Naytika Shah

Nilpa Shah

Mind, body, spirit

Indian classical dance is a unique relation of the body, mind and spirit where all three come together in spontaneous harmony to create unparalleled form of expression. This is perfectly exemplified in the dancing image of Nataraja. The figure is a perfect balance of all the limbs with all the forces concentrated in the centre. To achieve this balance the body need to be attuned to the mind. On a higher level, the image reflects the balance of the Hindu philosophy. On one hand lord Shiva carries a flame signifying destruction, on the other a damaru that signifies creation. Our lives consist of these cycles of creation and destruction which can be ended with the end of our ignorance. This ignorance is stamped out by the dancing feet of lord Nataraja and this is shown by his right foot balanced on a small dwarf that signifies man’s ignorance. It is this perfect image that dancers try to achieve with their dancing.

The training of a dancer begins with first learning the posture for Bharata Natyam and creating the strength in the body to carry out the movements. Bharata Natyam trains and exercises all the muscles from major ones like the hands and legs to the minutest ones like the finger tips and eyeballs.

The mind comes into play as all the movements of the legs, hands, fingers, torso, waist, palms, feet, toes and the minor movements of the face like that of the eyes, eyebrows, cheeks, chin need to be synchronized and it therefore learns to be agile. It also improves memory as the dances need to be remembered in sequence.

Dancing also creates spatial awareness. A dancer is more aware of the space around him, its resistance and its use and how he can adapt to confined or wide spaces.

Indian classical dance gives a deep insight to the emotions of a human being as well. Most of the content in Indian classical dance expresses the relation between two or more individuals. It can be mother and child, two lovers, two friends and the most common between the lord and the devotee. To express the more mundane emotions a dancer observes the general public for inspiration and then tries to epitomize it. For e.g. a dancer expressing the love between Yashoda and Krishna is the epitome of the love between all mothers and their child. It can some times give us a glimpse of perfect relationships.

Natya or ancient Indian drama, which is the parent of today’s Indian classical dances, is also called as the fifth Veda. Therefore it always had a didactic purpose to teach the masses the difference between right and wrong. From natya the individual dance styles were created and most of them were danced in the temples. This gave dance its spiritual quality. The dancers danced for their lord in the temple compounds. Most of the poetry used is about how the individual soul longs to unite with the Parmatma or the supreme universal soul.

But beyond this it is the feeling of bliss and happiness which cannot be expressed but simply experienced and which is unlike any other that can be experienced in the material, physical world.