• The term “classical” (“Shastriya”) was introduced by Sangeet Natak Akademi to denote the Natya Shastra-based performing art styles.
  • The Sangeet Natak Akademi has given recognition to eight Indian dance styles. The Akademi holds a Natya Sangam (festival of dance) during which artists from other classical dance forms are invited to perform.
  • Dance form State(s) of origin Recognition by
    Sangeet Natak
    Recognition by
    Ministry of
    Bharatanatyam Tamil Nadu Yes Yes
    Chhau Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand No Yes
    Gaudiya Nritya West Bengal No Yes
    Kathak Northern India (Uttar Pradesh) Yes Yes
    Kathakali Kerala Yes Yes
    Kuchipudi Andhra Pradesh Yes Yes
    Manipuri Manipur Yes Yes
    Mohiniyattam Kerala Yes Yes
    Odissi Odisha Yes Yes
    Sattriya Assam Yes Yes
    Thang Ta Manipur No Yes

(1)Bharat Natyam

  • Bharata Natyam originated in the temples of Tamil Nadu. This dance form denotes various 19th- and 20th-century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called Devadasis. Bharata Natyam is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. 
  • Lord Shiva is considered the God of this dance form. Today, it is practiced by male and female dancers .
  • The name Bharata Natyam is of relatively recent origin when performers like Rukmini Devi revived the dance in the 20th century. The original names of Bharata Natyam were Sadir, Chinnamelan and Dasi Attam. A possible origin of the name is from Bharata Muni, who wrote the Natya Shastra
  • The meaning of the word Bharatnatyam is “Bhavam” meaning expression, “ragam” meaning music, “thalam” meaning rhythm and natyam meaning dance.
  • E. Krishna Iyer was one of those who raised the social status of Bharata Natyam. Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in modifying mainly the Pandanallur style of Bharata Natyam and bringing it to the attention of the West.Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam was another figure.
    At present, Bharata Natyam recitals are usually not performed inside the temple shrine but outside it, and even outside the temple compounds at various festivals.

Dance tradition:

    • Surviving texts of the golden age of Tamil literature and poetry known during the Sangam Age such as the Tolkappiyam as well as the later Silappadikaram testify to a variety of dance traditions which flourished in these times. The latter work is of particular importance, since one of its main characters, the courtesan Madhavi, is a highly accomplished dancer.
    • In ancient times it was performed as dasiattam by mandira (Hindu temple) Devadasis. 
    • Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures karanas. In fact, it is the celestial dancers, apsaras, who are depicted in many scriptures dancing. In the most essential sense, a Hindu deity is a revered royal guest in his temple/abode, to be offered the “sixteen hospitalities” – among which are music and dance, pleasing to the senses. Thus, many Hindu temples traditionally maintained complements of trained musicians and dancers, as did Indian rulers.
One of the 81 Bharata Natyam dance positions carved on the outer wall of the upper storey of Peruvudaiyar Koyil, Thanjavur

  • Bharata Natyam as a dance form and carnatic music set to it are deeply grounded in Bhakti. Bharata Natyam, it is said, is the embodiment of music in visual form, a ceremony, and an act of devotion.
  • It was the famous quartet of Chinnayya, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivelu of the Tanjore Court during the Marathi King Saraboji’s time (1798–1824) which made a rich contribution to music and Bharata Natyam and also completed the process of re-editing the Bharata Natyam programme into its present shape with its various forms like the Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Sabdham, Varnam, Tillana etc. The descendants of these four brothers formed the original stock of Nattuvanars or dance teachers of Bharata Natyam in Tanjore.

Essential ideas:

  • Bharata Natyam is considered to be a firedance — the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body. It is one of the five major styles (one for each element) that include Odissi (element of water), Kuchipudi (element of earth),Mohiniattam (element of air) and Kathakali (element of sky or aether). The movements of an authentic Bharata Natyam dancer resemble the movements of a dancing flame. 
  • Bharata Natyam proper is a solo dance, with two aspects, lasya, the graceful feminine lines and movements, and tandava (the dance of Shiva), masculine aspect.
  • In most solo performances, Bharata Natyam involves many split characters that are depicted by the dancer. The dancer will take on numerous characters by switching roles through the swift turn in circle and creates a story line that can be easily followed by the feat of one individual. The characters will be understood by the narrative of the song and the expression, or abhinaya. 
  • However, in more modern times, Bharata Natyam performances have taken stage as group performances involving dramatical performances that require many characters depicted by various dancers.
Spiritual symbolism
    • Bharata Natyam is the manifestation of the ancient idea of the celebration of the eternal universe through the celebration of the beauty of the material body. Some Bharata Natyam techniques can be traced back to the Kaisiki style.
File:Bharata natyam dancer medha s.jpg
Dancer’s right hand is in the Katakamukha Hasta, the 3 joined fingers symbolizing the sacred syllable Aum. The left hand’s fingers are in Alapadma Hasta, the rotating lotus of spiritual light. The eyes are directed towards the Supreme Lord. The left leg is lifted, symbolizing the swift ascent of the consciousness in one step from the Earth to the Heaven.
  • The symbolism of the dance of Shiva (in the form of Nataraja) is represented by the attitude called “Ananda Tandavam“. 
  • Bharata Natyam has three distinct elements to it: Nritta (rhythmic dance movements), Natya (mime, or dance with a dramatic aspect), and Nritya (combination of Nritta and Natya).
  • Nritta is a pure dance without any emotions, expressions or sahityam.Natya is when a person is portraying a character. Nritya has sahityam (a sentence which means something). It has emotions, expressions and has a meaning shown by the hastas. 
There are 4 types of abhinaya in dance. They are
Anghika – Physical or body movements.
Vachika – the song being played, poetry
Aaharya – Ornamentation of a character/dancer e.g. jewellery, costume
Satvika – Involuntary movements e.g. trembling, break of voice, tears
Typically a performance includes:
Alaripu A presentation of the Tala punctuated by simple syllables spoken by the dancer. This really is sort of an invocation to the gods to bless the performance. 

Alaripu is performed in different jatis. Tishra, Mishra, Chatushra, Sankirna are the different types of jatis.KautuvamAncient temple dance item performed in the beginning of the recital, containing rhythmic syllables sung for jathis.Ganapati VandanaA traditional opening prayer to the Hindu god Ganesh, who removes obstacles. See also Pushpanjalitodayamangalama starting dance in which we show respect towards the god. This item was adopted from the karnatic music margam.A beautiful example of a todayamangalam is “jayajankaki Ramana”Jatiswaram or JathiswaramAn abstract dance where the drums set the beat. Here the dancer displays her versatility in elaborate footwork and graceful movements of the body. Here the Dancer displays the Korvai in a rhythmic form. Jatiswaram or Jathiswaram brings out three aspects of dance: unity of music, rhythm and movements.ShabdamThe dancing is accompanied by a poem or song with a devotional or amorous theme. Shabdam is usually depicting graceful movements in a story or a poemVarnamThe center piece of the performance. It is the longest section of the dance punctuated with the most complex and difficult movements. Positions of the hands and body tell a story, usually of love and the longing for the lover.PadamProbably the most lyrical section where the dancer “speaks” of some aspect of love: devotion to the Supreme Being; or of love of mother for child; or the love of lovers separated and reunited.StutiHymn in praise of a deity that may contain a feigned mockery, etc. See also StotraKoothuItem containing a lot of dramatic elements.JavaliJavalis are relatively new, pure abhinaya types of compositions of light and pleasing nature. Like Padams the underlying theme of Javalis is Sringara Rasa depicting the Nayaka-Nayaki bhava.TillanaThe final section is a pure dance (nritta) when the virtuosity of the music is reflected in the complex footwork and captivating poses of the dancer.

Apart from these items, there are items such as Shlokam, Swarajathi, Krithi etc. The performance concludes with the chanting of a few religious verses as a form of benediction. Certain styles include more advanced items, such as Tharanga Nritham and Suddha Nritham. When a dancer has mastered all the elements of dance, as a coming out performance, he or she generally performs an Arangetram (debut).AngikamThis is a devotional song on Lord Shiva and an item dance in Bharata Natyam. It can also be performed in byapti slow motion. The words for the shloka are ” Angikam Bhuvanam Yasya, Vachikam Sarva Vangmayam, Aaharyam Chandra Taradhi, Tvam Numah Satvikam Shivam”
Other aspects[edit]JewelryBharata Natyam dancers wear a unique set of jewelry known as “Temple Jewelry” during the performance.Dancers wear anklets made of rope or leather with rows of sleigh-like (traditionally copper) bells attached on the anklet. The dancer’s talent is judged (along with style and presentation) by the amount of ringing heard and the number of bells on the anklet. The less ringing heard from the anklet then the better the dancer, which is seen as having control and fluid movement. Typically, beginners have 1-2 rows, mediocre dancers have 3 rows, and advance dancers have 4-5 rows.CostumeFrom the ancient texts and sculptures, one can see that the original costume did not cover most of the dancers’ bodies. The medieval times, with the puritanistic drive, caused the devadasis to wear a special, heavy saree that severely restricted the dance movements. There are several varieties of Bharata Natyam costumes, some of which do not restrict the dancer’s movements, while the others do. The modern costumes are deeply symbolic, as their purpose is to project the dancer’s sukshma sharira (cf.aura), in the material world.MusicThe accompanying music is in the Carnatic style of South India.EnsembleMostly, South Indian instruments are used in the ensemble. These include, the mridangam (drum), nagaswaram (long pipe horn made from a black wood), the flute, violin andveena (stringed instrument traditionally associated with Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of the arts and learning).LanguagesTamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit are traditionally used in Bharata Natyam.

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