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Indian classical dance is the embodiment of a whole range of expressions, which include fantasy and yogic discipline. The different forms represent the meeting point of three arts: music, drama and dance. Though highly defined and codified, they are perceived primarily as a form of worship, as homage to the almighty. Their classicism lies in the continuity of an unbroken history of over five thousand millennia, one which overwhelms yet inspires.

Using the body as a medium of communication, the expression of dance is perhaps the most intricate and developed, yet easily understood art form.

Indian dance is a blend of
NRITTA - the rhythmic elements

NRITYA - the combination of rhythm with expression and

NATYA - the dramatic element

NRITTA is the rhythmic movement of the body in dance, pure dance. It does not express any emotion. NRITYA is usually expressed through the eyes, hands and facial movements. NRITYA combined with NRITTA makes up the usual dance programmes. Nritya comprises abhinaya, depicting rasa (sentiment) and bhava (mood). To appreciate natya or dance drama, one has to understand and appreciate Indian legends. Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people.

It is said that Brahma - the Creator, created NATYA, taking literature from the RIG VEDA, song from the SAMA VEDA, abhinaya or expression from the YAJUR VEDA and rasa or aesthetic experience from the ATHARVANA VEDA. It also contains deliberations on the different kind of postures, the mudras or hand formations and their meanings, the kind of emotions and their categorization, the kind of attire, the stage, the ornaments and even the audience. All dance forms are thus structured around the nine RASAS or emotions, HASYA (happiness), KRODHA (anger), BHIBASTA (disgust), BHAYA (fear), SHOKA (sorrow), VIRAM (courage), KARUNA (compassion), ADBHUTA (wonder) and SHANTA (serenity). All dance forms follow the same hand gestures or HASTA MUDRAS for each of these rasas. The dances differ where the local genius has adapted it to local demands and needs.