When you dance you forget everything. Be it your name, residence, profession, position, money....everything disappears. Such is the strength that dance possesses. Eight styles of dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi Satriya and Mohiniattam etc. have been identified in the Indian scriptures. There are also two types dance ie Lasya and Tandava.
The history of dance is as ancient as human history. The oldest recorded book on this is called Natya Shastra by Bharatamuni. But apart from that, the art of Dance finds mention in the Vedas as well. A statue of a dancer has been discovered in the ruins of Mohen Jo Daro as well. Scholars who have reviewed it have concluded that the idol is composed of dance motifs. One such historic statue is still available in the National Museum of Delhi. Excavations at Harappa have yielded a black stone dancing idol. In this context archaeologist Marshall has claimed that this is a dancer.
In the Rigveda there is a description for dance. In one of its verses it is said that in the glory of Indra:
इन्द्र यथा हयस्तितेपरीतं नृतोशग्वः ।
नह्यंगं नृतो त्वदन्यं विन्दामि राधसे।
Which verily means:
Indra! You are called upon by many and you make people dance to your tune.
In another verse it is said that:
वीणा वादं पाणिघ्नं तूणब्रह्मं तानृत्यान्दाय तलवम्।
The dance should be accompanied by a harpist, mridangam player and flautist along with a tabla player. The Yajurveda is also rich in material related to dance. It is known from a mantra of Yajurveda that in that period the dancer was known as Suta and the singer as Shailoosh. It is indeed very noteworthy that such a community existed.
It is said in the Atharvaveda that:
यस्यां गायन्ति नृत्यंति भूम्यां मर्त्यायैलिवाः "
"युद्धन्ते यस्यमा-न्दो यस्यां वदति दुन्दुभिः।
A land where the bells of joy ring, where people dance with joy and heroes defend their nation with zeal. In the Shrimad Bhagwat too, dance and dancing are depicted in numerous places. When Goddess Lakshmi appeared during the churning of the sea, the Gandharvas started playing auspicious music, the dancers started dancing and musical instruments like the conch, prahar, mrudang etc. were played. The Rasalila of Lord Krishna and Gopis is world famous. The banks of river Yamuna bear witness to this unique devotional dance. Ras is said to be the prelude of Kathak dance. In those days, dancing, singing, playing, etc. were included in the main course of education. In contemporary times, these art forms are excluded from the academic curriculum and can only be learnt by way of special classes. Apart from Lord Krishna, the Tandava of Lord Shankar is also very popular. Mahadev was very angry with Daksha when Sati sacrificed herself in Yajna Kund during Daksha's Yajna. At that time he expressed his anger and grief through the Rudra Tandava. He is also called Nataraj. There are seven types of Tandavs namely Anand Tandav, Sandhya Tandav, Kalika Shakti Tandav, Tripura Tandav, Gauri Tandav, Samhar Tandav and Uma Tandav.
Muktananda Swami, one of the Paramahansas of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, has beautifully written in the kirtan describing the love between the devotee & God that when the Gopis of Vraj clap their hands, the Lord dances in accordance. Thus God dances being enamored by the Love of a True devotee, thus is it any wonder that devotees dance for God forever? When Muktananda Swami would overflow with love for Sri Hari, he would dance with necklaces around his neck, while having cymbals in his hands and singing kirtans. It is also called Mujra. He was so skilled that while dancing, he would also make a beautiful picture of an elephant with his legs with vermillion. The combination of dance and painting is simply amazing.
When Mahant Swami Maharaj initiates young aspirants in saffron in a formal ceremony to make them sadhus, the saints dance to express their joy of renunciation. Such dance by the sadhus is wonderful and ethereal. All types of dance are included in it! This is a dance signifying rebirth. It is said that the world was created from Ananda Tandava. But before that the world has to be dissolved completely.
This article is written and submitted to The E Today by Sadhu Amrutvadandas. We thank swamiji for his research and analysis and hope to see the awareness about life and peace being spread ahead to larger mass of our citizens.