Bharatanatyam Dance | Bharatanatyam dance wiki


Bharatanatyam Dance | Bharatanatyam dance wiki

Bharatanatyam Dance

Bharatanatyam is a major genre of Indian classical dance that originated in Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, Bharatanatyam has been a solo dance that was performed exclusively by women, and expressed Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism, but also of Vaishnavism and Shaktism.

Bharatanatyam’s theoretical foundations trace to the ancient Sanskrit text by Bharata Muni, Natya Shastra, its existence by 2nd century CE is noted in the ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram, while temple sculptures of 6th to 9th century CE suggest it was a well-refined performance art by mid 1st millennium CE. Bharatanatyam may be the oldest classical dance tradition in India.

Bharatanatyam style is noted for its fixed upper torso, legs bent or knees flexed out combined with spectacular footwork, a sophisticated vocabulary of sign language based on gestures of hands, eyes and facial muscles. The dance is accompanied by music and a singer, and typically her guru is present as the director and conductor of the performance and art. The dance has traditionally been a form of an interpretive narration of mythical legends and spiritual ideas from the Hindu texts. The performance repertoire of Bharatanatyam, like other classical dances, includes nritta (pure dance), nritya (solo expressive dance) and Natya (group dramatic dance).

Bharatanatyam remained exclusive to Hindu temples through the 19th century, was banned by the colonial British government in 1910, the Indian community protested against the ban and expanded it outside the temples in the 20th century. Modern stage productions of Bharatanatyam have incorporated technical performances, pure dance based on non-religious ideas and fusion themes.

The term Bharatanatyam (Tamil: பரத நாட்டியம்) is a compound of two words, Bharata and Natyam.
The term Bharata in Bharatanaytam, in the Hindu tradition, is in fact named after the famous performance art sage to whom the ancient Natya Shastra is attributed. There is a false belief that the word Bharata is a mnemonic, consisting of “bha”–”a”–”ta”. According to this belief, bha stands for bhava (feelings, emotions), a stands for raga (melody, a framework for musical notes), and ta stands for tala (rhythm).

The term Natyam is a Sanskrit word for “dance”. The compound word Bharatanatyam thus connotes a dance which harmoniously expresses “bhava, raga, and tala”.
In its history, Bharatanatyam has also been called Sadir.


Dancers at Thanjavur, Brihadeshwara temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple has been a major center for Bharatanatyam since about 1000 CE.
The theoretical foundations of Bharatanatyam are found in Natya Shastra, the ancient Hindu text of performance arts.

Natya Shastra is attributed to the ancient scholar Bharata Muni, and its first complete compilation is dated to between 200 BCE and 200 CE, but estimates vary between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The most studied version of the Natya Shastra text consists of about 6000 verses structured into 36 chapters. The text, states Natalia Lidova, describes the theory of Tāṇḍava dance (Shiva), the theory of rasa, of bhāva, expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, standing postures – all of which are part of Indian classical dances. Dance and performance arts, states this ancient text, are a form of expression of spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of scriptures.

More direct historical references to Bharatnatyam is found in the Tamil epics Silappatikaram (~2nd century CE and Manimegalai (~6th century). The ancient text Silappatikaram includes a story of a dancing girl named Madhavi; it describes the dance training regimen called Arangatrau Kathai of Madhavi in verses 113 through 159. The carvings in Kanchipuram’s Shiva temple that have been dated to 6th to 9th century CE suggest Bharatanatyam was a well-developed performance art by about the mid 1st millennium CE.

A famous example of an illustrative sculpture is in the southern gateway of the Chidambaram temple (~12th century) dedicated to Hindu god Shiva, where 108 poses of the Bharatnatyam, that are also described as karanas in the Natya Shastra, are carved in stone.

Many of the ancient Shiva sculptures in Hindu temples are same as the Bharata Natyam dance poses. For example, the Cave 1 of Badami cave temples, dated to 7th-century, portrays the Tandava-dancing Shiva as Nataraja. The image, 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, has 18 arms in a form that expresses the dance positions arranged in a geometric pattern. The arms of Shiva express mudras (symbolic hand gestures), that are found in Bharatanatyam.

Bharatanatyam, state Allen Noble, and Ashok Dutt have been “a major source of inspiration to the musicians, poets, painters, singers, and sculptors” in Indian history.

Devadasis, anti-dance movement, colonial ban, and the decline
Some colonial Indologists and modern authors have stated Bharatanatyam is a descendant of an ancient Devadasi (literally, servant girls of Deva temples) culture, suggesting historical origins to 300 BCE to 300 CE.Modern scholarship has questioned this theory for lack of any direct textual or archeological evidence. Historic sculpture and texts do describe and project dancing girls, as well as temple quarters dedicated to women, but they do not state them to be courtesans and prostitutes alleged by early colonial Indologists.

According to Davesh Soneji, a critical examination of evidence suggest that the courtesan dancing is a modern era phenomenon, which began in late 16th or 17th century of the Nayaka period of Tamil Nadu. According to James Lochtefeld, Bharatanatyam remained exclusive to Hindu temples through the 19th century, and it appeared on stage outside the temples only in the 20th century.
Rukmini Devi Arundale helped revive Bharatanatyam after all Hindu temple dancing was banned by the British colonial government in 1910.

With the arrival of colonial East India Company officials rule in the 18th century, and the establishment of British colonial rule in 19th, many classical Indian dance forms were ridiculed and discouraged, and these performance arts declined.

Christian missionaries and British officials presented “nautch girls” of north India (Kathak) and “devadasis” of south India (Bharatanatyam) as evidence of “harlots, debased erotic culture, slavery to idols and priests” tradition, and Christian missionaries demanded that this must be stopped, launching the “anti-dance movement” in 1892. The anti-dance camp accused the dance form as a front for prostitution, while revivalists questioned the constructed histories by the colonial writers.

In 1910, the Madras Presidency of the British Empire altogether banned temple dancing, and with it the Bharatanatyam tradition within Hindu temples.

Postcolonial era: revival and                      rebirth

The 1910 ban triggered powerful protests against the stereotyping and dehumanization of temple dancers. The Tamil people were concerned that a historic and rich dance tradition was being victimized under the excuse of social reform.

The classical art revivalists such as E. Krishna Iyer, a lawyer and someone who had learned the Bharatanatyam dance, questioned the cultural discrimination and the assumed connection, asking why prostitution needs years of learning and training for performing arts such as the Bharatanatyam, and how can killing performance arts end any evils in a society? Iyer was arrested and sentenced to prison on charges of nationalism, who while serving out his prison term persuaded his fellow political prisoners to support Bharatanatyam.

While the British colonial government enforced laws to suppress Bharatanatyam and all Hindu temple dances, some from the West such as the American dancer Esther Sherman moved to India in 1930, learned Indian classical dances, changed her name to Ragini Devi, and joined the movement to save and revive Bharatanatyam and other ancient dance arts.

The Indian independence movement in the early 20th century, already in progress, became a period of cultural ferment and initiated an effort by its people to reclaim their culture and rediscover history. In this period of cultural and political turmoil, instead of Bharatnatyam becoming extinct, it expanded out of Hindu temples and was revived as a mainstream dance by Bharatnatyam artists such as Rukmini Devi Arundale and Balasaraswati. They championed and performed the Pandanallur (Kalakshetra) and Thanjavur styles of Bharatanatyam respectively.

In the late 20th century, Tamil Hindu migrants reintroduced the Bharatanatyam traditions of temple dancing in British Tamil temples.


The bent knee posture is quite common in a Bharatanatyam performance.
Bharata Natyam is historically a team performance art that consists of a feminine solo dancer, in the middle of musicians and one or additional singers. the speculation behind the musical notes, vocal performance and also the dance movement trace back to the traditional Natya Shastra, and lots of Sanskritic language and Tamil texts like the Abhinaya Darpana.

The solo creator (ekaharya) in Bharatanatyam is wearing a colorful frock, adorned with jewelry UN agency presents a dance synchronous with Indian musical genre. Her hand and facial gestures square measure written linguistic communication that recites a legend, religious ideas or a non-secular prayer derived from Hindu religious writing scriptures, the religious writing, the Sanskrit literature, the Puranas and historic drama texts. The dancer deploys turns or specific body movements to mark punctuations within the story or the entry of a special character within the play or legend being acted out through dance (Abhinaya).

The footwork, visual communication, postures, musical notes, the tones of the player, aesthetics, and costumes integrate to specific and communicate the underlying text.

In fashionable variations, Bharata Natyam dance troupes could involve several dancers that play specific characters of a story, creatively choreographed to ease the interpretation and expand the expertise to the audience.

The repertoire of Bharatanatyam, like all major classical Indian dance forms, follows the 3 classes of performance within the Natya Shastra. These square measure Nritta (Northam), Nritya (Niruthiyam) and Natya (Natyam).

The purpose

Bharata Natyam is associate art that consecrates the body. The dancer, UN agency dissolves her identity in rhythm and music, makes her body associate instrument, a minimum of for the period of the dance, for the expertise and expression of the spirit.
The traditional order of Bharata Natyam recital viz. alarippu, jatiswaram, varnam, padams, tillana and also the shloka is that the correct sequence within the observes of this art, that is a creative Yoga, for revealing the religious through the corporeal.

Balasaraswati, a Bharatanatyam devadasi
The Nritta performance is an abstract, quick and sapphic facet of the dance. The viewer is conferred with pure movement in Bharatanatyam, whereby the stress is that the beauty of motion, form, speed, vary and pattern. This a part of the repertoire has no interpretive facet, no telling of the story. it’s a technical performance and aims to interact the senses (Prakriti) of the audience.

The Nritya is slower and communicative facet of the dance that tries to speak feelings, plot notably with religious themes in Hindu dance traditions. in a nritya, the dance-acting expands to incorporate silent expression of words through gestures and body motion set to musical notes. The actor articulates a legend or a religious message. This a part of a Bharatanatyam repertoire is over sensory enjoyment, it aims to interact the emotions and mind of the viewer.

The Natyam may be a play, usually a team performance, however, will be acted out by a solo performing artist wherever the dancer uses bound standardized body movements to point a brand new character within the underlying story. A Natya incorporates the weather of a Nritya.


The traditional Bharatanatyam performance follows a seven-part order of presentation. This set of things square measure referred to as ‘Margam’


The presentation begins with a sapphic invocation (Vandana) referred to as the Alaripu. it’s a pure dance, which mixes thanks and benediction for blessings from the gods and goddesses, the guru and also the gathered performance team. It additionally is a prelim heat up dance, while not melody, to modify to dancer to loosen her body, journey removed from distractions and towards the resolved focus.


The next stage of the performance adds melody to the movement of Alarippu, and this is often referred to as Jatiswaram. The dance remains a prelim technical performance (nritta), pure in type and with none expressed words. The drums set the beat, of any Carnatic music raga (melody). She performs a sequence (Korvai) to the rhythm of the beat, presenting to the audience the unity of music, rhythm, and movements.


The performance sequence then adds Shabdam (expressed words). The solo dancer, the vocalist(s) and also the musical team, during this stage of the assembly, gift short compositions, with words and which means, during a spectrum of moods.


The Varnam a part of Bharatanatyam emphasizes communicative dance.
The performance thenceforth evolves into the Varnam stage. This marks the arrival into the sanctum sanctorum core of the performance. It is the longest section and also the nritya. a standard Varnam is also as long as 30-45 minutes or typically an associate hour.

Varnam supply large scope for improvisation associated with a full-fledged dancer will stretch the Varnam to a fascinating length. The creator presents the play or the most composition, reveling altogether her movements, mutely human activity the text through written gestures and footwork, harmoniously with the music, rhythmically punctuated. The dancer performs sophisticated moves, like expressing a verse at 2 speeds. Her hands and body tell a story, whether or not of affection and yearning, or of a battle between the nice and also the evil because the musicians enfold her with musical notes and tones that set the acceptable mood.


The Padam follows next within the sequence of the performance. this is often the stage of reverence, of simplicity, of abhinaya (expression) of the solemn religious message or pious non-secular prayer (bhakti). The music is lighter, the mantra intimate, the dance emotional. The choreography tries to specific rasa (emotional taste) and a mood, whereas the recital could embrace things like a keertanam (expressing devotion), a javali (expressing divine love) or one thing else.


The performance sequence ends with a Tillana, the climax. It closes out the nritya portion, the movements exit the temple of communicative dance, returning to the nritta vogue, wherever a series of pure movement and music square measure rhythmically performed. with that, the performance ends.

The overall sequence of Bharatanatyam, states Balasaraswati, so moves from “mere meter; then melody and meter; continued with music, which means and meter; its growth within the centerpiece of the varnam; thenceforth, music and which means while not meter; (…) a non-metrical song at the tip. we tend to see a marvelous completeness and symmetry in this art”.

Costumes in Bharatanatyam/

The attires of a Bharatanatyam dancer resembles a Tamil Hindu’s bridal dress. It consists of a tailor fitted bright colored frock, with a special folded artifact sewed that falls before and opens sort of a hand fan once she flexes her knees or performs footwork. The frock is worn in a special manner, wrapping the rear and body contour tightly, past one shoulder and its finish then control by a jewelry belt at the waist.

She is usually adorned with jewelry, outlining her head or hair, on ear, nose, and neck. Her face has standard makeup, eyes lined and ringed by eye-lotion that facilitate viewers see her eye expressions. To her ankles, she wraps one or additional animal skin anklets [ Ghungroos ]. Her hair is betrothed in an ancient manner, usually adorned in with sweet flowers (veni or gajra).

The fingers and feet outlines are also partly colored red with kumkum powder, a dressing up tradition that helps the audience additional simply read her hand gestures.

Vocal Aspects and Musical                Instruments

The related music to Bharatanatyam is within the Carnatic kind of South Bharat, as is that the recitation and intonation. The player is named the nattuvanar (or taladhari), usually additionally the conductor of the complete performance, UN agency even be|is also} the guru of the dancer and should also be enjoying cymbals or one amongst the musical instruments. The recited verses and text in Bharatanatyam square measure in Tamil, Telugu, Kanarese and Sanskritic language.

The instruments used embrace the mridangam (double-sided drum), nadaswaram (long sort of hautboy made of a black wood), nattuvangam (cymbals), the flute, bowed stringed instrument and veena.


Bharatanatyam, like all classical dances of Bharat, is steeped in symbolism each in its abhinaya (acting) and its goals. The roots of abhinaya square measure found within the Natyashastra text that defines drama in verse vi.10 as that that esthetically arouses joy within the spectator, through the medium of actor’s art of communication, that helps connect and transport the individual into a brilliant sensual inner state of being.

A performance art asserts Natyashastra, connects the artists and also the audience through abhinaya (literally, “carrying to the spectators”), that’s applying body-speech-mind and scene, whereby the actors communicate to the audience, through song and music. Drama in this ancient Sanskritic language text so is associate art to interact each facet of life, so as to glorify and gift a state of joyful consciousness.

Example mudras – gestures as symbols in Bharatanatyam.
The communication through symbols is the kind of communicative gestures and pantomime set to music. The gestures and facial expressions convey the ras (sentiment, emotional taste) and bhava (mood) of the underlying story.

Within the Hindu texts on dance, the dancer with success expresses the religious ideas by listening to four aspects of a performance: Angika (gestures and body language), Vachika (song, recitation, music and rhythm), Acharya (stage setting, costume, makeup, jewelry), and Sattvika (artist’s mental disposition and emotional reference to the story and audience, whereby the artist’s inner and outer state resonates). Abhinaya attracts out the bhava (mood, psychological states).

The gestures employed in Bharatanatyam square measure referred to as Hasta (or mudras). These symbols square measure of 3 types: asamyuta hastas (single hand gestures), samyuta hastas (two hand gestures) and nrtta hastas (dance hand gestures). Like words during a gloss, these gestures square measure conferred within the nritta as an inventory or embellishment to a prelim performance. In nritya stage of Bharatanatyam, these symbols set in a bound sequence become sentences with which means, with emotions expressed through facial expressions and alternative aspects of abhinaya.

Modern revival: faculties and coaching centers

An expression through gesture in Bharatanatyam.
Bharatanatyam speedily dilated when Bharat gained freedom from country rule out 1947. it’s currently the foremost {popular|well-liked|in vogue|fashionable|common|widespread|standard} classical Bharatn dance style in India, enjoys high degree of support in expatriate Indian communities and is taken into account to be similar with Indian dance by several foreigners unaware of the range of dances and performance arts in Indian culture. in the last half of the twentieth century, Bharatanatyam has been to Indian dance tradition what ballet has been within the West.

When country tried to try to banish Bharatanatyam traditions, it went on and revived by moving outside the Hindu temple and spiritual ideas. However, post-independence, with rising interest in its history, the traditional traditions, the invocation rituals and also the religious communicative a part of the dance has come. many inventions and developments in fashionable Bharatanatyam state Anne-Marie Geston, square measure of a sacred sort. Major cities in Bharat currently have varied faculties that supply lessons in Bharatanatyam, and these cities host many shows each year.

Outside Bharat, Bharatanatyam may be a wanted and studied dance, states Meduri, in educational institutes within u. s., Europe, Canada, Australia, Sri Lanka, Asian nation and Singapore. For expat Indian and Tamil communities in several countries, it’s a supply and means that for social life and community bonding. up to date, Bharatanatyam choreographies embrace each male and feminine dancers

(Shahinul Islam Uzzal)