The age-old connection between Indian classical dances and spirituality

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I was reading a newspaper when this sentence caught my eye, “With each breath I take, I let my spirit awake.” These simple words made me think about where I was and what I was doing at that time. Yes,  The ‘Spirituality’ is a new buzz word in today’s stressful world and here each of us is in search of that ultimate peace, that inner joy which is supposed to make you feel light and to aspire your soul to soar higher. After all, the definitive goal of a human life is to unite with the universal power, the divine, the Paramatma.

Have you ever wondered how learning an Indian classical dance can make this spiritual journey easy for you?

As we know, the Indian classical dances have been the most important thread of the colorful fabric of the Indian culture. Since olden times, the classical dances have been counted as a sacred art, one which was mostly performed in the temples. If you have a close look, all the classical dances are basically a Prayer or a puja of the Paramatma. This eternal art has come from none other than the dancing God, ‘Shiva’. And these dances have been grown from the religious songs of the different Gods and Goddesses.

Take an instance of ‘Gita Govinda’ by the great poet Jayadev. This classic work describes the relationship between Lord Krishna and the Gopis and it has been the moral fiber of the Odissi dance. In the same way, the Manipuri dance reflects on Vaishnava Bhakti. When we observe and understand the mere gesture of amusement, or a pleasure or a profound sadness, we can understand that an Indian classical dancer has the unique privilege of expressing not only the devotion but the deity herself.

It is said that there are many ways to reach the divine, but none can compare to the music and dance. They both are the easiest way to know the supreme power. If you think about this, you will find out that all of the classical dances of India, be it Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi or Kathak, features a God centered character. And all these dances are highly grounded in Bhakti, worshipping the God, telling the great saga of the Divine himself through soulful music, and graceful body movements and gestures. As the dancer represents the divinity, she/he tries to see the God with her/his own eyes, identifying with the ultimate divinity, hence uniting with the Paramatma, the ultimate power.

As stated by Natyashastra, each place where dance is performed is turned into a temple as all devatas, gods, assemble there to appreciate the divine presentation. Now I understood why the ‘Avahana’ is an integral part of Indian classical dance.

One can even compare the sacred form of dance with Yoga as the dance is also another way to unite the individual soul with the higher, the Paramatma.

As the well-known Bharatnatyam dancer Balasaras­wati once said, ‘Dance is the natural and therefore uni­versal activity of the human species through which it finds unity with the cosmos and its creator. The cosmos is the dynamic expression, in orderly and beautiful movement, of the static source, the one supreme spirit.’

Connoisseurs of the dance think that when the dancer reaches to a certain level of perfection, her dance turns into a metaphor of the universal energy, the voice, and movement of God.

There is no doubt that Indian Classical Dances are so deeply ingrained with divine values that they are truly going through a “sadhana”, a way to attain God. Have you ever experience a moment where you forget about your own existence and the world and become one with the God, maybe even for fraction of seconds, If not longer? Kindly share your views with us in the comment section below.

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