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By Ojaswita Chaturvedi

Special to CSMS Magazine

India’s vast and lavish culture spreads through myriad aspects. Classical dance is one of the components of the colorful heritage of India. Within each aspect of culture, there are numerous subsets. Likewise, in classical dance too, there are many forms practiced in different methods. But each and every part has its own importance and glory. Classical dances of India usually find their roots in the Vedas, purANas and ancient texts such as the nATya SAstra of bharata muni. There are several other texts which have described classical dance, either briefly or extensively.

Sri Nandikeshvara has generously described the glories of Natya, classical dance in his magnum opus Abhinaya Darpanam.

kirti prAgalbhya saubhAgya vedaigdhyAnam pravardhanam

audArya sthairya dhairyANAm vilAsasya ca kAraNam

“This nATya is the ultimate bestower of fame, maturity, good fortune and intelligence. It is the very reason behind magnanimousity, steadfastness, patience and happiness.”

Such is the greatness of dance, an essential part of India’s rich heritage. This wonderful art form is practiced by the divinities and has been brought to humanity with the prime reason of elevating the soul to a spiritual platform. Today, we have numerous ambassadors of our visual arts who have taken Indian Classical dance far beyond any geographical boundaries. This article highlights some major benefits received in this modern age through dance, focusing mainly on the non – residents of India. Besides spreading the virtues of these art forms, what are the advantages of any dance class abroad?

Considering the Indians living abroad, any dance class serves as a facet of Indian tradition. It is an opened window which shows the wonderful past and enriched present. The traditional methods of discipline followed mould the individual and help their personality to grow immensely. The guru – Shishya relationship is an important aspect in our ancient learning methods. It is this relation and respect that forms the ground on which the arts and knowledge grow on. The respect that is formed between the teacher and the student in the environment of the dance class lays out a foundation of respect to elders. It teaches the student how to interact with peers and teachers to get a beneficiary output.

Another area of high priority in terms of advantage is the theory portion in the dance class. The theory and text of dance is essentially Sanskrit – based. This way, the Sanskrit knowledge of the students is broadened. Sanskrit is the base language of all our scriptures and is hence very closely related to ancient India. During dance sessions, the students learn various Sanskrit shlokas for prayers to the supreme and the Guru. In addition, they also learn the verses from nATya SAstra. Daily recitation of these verses keeps the young ones well-acquainted with the knowledge of Sanskrit.

Along with dance, the students get brushed on with the basics of classical music also. This extends their knowledge to one more artform that has been inseparable from our heritage. A combination of classical dance and music keeps them directly associated to their heritage in an extremely grand way. The joy of music and dance shows the individual that culture and spiritualism are the doorways to ultimate happiness. The various postures practiced through dance not only keep the body fit but also reflect the yogic postures. Indian classical dance has been praised many times as a means to practice yoga. The regular practice sessions build up aesthetic energy in the students, maintaining the shades of culture.

When the abhinaya items are introduced in dance, naturally, the lyrical meanings of the songs are explained. Following the meanings, the beauty of many languages is exposed. The diverse ways of poetry used by various composers from different parts of our country is exposed to the students. This reflects the diversity of the knowledge of India, which brushes upon the students too. Together with this, the lyrical content of the songs tell the ancient stories of our culture. This gives them the knowledge of our history which the non residents of India tend to miss out. The numerous mudras learnt by children at the class also lead the way to the stories of ancient times.

Certain parts like kathas from the Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Ramayan, which are necessary parts of the learning system of India, are gradually diminishing. It is worth noticing, that maybe unknowingly, the children get a lot of the information contained within these sacred texts. For example, when the dashavatara hasta mudras or a dashavatara piece is taught for dance, the students will definitely learn the epics of the ten avataras of Sri Vishnu. Many such aspects are being fulfilled today by the various dance classes running throughout the world. After all, the Natya shastra has been hailed as the fifth veda – nATyakhyam pancamam vedah.

Not only for the Indian citizens abroad, but also for inquisitive and interested artists, this artform has always had its doors open. It satisfies the soul of anyone who accepts it with awe and reverence. Thus, in a nutshell, the classical artforms and their propagation abroad play a vital role in the full-framed growth of the individual involved in it. Brought to us through the pure guru – Shishya Parampara, it has been, it is still and it will always be a crucial tool in enhancing the glories of our culture.

Note: Ojaswita Chaturvedi lives in Botswana. She is a native of Varanasi, India. She is an Engineering student at the University of Botswana. She is also a classical music guru, specializing in Pandit Rajendra Kumar Sharma.

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