The Legend

The student of Indology is, no doubt, familiar with the tendency of the Hindu mind to trace every art and science back to a divine origin. This divine source is claimed not only for those elements of Hindu culture that strive to express the spiritual aspirations of man , such as poetry, philosophy, and music. An explanation of this tendency is probably to be found in the mode of life of the Hindu as he lived at the dawn of history, occupied with his sacrificial rites and ceremonial offerings and viewing neither duty nor pleasure, save in relation to his religious background. It need, therefore, cause no surprise when we are told that a divine origin was claimed for the Natya Sastra ( The Science of Dancing) , and that it was fathered on no less deity than Brahma, the first in the great trinity of the Hindu Pantheon.

Tradition has it that Brahma, moved by the entreaties of Indra and other devas for a pastime befitting the inhabitants of the celestial region, distilled the essence of the four Vedas, taking the Pathya from the Rig Veda, the music from the Sama Veda, the gesticulations from the Yajur Veda, and the aesthetic element ( Rasa) from the Adharva Veda, and compounded them into the graceful art of dancing. He forthwith named his new creation 'Natya Veda' and endowed it with all the sanctity and dignity attached to the four vedas. This fifth veda was thereafter bestowed to the Creator on Bharata and his hundred sons and disciples, who in due course passed it on to the mortals on earth . . .

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