The origin of “Natyasastra” has its place way back thousands of years from now. The story of origin goes like this….
Being thorough with all the four vedas, the Gods like Indra approached Brahma deva requesting him to create a fifth veda for kridaniyaka(entertainment). Brahma deva conceded to their request and took “patya” (speech) from Rig veda, “Gana”(song) from Sama veda, “Abhinaya” from the Yajur veda and “Rasa”(Rasam) from Atharva veda and created the fifth veda called “Natyaveda” and told Bharata muni to spread this across the world. Bharata muni took the materials from ancient guru’s like Tumburu, Narada and Nandi. It was said that Bharata muni taught the Natyaveda to his 100 sons and he realized that the graceful expression sringara (called kaisiki vritti) could not be expressed by men and that’s how Bhrama created the 24 Apsaras.After the creation of the “Natyasastra”, Lord Brahma told to the Lord of Gods, Indra that “Semi historical tales (Itihasas) have been composed by me , you have to get it dramatized by skilled gods. Pass this Natyaveda to those gods who are skillful, learned, free from stage fright and inured to hard work”.
Written in Sanskrit, the Natyasastra consist of 6000Sutras(36000 slokas) which is described into 36 chapters that covers every single aspects of art and drama. The main topics depicted are acting, dance, music and rasa. The first three are the means of presentation of the last one. Its is a classical manual on the theory and practice of art forms like theatre, music, dance, poetics, gestures and many other art forms.It is also believed that there is a shorter version which comprises of 12,000 granthas which is in the form of conversation between Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi. This is considered by few as the SadasivaBharata.
The known commentators of the Natyasastra are
# Lolata being the earliest
# Acharya Bhatanayaka
# Abhinava Gupta
# Matanga’s Brihaddesi
# Sharngadeva’s Sangita Ratnakara
When we say the author of Natysastra is Lord Brahma, we can not exactly pen down the exact period when it was formed. We just believe that a highly systemized oral text form of natyasastra had been transmitted from generations to generations until finally in the second century BCE it got the form of a written text. The only commentaries left about Natyasastra is the “Abhinavabarata” by Abhinava gupta. Abhinavagupta was born in Kashmir, India probably around 950A.D. After the age of 70, it is believed that he entered the Bhairava cave near village Bhiruva with his 1200 desciples and was never seen again.
Long Long ago , thousands of years back, there was a dance form which was performed only by women of a certain caste called “Devadasi” who lived their life as dancers and worshiped Gods by paying obeisance through their dance. Music and dance was an essential and necessary ingredients of daily pujas at the temples those days. They enjoyed a very high status in the society and they were married to wealthy patrons. This traditional dance form was originally called as ” Sadir Natyam ” and “Daasiyattam” and was passed on from generation to generation and slowly started entering the royal courts. The dancers were called “Rajanartaki’s” thereafter.They performed dances whenever they are called for in the court’s of the Kings who ruled the provinces.
During the time of British rule the Kings who were patrons of the temples became powerless and devadaasi’s were totally left out without any support and patronage. Reformists started outlawing the tradition of the devadasi and they even launched an “Anti nautch” movement to eradicated the art. People continued enjoying this art form and their performances secretly. Slowly the society started ill treating them performing secretly and hence the devotional art form too. The art form was completely swiped out from the society during the beginning of 20th century.
But still there were a few families who preserved the knowledge of Bharatanatyam. From these people there were a few like freedom fighters, westerners interested in Indian arts, people other than Devadasi’s and the Devadasi’s themselves who played very important roles in the revival of Bharatanatyam. Two imminent personalities include E.Krishanyer a known freedom fighter cum lawyer and Rukmini Devi.
E.K who had learnt Bharatanatyam laid the foundation for the Music Academy in Chennai and used its platform for the performance of Bharatanatyam by Devadasi’s. Slowly the art form started gaining the respect.Once Rukmini Devi Arundalae from Tamilnadu had a chance to peep in this performance and got fascinated to this beautiful artform. She started perceiving the devadasi’s performance frequently and contemplated the Pandanallor style dance under “Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai” who was the guru of the Devadaasi’s and lived in a village called “Pandanallor” in Thanjavur district in Tamilnadu and thought of moulding it to a systematic art form which could be taught to the new generation. She thus created the enduring art form called “Bharatantyam” which is still very popular in India and the entire world. She along with her husband established the “Kalakshetra” academy of dance and music in the year 1936. Currently, not only does the Indians learn “bharatanatyam”, but there are many foreingners who are persuing this dazzling dance form as their passion.
Bhartanatyam is one of the most beautiful ways of expressing the human longings for the union with the divine and hence we can say that Bharatanatyam itself is a Yoga (meditation). The divine dance of Lord Nataraja (Lord Siva) is beautifully represented by the Natarajavigraha which is a real inspiration for all bharatanatyam artists. It needs a conscious understanding of our body, mind and emotions. For a trueand ardent devote of bharatantyam his or her’s devotion and profound interest to this divine art is the greatest dakshina and they shall experience in their life the Satyam (truth), Sivam (eternal bliss/goodness) and Sundaram (beauty). Bharatanatyam helps you shape the body into graceful and beautiful and your mind and emotions into alertful and controlled ones.