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Monday, March 15, 2010

Philosophy of Indian Classical Dance

Philosophy of Indian Classical Dance

The Indian classical dance has its Adi Guru as Shiva in his nataraja form. So why Shiva was the adi guru? Why not vishnu or brahma the creator himself? 
To get the answer for that question we need to understand the philosophy of dance. Shiv is the adiguru in agamas which are also known as tantras. There are 64 tantras for which he is the author. These are in the form of a dialog between parvathi and shiva. Tantra have been the base philosophy from where indian dance got its 
first form. Dance is a way of communication to this universe. It is proved by the mudras it uses. Mudra in tantra as well as dance is used to communicate a particular idea to the audience. In the sadhanas in tantra it is used to communicate to the devata whereas in dance it can be used to communicate to the audience or to the whole universe as well. Mudra is a contribution of tantra to the world. One of the famous commentaries for natyasastra was written by famous Kashmir shaivist tantrist
Shri Abhinava gupta which is known as Abhinavabhāratī. 

What we see outside and perceived by our 5 senses is called as matter. We also see that we use different forms of matter like flowers or food as offerings to a particular deity. Now this is an external process but the same can be done using mudras. In the scriptures it is held more powerful and beneficial than external forms of offerings. Mudra uses certain postures of hands to communicate to the deity.Shiva was the first to expound this in his tantras and that is one of the reasons why he is regarded as the guru in dance. This whole universe is filled with dance. Dance exist in the form of vibration even in atoms. If we go in depth as per the particle physics, each atom is divided into protons, neutrons, and electrons. These elements are again made from a particle called as Quarks. Again as per the latest development in physics, String Theory, the basic element of the matter is in the shape of a string. It is nothing but energy which is vibrating and this actually the form of dance at the sub atomic levels. Now from where did matter originate? As per physics it originated from energy. So where does energy originated from? 
This was a question that haunted the scientists for a while and in a recent interview Stephen Hawkings, regarded as the greatest scientist of the present time, said may be energy originated form consciousness. We in India call that consciousness as Shiva. This whole universe is a manifestation of Shiva. Shiva exists in this universe in the form of dance and that is why when he does the thandava the whole universe proceeds towards its essential and final destruction which is nothing but a preparatory phase for the next creation.


The basic philosophy of dance was captured from the universe's existence by our rishis and they developed the Indian classical dance. Today it has degenerated itself to an external art form 
in which the basic participants forget the whole philosophy of it. It is in this period that understanding the basic philosophy and evolution of Indian classical dance becomes a basic necessity. 
In my little experience and interaction with even a person who is doing a doctorate in the famous Oxford University I could see a clear misunderstanding that dance is nothing but a form of entertainment. This is detrimental to the whole development of Indian classical dance. If we understand the basic philosophies of dance and put that into practice we will become like Shiva. When we dance we can see the whole universe in the thandava state. Reaching that level should be the goal of a person who is venturing to learn Indian classical dance, anything else is futile. 
You can reach fame, money, and every other material things but the same is reached by a business man also just that he is called as a business man and you are called as a dancer. So whats the difference between the two? This would be the result of learning any art form without understanding the basic philosophy behind it. Dance and all art forms were developed in India not just for some petty entertainment. They were developed to enable each individual soul to reach the supreme consciousness. 

Let that supreme sada shiva help you in reaching the pure form of dance which is the basic existence of this whole universe.