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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Indian Classical Dance Form- Bharatanatyam


Oldest among all classical dance forms, Bharatnatyam derives its name from Bharata Muni and 'Natyam' = dance (in Tamil). However, other scholars have attributed the name 'Bharata' to 'Bhava', 'Raga', and 'Taal'.

The genesis of this dance form can be traced back to 'Sadir'- the solo dance performance of the temple dancers or 'devadasis' in Tamil Nadu, hence it was also referred to as 'Dashiattam'.

With the devaluation of the Devadasi system, the art too became nearly extinct. However, the efforts of E. Krishna Iyer, an eminent freedom fighter, revived this dance form. Formerly this dance form was performed by solo female dancers; it has since become increasingly popular among male and group artists as well. 

Rukmani Devi Arundale, another famous proponent of Bharatnatyam, is remembered for giving global recognition to the dance.

In the early 19th century, four dance teachers of Thanjavur defined the elements of a Bharatnatyam recital. They are:

  • Alarippu: It is an invocatory piece of performance that includes basic dance postures and is escorted by rhythmic syllables. It is meant to seek the blessings of God.

  • Jatiswaram: It is the Nritta module and is lacking expressions, it includes the different poses and movements.

  • Shabdam: It the dramatic element with expressed words, which incorporates the abhinaya in the song. It is generally in praise of the prestige (glory) of God.

  • Varnam: It is the Nritya component. It is an amalgam of dance and emotions and is the most important part of the whole performance. It is synchronized with tall and Raag, to express the story.

  • Padam: It cites a mastery over the abhinaya (expression) of the spiritual message, by the artist. Music becomes light, dance becomes emotional.

  • Thillana: It is the conducting stage of the performance, and comprises pure dance (Nritta) with exuberant movement and intricate rhythmic variations.

The four Thanjavur teachers, known as the 'Tanjore quartet', are Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Vadivelu, and Sivanandam. Under them, Bharatnatyal also came to be known as 'Tanjore Natyam'.

  • Bharatnatyam is often referred to as the 'fire dance', as it is the illustration of fire in the human body. Most of the movements in Bharatnatyam resembles that of a dancing flame.

  • In this dance form, equal significance is given to both the Tandava and Lasya aspects of dance, with major emphasis on 'mudras'.

  • One of the foremost mudras is 'Katakamukha Hasta' in which three fingers are joined to symbolize 'Om'.

Fig: Katakamukha hasta
  • In Bharatnatyam recital, the knees are mostly bent and the weight is equally distributed over both the feet.

  • It is also distinguished by the 'Ekcharya lasyam' style in which one dancer plays many different roles.

Famous proponents (apostle): Yamini Krishnamurthy, Lakshmi Viswanathan, Padma Subramaniam, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Mallika Sarabhai, etc.


Fig: Bharatnatyam stance                        



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