. It is difficult to say at what point of time dance originated, but it is obvious that dance came into existence as an effort to express joy. Gradually dances came to be divided as folk and classical. The classical form of dance was performed in temples as well as in royal courts. The dance in temples had a religious objective whereas in courts it was used purely for entertainment. In both cases for the artists devoted to this art form, it was no less than praying to God. In southern India Bharatanatyam and Mohiniattam developed as an important aspect of the rituals in temples.
Yakshagana, a form of Kathakali in Kerala, tells us stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata whereas Kathak and Manipuri are mostly related to the stories of Krishna and his leela (exploits). Performance of Odissi is related to the worship of Lord Jagannath. Though the Krishna leela and the stories related to Lord Shiva was the theme of Kathak, this dance came to be performed in royal courts in medieval times. Romantic gestures contained in Thumri and Ghazal, that were also performed with accompanists for the kings, reflect this aspect. Manipuri dance was also preformed for religious purposes.
As far as the analytical study of this art form is concerned, the Natyashastra of Bharata, is a primary source of information, and basically deals with drama. Bharata has discussed dance and its various angas (limbs) in detail. Facial expressions, body movements, hasta mudras and the footsteps have all been brought together under three broad categories namely, as nritta (pada sanchalan), nritya (anga sanchalan) and natya (abhinay). Both men and women took keen interest in dance but generally women dancers were looked down upon in society. However, with the efforts of great music thinkers and various religious and social reform movements, people have started to hold women performers with great respect.