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Indian Classical Dances
Appearence in classical dances
Hasta Mudra
Hand Gestures
The Navarasas
Gesture & Posture
Feet in Dance
Qualities & Performances


Background :
Decoration creates the right atmosphere for a dance number. The decor must be effective, but not so spectacular that it overshadows the dancer. The purpose of the background is to indicate the time and scene of the action, serving as an introduction to a spectacle rather than being itself the main spectacle. In nritya musicians are a part of both the audience and visual effects. As they have to be seen, it is best to arrange them on one side, near the wings. They may also be placed in two groups in the rear corners of the stage.

Lighting :
Lighting is one of the most effective benefits to illusion. It can make or spoil the presentation of the dance. Flat lighting tends to create monotony. Lighting from different angles enhances the effect. Care is taken to avoid ugly shadows on the backdrop.

Costume and Make-up :
Costumes And Make-UpCostume and Make-up, both play an active part in nritya. The Natya Shastra very sensibly lays it down that the ornaments should be light so as not to disturb with the dancers movement. Bharatas dance treatise defines certain ornaments for women and others for men. Siddhi women must wear yellow robes with pearls or emeralds as ornaments. Apsaras or celestial maidens are advised to wear gem-studded ornaments and to dress their hair in a bun crowning the head. Women, appearing as gandharvas (musicians) must wear rubies and wear gowns of a vivid red; they must also carry a veena. Vidhyadharis must be depicted in white with pearls to beautify them. Black robes and blue stones suit the women who appear as female demons. Green drapery and pearls are assigned to characters representing goddess. Milkmaids are required to wear blue costumes and to plait their hair.

Colouring served to differentiate between the characters. Thus Kshatriyas (warriors) must appear painted in reddish tints and Vaishyas (merchants) and Sudras (menials) in deeper hues. Spotless white is reserved for Brahmans.

Other things adding to illusion are beards and moustaches. Here also colour is a differentiating factor. Men who refrain from sexual indulgence like the saints and brahmacharis wear long white beards. The sensual appear in black beards, while kings and gods wear mixed black and white beards. Makeup and its rules vary with the different schools of Indian dancing.

Music :
Music helps to create the atmosphere for a dance performance. The Abhinaya Darpanam lays down the rule that during a dance performance two bell players must seat themselves on the right and two mridanga or drum players must remain on either side of the stage, while a singer must be present with a tambura or drone.

There are twenty-two notes in Indian music and they create subtle moods and visions. The Indian musicians have two bases on which to improvise. They are the tala and the raga.

The tala governs the duration of a sound and is beaten out on a variety of drums, each drum regulated to the dancers pace. It is the dancer who fixes the tala. The drummer observes the speed set and meets the dancer at the climax of each beat, in the process improvising various thekas or expressions with his palms, fingers or sometimes even his elbows or with sticks. Two dozen talas are popular today, each having from three to sixteen matras or sub divisions and in south Indian music, as many as twenty nine.

The raga is a group of notes but not quite a melody. Ragas are meant to create certain moods and are divided into male and female tunes. There are six ragas or male tunes each accompanied by five raginis or female tunes and each possessing eight putras or sons with a bharya or wife. In South Indian music, there are seventy-two major ragas and many minor ones.

When music, singing and dancing blend in harmony in a suitable framework, the Aharyya Abhinaya is complete for a nritya performance.