, Greece, Rome, India and finally in Christianity. Here, Religion and sacred dance "becomes a sacrificial rite, a charm, a prayer and prophetic vision. It summons and dispels the forces of nature, heals the sick, links the dead to the chain of their descendants, it assures the fields and the tribe. It is Creator, Preserver, Steward and Guardian". 1 According to Christian Scriptures, dance is referred to as an integral part of worship and it helped enliven the community spirit of the believers. The early Christians also had dance in their religious and social life. There are references to this effect in the writings of the early Fathers and in Church history. The gnostic writers of the 2nd century consider Jesus Christ as the leader, who leads his followers in the dance. In India, Dance, especially classical, has always been a religious expression and experience of God. It has also been called temple art, not just because it is found in the temples of India but because its origin, aim, goal and purpose is for communication. Communication to God and man on the surface, one does not find a great deal of dance in practice among the Indian Christians, but a closer, critical and historical survey reveals that dance has been part and parcel of the religious and social life of various groups of Christians in different regions of India. In fact, there are a few dance-forms exclusively practiced by the Christians in India, which have a long standing history of many centuries. Further, it is to be noted that Christian themes have also been introduced in many other Indian dance-forms. Christianity and Indian Dance-forms could be studied under two categories : (a) Dance forms exclusively practiced by the Christians, that comprised mainly Christian Themes but at times included social and historical episodes as well. (b) Christian Themes depicted in other Dance-Forms of India, (i) Ancient or Traditional (52 A.D.1599). The worship pattern art-forms, Church architecture etc. of the Mar Thoma Syrian Christian 2, and Knanaya Syrian Christians 3, were similar to those of the Hindu brethren of that time. Their art-forms were least affected by the foreign influence and were very much Indian in form and spirit. Dance-forms such as Margamkali, Vattakali and Parisumuttukali practiced by these Christians survive to this present day. (ii) Medieval to the Contemporary (1599-1947). With the Latin Christians 4 a number of new dance-forms came into existence since medieval times. Of course, they were greatly influenced by the western theatre especially in the aspect of the customs and presentation, though less affected in the technique. Cavitunatakam and Parisumuttukali of the Latin Christians in Kerala is a typical example of this new development. These dance forms are still practiced by people in this region. In the district of Palghat, the Tamil-speaking Christians have a theatre traditions of their own which originated in the 19th Century. Kuthu (i.e. Munrurajakuthu) Natakam (Allesu Natakam, Kunkunammal Natakam etc.) and Kummiattam are still in practice among these people in Tamil Nadu. Pasca or Passion play , at times called Siluvaimaranam, is prevalent in the style of Kuthu in some places and Natakams at other places. In Goa, Mussal Khel, Gauda Dhalo, Dekhni, Christian version of Jagar, Mando, Kunbi Khel, Gauda Dhalo and Carnival are still practiced by different communities of Christians. All these dance-forms greatly veer towards the social and entertainment aspect rather than purely religious. However, most of them are performed a per the religious calendar and feasts. Inspite of pressure tactics of the Portugese the great influence they exerted and their way of life, these dance-forms have survived. Some of them may not retain the original nature and form, yet they continue to be part of the fabric of life. In Andhra, efforts have been made to have Burrahkathas on Christians is almost a story of the past. In the north, in many of the Adivasi and tribal dances, Christian themes have been introduced, retaining the same format of their original is the Christian version of the traditional Hindu Dondo-Nato. (iii) Post-Independence Period (1947 onwards). In the post-independence period a few attempts have been made to depict Christian themes in other classical dance-forms of India, i.e. Kathakali, Yakshagana etc. Many institutions and individuals have tried to depict Christian themes borrowing and making use of one or more dance-styles for this purpose without are retaining a particular style and form. As a result hardly any form or tradition has developed in this direction. Hence continuity and followup of these efforts has not been attempted. The new trends have over stressed the themes to such an extent that technique has been neglected, if not completely lost. The primary purpose and aim of these attempts according to a survey and a questionnaire conducted by me is for the proclamation of the Gospel preaching, adaption, adoption inculturation etc. Some use phrased like presenting the Gospel Dance, others proudly talk about promoting the use of indigenous artforms for the proclamation of the Gospel. This area somehow contrasts with the earlier dance-forms of the Christians. Margamkali, Parisumuttukali, Natakams etc. were developed in the Christian Community to understand, experience and comprehend the Christian message. But the present trend tends to be utilitatiran, using art-forms for delivering Christ’s message. Further this sort of understanding also gives the impression that the Gospel is a ready made product, neatly bound and packaged. We should now begin to speak in terms of a cultural comprehension and realisation of Christ and his Gospel, rather than just ‘propagation’, ‘proclamation’ and ‘presentation’ of the gospel through indigenous art and art-forms 5. That kind language speaks of an exploitative use of art and art-forms. In the light of comprehending, understanding and realising Christ’s message in the Indian at-forms, especially Indian dance. It is only then that one can give or share that God experience with others. Here the communication goes more deeper than just imparting Christ’s teaching on a superficial level which is done in most cases in contrast to the dance practices of the Ancient and Medieval period. Many people working in the field of dance want to communicate a ready made Gospel, a static one which is self-defeating in its approach both in relation to the Gospel, which should be dynamic, moving and life-giving, and to Indian dance which speaks for itself as regards its origin, nature and goal. Keeping the above principles and spirit in mind, in this context, I have adopted a scientific approach in depicting Christian Themes in Bharata Natyam. New Deva Hastas and Postures for the Bible personalities have been invented on the basis of Christian Theology and a study made on the different dance-treatises. Without comprising with technique, I have strived to make dance an experience, truly Indian and Christian, at the same time stressing the aspect of understanding, comprehending and experiencing the Christ message rather than delivering it. It is revealing to observe that in India to all the early dance forms of the Christians were performed in groups and no individual dance is to be found. This feature is the reflection of the Christian Theology where God is mainly encountered in a group. And people worship and praise him in a congregation. It is interesting to note that the traditional dance-forms of the Christians are all done in a circular pattern, keeping a lighted lamp in the centre symbolising Christ. In the medieval times two parallel line choreography came into existence may be due to the influence of the Portugese and the religious processions which were very common at that time. Finally, the ghost of the Synod of Diamper still haunts the church of India. Here the church hesitates to value the ar-forms, especially dance for understanding, comprehending and experiencing the Gospel in a new way rather than simply using them for the proclamation of a ready made Gospel message. 1. Sachs C. World History of the dance, New York, W.W, Norton and Con.Inc. 1963. 2. The descendants of the group of people who embraced Christianity through St. Thomas who landed at Maliankara near Cranganore, Kerala in 52 A.D. 3. The descendants of Thomas of cana (kannai Thommen) a certain merchant who migrated to malabar and Cranganore in 345 A.D. 4. On May 14, 1498 Vasco da Gama landed at kappad near Calicut on the Malabar coast. With the coming of the Portugese a new group of believers called latin Christians came into existence. The Portugese kept a strict control over the religious and social life of all Christians in kerala. Their political dominance gave them superior advantage over other groups of Christians already existing in kerala. The made various attempts to westernise the church in India. The westernisation of the church was intensified by the Synod of Diamper in 1599 which practically suppressed and forbade the existing art-forms of the Christians as superstitious and scandalous. However, the people could not suppress their artistic instinct to express religious experience in different artforms. Abstract from the keynote address of Rev.