The antiquity of Gaudiya Nritya is based on literature, sculpture and paintings. The Sri Hastamuktavali and Sangeet Damodar are rich resources for the theory of the dance form. The margam (repertoire) begins with the vandana with a chaamar (whisk), pushpadaali (flower basket) and shora (clay pot). The nritanga ( adavus), bhava and rasa are elaborate. For example, each nayika bhava is subdivided into eight to give 64 varieties, with specific personality and costume. The dance form also has a variety of chakkars, which is characteristic of Bengal, where even the language has rounded pronunciation.
(Dr. Mahua Mukherjee in ‘Dance of the ancients’ by Kumudha Bharatram)
The Nrityasarvasa refers to dances of desi type with sword, piece of cloth, stick, garland, fly whisk, lute and ball. Till recently, it is known that nattuvanars fitted adavus and jatis to sword dances and trained their dancers doing varnas to execute the same with swords; in course of their movements, they would cut vegetables with the sword tied to the body of a girl lying on the ground; in the course of their footwork, they would at specific points of the dance, bring down the swords on the vegetables in a most uncanny manner, without causing any hurt to the girl bedecked with the vegetables; they would similarly go about their dance movements with pieces of cloth in their hands, which, even as they danced, they would make into a dove.
(‘Uparupakas and Nritya-Prabhandas’ by Dr. V Raghavan, Nartanam, May – Aug 2008)
Evidence of the ‘dance of the Mohini’ being popular in Kerala by the 17th century comes from the famous murals of the Padmanabhapuram palace and the Mattanchery palace. In some of these glorious murals, the episode of Shiva dancing away with Mohini (Vishnu as the enchantress) is depicted with great beauty. In some, Shiva and Parvati are depicted as witnessing the wondrous dance of Mohini.
(“Mohiniattam: The Lyrical Dance” by Kanak Rele)
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