Monday, February 26, 2024
West Bengal

Arts & Crafts of West Bengal


 ▪ Natua Dance

In ancient Bengal, dancing was popular entertainment. Courtesans and temple girls (devadasis) were required to be proficient in the art of dance prescribed by Bharata in his 'Natysastra'. Popular forms of dancing were rendered at mundane celebrations and on other occasions by low-caste tribes Nats and Domnis (women of the Dom caste) who practiced dancing and singing as hereditary professions. In the Middle ages, probably the institution of temple girls become obsolescent and class dancing was limited to courtesans. As a result dancing came to be looked down up on in respectable society.

Rabindranath Tagore has the credit of rehabilitating dancing as a fine art  to be learnt by young as a part of their education. In his school at Santiniketan and later in his university Viswabharati, he provided ample facilities for training in these acquirements. He had profound admiration for the rich treasure of the classical dances of India but he thought these required too rigid a discipline and too elaborate a training to be feasible for the general public. He therefore introduced a simple course of instruction in dancing to his songs of the seasons. By 1926 this developed into a flexible system compounding elements of Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak, Kathakali and folk styles. This creative system was very well received by the Bengali public and has since grown into a major cultural activity. A large number of institutions teaching the elements of classical dances and presenting ballet compositions have come into existence in Calcutta and the towns. Evolution of an Indian ballet tradition has been the quest of institution presided over by Udayashankar, who  well versed in European ballet made his debut in this field in 1929 and has made Calcutta his headquarters since over a decades ago. During the last twenty five years the new dance movement has made considerable progress not only in West Bengal but also other parts of India and Bangladesh.

The Santals inhabiting the plateau Fringe have their own system of group dancing to the accompaniment of song, the flute and Madal (a minor drum) to express their joy of life. It is full-blooded and exuberant but notably free from vulgarity or obscenity.