Dance Music Drama


The term “classical” was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles. These are described as below:



Music in Indian subcontinent is the reflection of the diverse elements — racial, linguistic and cultural. It plays a vital role in the religious, social and artistic life of the heterogeneous population of the country.

The oldest music, which possessed a grammar was the vedic. Of course, the Rig-Veda is said to be the oldest: nearly 5000 years old. The psalms of the Rig-Veda were called the richas. The Yajur Veda was also a religious chant. Natya Shastra of Bharata is another important landmark in the history of Indian music. It is supposed to have been written sometime between the 2nd century B.C. and the 2nd century A.D. Some scholars are even doubtful whether it is the work of one author and the work might well have been a compendium – at least, the version which is available to us. The Natya Shastra is a comprehensive work mainly dealing with dramaturgy. But a few chapters of this deal with music. Therein we get information on scales, melodic forms, tala and musical instruments.

Classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music has a history spanning millennia and has developed over several eras. It remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as sources of spiritual inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment.

Today there are two systems of classical music: the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Carnatic music is confined to Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The classical music of the rest of the country goes under the name, Hindustani Classical Music. Of course, there are some areas in Karnataka and Andhra where the Hindustani Classical system is also practiced. Karnataka has given us in the recent past some very distinguished musicians of the Hindustani style.

The development of two distinct streams is usually attributed to the fact that northern India absorbed the impact of Muslim rule in its culture while South India did not. Hindustani classical music was greatly patronised by the Muslim rulers of northern India, particularly by the Mughal and Awadhi (Lucknow) courts.

Classical music in India is elevated to the states of science and this can be gauged from the description of it as Shastriya Sangeet, or ‘scientific music’. Central to the classical music tradition in India is what is known as the guru-shishya parampara, literally the teacher-pupil tradition. The gurus are entitled Pandit if they are Hindu or Ustaad if they are Muslim.

While the basics remain constant among the Hindustani and Carnatic Music, there are differences in style and flourish that distinguish one gharana from another; gharana literally means ‘household’. The major gharanas are those of Kirana, Gwalior, Agra, Lucknow, Jaipur and Patiala. While the guru-shishya paramapara is common to the teaching of classical music all over the country, the tradition of gharanas is unique to the north Indian form of Hindustani classical music.

Swara – In general sense, Swara means pitch or tone. In total there are 7 basic notes of scale:
Sa,              Re,              Ga,              Ma,              Pa,              Dha,              Ni

Collectively, these 7 swaras are called – SARGAM:

Raga – It forms the basis of melody. Raga is a combination of tones or swaras which, with beautiful illuminating graces, pleases the people is general.

Tala – It focus the basis of rhythm. It is a time measure. It is an arrangement of beats a cyclical manner. The range of taal is from 3 beats to 108 beats. As per natyashastra, the one 32 kinds of taal but presently, there are more than 100 taals derived by musicians. The most popular taal is – Teen Taal (16 beats)

Hindustani Music
• Hindustani Sangeet is usually considered to be a mixture of traditional Hindu musical concepts and Persian performance practice.
• Hindustani music is based on the raga system.
• A raga is a melodic scale, consisting of notes from the basic seven known as sa, re, ga, ma pa, dha, and ni.
• Formal compositions (songs or instrumental compositions in a fixed meter) are juxtaposed with the improvised portion.
• Khyal and Dhrupad are two major types of compositions within the Hindustani genre.
• There are many musical instruments that are associated with Hindustani sangeet. The most famous are the tabla and sitar. Other less well known instruments are the sarangi, santur, and the sarod.
• North Indian Music offers a variety of forms of music like the Dhrupad, Khayal (classical North Indian music), Thumri (emotional music), Qawwali (songs from the Pakistani sufi’s), and Ghazal (Panjabi romantic music).

Gharanas of Hindustani Music
In Hindustani music, a gharânâ is a system of social organization linking musicians or dancers by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style. A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology. This ideology sometimes changes substantially from one gharana to another.

Some popular gharanas are:

Types of Hindustani Music and its meaning

Carnatic Music
• Carnatic sangeet (karnatik sangit), is the South Indian system of classical music.
• It has a rich history and a very sophisticated system of theory.
• Carnatic Sangeet is found in the south Indian states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
• Purandardas is considered as the father of Carnatic Music
• Carnatic music acquired its present form in the 18th century under the “trinity” of Carnatic music, Thyagaraja, Shamashastri, and Muthuswami Dikshitar composed their famous songs.
• It is also based upon a system of ragam (rag) and thalam (tal).
• There are a number of musical instruments used in South Indian classical music. The most common ones are the veena (vina), violin, mridangam, nadaswaram, and the tavil.
• The dominant element of Karnatic music is the ‘Kriti’; a form of composition with three parts.

Types of Carnatic Music and its meaning Ragam


Musical Instruments
In the Natya Shastra, compiled by Bharat Muni dated 200 B.C.-200 A.D., musical instruments have been divided into four main categories on the basis of how sound is produced.


Bharata’s Natya Shastra was the earliest and most elaborate treatise on drama written anywhere in the world. India has a longest and richest tradition in theatre going back to at least 5000 years. The origin of Indian theatre is closely related to ancient rituals and seasonal festivities of the country. The growth in drama took place with the introduction of “curtain” in the kushanas era.

The first millennium was also characterized by the great harvest of Sanskrit drama by pre-eminent play-wrights like Bhasa, Kalidasa, Shudraka, Vishakadatta, Bhavabhuti and Harsha. This body of works compares in its range and power with the dramatic output of other rich theatre traditions of the world ancient Greek theatre and Elizabethan theatre. The glory of ancient Sanskrit drama ended with the first millennium.

Traditionally the theatre consisted of the auditorium, stage and the backstage which is behind the stage. Curtain separates the stage and backstage. The drama was performed without scenery and decorations. It was more of acting and gestures by the actors. Costume and make-up was regulated by convention so that roles were immediately recognizable. Most type of drama had a hero , a heroine, a villain and a “vidushaka” as a comedian. Themes were mainly based on love.

The drama generally opened with a benediction song followed by a prologue in the form of a dialogue/ discussion between the chief actor and his actress giving the title , nature and occasion of the play. Violence and death were forbidden to be performed in the stage. At the end of the play came a concluding verse- a virtual vote of thanks.

• unique combination of dance, music and acting.
• Satire, wit and parody are preferred for inducing laughter.
• music is provided with surnai, nagaara and dhol.
• Since the actors are mainly from the farming community, the impact of their way of living, ideals and sensitivity is noticable.

• mainly music-based.
• Gradually, prose too, played its role in the dialogues.
• softness of emotions, accomplishment of rasa along with the development of character can be seen
• two important styles are from Rohtak and Haathras.
• In the style belonging to Rohtak, the language used is Haryanvi (Bangru) and in Haathras, it is Brajbhasha.

• most popular centres – Kanpur, Lucknow and Haathras.
• The meters used in the verses are: Doha, Chaubola, Chhappai, Behar-e-tabeel.
• nowadays, women have also started taking part

• based exclusively on Lord Krishna legends
• believed that Nand Das wrote the initial plays based on the life of Krishna.
• dialogues in prose combined beautifully with songs and scenes from Krishna’s pranks.

• Main centers of – Kutch and Kathiawar.
• instruments used are: bhungal, tabla, flute, pakhaawaj, rabaab, sarangi, manjeera, etc.
• there is a rare synthesis of devotional and romantic sentiments.

• Fairs in honour of gods, or religious rituals and ceremonies have within their framework musical plays are known as Jatra.
• Krishna Jatra became popular due to Chaitanya prabhu’s influence.
• earlier form of Jatra has been musical & dialogues were added at later stage.
• The actors themselves describe the change of scene, the place of action, etc.

• cultural glimpses of Assam, Bengal Orissa, Mathura and Brindavan can be seen.
• The Sutradhaar, or narrator begins the story, first in Sanskrit and then in either Brajboli or Assamese.

• Maach is used for the stage itself as also for the play.
• songs are given prominence in between the dialogues.
• The term for dialogue in this form is bol and rhyme in narration is termed vanag.
• The tunes of this theatre form are known as rangat.

• evolved from the folk forms such as Gondhal, Jagran and Kirtan.
• female actress is the chief exponent of dance movements in the play. She is known as Murki.
• Classical music, footwork at lightning-speed, and vivid gestures make it possible to portray all the emotions through dance.

• personify the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu-the god of preservation and creativity. The ten incarnations are Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise), Varaha (boar), Narsimha (lion-man), Vaman (dwarf), Parashuram, Rama, Krishna (or Balram), Buddha and Kalki.
• Apart from stylized make-up, the Dashavatar performers wear masks of wood and papier mache.

• came into existence in the middle of 17th century A.D. under the patronage of King Manavada of Calicut.
• Krishnattam is a cycle of eight plays performed for eight consecutive days.
• The plays are Avataram, Kaliamandana, Rasa krida, kamasavadha, Swayamvaram, Bana Yudham, Vivida Vadham, and Swargarohana.
• episodes are based on the theme of Lord Krishna – his birth, childhood pranks and various deeds depicting victory of good over evil.

• celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (November-December). performed only in the Kali temples of Kerala, as an oblation to the Goddess.
• depicts the triumph of goddess Bhadrakali over the asura Darika.
• seven characters in Mudiyettu-Shiva, Narada, Darika, Danavendra, Bhadrakali, Kooli and Koimbidar (Nandikeshvara) are all heavily made-up.

• ‘Theyyam’ derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Daivam’ meaning God.
• Hence it is called God’s dance.
• performed by various castes to appease and worship spirits.
• distinguishing features – colourful costume and awe-inspiring headgears (mudi) nearly 5 to 6 feet high made of arecanut splices, bamboos, leaf sheaths of arecanut and wooden planks and dyed into different strong colours using turmeric, wax and arac.

• based on Sanskrit theatre traditions.
• characters of this theatre form are:
• Chakyaar or actor,
• Naambiyaar, the instrumentalists and
• Naangyaar, those taking on women’s roles.
• The Sutradhar or narrator and the Vidushak or jesters are the protagonists.
• Vidushak alone delivers the dialogues.
• Emphasis on hand gestures and eye movements makes this dance and theatre form unique.

• based on mythological stories and Puranas.
• most popular episodes are from the Mahabharata i.e. Draupadi swayamvar, Subhadra vivah, Abhimanyu vadh, Karna-Arjun yuddh and from Ramayana i.e. Raajyaabhishek, Lav-kush Yuddh, Baali-Sugreeva yuddha and Panchavati.

• literally means “street play”.
• mostly performed at the time of annual temple festivals of Mariamman (Rain goddess) to achieve rich harvest.
• there is a cycle of eight plays based on the life of Draupadi.
• Kattiakaran, the Sutradhara gives the gist of the play to the audience
• Komali entertains the audience with his buffoonery.

• Deals with serious question of life & death briefly and with simplicity of expression & diction, all enveloped in humour.
• Indeed, audience is given essence of our cultural heritage of viewing the world as a stage and as an unsubstantial pageant which is to be negotiated and lived by rising above it.
• There is often stylistic diversity, which strengthens their identity from Swang, Nautanki, Bhagat, etc.