For generations, the dances of Hindu gods and goddesses have inspired devotion through sculpture and imagery of India. Led by the pioneering efforts of Ragini Devi, an American woman married to an Indian freedom fighter, who observed that Indian dance was an act of worship and not for entertainment, Rukmani Devi and Mrinalini Sarabhai, dancing in India has paved the way for several creative artistes of international acclaim.
This book, Eminent Indians: Dancers, while describing the developments in this performing art through the ages, brings to focus the success stories of men and women who braved through great challenges to sustain this art genre in its multifarious form and as an avocation for respectable people. The essays included in this book are not biographies in the conventional sense, they are intended to bring to the readers the spirit of sincerity, hard work, dedication and perseverance-the essential ingredients required to achieve success in life.
About the Author: Recipient of the Janseva Sadbhavana Award, M. L. Ahuja, M.A, DLL, DCS, is the author of over twenty books now. He si associated with book publishing and distribution of books and journals. He has travelled extensively both within and outside India. He has presented a number of papers at several national and international seminars. He has also contributed a number of articles, which are mostly on publishing and marketing of books and journals.
In addition to describing the appropriate musical instruments for accompanying the dance, and the costume and jewellery for the dancer, the Natya Sastra prescribes the physical characteristics of the dancer. The dancer must have a perfect figure, including large eyes, even teeth, thick hair, a long graceful neck, full breasts but not pendulous, slender waist, round hips, thighs life 'the trunk of an elephant'; medium build, medium complexion. She should exude charm and have agility, steadiness, endurance, confidence, and a good memory. She should be witty, agreeable and fully devoted to the art. She should feel at ease when performing and should know exactly when to begin and when to stop dancing.
According to some legends, Natya Shastra was revealed to Bharata Muni by the gods during an era when people on earth had become addicted to sensual pleasure. Since the wisdom of the Vedas could be entrusted to the priestly Brahmins alone, the king of gods, Indra, requested Brahma to devise a method of instruction, which could be accessible to all. Brahma went into meditation and thought of a solution. Taking an essence from each of the Vedas, he extracted their elements of speech, song, mime and sentiment to create a fifth Veda, the Natya Sastra. Brahma then instructed Indra to communicate this treatise to those of the gods 'who are skilled learned, free from stage fear and are given to hard work'. Indra suggested that perhaps only the sages who had meditated on the mysteries of all the Vedas were competent to take up the practice of the dramatic art. Therefore, Brahma summoned Bharata Muni and taught him the art of dramaturgy. Bharata Muni, in turn, trained his one hundred sons.
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