Spiritual dance plays an important role in all traditions and cultures. The expressions are different but the goal is usually to stimulate the connectedness, communion and spiritual power of a group or an individual. Spiritual art, music and dance communicate directly to the soul and affect us on a subtle and often unconscious level.
As far as historical records show dance in India has always been associated with spirituality and the pulsating rhythm of cosmic life. Shiva, a principal demigod in Indian religious he is known as “Natraja” the king of dancers. According to Ananda cooramaswamy, an eminent Indian scholar, the dance of Shiva is a manifestation of the primal rhythmic energy which has three meanings, first rhythmic plays, the source of all movement within the cosmos, second the purpose of his dance is to release the countless souls of mankind from the snare of illusion and finally, the place of dance, Chidambaram, the centre of the universe, is within the heart.
Sattriya or sattriya nritya is one among eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. The core of sattria nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teaching to the people in an accessible, immediate and enjoyable manner to uplift the spiritual power.
There is a story in mythology lord Indra became very upset during the age of tretayug. Many people became indulged with worldly pleasures. Lord Indra requested lord Bramha, the creator, to creat something that would help detach man from the material world and gain spiritual power to connect with spirituality.
Lord bramha created a fifth veda known as the Natyaveda, a veda about dance. In meditation, he extracted various part of the other four Vedas. Pathyam ( recitation ) was the taken from the Rigveda. Gitam ( melody ) was taken from samaveda. Abhinaya ( historic representation ) was taken from the yajurveda . Rasa ( sentiments ) was taken from the Atharvaveda.
According to Indian origin odissi dancer Parul Bhatia who lives in United States of America, “Indian classical dance are not just meant for the movement of limbs but are performed to take man into a higher level of consciousness thus closer to the supreme being. The art from the Indian classical dance gives a spiritual power and nurtures a path of righteousness.”
The distinguished Indian dancer Enakshi Bhavani , whose book the dance in India is an authoritative classic on the subject also calls Indian sacred dance “a science , an art and an exposition at the same time”. Because it demonstrates the deeply philosophical and highly spiritual moods of the Indian people, in India sacred dance is given the foremost position among all the traditional arts.
Whereas spontaneity in Indian dance was previously cherished over the course of time it evolved into a methodical performing art with various school and strict disciplines. Over 2000 years ago, Bharata Muni wrote the Natyashastra or the science of drama which included a comprehensive guide to sacred India dance. In this work Bharata Muni says that Bramha the predominating demigod of this universe, brought the entire science of natya, dance and drama to the earth in ancient times.
As in other sacred arts in India such as architecture, some regard the idol forms or postures, as symbols of truth, while others prefer to see them as being in perfect harmony with the cosmic rhythm. Some schools consider that when the sacred dance is properly performed the divine entities of God head and the celestial being which the performers portray “manifest” themselves on stage, thus the Indian classical dance is so immensely rich in divine values that it really deserves to be called a “Sadhna” a way to God experience . But the most important thing is that the dancer and the audience are constantly reminded of the divine since dance is performed for divine and for describing the glories of the divine.
( Manoj Kanak )