Classical dance and spirituality- Part II

The ornaments again has got deep spiritual roots, where the ornaments adorning the head depicts the Sushumna,Ida, and Pingala; the three major nadi’s or nerves in the body.  The netti chutti or the central ornament as Sushumna, the Surya and Chandra (sun and moon) on either sides as Ida and Pingala.  The hair is braided into a single strand and falls parallel to the spinal cord where Sushumna nadi is also running through.

Classical Indian Dance Part 2

If you have not read the Part 1 Click here
The dance “adavu” or steps if you look at it, it is similar to yoga postures; in fact it looks like a collective movement of yogic postures.
The music which often sings the glory of the divine or depicts any story related to the Divine is based on classical raga’s of Indian music which is derived from the Vedas.  Researches have found that each raga emits particular vibration and it heals many of the mental and physical illness and increases the wellbeing of the people who sing or listen to them.

Classical dance needs regular practice in order to perform it in the beautiful way it is designed.   Regular practice needs immense discipline.   This inculcates good self discipline in the students’ and it becomes like a basics for living their life in a disciplined, systematic, and orderly way.  I remember how I studied my school lessons at home, reading each line, learning the first line by heart, then the second line by heart and the two lines together, again go to the third line, learn it by heart it, and then recite the three lines together, and later I realized this is the same method I was taught to learn the adavu’s or the basic ‘steps’ of dance, by learning the steps concerning the foot first, then hands, and then abhinaya, or expression part and then the three together .  So subconsciously these get integrated into the lives of the students and seldom do they get into any bad habits or violent behavior.   They are able to lead a positive, composed, harmonious life, integrating spirituality into daily life and above all content with simple pleasures avoiding gaudy lavishness or show offs, being able to live gracefully in a respectful manner.

Classic dance or music is about the nuances.  Each little thing counts.  Like they say ‘the devil is in the gaps’, a classical dancer cannot overlook the small things, which is a great spiritual quality.   Awareness is synonymous to  spirituality and being aware of each movement, the dancer is in the present moment, and definitely being in the present moment is being in the Divine.  No wonder dancers feel every happy and content!

I think as a human being, if you got a talent and inclination towards the classical forms of dancing, never miss the chance to learn it thoroughly from a good traditional Guru.  Finding a Guru is very important in any avenue.  Be it learning how to drive to learning how to cook.    Here it is more important because you carry on with the Guru’s legacy.  It is said that you need to learn something and forget it after teaching to a disciple.  For the Guru to forget it, he or she needs to teach it to someone else and the legacy continues and it has to continue in the real form.  Let me remember the great mohiniyattam Guru Smt.  Kalamandalam Kalyanikkutty Amma here, where she says any art form while making subtle changes to it as time goes by, should retain the original form much like you clean a mirror with a cloth taking care not to soil it by your fingerprint impressions on it.

Another beautiful ritual I have seen is that at the start of every performance, the student is made to give respect to the Guru doing a namaskaram or touching the feet of the Guru, and then goes around and bend down to each instrumentalist, and then pray respects to each and every instrument that is used for the orchestra or pakka vadyam.  The performance starts typically with paying respect to Nataraja  (Siva in dance form) which is called Natarajanjali or singing the glory of Ganesha.  The dancer enters the stage with folded hands, with humility, respecting the audiences and again finishes off the performance with performing “mangalam” a prayer for prosperity and well being to all.  The performer who is repeatedly exposed to these kind of traditions definitely imbibes these qualities into their lives and are often seen as pleasant, good natured, calm, happy, contented, bright, intelligent, humble, and simple beings.

I think considering the immense benefits of learning and performing the classic dance forms, one should encourage every young student to take it up and continue as much as they can, along with their academics.  Those who are interested in full time learning should definitely join either good traditional Gurus or the institutions where it is taught in its purest form like Kalakshetra or Kerala Kalamandalam to the take the legacy forward for the future generations.

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